How driverless cars should serve society
Hello, automated driving community! New alliances formed to investigate the human impact of driverless technology, free driverless road trips in California and the fastest automated vehicle to hit Australian roads: we bring you this week’s key stories from the world of automated driving!
When you talk to people about automated driving, one question often comes up: “What about all the truckers who will lose their jobs?” To answer this question, we first have to take a step back and look at the whole picture. The logistics industry currently has a huge recruiting issue, as fewer and fewer young people want to work as truckers. At the same time, there are more and more jobs opening up that involve transporting people from A to B. Lots more in fact. In the U.S. alone, the transportation and logistics sector experienced 12.7% growth between 2008 and 2017, creating over 400,000 jobs. Automated vehicles will also open up many new job opportunities. Think services, think programming, think transportation brokerage, etc. It was with this “human impact” of driverless technology in mind that a new coalition recently evolved.
The newly formed group, known as the Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity (PTIO), includes a number of familiar faces such as automakers Ford and Daimler, tech giants Waymo and Uber, and logistics provider FedEx.
According to technology news network The Verge, (in the first six months) the PTIO hopes to gain a data-based understanding of the impact and implications of autonomous vehicles on the future of work, calling upon the opinions of diverse interested parties. The group also wants to raise awareness of career opportunities for workers during the transition to a “new autonomous vehicle-enabled economy”.
The goals of the coalition are part of a wider effort to strengthen social acceptance of driverless technology – commonly seen to be one of the biggest hurdles to an automated future, and therefore a common concern for those pushing for it. One thing is for sure: this new technology has to serve society. So taking reservations seriously and discussing them collectively is an essential step – and our motto since 2016!
Free driverless travel in California
In a first for the state, autonomous cars are now allowed to pick up locals. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has authorized transportation companies using autonomous vehicles to carry out two pilot programs (given they meet a number of criteria) – both providing rides to members of the public. The schemes include service vehicles with a trained driver at the wheel and vehicles that are completely unmanned (these will be monitored remotely). The move follows the decision in April to permit automated vehicle testing on California’s public roads.
This latest announcement is certainly good news for locals as all rides must be completely free of charge. Although any potential passengers please note: you need to be over 18 to take part and trips to the airport are not included.
The new regulations are similar to those which already exists in Arizona, where companies such as Waymo and Uber are operating self-driving cars. This most recent trial however comes at a time when self-driving mobility providers are perhaps being viewed with greater caution. The fatal Uber crash is still very recent, as is the incident involving a Waymo vehicle. This bold move will undoubtedly be watched closely, with critics waiting to pounce on any sign of a slip up – the fact that the rides are free is merely the icing on the cake.
The fastest driverless vehicle to hit Australia's roads
And finally, some breaking news about breaking speeds. Kind of. This week, the Australian media reported on a new speed record for driverless vehicles Down Under. The Flinders Express – FLEX for short – is the first driverless vehicle to be allowed on public roads in South Australia. Recently revealed in Adelaide, the shuttle will operate between Flinders University and a nearby train station – at a slightly anti-climatic 30 kilometers per hour (19 mph). Not exactly blink and you’ll miss it! Still, I think it’s grounding in a way. Alongside all the announcements and promises, tests and prototypes (though all very valid and important in their contribution to development), this is the current reality in a fully productive setting: going 30 kmph on a defined route, with a steward present at all times. And this is how progress works: vision, mission, iteration. Therefore, the focus on new records in the headline was simply a clever use of facts to get clicks – and if I’m being honest, it did get me!
So long, drive safely (until cars are driverless),