Uber tests self-driving cars amid legislation changes
As self-driving cars are being tested, legislation on autonomous driving is starting to change. But, much remains to be done before driverless cars can become mainstream.
It was only a matter of time before Uber brought self-driving cars onto the streets. On Thursday, the ride-hailing company announced its Advanced Technologies Center had started trialling an autonomous Ford Fusion in Pittsburgh. The vehicle is set to collect mapping data and testing its self-driving capabilities.
“Real-world testing is critical to our efforts to develop self-driving technology. Self-driving cars have the potential to save millions of lives and improve quality of life for people around the world. … In the future we believe this technology will mean less congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation, and far fewer lives lost in car accidents. These goals are at the heart of Uber’s mission to make transportation as reliable as running water — everywhere and for everyone,” the company said in a statement.
Self-driving cars may indeed come cheaper in the long run, but that might not be the case when they are launched. Speaking at a conference in London, Volvo’s head of autonomous driving Eric Coelingh said autonomous driving cars could carry a 10,000 pound ($14,600) premium when they are introduced in 2021, due to the technology required to make self-driving cars safe in any driving scenario. As with any new technology, prices are set to decrease over time. Ride-hailing and taxi operators could also realize major cost savings when cars no longer require drivers. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said he envisioned a driverless Uber fleet by 2030.
New legislation in the making
There is a consensus in the car industry that self-driving cars will be technologically ready around 2020. Until driverless cars become mainstream, a lot has to happen though, not least around legislation. But things are starting to move in that direction. Earlier this week, the U.K. government announced plans for new motor insurance laws that would favor investments in driverless cars.
“Now, driverless cars and commercial space flight may seem like science fiction to some,” said U.K. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin. “But the economic potential of these new technologies is vast. And we are determined that Britain will benefit by helping to lead their development. Driverless cars will come under new legislation so they can be insured under ordinary policies. These new laws will help autonomous and driverless cars become a real option for private buyers and fleets.”
In the U.S., autonomous vehicles are already allowed to legally use public roadways in Washington, D.C.; California; Nevada; Michigan; and Florida and 12 other states are considering legislation, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
As a means of reducing dependency on oil in transportation, Securing America’s Future Energy is asking federal regulatory obstacles to the deployment of autonomous vehicles be removed and their commercialization “once they are as safe as today’s cars” allowed, arguing federal rules on autonomous vehicles should preempt state standards.
In the meantime, on the very day Uber announced its self-driving car trial, a number of Republicans and Democrats sent a bill to the Senate Transportation Committee requiring “companies, universities and others using self-driving cars to report all crashes, including fender-benders, carry $5 million in insurance plus standard auto insurance and obtain the approval of the state Department of Transportation, just to test the technology,” Trib Live reports.
In Europe, frustration towards the European Commission has been reported to be mounting among carmakers that feel the EC is involved in too much autonomous driving vehicle legislation.
“We have a tendency in Europe that when we have safety issues in mobility we adopt a safety directive and when we have emissions issues we adopt an emissions directive. … Is this not the golden opportunity we’ve all been waiting for to come up with a new horizontal regulatory approach?,” said Erik Jonnaert, secretary general of the European car industry lobby group ACEA, at a Brussels conferences this week.
The number of instances and interests involved in self-driving car legislation is set to complicate the matter. However, the question for all parties involved is not whether autonomous driving vehicles should be allowed onto streets and roads, but rather how this should be done in the best possible manner.
IIoT news recap: Verizon to help protect pharmaceutical supply chain; Liberty Mutual launches VC fund; ZigBee Alliance is growing; India to build 100 new cities; VTT’s printed electronic plant deploys IIoT
Supply chain: Verizon launches new IoT service to help protect pharmaceutical supply chain
Verizon Communications launched its Intelligent Track and Trace service, which is designed to help pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors improve patient safety and protect their supply chains. The “Internet of Things” service combines Verizon’s ThingSpace IoT platform with RfXcel’s Traceability System.
“By enabling the monitoring and tracing of pharmaceutical products, Verizon Intelligent Track and Trace provides cloud-based near real-time monitoring, helping to address key pharmaceutical industry challenges, such as theft, channel diversion, counterfeiting and product safety,” Verizon said. Peer-reviewed journal American Health & Drug Benefits values the U.S. counterfeit drug market at $75 billion annually. Counterfeit drugs are also said to lead to more than 100,000 patient deaths.
Insurtech: Liberty Mutual launches VC fund geared towards smart home, autonomous driving, sharing economy
Boston-based insurance company Liberty Mutual launched a $150 million early-stage venture fund, Liberty Mutual Strategic Ventures, focused on “the intersection of innovative technology and services and the insurance industry.” The fund made its first investment in California-based smart lock startup August Home. Liberty Mutual is also setting up a team that will work with evaluating trends and technologies that could have an impact on the insurance industry.
“As society changes, so does the need to provide insurance solutions to customers for needs that may not have existed before,” said Tim Sweeney, president for global consumer markets at Liberty Mutual.
Low power IoT: ZigBee Alliance adds 38 new members
ZigBee Alliance announced 38 new members from 15 countries have joined the low-power wireless IoT standards alliance since the beginning of 2016. “These 38 organizations represent an international movement to bring the ‘Internet of Things’ forward on a universal scale that’s not hindered by country borders, brands or language,” said Tobin Richardson, president and CEO of ZigBee Alliance. “Our members are focused, producing results, and ZigBee 3.0 is generating explosive interest as we rally the industry around the goal of meaningful IoT interoperability via a consolidated approach to the market.” New members include Johnson Controls, Nokia (Alcatel-Lucent), Qualcomm and Verizon.
Smart cities: India must build 100 new cities to address rapid urbanization
India will need to build climate-friendly cities in order to address rapid urbanization. According to a new U.N. Habitat report, India is projected to add 300 million new urban residents by 2050. The Indian government has said it intends to build 100 new cities over the period. The U.N. calls for a new “urban agenda” as urban population soars globally. “The new urban agenda should promote cities and human settlements that are environmentally sustainable, resilient, socially inclusive, safe and violence free, and economically productive,” the report said.
According to U.N. Habitat, 600 cities in the world account for one-fifth of the world’s population and 60% of global gross domestic product.
“It is projected that by 2030, the urban population of developing countries will double, while the area covered by cites could triple,” the report said. The fastest growing urban centers are expected to be medium and small cities with less than 1 million inhabitants. These today account for 59% of the world’s urban population.
Industry 4.0: VTT’s printed electronics pilot factory implements IIoT for plant control
The VTT Technical Research of Finland’s printed electronics pilot plant in Oulu, Finland, has deployed an industrial IoT solution for control of the plant. The solution is said to enable the monitoring of environmental conditions affecting sensitive roll-to-roll production and to perform temperature, humidity and pressure measurements. “Cutting-edge IoT technology had never been used at the pilot plant, or by surprisingly many other electronics production lines. We wanted to change this by developing an easily installed sensor and visualization system for the electronics production line, facilitating data-related added value services for interfaces with the outside world,” said Marko Jurvansuu, principal scientist at VTT.