The Fuse

This Week In AVs: Pitt To Study AVs And Disabilities; Federal AV Legislation Remains Stalled; And More

by Anna Polo | August 06, 2020

Pitt To Study How AVs Can Benefit Disability Community
After receiving a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) last week, the University of Pittsburgh will lead a consortium of institutions in studying how AVs can be made accessible to disabled Americans. Working with Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., the Toyota Mobility Foundation and the Merlin Mobility Corporation, Pitt is one of four University Transportation Centers tasked by USDOT to advance research and education programs that address transportation challenges

The potential of AVs to assist the disability community has long been a factor in the technology’s development: Prior to becoming Waymo, Google’s first big self-driving public demonstration in 2012 involved allowing a local advocate for the blind to run his errands in the company’s first prototype. SAFE also published a report in 2017 that focused on the impact of autonomous vehicles on people with disabilities. The research found that self-driving vehicles would enable new employment opportunities for approximately 2 million people with disabilities, and save $19 billion annually in healthcare expenditures for missed medical appointments.

Federal AV Legislation Remains Stalled
Persisting concerns over safety, security and worker displacement, combined with the pandemic capturing the majority of lawmakers’ attention, means a second attempt to pass federal AV legislation is unlikely. Lawyers and analysts speaking at the recent Automated Vehicles Symposium said the while it is not impossible legislation will be passed, a combination of previously unresolved factors and COVID-19 means the chances of enacting legislation in this Congress have become remote.

At issue are some of the same disagreements that stopped the AV START Act from passing in the Senate in December 2018 – legislation which would have created a legislative and regulatory framework for AVs at the federal level. The current stalemate means there is no federal legislation for self-driving vehicles, resulting in a state-by-state patchwork of laws and regulations instead.

Argo AI Hits $7.5 Billion Valuation
After slightly more than three years since its $1 billion investment from Ford, the valuation of AV startup Argo AI has reached $7.5 billion. The valuation was confirmed last week after Volkswagen confirmed its $2.6 billion investment in Argo AI. Under this deal, Volkswagen and Ford hold equal ownership states, which will equate to roughly 40 percent each over time. The remaining equity sits with Argo’s co-founders as well as employees. Argo’s board is comprised of two VW seats, two Ford seats and three Argo seats. Although the complete development and deployment of fully autonomous vehicles has not yet arrived, Ford’s investment in Argo has already brought the automaker a short-term and timely gain. Ford posted a $1.1 billion profit in the second quarter, mainly coming from selling its Argo equity to Volkswagen for $3.5 billion.