The Driverless Commute, presented by Dentons: How driverless cars are creating headaches for city planners; Waymo is driving 25K miles every day; why Asia could have the advantage over the West; and Apple quietly grows its CA driverless fleet

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. Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Autonomous ridesharing will eliminate highway gridlock; be more efficient than well-worn transit modes, like buses; and be cheaper than personal car ownership.

And it’ll all happen in 5 years. Or 10. Or 30.

With no genuine consensus about how and when the driverless revolution will arrive, you can understand the creeping panic that’s begun to consume urban transportation planners and transit advocates who say that cities are trading important short- and mid-term mobiliy solutions for half-baked forecasts that ultimately may never arrive.

That tension—policymakers’ pursuit of an equilibrium between transit solutions that meet today’s needs and strategic long-term investments in hyped, but as yet unproven, technologies—is the subject of a new piece this week in the New York Times:

“In Indianapolis, Detroit and Nashville, opponents of major transit investments have argued that buses and trains will soon seem antiquated. In Silicon Valley, politicians have suggested something better and cheaper is on the way. As New York’s subway demands repairs, futurists have proposed paving over all that rail instead for underground highways.

“Autonomous cars have entered policy debates—if not car lots—with remarkable speed. And everyone agrees that making the wrong bets now would be costly. Cities that abandon transit will come to regret it, advocates warn. Driverless car boosters counter that officials wedded to ’19th-century technology’ will block innovation and waste billions. …

“If you believe that autonomous cars will compete with transit rather than complement it—or that autonomous ride-hailing will give cities that never built transit something like it—there is appeal in holding out now.”

Indeed, conservative groups in the US have begun leveraging the futuristic promise of autonomy to defeat transit plans in traffic-plagued cities like Nashville, TN, and Little Rock, AR, where voters roundly rejected ballot proposals to expand light-rail and buses.

Cities’ inflexibility in planning for driverless cars could cost them hundreds of millions in economic activity, but in this era of municipal austerity will taxpayers be comfortable with city councils making such huge bets?

The Driverless Commute, a subscription-based service, is provided by Dentons’ global Autonomous Vehicles team. If you believe a colleague or associate would benefit from this service, please share this link so they may subscribe.

2. The Auto(nomous)bahn

3. Consumer appetites as driverless tea leaves?

A new global survey of drivers from 28 countries has found that Indians are the most eager to see driverless cars navigating their roadways.

Researchers tracked general-if-cautious interest in the technology across the developed world, but enthusiasm was especially pronounced in Asian nations like India, where road accidents are responsible for some 400 deaths per day.

Even as consumer safety advocates in the West grouse that driverless cars are nowhere near road-ready, headlines about a crashes—including some fatal ones—have not tempered interest and desire in Asia. In fact, roughly half of Indians told pollsters they want a driverless car.

Could a willingness to overlook early stumbles in testing and deployment give the East—especially China, whose government has already normalized national testing rules and whose technology sector is close on the heels of Silicon Valley’s—an advantage over the risk-averse West?

4. Don’t wait for the news once a week

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.

Click here to speak with our experts and attorneys across the world to learn more about any of the items contained in this newsletter.

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Eric Tanenblatt

About Eric Tanenblatt

Eric Tanenblatt is the Global Chair of Public Policy and Regulation of Dentons, the world's largest law firm. He also leads the firm's US Public Policy Practice, leveraging his three decades of experience at the very highest levels of the federal and state governments.

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James Richardson

About James Richardson

James Richardson is a strategic communications counselor with 15 years’ experience advising presidential candidates, Global Fortune 500 executives, national nonprofits, and sovereign governments on strategic communications and reputation management. He helps lead Dentons’ 3D Global Affairs practice.

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