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. Tea leaves
General Motors’ second-most senior executive is leaving his role to lead its autonomous vehicles division, the latest in a series of radical lane changes for the Detroit heavyweight.
Dan Ammann, the company’s former president and architect of nearly every major business decision for GM in the last decade, has been named CEO of Cruise Automation, which plans to launch a commercial driverless cab service next year.
The move follows the news that GM plans to shutter three factories and discontinue five car models, and portends the unlikelihood of its return to the halcyon days of simply making cars and selling them to consumers.
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2. The dog didn’t eat my homework
When Volvo arrived this week at AutoMobility LA, the first-in-the-season “new auto industry” show, the Swedish car maker arrived deliberately empty-handed.
Attendees might be forgiven for expecting the automaker to exhibit cars at an auto show, but Volvo’s booth contained no shiny sheet metal. While rivals unveiled production vehicles or bizarre concept cars, Volvo instead used the event to showcase the technology that will power the cars of tomorrow.
With interactive demonstrations of connectivity services, vehicle subscriptions, and autonomy, the booth was yet another reminder that carmakers are no longer strictly metal benders but also technologists.
3. California dreaming
California’s comprehensive planning agency has issued new automotive autonomy guidelines to regulators and policymakers in an effort to prevent the state’s nightmare driverless scenario: more cars and worsened traffic.
Drafted by a multi-agency workgroup established by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, “Automated Vehicle Principles for Healthy and Sustainable Communities,” is designed to guide the state toward a shared-use, no-emission transit paradigm. AV deployment, the report says, must align with the following principles:
- Part of an efficient, multimodal system
- Affordable (transportation equity)
- Efficient land use
- Safe streets and enhanced public spaces
The principles aren’t new or necessarily novel, but signify the “what-if” fears that state and local governments, especially those in traffic-plagued or transit-challenged jurisdictions, have regarding deployment of driverless cars.
4. The Auto(nomous) Bahn
- Eight in ten driving positions are at “significant risk of being taken over due to automation,” according to new research from British price comparison website MoneySuperMarket.
- LG Electronics has formed a new division devoted to automotive autonomy.
- Oxford University driverless spinoff Oxbotica says it will deploy driverless cars on public roads in West London before Christmas.
- Elon Musk says Tesla’s next software update will include Easter eggs such as “Romance Mode.”
- Waymo is reportedly returning contingency drivers to its cars ahead of an imminent public launch.
- The Washington Post went for a ride in one of Waymo’s tricked-out minivans. See what it’s like.
5. Know everything AV, all the time
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