The Driverless Commute: The four policy areas that cities must address to make the autonomous era people-centric; AVs positively last-century bugs; and robo-race car sets world record on speed.

1. Cars ruined the American city. Can AVs save it?

Since at least the 15th century, the era’s dominant mode of transportation has always had a way of exerting itself, often unfavorably, on the fabric of cities, but nowhere responded to the automobile with the same ill-considered enthusiasm as the American city, which forfeited one of its most precious public social spaces—its street—in a way that Europeans never did.

Now, urban planners from the United States’ largest cities believe the arrival of autonomous vehicles represents a rare opportunity for car-subservient downtowns to reset the board finally.

This week the National Association of City Transportation Officials, an 81-city coalition that includes New YorkBostonAtlantaLos Angeles, and Seattleunveiled a 131-page blueprint to refocus contemporary urban planning to take advantage of self-driving cars. 

The plan envisions a future of more parks and fewer parking lots by addressing high-capacity transit, smart-city data collection and use, congestion pricing mechanisms, and the delivery of urban freight.

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The Driverless Commute: Urban planning nightmares with AV deployment; AV industry’s diversity and inclusion crisis; and how bogus satellite data could hack an AVs operation.

1. When AVs are king

New York City

Cities were once highly compact, walkable places that blended residences and workplaces and where people commanded primacy. Then the car came along.

Now, the modern American city, sprawling and traffic-plagued, is an ecosystem in complete service to cars. But what if AV deployment invites an even deeper calcification of the cars-first mentality in city centers?

Just imagine sidewalk gates. That was the whacky idea floated by one unnamed “automotive industry official” in a recent New York Times article:

“In New York, the unwritten rule is plain: Cross the street whenever and wherever — just don’t get hit.

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The Driverless Commute: AV industry publishes first framework for building, testing and operating safe vehicles

Twelve industry leaders across the automotive and automated driving technology spectrum, including carmakers Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and technology firms Aptiv, Baidu, Continental, HERE, Infineon and Intel, have developed an industry-wide definition of safety with the July 2, 2019, publication of a white paper entitled “Safety First for Automated Driving” (SaFAD).

“Safety First for Automated Driving” (SaFAD)

The publication addresses relevant safety topics for automated driving, from safety by design to the verification and validation processes in the context of Level 3 and Level 4 automated driving. In short, its aim is to highlight the safety- and security-relevant aspects of developing, producing, operating and maintaining self-driving vehicles, with the intention of working towards a standardization of automated driving, building on the work that was already done for Level 1 and Level 2 driver assistance systems.

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The Driverless Commute: Emergence of L4 autonomous driving in China

The Chinese government is looking to develop the autonomous driving industry as a part of the country’s overall plan to reorient its economy towards a more high-tech industrial model that includes autonomous vehicles and related technology. In 2015, the State Council published a document entitled “Made in China 2025,” in which it detailed not only the reasoning behind this goal, but also the specific time frame in which they hope to achieve it. In this document, the State Council also names 10 specific industries in which the country plans to take the lead. Three of these industries—robotics, new-generation information technology and new-energy vehicles—point toward the autonomous vehicle industry.

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The Driverless Commute: Autonomous Vehicles: US Legal and Regulatory Landscape

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Making a car drive itself is hard. Remaining compliant while doing it is harder still, thanks to government stakeholders advancing new, complex and sometimes conflicting regulatory frameworks in every corner of the country.

As the driverless revolution shifts into fifth gear, companies seeking to develop, deploy and scale autonomy face a shifting and uncertain legal landscape. Dentons boasts the world’s first and largest multi-discipline, multi-jurisdictional autonomous vehicle practice, with the expertise and footprint necessary to provide sound legal, technical and policy advice.

Our Autonomous Vehicles: US Legal and Regulatory Landscape report focuses on the US AV regulatory framework at both the state and federal levels, as well as providing the most up-to-date information on testing and deployment, liability and insurance, regulatory agencies and political leaders, and data privacy and security.

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The Driverless Commute: NHTSA, FMCSA extend comment periods for amendments to regulations impacting AVs

Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have extended the comment periods for possible amendments to two sets of federal regulations that impact autonomous vehicles: the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). Originally, the comment period was scheduled to conclude on July 29. It will now remain open until August 28. The advance notices of proposed rulemaking (ANPRMs) were originally published on May 28.

Both agencies’ calls for public comment are aimed at determining whether the rules and regulations currently in place are, collectively, an obstacle to the effective rollout of autonomous vehicles.

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The Driverless Commute: GM, like Waymo before it, missed an AV deadline, but what does it mean for the industry going forward?; tension building between AV, transit advocates

1. The big question before AV makers: first, or best?

General Motors Cruise Vehicles

As the unit economics of driverless cars continue to spiral, the industry has been forced to soul-search its group psychology: move fast and break things because if you ain’t first, you’re last.

But with consumer confidence in the technology (and the people developing it) slipping to historic lows, technologists and carmakers are sobering to the reality that half-baked deployment could kill the nascent industry in utero.

The root: Validating safety and performance in diverse, chaotic and multi-hazard environments has proven more challenging than engineers first believed. Not to mention, costlier.

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