Transportation Analytics Firm Inrix gives Autonomous Cars a Helping Hand with Rule Book for Cities

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【Summary】Inrix, a transportation analytics firm, has come out with the AV Road Rules Platform that will help cities lay down necessary rules for self-driving cars to follow when they become available to the public.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Aug 27, 2018 10:30 AM PT
Transportation Analytics Firm Inrix gives Autonomous Cars a Helping Hand with Rule Book for Cities

Companies and automakers may be testing autonomous vehicles on public roads, but as a whole, the United States government has been slow to adopt an overarching set of guidelines for self-driving cars to follow. While other countries, like Britain, have taken the necessary steps into ensuring that autonomous cars have rules they need to follow, the U.S. government has taken a different approach. 

Instead of coming out with something large that the entire country can follow, the U.S. government has let individual cities decide how to regulate self-driving vehicles. That hasn't gone very smoothly, as some states have been accepting of self-driving vehicles on public roads, while others have banned them, hurting companies and automakers that are looking to make vehicles that meet a national standard. 

While companies are making great strides in making self-driving cars just as capable as human drivers, there are a lot of things that are holding autonomous vehicles back from being Level 5 machines without a steering wheel and pedals. One of which is learning how humans do things. 

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Inrix Wants To Help Companies Come Out With Self-Driving Cars

For numerous years, humans have used traffic lights, simple road signs, and colored lanes as a form of communication. We all know that green means go and you shouldn't cross a double yellow line, but teaching autonomous cars those same rules takes a lot of time and a few specialized systems. 

In a move that can be seen as a helping hand, transportation analytics firm Inrix has come out with a tool that will help cities create a rulebook that they want autonomous vehicles to follow. Inrix's AV Road Rules is a "platform that enables cities and road authorities to assign, validate and manage traffic rules and restrictions for autonomous vehicles operating on public roads," stated the company in a press release. The platform also takes information from self-driving vehicles to report any improvements that can be made in infrastructure. 

As Wired points out, companies are currently gathering tons of data on public roads to give their machines the most up-to-date information. What speed limits are on what roads, whether there's a school zone, or how many lanes a road has is are all things companies are gathering when they're publicly testing their cars. That, understandably, isn't very efficient or precise. 

"If there's a highly automated vehicle pulling up to an intersection and it's 50 percent sure there's a stop sign, 25 percent sure there's a yield sign and 25 percent sure there's a do not enter sign, that's basically useless," Avery Ash, head of autonomous mobility for Inrix, told Forbes. 

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Inrix Wants Cities To Lending A Helping Hand

Instead of forcing automakers and technology companies to go out on their own and gather this kind of data, Inrix believes it would be easier if cities provided companies with that kind of information. 

Inrix, as Wired points out, started developing the base of the AV Road Rules platform back in 2015 with the acquisition of ParkMe, an app that digitizes parking information. The company, reportedly, saw that the same technology could be used toward helping robots. With that in mind, Inrix set out on a path to create the AV Road Rules platform that allows cities to put any information a driverless car could ever need on an area in one convenient location. 

At the time of launch, Inrix's AV Road Rules platform will include support for approximately a dozen "fixed and variable rules." These include things like crosswalks, stop signs, bike lanes, turn restrictions, school zones, and speed limits. Inrix and its various partners have worked extra hard to identify prime sources of communication that need to be decoded for autonomous vehicles first.  

According to Inrix, seven cities and four HAV operators have signed on to show their support for the company's AV Road Rules platform. Other unnamed operators and cities have apparently expressed interest in joining the platform sometime in the near future. At the moment, cities that are onboard with Inrix's platform include Austin, TX, Boston, MA, Cambridge, MA, and Portland, ME,. As far as automakers go, Jaguar Land Rover, nuTonomy, May Mobility, and others utilizing Renovo's Aware platform have signed on for Inrix's AV Road Rules Platform. 


Will Cities Follow Through?

Unfortunately, to use Inrix's platform, cities will have to put in a lot of hard work in the beginning. Ash, according to Wired, states that some locations may have the right information, but it's scattered across numerous areas, which would make it a little difficult to access. 

Then, there's a likelihood that cities might have to validate information themselves by heading out to streets or using Google Street View. While it sounds tedious, Ash believes that for a city that's Boston's size, getting all of the data in order would only take roughly 12 hours. Maintaining the information shouldn't take much work either, as Ash claims that it shouldn't take more than an hour each week. 

"Everyone wins in this scenario," Ash told Wired. And from the sound of things, it does sound like the AV Road Rules Platform would prove to be beneficial for all of the involved parties. As the outlet points out, companies developing autonomous vehicles get the data they need, while cities will become more attractive to said companies, resulting in more jobs and growth. 

Automakers win in this scenario, as well. "Self-driving vehicles are stimulating conversations globally, but they are in fact a very local challenge," said Chris Holmes, connected and autonomous vehicle research senior manager at Jaguar Land Rover. "Road conditions and layouts can vary drastically over a matter of miles and so it is vital that self-driving is facilitated collaboratively. Local traffic authorities play a significant role in this. Inrix AV Road Rules provides improved information to the car, ensuring our self-driving technology is the most safe, sophisticated and capable to deal with challenging real-world environments as we enter new markets across the globe." 

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