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Autonomous Vehicles in Transportation, Part 2: The Government’s Involved

Autonomous vehicle operation has no choice other than to have government involvement. Like a motorist taking to the road, an autonomous vehicle will have to adhere to a set of rules and boundaries. It will have to think like a human, or better. This in itself could be a problem according to Elon Musk as stated in this excerpt:

“What's going to happen is robots will be able to do everything better than us. … I mean all of us,” says Musk, speaking to the National Governors Association in July. “Yeah, I am not sure exactly what to do about this. This is really the scariest problem to me, I will tell you.”

Meetings have already begun for the categorization of autonomous automobiles. According to the Disrupter Series: Self-Driving Cars:

“To establish consistency within the emerging self-driving car market, SAE International, a standards-setting organization, has classified automated driving systems into six different levels.”

Over half of the six levels of sophistication will feature cars that have no human intervention.

“The most notable distinction between Levels 0 through 2 and Levels 3 through 5 is that a human driver must always monitor the driving environment in Levels 0 through 2, whereas the automated driving system is capable of monitoring the driving environment in Levels 3 through 5.”

We almost always hear that plane crashes are the result of pilot error. This logic has spilled over into autonomous vehicles which predict that “self-driving cars are predicted to reduce traffic fatalities by 90 percent, saving almost 30,000 lives per year in the U.S. and 1 million lives globally13 .” With the number of factors and complications it will take for fully autonomous roads and cars, this number is highly unlikely. Hell, we can’t even fix our roads; however, we can give billions of tax payer dollars to other countries. Perhaps those paying the taxes would prefer their involuntary contributions be spent on issues that benefit them. It’s called ROI and it’s expected of engineers. Why isn’t it delivered by politicians? Apparently, there is more interest in controlling the roads than fixing them.

Ironically, the government is easing restrictions in some areas, “The House advanced a bill in July that would grant self-driving automakers more opportunities for exemptions from existing safety standards, a move that could allow as many as 100,000 autonomous cars to hit the road22 .”

The “disrupter” report goes on to say, “In this update, NHTSA also pledged to eliminate any obstacles that would prevent or delay vehicular technology innovations from realizing their potential.” If you read, Autonomous Vehicles in Transportation, Part 1, you would realize one of the major issues are data overload and the saturated bandwidth. Disruptive technologies exist to solve the problems; however, they appear to escape the ears of the disruptors. I know I’ve tried to implement them for over four years.

I won’t deny that a market guaranteed by a government mandate isn’t beneficial from a marketing standpoint. I was a part of that when power factor correction and THD levels became a requirement in the 90’s. As for engineers, this should be good news along with the mandate that the government will “eliminate any delay in technology”. Perhaps this will mean a return to the hiring boom of the 1990’s prior to the ‘dot com’ bust and return of salaries to the levels of the 1980’s. Perhaps.

References

  • “Will Our Data Systems Be Able To Support Self-Driving Cars?: Self-Driving Technology and Data”, Chris Giarratana, trafficsafetystore website, Posted on June 8, 2017