Jennifer van der Kleut
A roundup of interesting headlines to come out of the driverless and connected-vehicle industry this week:
Companies are once again concerned that California DMV rules will delay autonomous transportation progress
It seems California still can’t strike an effective balance when it comes to laws governing the manufacture and testing of autonomous vehicles. Previously, the California Department of Motor Vehicles said it was relieved and happy when the federal government released official policies and guidelines for states regarding self-driving vehicles, because the state felt it did not have the expertise or technical knowledge to design its own rules. Yet, despite the recent release of the federal government’s new policies, the California DMV this week held a public workshop about state rules, and industry folks say they were blind-sided by even more new state mandates, which make them concerned that once again, progress in the state will be hampered. The Los Angeles Times reports that under new rules, manufacturers would also have to obtain an ordinance or resolution from local authorities “that specify the roadways, speeds and other conditions that their vehicles are designed to operate in to ensure that communities have input on where testing occurs.” Perhaps even more surprisingly, E&T Magazine reports that companies would have to submit a full year’s worth of driverless data before being allowed to apply for a testing permit. Read more from the LA Times and E&T Magazine.
Tesla News: By end of next year, all cars will be fully autonomous–but we will only take responsibility for accidents in certain cases
A lot of news came out of the Tesla camp this week. First, on Wednesday, CEO Elon Musk announced that all new Tesla models will be capable of complete autonomy–that, is Level 5. All current Tesla owners will also be able to update their car’s software to turn their semi-autonomous cars into Level 5 vehicles, which Musk said will require no interaction from the “driver” at all. Musk said the company hopes the Level 5 updates will be ready by the end of 2017, barely one year from now. In other news, though, Musk blasted the media for making such a big deal over the few recent Autopilot crashes that have taken place, one of which killed the driver of the vehicle. He said the few accidents should not overshadow the numerous miles Teslas have driven safely while in Autopilot. Based on that, Musk said, Tesla as a company will only be taking responsibility for crashes caused by “design flaws.” That declaration comes amid a still-brewing argument within the auto industry over where liability for crashes in semi-autonomous or fully autonomous vehicles should fall. Read more about Tesla’s announcements from the Business Journal and WIRED magazine.
Moscow still sees self-driving buses as 5-10 years away
Russia broached the subject of driverless transportation this week, suggesting that the nation is still wary of the concept. Representatives from the Department of Transport said they still see self-driving transit buses as being at least five to 10 years away, “after they have been recognized as safe and beneficial in other countries.” In particular, officials pointed to Singapore as a country they are following with interest. Singapore is in the process of rolling out connected-vehicle bus control systems, and just recently starting testing self-driving robot taxis in a small downtown area. Moscow isn’t ruling out the concept of driverless transportation completely, though–officials said research and development is already underway involving driverless car sharing and artificial intelligence systems for vehicles, as well as semi-autonomous features such as emergency braking and driver fatigue monitoring. Read more from Mos.ru, the Moscow City news website.