The Fuse

This Week in AVs: AV 4.0 Unveiled At CES; Toyota To Build AV Test City; And More

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | January 13, 2020

AV 4.0 Unveiled At CES
At CES in Las Vegas last week, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao unveiled the Trump administration’s third major policy document pertaining to AV policy, “Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies,” otherwise known as AV 4.0. Unlike its predecessors—AV 2.0 and AV 3.0—this latest document does not establish new policies, instead cataloging the efforts of 38 federal agencies to support safe and expeditious AV deployment. For a quick summary of AV 4.0, SAFE has put together a one-page explainer of what’s new in this latest document.

In addition, there is a greater focus on benefits for the disability community and a recognition of the need to prepare the workforce for AV deployment. When discussing the benefits of self-driving cars, AV 4.0 cites SAFE’s 2018 study, “America’s Workforce and the Self-Driving Future,” noting that the potential economic and societal benefits of AVs could be substantial, including increased productivity, reduced commuting time, and the potential of reducing the impact of conventional vehicles while increasing overall system energy efficiency. As Secretary Chao said at CES, “The takeaway from AV 4.0 is that the federal government is all in — for safer, better and more inclusive transportation, aided by automated driving systems.”

Toyota To Build A City To Test AVs
Toyota is planning to build a 175-acre prototype city at the foot of Mt. Fuji which, the company anticipates, will serve as a real-life testbed for a variety of future technologies, including self-driving cars. Unveiled at CES 2020, Toyota’s Woven City will become home to 2,000 people including company employees and their families, retirees, retailers and researchers. At the launch, Toyota president Akio Toyoda said, “With people, buildings, and vehicles all connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors, we will be able to test connected AI technology…in both the virtual and the physical realms…maximizing its potential.”

Although testing on public roads has taken place in select locations across the U.S. for many months, the real-life city promises to be a step above the current testing grounds operating in the United States, such as Waymo’s Castle proving ground in California or the University of Michigan’s MCity. Toyota’s Woven City is also the most prominent example of increasing Japanese interest in self-driving: Sony announced last week that it is entering the Lidar market by developing a silicon-based sensor for AVs.

AVs And Moving Beyond The Car
In a Medium blog post late last year Dan Ammann, the CEO of GM’s self-driving arm Cruise, stated that “we need to move beyond the car,” noting the status quo releases too many emissions and kills 40,000 Americans every year. To make this happen, Ammann notes, requires switching to all-electric, shared rides in self-driving cars—an idea which hints that the future of AV transport lies in ride-sharing and fleets rather than private, personal transportation. The idea is gaining currency in AV circles, with May Mobility CEO Alisyn Malek telling Axios earlier this month that “If our roadways are not getting any bigger, we need to use them more effectively, which means shifting some people into higher-volume forms of transit.”

In a December 2019 interview, Argo AI Bryan Salesky concurred that AVs will likely form part of a connected fleet, telling Axios he anticipates they will act as part of a larger transportation system and plug the gaps where necessary. He also predicted that “all of these business models will be messy at first,” as companies figure out what does and does not work in the early phases of AV deployment. Powered by Argo AI, Ford is taking some early steps into AV services with plans to launch a limited AV fleet in Miami followed by Washington, DC and Austin, Texas.