The Fuse

This Week in AVs: US DOT Forms Transport Tech Council; Cruise Plans to Double in Size by End-2019; and More

by Kristen Hernandez | March 18, 2019

US DOT forms council to support emerging transportation tech
Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced Tuesday the formation of the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology Council (NETT), which would support a variety of transportation projects such as hyperloops and self-driving cars. Secretary Chao said, “New technologies increasingly straddle more than one mode of transportation, so I’ve signed an order creating a new internal Department council to better coordinate the review of innovations that have multi-modal applications.” The council will allow companies to discuss their ideas and proposals and may be able to streamline permit, approval, and funding processes. Though the first meeting this week will focus on tunneling projects, in the future the council may be able to help accelerate regulatory processes related to autonomous vehicles.

Cruise, the self-driving arm of General Motors, is looking to grow its employee base to over 2,000 by the end of 2019

GM Cruise plans to double in size by the end of 2019 and has hired a new exec to help it grow
Cruise, the self-driving arm of General Motors, is looking to grow its employee base to over 2,000 by the end of 2019. To facilitate and accommodate this growth, the company has hired former Dropbox human resources exec Arden Hoffman and will be moving into a larger office space in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco. Cruise’s planned growth comes as the company is looking to offer a commercial ridesharing service later this year. If deployed at scale, the company’s electrified autonomous vehicles could reduce emissions from the transportation sector; GM’s mantra for its AV programs has been “zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion.”

British company to test driverless pods for people with visual impairments
Aurrigo, a British autonomous vehicle company, will conduct trials of their driverless pods with blind veterans. The pods allow up to four passengers and have a maximum speed of 15 mph off road. The trial will run for six months beginning in April in Brighton, England. Aurrigo hopes that these trials will allow disabled users who currently have limited mobility to travel between their homes and distant transit points. Indeed, increased mobility for disabled populations and increased access to public transit are both promises of the burgeoning autonomous vehicle industry.

Arkansas Legislates Autonomous Vehicles
On Tuesday, the Arkansas Legislature approved a bill that would allow fully autonomous vehicles to be tested on state roads. Under the legislation, organizations could submit operation and safety plans for up to three autonomous vehicles to the state DOT for approval. The language of the bill makes it clear that potential test vehicles would be required to be as capable as a human driver. The passage of this bill creates yet another distinct set of conditions for autonomous vehicle operation and contributes further to the regulatory “patchwork,” highlighting the need for national AV legislation.