Google Photo                       AV Update - May/June 2014

 

From the Editors
The past few weeks have been very busy in the AV space and for CAVCOE, which is why we are publishing this joint May-June 2014 issue of AV Update.

The convergence of rapidly advancing sensor technology and software means that  fully-automated vehicles are moving ever closer to introduction.  But we think we have seen the future potential for an even more serendipitous convergence, which might just lead to more rapid deployment of AVs into our everyday lives.

First, Google told the world about their new prototype vehicle which does not have a steering wheel or pedals  (see the above photo).  It is intended to comply with Neighborhood Electric Vehicle regulations and is limited to 25 mph.  Having a foam front and a flexible windscreen means that it has been designed with pedestrian and road user safety in mind.  Our Paul Godsmark wrote an article on this new development and the implications it has for all of our businesses – it ended up being the most popular article on LinkedIn at the time and was viewed over 150,000 times.

Second, by fortuitous coincidence, the NY State legislature approved plans for New York City to reduce the default speed limit to 25 mph.  Suddenly the comments from many analysts about the limited nature of the benefits of Google’s ‘bug car’ take on a new perspective and NYC now becomes a prime candidate for a Google pilot program.  Any success in NYC could easily be replicated elsewhere if all that is required is copying a law that makes a city’s roads slower and safer.

Third -- and we think that this could be a big deal in the AV ecosystem -- is the announcement by the US Energy Secretary that up to $16 billion may be available as Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loans to AV makers.

These are examples of how the convergence of a rapidly developing technology with a suitable environment and the money to help fund it might just result in a sum that is greater than the parts.

The Automakers
Tesla: Elon Musk said “In less than a year you'll be able to go from highway on-ramp to highway exit without touching any controls.”

Nissan: ‘Self-driving cars may hit roads in 2018’ according to Carlos Ghosn, Renault-Nissan CEO, who pointed out legislation as being the key problem that needs to be overcome . Interestingly enough, this deployment won’t be in the US, but in the “pioneer countries” of France and Japan.

Hyundai: ‘The Empty Car Convoy’ provides a very dramatic demonstration of the Hyundai platooning, lane assist and autonomous emergency braking systems.

KMPG’s Global Automotive Executive Survey 2014 showed a surprising lack of interest in AVs in our opinion.  For example: when will we see SDCs on public roads?
•    2% of respondents see this within 5 years
•    4% within 5 to 10 yrs
•    25% within 10 to 20 yrs
•    40% greater than 20 yrs
•    31% NEVER! (our emphasis)


The Automakers  and Google
GM: “Anybody can do anything with enough time and money” GM Product development chief Mark Reuss said. “If they [Google] set their mind to it, I have no doubt” that they could become “a very serious competitive threat.” …but the caveat seems to be ‘eventually’.

Google, Detroit diverge on road map for self-driving cars’.  In other words, two very different perspectives and philosophies meet head-to-head when discussing a potentially disruptive technology; and they don’t feel that they are even talking the same language.

Soon after the Google ‘bug’ was launched we found out from Google themselves that as people become more trustworthy of their freeway driving technology, they cannot be trusted to take back control when needed.  Or as Nathaniel Fairfield put it: “people go from plausible suspicion to way overconfidence.”  The new prototype ‘bug’ is therefore being designed to take over the entire driving task and not require any human-machine switching.

Chris Urmson and Ron Medford of Google were interviewed by Charlie Rose and they provided some great snippets of new information, as well as possibly de-bunking a few AV myths along the way.

Technology
Google's cars have been sporting new sensors – probably not related to this application with the FCC to use vehicle radars.

Cruise is a start-up that as soon as next year, wants to provide an aftermarket product to convert certain production cars into Level 3 semi-automated vehicles.  We look forward to hearing more on the capability and safety of their system.

Regulatory / Government
From a study of crash data from 2010, NHTSA found that the societal cost of crashes in the US was $871 billion – with direct economic costs of $277 billion (1.9% of GDP).  Surely we can improve on this?  Let’s develop and deploy AVs as soon as they are safe enough to make a meaningful difference.

Bill Shuster and Carnegie Mellon’s demonstration of their driverless vehicle to members of Congress in Washington was going well until one of the delegates hit the big red button whilst stationary and unfortunately brought demonstrations to a premature end.  The more legislators are exposed to this technology, the better the chances that they will understand it and make well-informed decisions.

Thought Development/Research/Academia
This year’s World Cities Summit carried on from last year and explored the potential impacts of AVs.  Singapore-MIT research suggests that AVs could reduce urban traffic by up to 80%, and they are planning to test their low-speed vehicles in residential areas this year  They are in talks to do trials on the tourist island of Sentosa.

Not as off the wall as you might think
On the discussion forum Reddit, the question was asked ‘In the future, will spam traffic be a problem?’.  Please pause and think about this and the concept of ‘spam traffic’ – it may sound crazy at first, but this could be a very real problem one day.

Uber London protest: 'black-cab drivers blockade Trafalgar Square in go-slow demonstration over taxi fare row’.  Uber says they had an 850% increase in sign-ups that day…

Bear in mind that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick says that the company will adopt autonomous cars when they are readily available.’ Plus how else do you explain Uber’s jump in value from $3 billion to $18 billion in a year?

Could Foxconn, the main assembler of many Apple products, become an electric vehicle manufacturer? That would add an interesting dimension to the discussion above between Detroit and Google.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have announced their support for AVs in the hope that they can help eliminate drunk driving completely.

Upcoming AV-related Events
July 14-18, 2014: there is the joining of the previous two best AV events of the last couple of years into the one AUVSI / TRB AV Symposium in San Francisco.

Aug 4-6, 2014:  COM.DriverlessCar 2014: The 1st International Summit on Driverless Car Computing; Washington DC.

September 7-11, 2014:, ITS World Congress Detroit.  Paul Godsmark's presentation is on Automated Vehicle Zones

September 14-17, 2014: IEEE 80th Vehicular Technology Conference in Vancouver.  There is a full-day track on automated vehicles and connected vehicles.  Barrie Kirk is the Co-Chair and will open the day with a keynote presentation on "Three Technologies that will change the World".  Paul Godsmark will moderate the session on AVs and will also be a speaker.  A flyer on the conference is available here.

September 28 - October 1, 2014: Transportation Association of Canada's Annual Conference and Exhibition in  Montreal.  Barrie Kirk is speaking on the impact of AVs on the transportation infrastructure.  Paul Godsmark is presenting on Automated Vehicle Zones.

November 17-18, 2014: Automotive Tech.AD: The Future of ADAS.

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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