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The Self Drive Act: A tough one to follow?

The new SELF DRIVE Act could have a huge impact on automated driving (Photo: Fotolia)

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Stephan Giesler
Stephan Giesler

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Hello, automated driving community! The U.S House of representatives approves a ‘one size fits all’ regulatory approach – but there’s a catch; the Airbnb of mobility gets a boost; and Apple vs Samsung all over again: we bring you this week’s key stories from the world of automated driving!

It’s back to school time for the US Congress and the House of Representatives has already been hard at work. This week saw the SELF DRIVE Act pass through the House with bipartisan support (a rarity these days). The bill has been pending since before summer recess and here’s what it essentially boils down to:

Firstly, it gives the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) power to regulate the design, construction and performance of self-driving cars with a ‘one size fits all’ framework. By trumping state laws (pun fully intended), car-makers and tech firms would no longer have to deal with the patchwork nature of current state-level. Secondly, the bill will significantly increase the number of self-driving  permits it offers per year from 2,500 (current) to 100,000 (after three years). But in order to obtain one, a manufacturer must be able to demonstrate that its self-driving car is at least as safe as existing cars. And here’s the catch: How to prove that the “system” can outperform humans in terms of driving performance? The key here lies in who gets to define these tests and what they entail. In its current state, the bill leaves that up to the NHTSA (with a 1 year deadline!). Bottom line: should this bill become law, this aspect alone will play a huge role in the definition of success – and therefore acceptance – of automated driving in the US. 

That said, the bill is not even halfway to becoming a law. The senate still needs to propose its own bill and the two chambers need to agree on a final version before it lands on the current U.S. president, Donald Trump’s desk to be signed. The bill would also require compliance with the revised self-driving guidelines that Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao is set to reveal in the next few days. She’s not been known to be the #1 AD advocate (unlike her predecessor Anthony Foxx). So, thirdly, should the bill go through, it would certainly help to bring the US one step closer from being a prime market for AD to also being a prime industry location for it.

Private Car sharing: A road to nowhere?

Turo Inc., the ‘Airbnb of the car world’, just got a serious cash injection. The American startup received a whopping $92 million (€76 million) in Series D funding to bring its peer-to peer private carsharing model to Germany. Co-leader of the funding round was none other than Daimler Mobility Services – along with one of South Korea’s leading companies, SK Holdings. As part of the investment, Turo will acquire Daimler’s own peer-to-peer carsharing platform, Croove. Like we said last week, it seems the German automaker giant truly is leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of its “CASE” vision of future mobility: "Connected," "Autonomous," "Shared & Services" and "Electric."

But hold on, the “shared mobility” trend is one of dwindling private car ownership: on-demand mobility through ride-sharing, with a vision to those being both electric and autonomous in the long run. Put simply, it assumes that people will forego car ownership if it means getting from A to B in an easier way. Daimler must therefore be banking on the (supposed few) remaining people who consciously decided to still own a car, wanting to share their pride and joy for a bit of extra pocket money. That, or it is rather strategically gaining even more share (as well as experience) in a market that will continue to exist while ownership is still rife – which will likely be for a good few years yet. But the day it starts to dwindle, Daimler could be well positioned – and respected - within the shared mobility space to take full advantage.    

Ding Ding…Round 2!

If you’re reading this on a mobile device, chances are it’s either an Apple or a Samsung product. These two tech giants have certainly fought it out over the last decade or so to gain the upper hand in the phone and tablet worlds. And since Samsung has just announced that it will begin testing self-driving technology on Californian roads, we might be about to see them enter the ring again.

Samsung has certainly not been absent since acquiring Harman last year. It has been testing autonomous software in its native South Korea – we’ve just heard less about it. But this move comes just after Apple officially threw its hat in the self-driving ring – coincidence? Probably not. A reminder that it shouldn’t be forgotten? Probably. This might just be the attack we predicted once Intel made its move by acquiring Mobileye.

The interesting thing is how this will play out. Will Apple’s solution be the iPhone of the automotive world? Revered for its design, usability and reliability but with a price tag to match? Will Samsung appeal to the wider market and share source code with others? The difference from the phone world is that this time, they aren’t alone. Google, Baidu, Aurora et al are also fighting it out to sell their AD ‘suites’ to the OEMs. So maybe it’s more of a mass brawl we’re talking about.

So long, drive safely (until cars are driverless),                         

Stephan Giesler

Editor-in-Chief, 2025AD

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