Dec 20, 2019

Keeping expectations for self-driving cars in check

Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky. Photo: Courtesy of Argo AI

The rollout of self-driving cars is happening as it should — gradually and safely — Bryan Salesky, CEO of Argo AI, a leading developer of automated driving technology, tells Axios.

The big picture: Self-driving vehicles could help improve safety, reduce traffic congestion and improve access to transportation for many, but those benefits will come slowly and as part of a larger transportation system, Salesky said.

  • "We don't pretend that self-driving cars as a technology platform can solve the larger-scale issues around congestion and efficiency. My view is it will take a systems approach to solve."
  • AVs, he believes, will operate as part of a connected fleet, taking instructions from cloud-based management software to find the optimal routes that balance traffic loads across roadways.
  • Those fleets will be very small, however, with hundreds, not thousands, of AVs available to both consumers and businesses in just a handful of cities where the weather is good.

"All these business models will be messy at first," he predicts, as companies try to figure out what works and where to invest over the next decade.

  • "The societal impact won't be felt for many years from now. Over time, we will look back on this and say, 'Wow, that was a remarkable amount of progress in that time.'"

What to watch: Ford plans to launch a limited fleet of AVs using Argo's self-driving technology in Miami, and then Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas, starting in 2021.

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Why it matters: Ride-hailing apps are making urban congestion steadily worse. In San Francisco, people spent 62% more time sitting in traffic in 2016 than in 2010. Uber and Lyft admitted they're part of the problem.

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The rise of AV testbed cities

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In China and Japan, high-tech cities are being developed as living laboratories to test automated vehicles, robots and artificial intelligence.

Why it matters: The real-world incubators could help accelerate the development of infrastructure and related ecosystems needed to support self-driving cars, at a pace the U.S. potentially can't match.

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Assisted-driving systems can lead to complacency behind the wheel

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The more drivers use assisted-driving systems, the more comfortable they become with the technology — and the more likely they are to misuse it, according to new research from AAA and Virginia Tech.

What they found: After becoming accustomed to driving with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, drivers were nearly twice as likely to engage in distracted driving behavior (texting, adjusting the radio) compared to when they were driving without the systems.

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