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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
I’ve never seen a ghost, but it sure feels like I’ve encountered them a lot lately. The other night, an invisible set of hands kept vying for control of the 2019 Acura RDX I was driving. A little tug to the left, a nudge to the right. It gave me the creeps, like the car was possessed.
Cars do scary things sometimes when operating in driver-assist mode: Braking at shadows, swerving away from unseen obstacles, and failing to respond the way we expect.
Why it matters: Consumers need to be able to trust the advanced driver-assist systems in today’s vehicles or they will never fully embrace self-driving cars.
“These systems have a lot of potential for improving safety and reducing crashes. But we lose all of that if they are implemented in such a way that drivers are annoyed or uneasy about using them."— Russ Rader, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
The big picture: Safety features like blind-spot detection or backup cameras are the early building blocks of automated driving. We're now seeing more advanced systems —lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking — that aim to help drivers or even correct their actions if necessary.
But these technologies don't always behave the way humans would, and sometimes, as I've learned, that can be downright frightening.
The risk: With names like Autopilot or Pilot Assist, many of these technologies erroneously leave consumers thinking their cars can drive themselves.
The bottom line: The early results underscore the fact that today's systems aren't a good substitute for human drivers.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
For the most part, the hype surrounding AVs has focused on the cars: how safe they are, when they'll arrive, whether they'll work. But less attention has been paid to how these vehicles will work together as fleets — in models similar to ride-hailing services, Bestmile CEO Raphael Gindrat writes for Axios Expert Voices.
Why it matters: If AV makers flood cities with driverless vehicles, they could add to the traffic pressures created by badly managed ride-hailing fleets. Efficient deployment will require vehicles, operators and travelers to communicate in real time to match supply and demand.
Background: A recent study by the San Francisco Transportation Authority found ride-hailing services are responsible for 51% of the city’s traffic slowdown over the past six years.
What's needed: To curb crowding, cities could implement centralized control of AVs — like air traffic control for planes — to direct vehicles from multiple manufacturers and service providers.
Where it stands: The industry is starting to pay attention.
The bottom line: Shared AVs promise to make transit cheaper, safer and faster, with fewer vehicles moving more people. A centralized infrastructure would help realize this promise.
Go deeper: Read Gindrat's entire post.
I want to hear — and share — what you're reading about AVs. Send me a link to an article and your expert analysis of why it matters — firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flying taxi: A pilotless, electric aircraft service plans to start testing in Singapore next year. (Nick Lavars — New Atlas)
License to drive: Waymo to test truly driverless cars in California (Michael Liedtke — AP)
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Last weekend, we looked at the myths and realities surrounding autonomous vehicle technology, how driving has changed and what will happen in the years to come.
Afterward, I hopped on Twitter for a Q&A with readers. A few highlights:
Q: How soon can I buy one?
A: The first uses will be in shared fleets in geofenced areas and under good conditions. Buying a personal driverless car is years away.
Q: How will an autonomous vehicle know to obey the hand signals of a flag man at a construction detour? How will it locate and wedge into a parking spot at Walmart the Saturday before Christmas? How will it know where to pull off in case of an emergency?
A: This is why there is still work to do. 99% of self-driving cars is solved. It’s the 1% left that’s so hard.
DHL's PostBOT. Photo: Deutsche Post
Several cities in Europe are experimenting with the use of autonomous vehicles for postal deliveries.
The strolling mailboxes provide cost savings to offset declining postal revenue and help lighten the load for human mail carriers.
What's next: DHL is also working on a delivery drone called the Parcelcopter.