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AVs aren't just limited to roads. Today's issue looks to the skies for what's happening with drones and flying cars.
Plus, Expert Voices contributor Patrick Lozada examines what will make China's AVs different from those being developed elsewhere.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, have the potential to transform our daily lives but not until regulators can be sure they won't fall from the sky or crash into other aircraft.
The big picture: UAVs have almost unlimited uses — from combatting disease to delivering pizza — and their numbers are expected to soar across multiple industries in the next few years.
What's happening: A series of pilot projects are under way or starting soon in the U.S. that aim to demonstrate how drones could be operated safely.
Last week, top FAA officials traveled to Rwanda to see how the country has managed to embrace drones on a national scale with the help of an American company.
"Rwanda has set a powerful precedent for how a large national-scale UAV implementation could work"— Keller Rinaudo, CEO and co-founder, Zipline
The safety measures Zipline already uses in Rwanda are similar to what the FAA is proposing for the U.S.
What's next: This summer, Zipline will bring its fleet of delivery drones to North Carolina, where they will be used to deliver medical supplies to rural hospitals as part of the FAA's UAS Integration Pilot Program.
Yes, but: The U.S. national airspace system is more complicated than Rwanda's, says Jenny Rosenberg, executive director of the Alliance for Drone Innovation, which represents drone manufacturers.
Go deeper: Read my full story.
The Ford Mach I Levacar (1959) never went into production. Photo: Archive Photos/Getty
Carmakers are in a frantic race to own the driverless road. But a little-noticed parallel contest is under way in the world of autonomous vehicles — a competition for who will dominate a shift of motor traffic from the road to the air, Axios' Steve LeVine writes.
Why it matters: The competition to control the air could more profoundly impact how we live and work, with the potential to change the face of cities, how we measure time, and what we regard as our activity space.
"Jetsons" has become a catch-all metaphor for almost any futuristic vision, but Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, in an interview with Axios, painted a picture very much resembling the 1960s cartoon.
Reality check: There is no telling whether this future will materialize like Muilenburg and others forecast. For one thing, no one knows whether masses of people want to fly in taxis, or whether a multitude of logistical and regulatory hurdles can be crossed.
This is a much faster timetable than the widespread deployment of fully autonomous cars — which are expected only in the 2030s — because obstacles on the ground are far more complex than those in the air.
Go deeper: Read Steve's entire piece.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
AVs built in China will look, feel and drive differently because they're being developed in an ecosystem of infrastructure, technical standards and regulatory requirements distinct from those of their U.S. and European counterparts, China business consultant Patrick Lozada writes for Axios Expert Voices.
Why it matters: Infrastructure investments in particular will help China meet its goal of 10% of vehicles reaching Level 4/5 autonomy by 2030. However, China’s walled-garden approach to AVs will also make it harder for foreign firms to enter the market.
There are several key differences between Chinese AVs and those being developed elsewhere...
1. Standards: In 2017, the Chinese government called for more than 100 domestic standards for AVs and other internet-connected vehicles.
2. Data inputs: Chinese AVs will "see" much more than U.S. vehicles that rely heavily on onboard sensors, thanks to the government's push to expand smart infrastructure like a national 5G network that will provide the vehicles data about their environment.
3. Empowered planners: China’s city planners have greater authority than their American and European counterparts.
Go deeper: Read the full post.
Lozada is a director in the China practice of Albright Stonebridge, a strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm.
Ladies who lead: Emerging women startup leaders in transportation, mobility & autonomous vehicles (Kathryn Schox — Medium)
Laser Bear: Waymo's move to sell lidar units is a bet on a bigger market (Alex Davies — Wired)
Testing: Pittsburgh's rules for autonomous vehicle testing less stringent than California's (Ramesh Santanam — The Associated Press)
2019 Ford Ranger FX4. Photo courtesy of Ford
My ride this week, the 2019 Ford Ranger Fx4, comes with training wheels for off-roading.
Why it matters: Off-roading can be an adventure — and not a good one if you don't know what you're doing. The $1,295 FX4 off-road package on the Ranger takes away some of the stress with a new feature called Trail Control.
Details: With a push of a button, the system takes over the braking and the throttle inputs, enabling the driver to concentrate entirely on steering.
Of note: Purists say Trail Control, also available on the larger Ford F-150 Raptor, takes all the fun out of off-roading — but I would argue it gives novices a chance to find out what they've been missing.
What to watch: Ford has applied for a patent on a new autonomous system for off-road vehicles that would enable them to traverse dirt, gravel, mud, sand and other tricky terrain.
The bottom line: Trail Control could be just the beginning of the off-road AV adventure.