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: 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: 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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The Driverless Commute: China issues first batch of L4-level automotive road-test driving licenses—all to Baidu

On July 1, 2019, the Beijing Automotive Driving Test Management Joint-Committee issued the first batch of L4 Level Automobile Road-Test driving licenses. The batch contained five licenses and all were obtained by Baidu, making it the first, and the only, company in China to have received the L4 license. The L4 license certificate is China’s number one, open-road, test-level qualification certificate, with the highest technical level, highest standard and most difficult testing scenarios.

Receiving the L4 license means that one’s autonomous vehicle has the ability to complete automated driving in complicated metropolitan roads at a level much higher than required by the T3 license.

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The Driverless Commute: VW and Ford to partner on AVs, latest in long string of tie-ups; 11 companies unveil safety-as-design principles, offering closest thing to industry standard; and Lyft tests its cars on blind passengers

1. Big tabs and hard realities.

Going-it-alone is, like, so 2018.

Volkswagen and Ford, one-time rivals fast sobering to the costs and difficulty of engineering next-generation cars, said Friday they would pool resources in the development of autonomous vehicles. Under the long-rumored deal, VW will invest upwards of $2.6 billion into Ford’s self-driving unit, which was already valued at $7 billion before the tie-up.

The agreement is the latest in a string—so many, in fact, that we’ve lost count—of fiercely competitive carmakers cooperating to develop self-driving technology.

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The Driverless Commute: Apple stuns with Drive.AI acquisition; did Florida go too far in new AV bill?; Toyota throws in with Baidu’s Apollo project; and Waymo rolls out limited partnership with Lyft in Arizona

1. Assumptions and expectations

Apple, the famously secretive consumer electronics giant, said this week it had acquired self-driving startup Drive.AI, whose human-robot interaction systems and deep-learning approach earned it an outsize reputation in the autonomous constellation.

The days of going-it-alone are behind us.

  • Like many struggling to reconcile real-world deployment challenges (it turns out, engineering self-driving cars is a lot harder than marketers promised) with stratospheric expectations, Drive.AI had come into hard times recently. According to reports, it filed paperwork ahead of the Apple announcement that it intended to dissolve and lay off its entire workforce.
  • Previously, the company had a variety of splashy pilots under its belt, including a recent test in Texas in which human contingency drivers had been removed from some vehicles.
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The Driverless Commute: Cities aren’t planning for AV deployment and that’s a problem; NHTSA is weighing rewrites of car and commercial vehicle rules; US lags global rivals over lack of national legislation

1. Urban (not)planning

Cities were once highly compact and walkable places that blended residences and workplaces and where people commanded primacy. But that was before the automobile.

Cities were once highly compact and walkable places that blended residences and workplaces and where people commanded primacy. But that was before the automobile.

Now, the modern American city is nothing if not an ecosystem in service of these two-ton forces of congestion. Add up all the 18-lane highways and surface streets, the sprawling blacktop parking lots and sky-high decks, and you find that more than 60 percent of some cities’ precious downtown real estate has been devoted in some way to cars.

Depending on your preferred expert, autonomous vehicles will either reverse or accelerate the very worst symptoms of car-oriented urban planning: congestion, pollution, sprawl.

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