Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Drive.ai — a startup developing an on-demand autonomous shuttle service — is based in Silicon Valley but has deployed its first vans in Texas, drawn in by the state’s favorable regulations.
Without a national regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles, states have become laboratories not just for the technology itself but also for the rules emerging to shape it, Axios' Kaveh Waddell and Kia Kokalitcheva report.
The big picture: Federal legislation that would create national parameters for testing and deploying AVs passed the House but is stalled in the Senate, leaving states to create their own rules for now. Automakers worry that without federal standards they'll have to deal with a patchwork of state laws that would hamper a broader roll-out of the technology.
That leaves companies shopping for testbeds among the states. Currently, 29 states have passed some kind of regulation for self-driving cars, some more extensive than others.
As companies get closer to deploying self-driving cars that can be available to the public, state rules around consumer transportation will be even more important.
Yes, but: Some experts argue that self-driving safety regulation should really be done at the federal level.
Go deeper: Read the entire story.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Human drivers are faulted for most accidents involving AVs, but closer inspection reveals the responsibility for such incidents is more complex and shared, National Auto Care's Steve Verney writes for Axios.
Many accidents appear to have occurred when an AV took an action that was technically legal and safe, but which a human driver did not expect.
The way AVs drive, at least for now, is fundamentally different from the way humans do, which may create inefficient and dangerous miscommunications.
What's needed: Public policy should ensure that autonomous development includes ways for humans to better identify and interact with AVs.
The bottom line: AV developers, manufacturers, insurers and regulators will have to devise a more specific, thought-out vision for how humans and machines share the road. If they don't, public resistance could well impede the AV transition.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
A recent study from the American Automobile Association found that 73% of Americans said they would be too afraid to ride in a driverless vehicle and 63% would feel unsafe sharing the road with one, May Mobility's Alisyn Malek writes for Axios.
Why it matters: Mistrust of robotic decision-making, and doubts about safety, are changing the focus of the AV industry. Increasingly, the critical question for companies is shifting from who can build the technology first to who can win people’s trust.
What to watch: Gaining the trust of riders, transit planners and government regulators will require transparency, education and in-person interactions with the technology.
The bottom line: To win public trust, AV developers will have to take up these exposure and education challenges alongside the technology itself.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
The DragonFly Pod. Photo: PerceptIn
PerceptIn, a startup working on vision systems for robots and self-driving cars, recently announced it will offer a DIY custom autonomous vehicle, per Forbes' Jennifer Kite-Powell.
The price tag: $40K
How it works: The vehicle uses computer vision, radar, sonar, and GPS to sense its surroundings and plan a driving path. Customers can buy the vehicle parts to assemble by themselves or PerceptIn will design and build it for them.
The purpose: The pod isn't currently meant for the open road, but for controlled environments like university campuses where it can transport people and objects at low speeds (right now, the max is 20 miles per hour).
"We've created a Lego-like approach and designed the vehicle so that when people are putting it together, they can reconfigure different components to use only what suits their needs."— PerceptIn founder Shaoshan Liu tells Forbes
Yes, but: The vehicle's planning and control algorithm can get stuck when both lanes on the road are blocked, requiring a human to take control of the vehicle remotely.
What's next: Liu tells Axios they plan to apply the modular approach to other types of vehicles — including an autonomous vending vehicle to be announced soon.