More and more autonomous vehicle tests are cropping up all over the world, but many environments are still being ignored. Automakers are so afraid to publicly demonstrate their technology during Michigan’s cold winter months that they are moving the North American International Auto Show – a January staple – to June in 2020. The rising threat of the Consumer Electronics Show no doubt played a role in that decision, but that doesn’t change the fact that harsh weather remains a turnoff for many AV developers.
Will that change in 18 months when the Detroit Auto Show makes its summer debut? That remains to be seen, but OEMs might need to push on anyway and test/demonstrate their cars in as many places as possible. If they don’t, they may not actually be able to achieve all the things they’ve proposed.
“I would say the biggest problem, and I don’t think it’s highlighted enough as the leading problem, is that the vehicles really need to be used everywhere,” said David Agnew, VP of business development at Dataspeed, a company that builds kits for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. “We’ve got this promise of safety that, once we get AVs, we’re going to prevent all these accidents. It’s a big promise, but you’re not going to start saving all those lives until the technology is everywhere.”
Challenges in achieving large-scale deployment
One challenge in achieving this, involves government regulations, which have yet to be finalized in most parts of the world. Most lawmakers want to see greater results before they sign a bill into law, and some automakers want a law before they take more actions. It would be catastrophic for an OEM or tech startup to move too quickly and employ AV functions that could be deemed illegal once certain regulations are in place.
Another challenge has to do with testing, as Waymo found out recently. Waymo has had to deal with angry individuals who do not want the vehicles to be tested where they live. They see the cars as a nuisance, a danger and/or threat to job security. It’s a problem that has presented another – perhaps less anticipated – hurdle in the journey to develop a better automobile.
Agnew, who previously served as Hyundai Mobis’ director of advanced engineering for autonomous vehicle research, said that while AVs need to be tested everywhere, he thinks that part of deployment is far away. “The reason it’s a ways away is because the challenge of implementing it everywhere is, humans are driving at 100 million miles between accidents,” said Agnew. “This includes drunk drivers and everybody else. You’ve got to get to a billion – or 10 billion – miles. So the challenge is not making the technology good enough to do that, the challenge is measuring it. How do you know that you’re there without just putting it out there and starting?”
This brings Agnew back to his point about the need to dive right in to AV deployment. “I think putting the technology out there and starting is the way that you will eventually get it deployed,” he said. “But it’s not being talked about enough, and that’s the key challenge. But it has it has to be solved before we really start saving all the lives that we’re promising to save.”
About the author:
Louis Bedigian is an experienced journalist and contributor to various automotive trade publications. He is a dynamic writer, editor and communications specialist with expertise in the areas of journalism, promotional copy, PR, research and social networking.