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: 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: Finally out of dark days of early 2000s, do airlines need to be scared of AV disruption threat?; Florida OKs fully self-driving cars; and the long list of new tie-ups and break-ups

1. Disruption

The years that followed the September 11, 2001 terror attacks were uniquely challenging for airlines, but consolidation, cheap fuel and savvy management (not to mention taxpayer bailouts) finally delivered some much-need ballast to the industry only within the last decade.

Now, with profits finally stabilized, new problems are on the horizon.

Fresh research out of Embry-Riddle, the world’s largest aviation and aerospace university, finds that travelers’ appetite for the increasing ordeal of air travel, in particular short-haul travel, is threatened by the convenience of automotive autonomy.

In the study, researchers submitted trips of different lengths and asked respondents whether they would drive themselves, take a flight or ride in a self-driving car.

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The Driverless Commute: If AVs take more risks now in early-phase deployment, will they be safer in the long-term?; big electrification news on both coasts; an electrified future for LA while Trump is open to spending on EV charging networks.

1. Humans can’t stop rear-ending slow-moving autonomous vehicles. But who’s to blame: the human, whose behavior mirrors norms if not law, or the paralyzed robot?

Car collision

When autonomous vehicles have been involved in collisions, four years of data teach us that it’s almost always been the fault of a human driver. At least, that’s the black-and-white view generally held by law enforcement.

But autonomous vehicles are so strictly engineered to obey the rules of the road and to avoid statistically dangerous maneuvers that it begs the question whether this overly cautious approach to driving is inviting more chaos within the exiting mobility framework.

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The Driverless Commute in Law360: What’s Ahead For Autonomous Vehicle Test Driver Regs

Autonomous vehicles are layered with complex, still-emerging technology. As a result, what makes driverless cars tick is a mystery for virtually the entire public. That dynamic itself shouldn’t be all that’s concerning: We routinely interact with technology of which we have little understanding. But when it comes to driving, a task humans have controlled for generations, the thought of surrendering the wheel to a code-based operating system is uniquely unsettling.

Autonomous Vehicles - Car Interior

Empirically that should not be the case. Conservative estimates show that 94 percent of vehicle accidents are caused by human error. Autonomous vehicles, operating at peak performance and constantly communicating not only with traffic lights and stop signs but also with other vehicles and pedestrians, should significantly reduce, or even eliminate, car accidents, saving hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in health care and repair costs.

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