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Driverless Legislation Is Being Developed. Self-driving Cars Can Reduce On-Road Accidents

ArmchairTechInvestorRegulationDriverlessCars, October 30, 2017, by Brad Peery, WWW. ArmchairTechInvestor.Com

Artificial intelligence is the transformative technology behind the push toward driverless cars. Their regulation is coming. The big three U.S. carmakers are spearheading the U.S. development of driverless cars plus Alphabet (Google).

Self-driving cars are also being developed. They include a driver, and should improve the driving experience, particularly by reducing accidents.

A requirement for driverless cars is sophisticated laser systems, called lidar systems. These systems create a 3D view of the world and currently have a range of over 350 yards, or somewhat less than a quarter of a mile.

Ford has just made an acquisition of a lidar laser system company, Princeton Lightwave. Prior this, Ford made an acquisition of Argo Al, for an undisclosed price, but committed to $1 billion of investment in the area. Argo Al will be the acquirer of Princeton Lightwave. These acquisitions are being made in an environment when the auto manufacturers are bringing in-house technology that they may have outsourced in the past. This makes sure that the developments take place on their schedule, and are their own exclusive technology.

Other Ford smart car investments included a $75 million investment in Velodyne LIDAR, which is ramping up to make 1 million sensors per year. The objective is to reduce the cost per sensor from $75,000 to $300 to $500 per unit in 2018. This is an ambitious objective, but indicates how the cost of lidar can decline to commercial levels that will allow driverless cars to be cost effective. Initially the technology is likely to be incorporated in high-end cars that can benefit from the enhancement of improved protection provided by driverless self-assisted cars.
*Hard Questions on Our Transition to Driverless Cars, Harvard Business Review, By Ashish Khanna and Simon Barrett, April 11, 2017

**A bipartisan group of senators outlined driverless car legislation in June, 2017.
The package came from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the panel’s ranking member; and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.). According to Thune, it could “become the first ever changes in federal law” governing self-driving cars.

“Self-driving vehicle technology will have a transformational impact on highway safety,” Thune said. “These principles underscore our commitment to prioritizing safety, fixing outdated rules, and clarifying the role of federal and state governments.”

The bill should address safety, be tech neutral, improve cybersecurity, reduce roadblocks, compliment state roles, and educate the public about the technology. There is no timeline yet to finalize a bill.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released voluntary guidelines in the fall of 2016. It created a 15-point safety assessment for automakers. The Trump administration is rewriting the guidelines.

House lawmakers on the Energy and Commerce Committee are also working on a package of bills related to autonomous vehicles.

Driverless car developers have indicated that safety regulations that are meant for traditional automobiles, may hinder testing and innovation on self-driving cars.

The Senate measure will “find ways to preserve and improve safety while addressing incompatibility with old rules that were not written with self-driving vehicles in mind,” according to the set of principles outlined by Thune, Nelson and Peters.

The bill may also address the messy patchwork of state laws and regulations on driverless cars, another chief concern for the industry.

The legislation will “prevent conflicting laws and rules from stifling this new technology” and “make necessary targeted updates for new challenges posed by the current regulatory environment with respect to self-driving vehicles,” according to the principles.

“I’m pleased we have compiled this bipartisan framework, which is an important step toward introducing and enacting meaningful legislation that will help the federal government promote the safe development and adoption of self-driving vehicles and ensure the United States remains the world leader in transportation innovation,” Peters said.
**Senators outline driverless car legislation, THE HILL, by Melanie Zanona, June 13, 2017

ArmchairTechInvestor Opinion
Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the automobile. These are self-driving vehicles that have a driver, and driverless vehicles. Driverless vehicles will transform much more than the vehicle. Given how central automotive transportation is to our cities, commerce, and daily lives, saying that AI will change life as we know it is no understatement. It will start with allowing individual drivers to reduce their driving risk by accident saving technology.

It may evolve to the point where urban environments are designed and redeveloped to accommodate driverless vehicles, mostly as a part of fleets, such as Amazon and United Parcel Service (UPS). UPS is currently increasing its delivery network capacity because of the success of Amazon and other online retailers.

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