The Fuse

This Week in AVs: Lfyt, Aptiv and NFB Partner on Low-Vision AV Program; Driverless Trucking Approved in Louisiana; and More

by Stefan Broekhuizen | July 12, 2019

Lyft, Aptiv and the National Federation of the Blind partner on self-driving for low-vision riders

Lyft aims to foster a more interactive experience for blind and low-vision riders, as well as increase awareness of blind passengers’ rights and improve their transportation options.

Rideshare company Lyft and AV technology developer Aptiv have announced a collaboration with the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) to expand their existing self-driving car pilot to include blind and low-vision riders. The expanded service will improve accessibility for visually impaired riders by including a Braille map of the autonomous vehicle’s route, as well as a Braille diagram of the car itself. Through these improvements, Lyft aims to foster a more interactive experience for blind and low-vision riders, as well as increase awareness of blind passengers’ rights and improve their transportation options. The Las Vegas-based pilot has provided over 50,000 self-driving rides to passengers since Lyft and Aptiv launched the tests in 2018. Lyft’s expansion of their self-driving program for blind and low-vision riders highlights a lesser-known benefit of AVs: the potential for improved transportation for the disabled community, which often faces disproportionate obstacles to personal mobility.

Driverless trucking approved in Louisiana
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill last month allowing autonomous semitrailer trucks on public roads beginning August 1. Autonomous trucks will be permitted statewide under the conditions they are properly registered, comply with federal and state traffic laws, and possess a minimum liability coverage of two million dollars. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a similar bill last month permitting self-driving vehicles to operate on public roads without a human operator, which took effect July 1. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 29 states have enacted legislation relating to self-driving technology; of these, 9 states allow its public use. Louisiana’s passage of a self-driving law is thus indicative of a broader trend among state governments, as they attempt to get ahead of the curve for AV legislation and regulation in the absence of laws on the federal level. It is also likely a bid by states to appear AV-friendly as they try to incentivize tech developers and automakers to send investments their way.

Idriverplus Building Smart Autonomous Vehicles With Velodyne Lidar Technology
California-based Velodyne Lidar, Inc. announced Tuesday that Chinese AV company Idriverplus is using Velodyne’s lidar sensors in its autonomous vehicles. Idriverplus is equipping all their AVs with Velodyne sensors, which will provide the vehicles with real-time object and free space detection. Idriverplus is one of the first Chinese companies to commercialize AV technology and produce its vehicles—which range in function from street cleaners to passenger cars—on a large scale, and its partnership with Velodyne is part of the company’s efforts to further mass AV production. Many AV developers like Idriverplus consider lidar—an abbreviation of “light detection and ranging”—a crucial technology for self-driving vehicles due to lidar sensors’ ability to detect objects and map out the vehicle’s surroundings; Aurora, General Motors, and Ford have all acquired lidar makers in their efforts toward driverless cars. However, this opinion is not universal: Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has been vocal about his disapproval for lidar, citing its prohibitive costs and the superiority of cameras and visual recognition. However, Velodyne said in an announcement Wednesday that core lidar electronics are progressing from printed circuit boards to application-specific integrated microchips, which are cheaper and more reliable.