Uber's DMV showdown is a make or break for self-driving cars in California

18 December 2016 by Steve Blum
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Uber and the California department of motor vehicles appear headed to court in a dispute that could add some needed clarity to the state’s position regarding regulation of self-driving cars. On Friday, the head of Uber self-driving car team, Anthony Levandowski, said that they didn’t need the DMV’s permission to run their vehicle on San Francisco streets because it wasn’t really autonomous

From a technology perspective, self-driving Ubers operate in the same way as vehicles equipped with advanced driver assist technologies, for example Tesla auto-pilot and other OEM’s traffic jam assist.


California rules might make self-driving cars drive for the border

22 October 2016 by Steve Blum

Companies that are developing self-driving cars apparently aren’t happy with proposed new rules floated by California’s department of motor vehicles. There was a public meeting in Sacramento earlier this week to discuss the DMV’s latest plan for opening up California’s road to autonomous vehicles, both for research and development purposes and for actual operation.

The draft would require companies to compile testing data for a year, before applying for permission to run a car without a driver – and without a steering wheel and all the other controls humans need.… More

Humans follow California rules, robot cars answer to Washington

8 October 2016 by Steve Blum

Guess which one is a federal case?

If a self driving car still needs a human to be ready to take over operation at any time, then that human needs to be a licensed and fully capable driver. But once autonomous vehicles reach a sufficiently advanced level, then no driver’s licence – no human license – is needed in California. That’s the gist of new draft rules floated by the California department of motor vehicles ahead of a public workshop later this month.… More

Driverless car insurance offered with vague exclusions

10 July 2016 by Steve Blum

A British company claims to be the first to offer driverless car insurance. In a commendably plain english document, the Adrian Flux insurance company offers to cover autonomous car owners against hacking, bad software and the operator’s failure to assume manual control, should it become necessary.

The one thing the policy doesn’t do directly is define “driverless car”. It has definitions for all kinds of things, including what “car” means (a passenger vehicle within certain weight limits that’s not designed to carry cargo or hold more than six people).… More

If carmakers haven't figured out wireless in 20 years, they never will

3 July 2016 by Steve Blum
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More unlicensed spectrum for WiFi and other uses will add value to the U.S. economy. That’s the argument FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is making to congress as a matter of general policy and to colleagues as opportunities to reallocate frequency assignments are evaluated.

One immediate thing the Federal Communications Commission can do – and democrat Rosenworcel as well as republicans Michael O’Rielly and Ajit Pai want to do – is to shift 75 MHz of spectrum around 5.9 GHz (5.850 GHz to 5.925 GHz, to be exact) from an unlicensed but otherwise restricted short range, transportation-related allocation to general use.… More

Google and Apple lag behind in self-driving car development, Musk says

9 June 2016 by Steve Blum
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A head start matters.

Google won’t be making self-driving cars, but Apple probably will, although it’s coming late to the game. That’s how Elon Musk handicaps the autonomous vehicle sweepstakes. He’s in a better position to judge than most people. His company, Tesla, already has a semi-autonomous car on the market and is trying to break out of its Silicon Valley-centric niche and into the mainstream of mass market manufacturers.

Musk talked about the steep competitive slope new entrants into the automotive business have to climb at a recent conference.… More

Logic of self-driving car policy escapes RAND corporation

16 April 2016 by Steve Blum
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Control sample.

The RAND corporation published a study about self driving cars that comes to a mathematically obvious conclusion, while completely missing the public policy point. The study starts with the fact that one person dies in a U.S. traffic accident for every 100 million miles driven. Then it dives into a really complex statistical analysis…

Given that fatalities and injuries are rare events, we will show that fully autonomous vehicles would have to be driven hundreds of millions of miles and sometimes hundreds of billions of miles to demonstrate their reliability in terms of fatalities and injuries.


Self-driving cars coming sooner than you expect

12 March 2016 by Steve Blum
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The Consumer Technology Association – the sponsor of CES (don’t dare call it the Consumer Electronics Show) – says even though we’ll see the first fully autonomous cars by 2020, by 2030 there only be 1 million sold per year. By 2045 – all but 30 years from now – maybe half the cars sold will be self driving.

I don’t think so. My prediction is that by 2020 more than half the cars sold in California will include self-driving features, and you’ll be able to buy a fully autonomous vehicle for less than $25,000.… More

Artificial intelligence is smart enough for (some) federal highway safety rules

13 February 2016 by Steve Blum
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Assume feet and hands.

The federal highway transportation safety agency agrees with Google that the artificial intelligence system that controls its autonomous cars is the driver for purposes of federal vehicle safety rules. According to a letter sent to Google by the agency and posted on its website

Google’s design choices in its proposed approach to the [self driving vehicle] raise a number of novel issues in applying the [federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs)].


Money is no object for high tech traffic laws

17 January 2016 by Steve Blum
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“A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money”, Illinois senator Everett Dirksen said of Washington’s spending habits back in the 1960s. That was when a billion dollars would get you more than a cup of coffee. Heck, it might even have bought an official U.S. Air Force toilet seat back in the day.

Now, it’s only a good start on writing new rules for self-driving cars. The U.S. transportation department is planning to spend $4 billion to come up with new laws and procedures that would allow fully autonomous vehicles to operate on the nation’s roads.… More