TodayApril 15, 2022

The biggest obstacle for automated vehicles

Washington Auto Show politics

On the eve of the Washington Auto Show, 2018 four experts and a Senator came together to talk about automated vehicles. Each person talked about the benefits and the struggles the rules and regulations, the technology, the acceptance, and the infrastructure.

Awareness, Acceptance, and existing infrastructure are at the top of obstacles for automated vehicles. Awareness and acceptance can be solved with marketing and advertising along with consumer usage. Existing infrastructure might be the biggest obstacle. How do you create a single lane just for automated vehicles when there is no room left?

Los Angeles Auto Show is known as the green car show; Consumer Electronics Show is the technology auto show, Detroit auto show is the Manufacturer’s show, New York auto show is the fashion show. The Washington Auto Show has become the rules, regulations, and politics show.

MobilityTalks International is a government forum designed to exchange ideas on best practices related to the emerging trends in transportation surrounding connected and autonomous vehicles. Transportation is changing, and it presents lawmakers and regulators with a new set of challenges concerning safety and regulations.

This is the third year of talks on Capitol Hill about partnerships and collaborations, about safety and vision zero, a goal of no accidents, no more fatalities. The four experts on the subject were Ms. Rachel Bhattacharya, Director of Corporate Finance, General Motors, Dr. Oliver Carsten, University of Leeds, Mr. John Maddox, CEO, American Center for Mobility, and Mr. Wang Xiaojing, Director, China National Center of ITS Engineering & Technology.

Each of these people talked about balancing safety for the sake of the thousands of accidents, fatalities, and crashes that occur every year. Each agreed that innovation is happening rapidly and that education, awareness, and acceptance need to happen because automated cars are on the way.

The four experts on the subject were Ms. Rachel Bhattacharya, Director of Corporate Finance, General Motors, Dr. Oliver Carsten, University of Leeds, Mr. John Maddox, CEO, American Center for Mobility, and Mr. Wang Xiaojing, Director, China National Center of ITS Engineering & Technology

The four experts on the subject were Ms. Rachel Bhattacharya, Director of Corporate Finance, General Motors, Dr. Oliver Carsten, University of Leeds, Mr. John Maddox, CEO, American Center for Mobility, and Mr. Wang Xiaojing, Director, China National Center of ITS Engineering & Technology

In a separate discussion Mr. Wang Xiaojing, Director, China National Center of ITS Engineering & Technology told me that China is testing autonomous cars with electric cars and gasoline cars in their proving grounds about 35 kilometers east of Beijing.

Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) is stalwart when it comes to advancing the acceptance of automated vehicles. At the MobilityTalks International Peters spent time explaining his views on automated driving, “When autonomous vehicles are fully implementing, and the vehicles are on the road that means that artificial intelligence (AI) has been developed to the point where it’s going to change everything. Every single industry is going to be impacted by that.”

“And as a guy from Michigan related to the auto industry ~ When you think of the auto industry in the last century, and when the first auto came off the assembly line, it changed everything in our world; it was that transformative. It created the middle class, the way we lived the way cities were organized, all those things were changed because of the automobile at the early stages of the 20th Century. Now in the 21st Century, we are moving to mobility and self-driving vehicles and all the safety features; this is every bit as big, and it’s happening once again because of the auto industry.”

“You’ve got about 40,000 people dying on the highways and untold folks being severely injured; this will change that. This is important, so I want to make sure our bill changes that.”

The Senate bill Peters is talking about is a Bipartisan Legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), and John Thune (R-SD) called the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act. This bill is to help advance the testing and development of self-driving cars that have the potential to reduce accidents, improve mobility, save thousands of lives lost on American roads each year, and ensure that the United States stays at the forefront of advanced technologies and innovation.

The bill has passed the Congress committee, and now it goes to the full Senate. Peters understands that some safety “advocates are concerned but the safety certificates will be signed off by NHTSA, but it will give companies some certainty about the regulatory position.

There are challenges still; Who owns the data, what about insurance, what are some of the commercial impacts on trucks, how significant will the impact be, including AI and self-driving vehicles.

“We have been thinking about these issues, it’s not part of this legislature, but it will be considered leaders as we have here (the panelists). Nobody realizes how fast this is happening. I’m out in Michigan, and I talk about self-driving cars, and they think that’s like way far in the future. It sounds like really great, but… And when I tell them that Ford Motor Co expects to have a self-driving vehicle coming off the assembly line in 2021, they’re like wooo, and then now General Motors says they’re going to have one before that. So we need to prepare for this, and we need to get this right from the safety perceptive because a lot of folks are a little tentative about getting in a car and not driving.”

Peters has been in autonomous driving vehicles in California and Michigan and Washington DC and admits “it’s a little freaky at first, but driving in California is a little freaky anyway.” His big concern is the pushback if it’s not done correctly, “we can’t allow that to happen. We don’t want more of my colleagues involved in regulations.”

The goal is to get to a full regulatory framework that is standardized over Countries and States so that everyone can work within the same regulatory frame. It some ways it seems so far off, in other ways it is just around the car, parked around the curb.

Highlights of the AV START Act:

Provides Enhanced Safety Oversight – Requires manufacturers to submit safety evaluation reports to the Secretary of Transportation with information addressing important factors including safety, crashworthiness, and cybersecurity through documented testing, validation, and assessment. Such reports must be submitted before the testing or deployment of a self-driving vehicle.

Reinforces Federal, State, and Local Roles – Utilizing bipartisan provisions from the SELF-DRIVE Act (H.R. 3388), which passed the House of Representatives without objection, ensures the Department of Transportation’s continued responsibility for automated vehicle design, construction, and performance while maintaining state and local roles in determining traffic laws, registration, and licensing. Directs additional research and coordination with state and local governments on traffic safety and law enforcement challenges. Creates specific requirements for manufacturers to ensure that all self-driving vehicles account for state and local traffic laws.

Reduces Barriers to Deployment – Expands the Secretary’s existing discretionary authority to implement an enhanced review and approval process for federal motor vehicle safety standards to prioritize safety for up to 100,000 vehicles per manufacturer three years after enactment.

Maintains Status Quo for Trucks and Buses – Clarifies that new authorities for self-driving technologies in the AV START Act apply to vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less. Maintains existing Department of Transportation authority for advancing automated truck and bus technology in the future.

Brings Existing Rules up to Speed – Directs the Department of Transportation to act quickly to modernize existing federal motor vehicle safety standards, which were written before self-driving vehicles were envisioned.

Strengthens Cybersecurity – Directs the Secretary of Transportation to work with manufacturers to adopt policies related to coordination around and disclosure of potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Requires manufacturers to develop and execute a comprehensive written plan for identifying and reducing cybersecurity risks to self-driving vehicles.

Improves Vehicle Safety and Data Sharing – Establishes a committee of experts to identify and develop recommended standards, including for data recording and data access and sharing. Headed by the Secretary of Transportation, the committee will serve as a forum for stakeholders to make recommendations for these and other standards governing self-driving vehicles.

Promotes Consumer Education – Advances guidelines on responsible consumer education and marketing, including on the capabilities and limitations of advanced driver assistance systems and self-driving vehicles, through the establishment of a dedicated working group.

Americans with Disabilities – Improves mobility for Americans with disabilities by preventing the denial of a license to operate a self-driving vehicle based on a disability. Develops best practices regarding self-driving vehicle accessibility.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.

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