AI News, Industry Schools Government About the Future of Self-Driving Cars

Industry Schools Government About the Future of Self-Driving Cars

I know, it sounds super boring, and most of it was: if you’ve been following the space for a while, nothing in the prepared statements will surprise you all that much, even though the witnesses at the hearing included industry heavy hitters like Gill Pratt from TRI, GM’s Vice President of Global Strategy Mike Ableson, and Anders Karrberg, Vice President of Government Affairs at Volvo Car Group, as well as Lyft’s Vice President of Public Policy Joseph Okpaku and Nidhi Kalra, Co-Director and Senior Information Scientist, at the RAND Center for Decision Making Under Uncertainty.

Remember, these are the people who are making self-driving car policy talking directly to the people who are making self-driving cars: What was talked about at this hearing could potentially shape the direction of the entire industry.

However, inside General Motors we have a specifically designated employee resource group composed of people with various physical challenges, and they’re already working with our engineering group on the potential for self-driving vehicles going forward.

Pratt: Our president, Akio Toyoda, decided to change the company policy on autonomous driving as the result of a meeting with a blind person, who asked him, “Can I enjoy the mobility of your cars as well?” I wanted to add one more thing: we can’t forget about aging society.

I think as long as we keep in mind that the goal is to prove that the vehicles are safer than drivers today, the NHTSA guidelines published last year are a very good step in that direction, in that they specify what the expectations are before vehicles are deployed in a driverless fashion.

Pratt: An evidence based approach is really the best one, where the government sets what the criteria are for performance at the federal level, but does not dictate what the ways are to meet that particular level of performance.

That’s why this testing in real world is so important, because you’ll see those real-life conditions that we all deal with on a daily basis as human drivers, and we’ll make sure that the vehicles can react appropriately.

As you may know, in California there’s a requirement, if you’re doing autonomous car development, that you report to the government what your disconnection rate is—every time that your car has a failure of a certain kind.

That’s not such a bad idea, but that information then becomes publically available, and it creates a perverse incentive, and the incentive is for companies to try to make that figure look good, because the public is watching.

Think about your cellphone, and the cost of the camera that’s inside your cellphone, which rivals some of the best cameras that you could buy for personal or professional use in the past, and these now cost pennies to put inside of a cellphone.

And so, for example if you’re going around a corner, and there’s some trees or a building that’s blocking the view, vehicle to vehicle communication can give you the equivalent of x-ray vision, because you’re seeing not only your view, but also the view from other cars as well.

Joseph Okpaku, Lyft: We often talk about the benefit that Lyft in its current form as a ridesharing platform has financially for drivers, but one of the things that I think often gets lost in the conversation is how important transportation is for economic upward mobility on the passenger side, meaning that one of the biggest factors for economic opportunity is access to reliable and quick transportation.

So, if you buy that concept, and you apply it across a grand scale that an AV platform can provide, then I think the economic opportunity that it confers is really significant, and it can really help a lot of people who are in economic need get to and from their jobs [without having to] rely on insufficient public transportation options.

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