Oct 26, 2018

Axios Navigate

Joann Muller

Good morning! Welcome to Axios Autonomous Vehicles. Thanks for reading. Please share this newsletter and tell your friends they can subscribe here. If you have tips or feedback just reply to this email.

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1 big thing: Trading your privacy for safety

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

In its first ranking of automated driving systems, Consumer Reports rated GM's Cadillac Super Cruise better than systems from Tesla, Nissan and Volvo because it includes a camera inside the car to monitor driver attentiveness.

The big picture: Driver monitoring systems are needed in semi-automated cars because drivers still have to stay engaged. They also raise questions about how much monitoring consumers will tolerate in the name of safety. Nose-pickers and cursers, take note.

How it works: The Super Cruise system, available in the Cadillac CT6, takes control of the car only on limited-access highways that GM has already mapped.

  • Once activated, a small infrared camera tracks the driver’s eyes to assess whether they’re watching the road.
  • If they're not, they get flashing lights on the steering wheel and the seat vibrates. If the driver does not respond, the car will come to a safe stop.

What they're saying: Consumer Reports found the Super Cruise system strikes the right balance between high-tech capability and safety.

  • GM says the camera isn't recording anything; it's just a buffered video feed to make sure Super Cruise works as it should.
  • Its low-res infrared camera can't identify you; it just tracks your eyes and face, Navigant Research analyst Sam Abuelsamid says.
  • Knowing the driver's situation will be essential in future safety systems, says Jake Fisher, CR's director of auto testing. "This is not a privacy issue; it's a safety issue."

Down the road, driver monitoring systems will be everywhere as cars get more automated, says Rajeev Thakur, an AV sensor expert at Osram Opto Semiconductors. Having cameras inside shared AV fleets could be a check against illegal behavior or help to monitor the condition of the vehicle.

Yes, but: As higher resolution cameras proliferate in the name of safety, there's a real chance they can be misused to invade privacy, Abuelsamid says.

  • Automakers are already collecting information from your car today, but mostly for vehicle analytics. The majority of policies explicitly state: Your car's data belongs to you.
  • New efforts to personalize your vehicle experience, like GM's in-dash Marketplace, require you to opt in so they can share your information with retailers.
  • That privacy protection might not apply when you are riding in a robo-taxi run by a fleet company.
"When you give up ownership of the vehicle, you also give up ownership of your data."
— Sam Abuelsamid

Go deeper: Read the full post.

2. With new risks should come new regs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

When we turn over control of our lives to others, we expect there to be rules that keep us safe. But autonomous vehicles aren't regulated and pending bills before Congress don't go far enough to protect consumers, Consumer Reports' David Friedman writes for Axios.

Where it stands: Automakers and tech companies are lobbying for a bill in the Senate, the AV START Act. It would allow millions of self-driving vehicles to be exempt from existing federal rules without requiring new rules to ensure they are safer than the cars we have today — in which 37,133 people died on U.S. roads last year.

Context: Commercial air travel is carefully regulated and the FAA is funded at $17 billion a year, helping to make airline fatalities extremely rare in the U.S. The agency in charge of auto safety, NHTSA, has a budget of less than $1 billion and only voluntary guidelines for self-driving cars.

What’s needed: The industry should have minimum performance standards for AV technology and strong privacy rules. It should offer unfettered access for the disabled and public information about what AVs can and can't do.

The bottom line: Instead of rushing to undermine current rules, Congress should increase NHTSA’s budget and direct them to put strong regulations in place.

Go deeper: Read the entire post.

3. Bike and scooter rules are laying AV groundwork

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

During the first wave of mobility disruption, ride-hailing companies found niches beyond the reach of traditional regulation.

But as modes of transportation expand — from shared bikes and scooters to the anticipated rollout of autonomous vehicles — governments and regulatory agencies have begun to reassert themselves, writes Anne Widera, a mobility consultant and former strategist at Uber and Google.

The big picture: San Francisco, Los Angeles, D.C. and many other cities are actively setting policy, using lessons learned from early run-ins with Uber and Lyft.

  • Since AV business models will likely resemble those of Bird and Lime, cities will look to carry over the policies they develop around vehicle caps, permits, data sharing and more.

Companies hoping to operate AV fleets will likely have to show how they will improve safety, minimize increases in congestion and include all members of the community (especially young, old, disabled and low-income residents).

Why it matters: By creating regulatory frameworks that promote competition, limit fleet sizes and ensure equity and accessibility, cities will shape the future business potential of AVs. While this may put a short-term damper on deployment and adoption, it should lead to AV fleets and services that are better integrated into their communities.

Go deeper: Read the full post.

4. Driving the conversation

Trouble on the bus: NHTSA pulls the plug on autonomous school bus in Florida (Sean O'Kane — The Verge)

  • The big picture: Autonomous vehicles aren't regulated yet but the feds drew the line at putting schoolchildren in a test vehicle. School buses are strictly regulated.

Traffic: Ford, Uber and Lyft sign a data-sharing agreement in effort to reduce city traffic (Eric Walz — Future Car)

  • Why it matters, per AARP's Jana Lynott: "Universal data standards will rapidly become the most important element for the successful rollout of smart cities technologies, including travel by autonomous vehicle."

Ford goes to Washington: Ford will test its AVs in the nation's capital (Natalie Abruzzo — The Drive)

  • Between the lines: D.C.'s mayor wants to make sure AVs are accessible to residents in all neighborhoods, not just the wealthy. Ford's challenge will be mastering Washington's many traffic circles.

Send me a link to what you're reading — and why it matters.

5. What I'm driving

Jaguar I-Pace EV. Photo: Jaguar

Sharing my insights on some of today's most advanced vehicles ...

This week I'm driving the new Jaguar I-Pace, the British carmaker’s first all-electric crossover SUV. I don’t think it’s as pretty as the larger F-Pace, but boy can it fly!


  • The I-Pace goes 0–60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
  • The 90k Watt-hour (Wh) battery has an estimated EPA range of 234 miles.
  • It takes about 40 minutes to recharge on a DC fast charger (10 hours on a standard AC wall charger).
  • Starting price is $69,500.

What's new: The more you drive the I-Pace, the more it gets to know you — not just your favorite music channels, seat position or temperature settings, but also your driving style. It calculates the car's realistic mileage range based on insights from your driving style and the topography of the route to your destination.

My experience: I drove 80 miles on a cold morning. I started with 230 miles of range, turned on the heat and radio, and was down to 202 by the time I pulled out of the driveway. When I got home, I had 88 miles of range left. Interesting math.

Maybe I should drive more slowly. Nah.

Joann Muller