Welcome again to The Driverless Commute, presented by the global law firm Dentons, a weekly digest clocking the most important technical, legal and regulatory developments shaping the path to full autonomy.
1. Mind reading
Does that pedestrian’s creeping foot means he intends to cross off-signal? What about that cyclist’s fleeting hand wave?
Training autonomous vehicles to anticipate the movements of erratic pedestrians and cyclists remains among the most vexing challenges for self-driving engineers, but Volvo says that new advancements it’s made in lidar imaging—a critical, if unsung, technology that enables self-driving cars to perceive the world around them—amount to a robotic crystal ball.
At last week’s AutoMobility LA show, Volvo, whose booth contained no sheet metal but instead paeans to its evolving technology stack, said it can now track minor hand and leg movements at a distance of 250 meters (820 feet). At 75 mph (a rate far higher than allowed on city streets, we should note), that would provide a window of seven seconds to detect, interpret and respond to any possible dangers down course.
Advancements in predictive abilities aren’t merely novel system upgrades.
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2. This week in “How AVs Will Change Everything”
Urbanists have long regarded the car as a uniquely destructive agent of change, encouraging suburban sprawl at the expense of urban livability. On this, there is broad agreement. Even Henry Ford once said, “We shall solve the city problem by leaving the city.”
It’s plainly true that cars have transformed the modern American city, both large and small, and have played a central role in shaping the country’s social and economic divides as well. But how might the advent of automotive autonomy alter that landscape?
- Young people would leave city centers, while older, more financially stable people would migrate to amenity-rich urban hubs: New research from the Center for Spatial Planning Analytics and Visualiation at Georgia Tech projects that the cost efficiency and ease of use of shared, driverless cars will prompt younger households to leave city centers in search of cheaper real estate and better schools, while those over the age of 40 will favor urban settings.
- Access to transit, amenities will no longer take primacy in commercial real estate decisions: New research from commercial real estate giant CBRE posits that companies will no longer feel that costly, transit-accessible or city center headquarters will be necessary to attract top talent if driverless cars make commuting easy.
- The lines between brick-and-mortar and online retailers will blur: In the same way mom-and-pop retailers were pummeled by the rise of big box retailers and, later, faced existential threats from online competitors, autonomous delivery could usher in yet another profound disruption of the business-to-consumer landscape. Those brick-and-mortar and dual online/physical operations (like, say, Walmart.com) that quickly embrace last-mile autonomous delivery could get ahead of shopping trends where consumers are increasingly making purchases online for reasons of convenience.
3. The Auto(nomous) Bahn
- Waymo made good this week on its pledge to launch a commercial autonomous ride-hailing service before the year’s end.
- Singapore’s population is expected to swell by one million over the next decade. Urban planners are banking on autonomy to mitigate the expected traffic nightmare.
- A pair of self-driving pilots have been announced for two Japanese airports.
- May Mobility has been selected to run a public autonomous shuttle service in Rhode Island. For the first year, the service will be free to riders.
4. Know everything AV, all the time
Our best-in-industry intelligence service, The Console, marries machine learning algorithms with human analysis to create comprehensive, real-time advisories on everything autonomy.
The Console monitors, digests and packages everything of consequence to your business: television and radio chatter, social media scoops, legislative and regulatory activity, legal filings, acquisitions and white papers.
A service of Dentons’ 3D Global Affairs, which yokes traditional legal capabilities to government affairs, corporate competitive analysis and strategic communications, The Console mines the public record to populate an easy-to-navigate platform. Click here to request a no-obligation demonstration of the service with James and Eric.