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You want trust in driverless cars? Here’s what to do.

Developed by Oxbotica, the Lutz Pathfinder was the UK's first driverless car in 2015. (Photo: Oxbotica)

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Stephan Giesler
Stephan Giesler

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Hello, automated driving community! London isn’t ready for autonomous driving, the driverless Olympic competition heats up and platooning enters the next level: we bring you this week’s key stories from the world of automated driving.

Imagine it’s 2021 – and the BMWs, Fords and Teslas of this world have actually fulfilled their part of the deal to make automated driving a reality: they have developed fully automated vehicles that are safe to use, easy to handle and affordable. If that is to become true, will you see driverless cars whizzing down the roads wherever you look? Chances are, you won’t.

A new report released last week highlights the fact that not only the technology (and society) has to be ready – the city’s infrastructure has to be as well. That’s why the London Assembly’s transport committee concluded that the UK’s capital is not prepared for connected and automated vehicles (CAV). “There is much hype around CAVs becoming a feature of our roads in the imminent future,” the report said. “This is not likely to be the case, with 2030 to 2040 more realistic for widespread rollout.”

The U.K. government has predicted that self-driving cars will be on British roads by 2021. But according to the report, the legal framework and the necessary infrastructure (like high-speed 5G connectivity to ensure redundancy) will not be able to catch up with the enormous technological progress.

Reports like this serve two important functions. First, they are a reminder to governments to increase and speed up their infrastructural and legal efforts. Second, it is in nobody’s interest to rush towards driverless mobility. Only if the stage is set properly, public trust will follow.

Faster, higher, stronger: the driverless Olympics

Talking about stages: you can’t find a bigger one than the Olympic Games. It’s the epitome of competition – and sometimes these competitions extend to outside the Olympic arenas. Just take the months-long sponsorship battle between South Korean companies Hyundai and KT Corps before the start of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

The carmaker and the telecommunication firm both claimed exclusive rights to showcase “autonomous” mobility during the Olympic games. Both had legitimate arguments, as Kang Joon-ho, a sports marketing professor at Seoul National University told Associated Press: "It's not clear whether we should see self-driving cars as vehicles or software, so it's unclear which sponsorship category they belong to."

As a compromise, Hyundai is now operating an “autonomous” Nexo fuel-cell car near the Olympic Stadium (and I’d like to draw your attention to a first-hand experience report soon to be published here on 2025AD). Meanwhile, KT Corps has built 5G networks in the Olympic towns and is running two self-driving buses that were dubbed “5G Buses”. So here, we are witnessing the key competition in automated driving in the most exemplary form: OEMs versus Telcos and the like. Of course they’ll also cooperate – “coopetition” is the name of the game. But following our "Week in Automated Driving" from two weeks ago, the question remains: Who will “own” the topic, who will be able to bite off the largest chunk of the value cake?

Hit the road, truck

In what could be a world’s first, German logistics company DB Schenker just announced the practical application of truck platooning. Autonomous MAN trucks will soon be trialed under real-life conditions on the A9 motorway in South Germany. Three times a week, they will form a platoon to transport cargo between the cities of Nuremberg and Munich.

While platoons have successfully test-run across Europe in the past, this first step towards autonomous trucking is now seriously hitting the road for the first time. DB Schenker’s move is an important signal to the logistics industry. If proving successful, it could create acceptance in an industry that so far has been rather hesitant to adopt the technology. For the time being, this cements Europe’s frontrunner status in this area – and is one further sign that with the highway being less complex to handle, autonomous trucks could be ready for mass deployment sooner than passenger cars.

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

Stephan Giesler

Editor-in-Chief, 2025AD

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