by Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario — July 29, 2016 — The autonomous vehicle space continued to generate hype and heat this week, including a statement from Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), that OEMs “cannot wait” until the technology is perfect before deployment.
– We start off this week with news that’s close to home. The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) and the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE) has issued a joint statement calling on the Canadian government to help the Canadian technology industry access the huge market for technology in the vehicles of the future.
In part, the release states “Autonomous vehicles (AVs), connected vehicles (CVs) and electric vehicles (EVs) will bring many benefits, including saving a predicted 80 percent of the traffic collisions, fatalities and injuries each year, as well as helping save the environment because of the reduction of greenhouse gases.
“There will also be huge opportunities for Canada’s technology companies. Morgan Stanley has stated that ‘the automotive industry is entering a period of deep disruption that will make it unrecognizable’ and ‘the auto industry is a century-old ecosystem being ogled by outside players hungry for a slice of a $10-trillion mobility market.'”
The statement also provides specific recommendations for the Government of Canada. First is the creation of the Canadian Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (CAVI), as a public-private partnership with a significant level of funding. CAVI’s mandate would be to coordinate the deployment of AVs across the country, to promote research and design and testing in Canada, and create an AV ecosystem.
The second recommendation is to support the creation of an AV cluster in the Ottawa area. A group of stakeholders representing both the public and private sectors had a very successful AV networking breakfast in March. The group is now planning follow-on activities.
Third, CATA and CAVCOE recommend launching, incooperation with the Government of Ontario, an Innovation Hub in the Toronto area.
– Tech Insider reports that “General Motors’ first fully autonomous car will be electric, available to just about anyone, and it could be here before you know it.” The site interviewed Pam Fletcher, GM’s Executive Chief Engineer for autonomous technology. Fletcher wouldn’t give specifics regarding timing, but she did say it will be available via ride-sharing service Lyft “sooner than you may expect.”
GM announced last March that it would purchase self-driving car startup Cruise Automation. In May it was revealed that Cruise Automation was testing its self-driving tech on the Chevy Bolt.
– Technology-focused website ARS Technica ran a story this week quoting Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as telling “a Detroit audience that car makers ‘cannot wait for perfect; when it comes to developing and deploying self-driving car technology.” The Wall Street Journal also reported that Rosekind said automation would “save people’s lives” in a time “when auto fatalities have been up 8 percent since 2014.”
– China is driving backwards on autonomous vehicles (AVs). A report on major financial news network Bloomberg claims that the Chinese government has, “banned such cars from testing on the nation’s highways.” The story notes that “Chinese auto authorities are collaborating with police to develop regulations around the testing of self-driving cars.” The story went on to suggest that the delay “could stall momentum in China’s heretofore hard-charging autonomous vehicle industry.” According to Bloomberg, “China was well ahead of the regulatory curve regarding autonomous vehicle testing from a global perspective. The government had stated that they aimed to implement regulations that are standardized across the entire country. It said that these rules would pave the way for autonomous vehicles that will appear on China’s highways in three to five years, and then in Chinese cities by 2025.” Also according to Bloomberg: “[A] unified regulatory approach was seen as giving China a significant advantage over countries like the US, which suffers from a disjointed patchwork of state standards and laws for self-driving cars.” And then the police stepped in to slow everything down.
– A report on the website gpsworld.com included comments from a recent conference on connected cars. According to the report, Chaminda Basnayake, an engineer for a company called V2X Systems, said that in the future cars will constantly broadcast a Basic Safety Message (BSM) indicating the car is “okay.” Pedestrian and personal devices will broadcast an equivalent message, called a personal safety message, or PSM. These messages will be relayed to control devices like traffic control that will broadcast signal-based timing information, or so-called “SPAT messages, intersection maps and GPS correction data.” The idea is that every vehicle “should be able to relatively position everyone else, and then with the onboard device, the vehicle should be able to position itself with respect to the roadway,” said Basnayake. These new signals are contained in the “Connected Vehicle Reference Implementation Architecture, a US Department of Transportation initiative,” which defines what signals will be used for “emergency calling, telematics, infotainment data distribution and usage-based insurance.”
– The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) ran a fascinating story on the insurance industry and automated vehicles. According to the article, “The insurance industry has a $160 billion blind spot: the driverless car. Car insurers last year hauled in $200 billion of premiums, about a third of all premiums collected by the property-casualty industry. But as much as 80 percent of the intake could evaporate in coming decades,” according to the report. “… assuming crucial breakthroughs in driverless technology make driving safer and propel big changes in car ownership. As the threat approaches, US insurance executives are spending millions and embedding with car companies, testing the technology themselves, and wrestling with whether to lower prices as parts of the autonomous future hit America’s roads. For the actuaries who set insurance rates, it is a puzzle like no other: How do they prepare for a world of so many fewer auto accidents? In the future, will underwriters be insuring drivers or computer code? ‘Change is coming and we need to get ahead of it,’ said Allstate Corp. Chief Executive Tom Wilson in an interview. The suburban Chicago insurer is spending millions on research for new products and services that involves more than 200 data scientists and tech experts at a company it founded called Arity. ‘It isn’t going to happen tomorrow but it is going to happen soon,’ he said.”