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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Training a new driver is straightforward — make them practice until they can master basic skills well enough to pass a driver's license exam. But there are no such tests for automated vehicles, leaving it up to AV developers to decide when their technology is safe enough to deploy.
Why it matters: AVs could reduce the number of traffic deaths and increase mobility for those who can't drive, but only if the public trusts them. With no prescribed validation methods — and regulators largely on the sidelines as the technologies are advancing — it's difficult to know how safe is safe enough.
The big picture: "It's kind of the wild, wild west out there," says Consumer Reports' David Friedman, a former acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
What's happening: There are basically 3 ways to test automated vehicle technology...
Most developers use a combination of all three, but their approaches can vary. Some recent examples are...
Tesla is the outlier — its testing process is heavily dependent on cars already on the road, which the company sees as a huge competitive advantage.
Yes, but: It's not clear if the data captured from Tesla's consumer fleet is better at training its AV system than data collected through more deliberative testing processes by other companies.
What's needed: Several experts tell me there should be an independent, third-party assessment of each company's safety claims.
"Self-driving cars are anything but proven. All we're asking is to get us the data to prove these things deliver real safety benefits before we start using people as human guinea pigs."— David Friedman
What to watch: A new consortium is working to define safety testing practices to lay the groundwork for formal industry standards. Its first recommendations are expected this summer.
Orlando is a tech hub for companies like Luminar. Photo: Luminar
ORLANDO — Luminar, the lidar company trying to build the "eyes" for AVs, plans to turn its central Florida headquarters into a mass-production manufacturing center by the "early 2020s," Luminar co-founder and CTO Jason Eichenholz tells Axios' Kim Hart.
Why it matters: There's plenty of competition in this area, with biggest rival Velodyne announcing a mass-production deal with Nikon last week.
Background: Kim visited Luminar while joining AOL founder-turned-investor Steve Case on his firm's "Rise of the Rest" tour highlighting startups in cities outside of traditional tech hubs that are often overlooked by venture capitalists.
The big picture: Florida has some of the country's most progressive rules governing AV testing.
Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
President Trump is open to considering infrastructure spending on electric vehicle charging, Sen. Debbie Stabenow told Bloomberg (subscription).
The big picture: Trump and congressional Democrats agreed they should invest $2 trillion in the nation's roads, bridges and rural broadband in a meeting at the White House yesterday.
What to watch, per Axios' Marisa Fernandez: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer plan on meeting with the president again in 3 weeks along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss funding specifics.
Electric future: L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti's sweeping plan would phase out gas-fueled cars (Sammy Roth — The Los Angeles Times)
More on Velodyne's deal: The autonomous car tech that Elon Musk said was “doomed” is calling his bluff (Chris Davies — SlashGear)
Recap: Tesla’s autonomy event: Impressive progress with an unrealistic timeline (Timothy B. Lee — Ars Technica)
Rendering of flying car skyport atop the Paramount Miami Worldcenter. Illustration: World Satellite Television News/Paramount Miami Worldcenter
Future residents of the 60-story Paramount Miami World Center won't have to bother with trying to hail a ride at street level. Instead, they can take a glass-enclosed elevator up to the rooftop skyport and be whisked off by a flying car.
Why it matters: South Florida is a prime market for VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) air taxis because of the region's congested highways and affluent population, says Daniel Kodsi, developer of the center.
Flying car technology is inevitable, per Kodsi:
Context: Helicopter landing pads have adorned buildings for decades. But Kodsi claims the new Miami tower would be the first in the world designed especially for so-called flying cars.
Yes, but: While some advocates predict flying cars will be here within a decade, no one knows whether masses of people want to fly in taxis, or whether the many logistical and regulatory hurdles can be cleared.
Details: The $600 million tower, now under construction, will have 524 high-end apartments including 26 penthouses, with prices ranging from $700,000 to $1.5 million.
The bottom line: With his TV royalties, surely George Jetson could afford to retire there.