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AV Update - October 2013

From the Editors

Welcome to the second edition of AV Update, a free, monthly roundup of news and analysis in the world of autonomous / automated vehicles and their impact on all levels of government and the private sector. The approach is to keep each news item to a few lines and provide wherever possible a link to a web page with more information.

This month has seen a huge amount of activity around AVs – Google Trends continues to report that searches using the terms ‘self driving cars’ and ‘driverless cars’ are ‘breaking out’ (as opposed to merely ‘rising’).

AUTOMAKERS: The ‘Autopilot’ Race is On

In his blog, our Paul Godsmark explores recent announcements by the automakers (such as Mercedes, Tesla, GM and BMW) that they are going to automate (or is that ‘autopilot’?) their cars, but that the driver will always be needed to take over. It’s all about business models and profits it seems – but Google’s focus on full (Level 4) autonomy could be a disruptive influence.

Mercedes Benz – Following on from very impressive tests by Vislab on Italian roads and the GM/Carnegie Mellon University, Mercedes really did need to do something impressive – and they duly obliged. The best commentary of these tests is from Brad Templeton, whose "Brad Ideas" blog is essential reading for many AV followers.

The new 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is partially self-driving (limited Level 3 under the NHTSA classifications). It is available as a $2,800 option. This announcement demonstrates the incremental approach adopted by many OEMs.

Induct Navia may not be a stereotypical automaker, but they continue to pioneer NHTSA Level 4 automation (capable of unmanned operation) at low speeds – this time in Singapore. The discussion is now turning to which will get to urban street speeds with Level 4 automation first: low speed ‘carts/shuttles’ or high speed automobiles.

“Tesla moves ahead of Google in race to build self-driving cars”, according to an article in the Financial Times. Tesla cars should be able to do the driving for 90% of the miles driven by 2016.

Google: A Little Quiet Recently?

The Google team does not give much away, but as the probable leaders in the development of NHTSA Level 4 automation, we follow any developments closely.

Virginia Tech has announced has that they are partnering with Google and GM to perform research on AVs – with $2 million of funding from US DOT.

Popular Science produced possibly the best in-depth article to date around Google which included a few snippets of new information. For example. The current version of Chauffeur will, on average, travel 36,000 miles before making a mistake severe enough to require driver intervention. A mistake doesn't necessarily mean a crash—but it does mean that Chauffeur needs human help and is not yet ready for Level 4.

Also, the most recent presentations from Googlers; Ron Medford at the TRB Workshop on Road Vehicle Automation, and from Dave Ferguson at Solve For X are worth viewing.

A very reliable source informed DriverlessCarHQ on Facebook (Paul is a co-manager) of a meeting between Senator Coons (Delaware) and Anthony Levandowski of Google in the Senate building on 11 September. No details have emerged yet regarding this meeting.

Media Articles on AVs

At the Frankfurt Automobile Show, the driver began to take a back seat” -- this is a good article from The New York Times. “Cars that drive themselves have been a science fiction dream for decades, but at the Frankfurt show, there was a palpable sense that the technology was moving quickly from laboratories and test vehicles to dealer showrooms.”

"Countdown to Autonomy" by Paul Godsmark is a review of the status and likely huge impact of autonomous vehicles. It is published in the latest issue of Traffic Technology International.

Politics: Autonomous Vehicles Move Up the Political Agenda

Some people feel that the legislative, regulatory, and legal aspects of AVs will slow down the introduction of AVs, even when the technology is ready. Here’s a brief run-down on some recent political developments.

“Driverless cars are the future of transportation” according to Bill Shuster, Chair of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He also said “It’s the future of transportation and it’s here. Click here for the full story in Politico.

The US House of Representatives had scheduled a hearing on “How Autonomous Vehicles will shape the future of surface transportation” for October 9, but it seems to have been delayed by the Government shut-down. The scope had included the impacts of AVs and the federal policies necessary for their adoption.

The Volokh Conspiracy has an excellent article on the legislative issues facing Autonomous Vehicles in the U.S. It is written by Bryant Walker Smith of Stanford who is one of the leading global experts on AVs and the law.

Florida is holding an Automated Vehicles Summit “Creating a Framework for Implementation” on November 14-15, 2013. It is sponsored by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and others.

The French President includes AVs as a key technology to help revive French Industry. This is the first time that we can recall hearing a national leader talk publicly about this technology. We definitely predict that it won’t be the last time.

The Finnish government has received a report from futurists outlining 100 technologies that Finland must embrace – AVs are very near the top of the list.

AV Update is a free, monthly roundup of news and analysis in the world of automated vehicles and their impact on all levels of government and the private sector.

Editors: Barrie Kirk, Paul Godsmark
Photography: Keith Fagan

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