Many people in the US are hesitant to climb into a self-driving car. The media tend to focus on aberrant incidents with autonomous test vehicles while skipping the less sensational accumulation of autonomous driving miles and algorithm advances. However, many organizations want to help the public understand the benefits of soon-to-be-in-your-neighborhood self-driving cars, and they’re advocating for a common sense, common nomenclature and classification system, as well as similar performance characteristics of future autonomous vehicle (AV) technologies.
For example, Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) is a coalition dedicated to educating policymakers and the public about automated vehicles and the increased safety, mobility, and sustainability they can bring.
Most industry insiders agree that automated driving will start out as transportation linking the final/first mile of journeys and will grow from there. The slow movement toward driverless technology is beginning with lane departure warning, a technology designed to address an often-fatal type of crash, as well as blind spot detection, which is yielding benefits when it comes to preventing lane-change crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Consumer trust is nearly as important a factor in the way that autonomous vehicles will come to the market as it the available technology. PAVE believes the following results will occur if driverless technology were to be widely adopted:
- roads will be safer
- new roads can open for people in the US who are unable to drive because of disability or other factors
- mobility will become enhanced
- the transportation system will become more sustainable
- the environmental and other impacts of vehicle travel will be reduced
PAVE’s Mission: Educate about Driverless Technology
PAVE’s goal is purely educational: the coalition does not advocate for a particular technology or for specific public policies. Instead, its members believe that, in order to fully realize the benefits of driverless technology, policymakers and the public need factual information about the present and future state of technology and its potential benefits.
The PAVE mission is to clear up confusion about automated vehicles and foreground realistic, factual information. The coalition aims to codify language and ease driver wariness of self-driving vehicles, which the group views as potentially life-saving technology. Arguing that the technical challenges of creating driverless vehicles, while substantial, are solvable, if people in the US are provided with clear, factual information, they will be able to choose the benefits of driverless technology.
The coalition plans to hold events nationwide to introduce driver assistance and self-driving technology to consumers and policymakers. In addition, the group will offer educational workshops to guide federal, state, and local officials in their efforts to make informed policy decisions. PAVE will also create and distribute a wide variety of educational materials including a website and social media content.
Extending Transportation Options with Autonomous Vehicles
Personal vehicles carry us to work, to school, to activities with community, families, and friends. But PAVE acknowledges that mobility is much harder, if not impossible, to achieve for those with visual impairments or other disabilities, for seniors who are less able to drive, and to those whose can’t afford a personal vehicle. Mobility experts see automated vehicles as an important new opportunity for these people in the US, many of whom could for the first time enjoy the same freedom and economic opportunity that most of us enjoy.
“If we are going to save the lives that automated vehicles can save, the public and their elected representatives must be full participants in shaping the future of our roadways,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, the council’s 2018 president and CEO.
Nearly every automotive corporation and established innovator is working to perfect fully-autonomous vehicle technology. Current guidance points to 2020 as the target year when AVs will become pervasive, and, state-by-state, legislation is being considered to move driverless technology from small pilot projects to everyday life.
Until then, automakers are already selling cars with semi-autonomous features, and the transportation world is preparing for the day when driverless cars will be as common as cruise control.
While not included as part of the PAVE coalition, the Tesla Network — the company’s planned autonomous mobility service — will “probably” be ready by the end of 2019. Tesla CEO Elon Musk spoke about the Tesla Network during its first-quarter earnings call in May, 2018. The service is described as allowing Tesla owners to include their vehicles in a network that will resemble a hybrid of car-sharing and ride-hailing. Owners who opt in will be compensated from rides, and they will also be able to set restrictions over who can use their vehicles. When a Tesla owner needs the vehicle for personal use, it can be recalled from the network.
In Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car… and How It Will Reshape Our World, Lawrence D. Burns describes a transportation future where we “safely and conveniently use autonomous vehicles to take us where we want to go” (p. 1). Autonomy helps us to understand this likely future reality by taking us back to the beginning of robotic transportation research.
And others are looking ahead to a new reality where AV are the norm. Thomas Frey, a futurist and founder of the DaVinci Institute, a think tank in Westminster, says,
“I’ve come to the conclusion that this will become the most disruptive technology in history, even more disruptive than the invention of the wheel. There’s a lot of interesting questions. What happens to motorcycles and bicycles? What age is it OK for a kid to be in a driverless car by himself? What happens if the kid has to go to the bathroom? Is it OK to put your dog into a driverless car and send it to doggy day care? We are going to find so many different business models and see a lot of creative ideas.”
Who’s Onboard with PAVE?
PAVE’s diverse members play a variety of roles across the transportation system. They hail from groups like traditional automakers from the US and around the world, leading academic institutions, auto component makers, startup technology companies, established tech firms, insurance firms, non-profits, disability advocacy groups, safety groups, and other industry stakeholders, with the National Safety Council and Audi of America co-chairing the coalition.
“Industry collaboration and partnerships are key to the successful development of this technology,” said John Moreno, a spokesman for AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah.
In addition to the co-chairs, coalition members include AAA, American Public Transportation Association, Aurora, Consumer Technology Association, Cruise Automation, Daimler, INRIX, Intel, Mobileye, Munich RE, National Council on Aging, National Federation of the Blind, NVIDIA, SAE International, Securing America’s Future Energy, Toyota, US Chamber of Commerce, Volkswagen, Voyage, Waymo, and Zoox.