Lost in the putrid cloud of self-driving car clickbait, the Department of Transportation’s Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation held its first meeting on January 16th, 2017. One look at its members is all it takes to know whose lobbying dollars hold sway in Washington. The largest constituency? A bloc including Apple, Amazon, Lyft, Uber, Waymo and Zoox, all of whom profit from you losing your steering wheel as soon as possible. They may cite safety, but there is only one objective voice on the panel, a man with true life and death experience at the intersection of human skill and automation:
Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.
In a world where political hacks and “experts” are increasingly replacing those with real-world experience, Sully’s inclusion on the panel is a revelation. Best known for The Miracle on the Hudson, Sully’s entire career has been devoted to safety. Look past the mythology, and his is the story of the opportunity, danger and cost inherent to sacrificing skilled humans on the altar of automation. Sully has written and spoken extensively on the criticality of training and compensation for airline pilots, and his insights have clear applications to the future of the trucking industry.
In a recent interview, Sully made clear three simple messages: 1) we need real standards for self-driving cars, 2) the industry needs to reboot its approach to semi-autonomous cars, and 3) drivers education “is a national disgrace.”
Sully also ends his interview with a singularly authoritative message about human driving. TL:DR? If you love driving, read this to the end.
Do you spend time in Silicon Valley or Detroit? If you don’t, know that most conversations involve these talking points: Autonomous cars are inevitable. Almost here. Will be ubiquitous. Save lives. Reduce traffic. Cut pollution. Also, mobility. And sharing. And no one will own cars. FYI, Don’t buy Tesla. Tesla sucks. Wait for our stuff.
“Never assume,” my father always said, so let’s follow his advice, deconstruct the clickbait underlying much of the autonomous driving narrative, and ask the question:
What if the autonomous car industry is wrong?
First we have to answer this: What is the autonomous car industry? On one side, we have the universe of Silicon Valley companies trying to figure out how to monetize an immature technology. On the other, we have the universe of legacy car companies terrified the upstarts are going to leave them behind. Since no one knows when or how it will be possible to monetize autonomous cars, they’re investing billions in anything with the words Autonomy or Mobility, catchphrases of a seemingly inevitable future they don’t understand.
Are autonomous cars inevitable? Of course. A self-driving car that works on the streets of Mountain View in decent weather? Google has them now. A self-driving car that is 100% guaranteed never to make a mistake, anywhere, in any condition? Not in my lifetime, and I’m not that old.
The billion-dollar question is—
Read the rest over at The Drive…
Autonocast, the first ever podcast solely dedicated to Self-Driving Cars, has launched. Four episodes in, host Damon Lavrinc has so far tempered the heated opinions of Ed Neidermeyer and myself as we debate all things autonomous.
I suggest tuning in weekly to hear what Damon and his guests have to say.
Episode #1: Alex, Damon, and Ed sit down to discuss the fed’s new guidance on automated vehicles
Episode #2: Alex, Ed, and Damon are back to discuss the realities of AV adoption, how horrid drivers ed got us here, and where the hell we’re going to charge all the EVs coming out the Paris Motor Show. Also, Ed explains his latest Tesla reporting despite a dim audience and Alex continues to be annoyed at how often he agrees with Mr. N.
Episode #3: Alex, Ed, and Damon discuss the Tesla Autopilot situation in Germany and at home, Apple’s reported decision to scale back Project Titan, and why Silicon Valley is so obsessed with AVs.
Episode #4: Tesla’s big Autopilot announcement leaves more questions than answers, but it’s the picture of clarity compared to LeEco’s U.S. launch this week. And are journalists complicit in killing people when they report on the problems with autonomous technology?
What follows is a full review, as promised, of the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), including the new Drive Pilot feature and what Mercedes calls “semi-automated” driving features. This is a follow-up to my original and disputed comparison of this technology suite to Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous driving capabilities.
I note that this test included, over the course of one week, about 250 miles of real-world testing in a top-of-the-line E-Class with Premium 3 Package; 400 pages read (and re-read) of the E-Class owner’s manual; heavy perusal of the company’s website and public statements regarding Drive Pilot; and two undercover visits to dealerships to ask questions of the sales people.
Read the rest over at The Drive…
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-class may be amazing, but it is not a self-driving car. Not even close. But their early ads say it is, in exactly that language. This is how people get killed, and now Consumer Reports is rightfully calling on the FTC to investigate what they call a “misleading” campaign.
Consumer Reports specifically called out a Mercedes TV ad called “The Future,” in which a narrator’s voice-over says, “Is the world truly ready for a vehicle that can drive itself? An autonomous-thinking automobile that protects those inside and outside. Ready or not, the future is here.”
Stuttgart, we have problem.
Read the rest of my article over @The/Drive…
If Ed Snowden wants to protect privacy and civil liberties, then he’s got some explaining to do re: his remarks on Self-Driving Cars. Yesterday he tweeted the following: Continue reading
What makes an Autonomous Car fully Autonomous? Full Autonomy. That will never happen until the last piece of the Autonomous Driving (AD) chain is solved, and that’s the automation of refueling and recharging. This article on The Verge got me thinking about the relationship between AD and EVs, the totally fractured way we talk about the two, and the clear delineation between the types of Self-Driving Cars that are coming.
I just Googled the phrase “Autonomous Driving Chain” and found…nothing. Is no one really thinking about this? It’s impossible.
(Photo credit: BBC)
The Age of the Autonomous Car is coming, and if you want to survive it, you need to re-watch Raiders of the Lost Ark and learn the Lesson of the Swordsman. Once you do that, you’re halfway to understanding the problem with autonomous cars. For every problem technology solves, a new one is created. We solved the problem of the sword with the gun. We are now poised to solve the “problem” of human drivers with Autonomous Cars. And that’s a problem.
If Indy’s gun had misfired, he’d have been toast.
What will happen when Autonomous Cars fail?
Read my latest article at The Drive…
It has begun. Ford and Google will partner to build Driverless Cars, according to sources. I must be Nostradamus. Just last week I explained “How Car Companies Can Survive The Self-Driving Car Apocalypse,” and now Ford has allegedly done precisely what I suggested OEM’s need to do to ensure their survival. Ford, as the first American OEM to partner with Google, has now gained a temporary but Brobdingnagian advantage over every other legacy OEM on the planet.
Yes, Brobdingnagian. On the scale of size, that’s bigger than big, massive or colossal.
Read the rest over at The Drive…
Alex Roy is the author of the LiveDriveRepeat blog and Editor-at-Large for The Drive.
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