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The Future Direction of Self-Driving Cars: Industry vs Government

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【Summary】The US House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection recently held a hearing on Self-Driving Cars: Road to Deployment. With quite a few auto industry leaders attending such as General Motors, Volvo and Lyft, the Q&A session between the government party and the industry pioneers sparked some worth-noting facts that might lead to the future direction of self-driving cars.

Original Claire    Feb 26, 2017 10:15 AM PT
The Future Direction of Self-Driving Cars: Industry vs Government

The US House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection recently held a hearing on Self-Driving Cars: Road to Deployment. With quite a few auto industry leaders attending such as General Motors, Volvo and Lyft, the Q&A session between the government party and the industry pioneers sparked some worth-noting facts that might lead to the future direction of self-driving cars.

Skipping level 3

Gradually there's a consensus among automakers who are making driverless cars: leave out level 3 and directly head to level 4 or 5. At the hearing, the question of why leaving out this level is also raised up by government officials. Representatives from both Volvo and RAND stressed the danger behind level 3 -that the driver needs to take back control as a fallback when accident happens within seconds. However a human's reaction ability is always the least reliable-under such circumstance safety concerns will arise.

For the differences between each level of autonomous vehicles, please see this FutureCar report we wrote.

Self-driving cars for people with disabilities?

General Motors released at the hearing that the company has a specifically designated employee resource group, which consists of people with various physical challenges. The team are now working with GM's engineering group on the potential of self-driving cars going forward. Other representatives also stressed the similar needs for the senior population.

The threat of hacking into a car

TRI said their philosophy is that all the safety functions have to be self-sufficient on the car itself, which means they should not rely on wireless network in order to operate. Separated from the internet can mitigate the hack threat.

When can self-driving cars be safe enough?

Facing that question, representatives from GM and TRI both admit the current difficulty of making autonomous cars capable of driving perfectly, and ask the government to design metrics that automakers can agree on to show that self-driving vehicles are better than human drivers. And often times, automakers have the responsibility to collaborate with government officials in making the guidelines.

The cost of driverless car can go down

When asked about the projected additional cost per vehicle. Representatives from Volvo and TRI mentioned that the current cost of an autonomous car is very high, "in the many thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars." However, just like electronic products, the price will decrease rapidly over time, once mass-production is possible. Also, when autonomous cars become the mainstream, less crashes will occur, meaning less cost on accident, decreasing car insurance and also improved fuel economy.

Why V2V communication is crucial to driverless technology

Explained in a very simple way, representative at TRI points out the importance of vehicle-to-vehicle and also vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. As self-driving cars not only need sensors on themselves to see a clear picture of the environment, but also need to use sensors on the neighboring vehicles to see the world even better. Especially when some obstacle is blocking the view, a driverless car with V2V technology can get the view from other vehicles as well.


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