The Fuse

This Week in AVs: Trump Administration Considers AV Pilot Program; Ford Patents Video Game-Style Steering; Aurora Authorized for Pennsylvania Testing; and More

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | October 15, 2018

Self-Driving Cars May Hit U.S. Roads in Government Pilot Program

The decision by a federal agency to consider such a project may be an important step forward in creating a comprehensive regulatory framework as well as consumer trust in the technology.

The Trump administration is seeking public comment on a proposed new pilot program to be administered by the federal government. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) added the project would seek to find “how best to foster the safe introduction of vehicles with high and full driving automation” onto U.S. roads. Participants in the pilot would be able to introduce a broader range of vehicle designs and technology, but would also be required to help the government learn more about the technology in support of its regulatory mission. The decision by a federal agency to consider such a project may be an important step forward in creating a comprehensive regulatory framework as well as consumer trust in the technology.

Aurora Receives Pennsylvania’s Blessing to Test AVs

Aurora, the self-driving startup helmed by ex-Google AV engineer Chris Urmson, has become the first company officially authorized by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to test its vehicles on the state’s roads. In a blog post, the company announced it had voluntarily complied with Pennsylvania DOT’s request “because we believe this will help the communities in and around Pittsburgh to be aware of Aurora, our testing, our commitment to safety, and our vision for a self-driving future.” The authorization is the latest example of regulators playing catch-up to the industry, as Aurora has been testing in Pittsburgh since late 2017.

Ford Patents Video Game Steering for AVs

A patent recently granted to Ford would allow humans to take over some self-driving functions, such as steering, when necessary—a technological application which has drawn immediate comparisons to Mario Kart. The patent identifies two modes of steering: The first is for a smartphone to be used as a steering wheel, syncing the phone to the car, with the second mode putting a virtual steering wheel on the device’s touchscreen. Although many patents never see the light of day—and many early patents like this are vague rather than highly specific—the patent reflects the thinking of AV engineers, and illustrates the myriad directions and applications self-driving technology could take.

AVs Could Change How We Retire

A CNBC article this week focused on Voyage, a company that instead of competing with Waymo, Cruise, Uber and others on public road testing has turned its focus to rolling out autonomous ride-sharing services in Florida retirement communities. The service has already been rolled out at The Villages in central Florida, which has approximately 125,000 residents and 750 miles of road. Although there are still some queries that need to be ironed out—such as insurance, and who escorts the retirees while they travel—CEO Oliver Cameron believes the market potential is significant, and could enable us to stay mobile even as our bodies slow down.

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