The Fuse

This Week In AVs: Advocates Call on Congress for AV Legislation; Experts Tackle Gaining Public AV Trust; and More

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | December 09, 2019

Advocates Call on Congress for AV Legislation
At a Capitol Hill briefing this week, advocates for AV deployment urged Congress to move quickly on federal AV legislation in order to expedite the responsible deployment of self-driving cars. The advocates, brought together by the Coalition for Future Mobility, warned of the danger of the United States ceding global leadership on AV technology and policy, while adding that states are having to create their own AV regulations in the absence of any federal guidance or oversight—creating a patchwork of laws as a result.

Hilary Cain, the director of technology and innovation policy at Toyota, noted that federal legislation is required to create a regulatory framework that addresses the current regulatory barriers while ultimately allowing for nationwide AV deployment, adding that “there is not currently a path to widespread deployment of driverless vehicles in this country.” Greg Rogers, SAFE’s director of government affairs and mobility innovation, added that autonomy and electrification also holds the potential to provide significant energy security benefits, noting that “The combination of autonomous, electric and shared transportation technologies has the potential to cut transportation costs by up to 50 percent compared to internal combustion engine vehicles.”

Gaining Public Trust in AVs
As technological hurdles related to self-driving continue to be overcome, there is growing concern among AV developers about whether driverless cars will gain public acceptance. A survey conducted by AAA earlier this year shows the scale of the problem: The association’s survey showed that 71 percent of people are afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle. Consumer concern is a particular problem for AV developers, as their technology continues to develop amid intense public interest. “Automated vehicle technology is evolving on a very public stage and, as a result, it is affecting how consumers feel about it,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations.

At the recent Automobility LA conference, a panel discussed how to overcome public concerns over self-driving technology. The panel noted that gaining public acceptance will come down to “two Es—education and experience.” Panelist Amitai Bin-Nun, SAFE’s Vice President of Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility Innovation, added that “what matters is not whether it hits the road in 2023 or 2030, but that it’s done in a responsible manner.” The panel concluded that gaining public trust will take “baby steps,” noting that “word of mouth” will be critical in marketing AVs to a hesitant public.

Hyundai Commits $17 Billion to Autonomy and Electric Vehicles
Hyundai announced on Tuesday that it will spend $17 billion over the next six years on technology that will help it switch away from conventional gasoline vehicles to electric and autonomous alternatives. Although half this money will be spent on electrification, $1.6 billion will still be directed toward autonomous driving. The move by Hyundai comes as it seeks to take on VW, Toyota, GM and other major automakers as the industry moves toward an electrified and digitized future.

The announcement is the latest in a recent flurry of investments and partnerships by Hyundai in next-generation technology. In October, the company announced it was partnering with Korean telecommunications company KT to test 5G traffic navigation on autonomous cars. In September, Hyundai announced a $4 billion agreement with Aptiv to work on autonomous technology, and the company also signed a memorandum of understanding with Cummins to jointly develop and commercialize electric and fuel cell powertrains.