Intel is establishing an autonomous driving division; hacker George Hotz is open-sourcing his self-driving software in a bid to become a network company; LiDAR and distancing devices are changing. What does it all mean?
The long awaited list of recommendations and potential regulations for robocars has just been released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency that regulates car safety and safety issues in car manufacture. Normally, NHTSA does not regulate car technology before it is released into the market, and the agency, while it says it is wary of slowing down this safety-increasing technology, has decided to do the unprecedented — and at a whopping 115 pages.
Two self-driving car events of note: Uber just began operating a fleet of Volvo self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, and nuTonomy launched the first autonomous pilot taxi program last month in Singapore. Both still require a driver, although he/she will be as hands-off as much as possible.
Case IH (Case New Holland International Harvester) displayed their new cab-less tractor at a farming show in Iowa. The presentation was to show off what they hope will be the future: an autonomous tractor without a steering wheel, pedals or a cab for the driver.
In anticipation of the need for LiDAR devices in cars with assisted steering and other self-driving technologies, both Velodyne and Quanergy received funding. Quanergy raised $90 million and Velodyne got $150 million.
At the recent AUVSI/TRB conference in San Francisco, there was talk of upcoming regulation, particularly from NHTSA. Secretary of Transportation Foxx and his NHTSA staff spoke with just vague hints about what might come in the proposals due this fall. Generally, they said good things, namely that they are wary of slowing down the development of the technology. But they said things that suggest other directions.
Robin Chase wrote an article wondering if robocars will improve or ruin our cities and asked for my comment on it. It’s a long article, and I have lots of comment, since I have been considering these issues for a while. On this site, I spend most of my time on the potential positive future, though I have written various articles on downsides and there are yet more to write about.
Robin’s question has been a popular one of late, in part a reaction by urban planners who are finally starting to think more deeply on the topic and reacting to the utopian visions sometimes presented. I am guilty of such visions, though not as guilty as some. We are all seduced in part by excitement of what’s possible in a world where most or all cars are robocars — a world that is not coming for several decades, if in our lifetimes at all. It’s fair to look at the topic from both sides, as no technology is 100% good.