Over July 20-23, 2015, the Autonomous Vehicle Symposium was held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, organized by the USA Transportation Research Board and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). The symposium focused on design challenges and opportunities related to the growing automated vehicle industry – also known as driverless or connected vehicles. The deployment of the first prototypes of these vehicles is expected to affect all areas of the transportation industry: personal, mass transit, and commercial shipping. Ann Arbor, with its new M-City driverless car center meant to test prototypes and large research university, is a hotbed of innovation in the field ideal for such an event.
NovaStar Calibration Manager Jeff Hunt represented NovaStar while attending the symposium. He observed overall concerns of the industry as well as three main areas of interest to attendees. Researchers from government and academia, as well as manufacturers and suppliers involved in the design, testing and manufacturing of automated vehicles discussed next courses of actions required to advance development of the new technology.
A primary concern with autonomous vehicles is the ability for them to be taken over with a wireless hack to the vehicle’s navigation system while transporting people. This was recently demonstrated on a Jeep Cherokee by Wired Magazine where the brakes and engine ignition could be remotely hijacked.
Another concern is mixing automated vehicles with vehicles driven by humans. Google’s fleet of 23 Lexus RX450h SUVs have been in only 12 minor accidents over their combined 1.8 million miles, all of which were the fault of another human hitting the car.
Automated vehicles will be relevant as:
City buses have consistent set routes. Verifying an automated bus is able to safely complete its loop is fairly straightforward. As automated vehicles make fewer mistakes than humans, safety improves for all commuters using the system. Adding significantly more automated mass transit should help to reduce the total number of cars on the road and their resulting carbon footprint.
Google has spearheaded the personal automated vehicle industry by developing and testing its fleet for millions of logged miles as stated earlier. They proved their automated vehicle combined with their extensive map database resulted in significantly fewer accidents. Google intends to be a player in the industry. Issues remain to be addressed such as how to handle construction zones when they haven’t been reported and mapped. Google’s initial phase requires a person to assist the automated driving mechanism, ready to take control in the case of an unanticipated incident.
The Shipping Industry
Commercial Trucks shipping goods have highly specified routes, and subsequently significantly fewer possible road combinations compared to personal vehicles. One question is how will an automated truck negotiate a shipping dock; if there is no driver. Automated trucks do not have restrictions on hours, so they can effectively double the 11 hour restriction the department of transportation limits drivers per day, thus significantly increasing productivity and lower shipping costs.
NovaStar is strategically located close to Ann Arbor so can offer local instrument calibration services to government and university researchers and companies involved in the emerging prototyping and design stages of automated vehicles. The symposium allowed many interested parties to come together to address many challenges that lie ahead in the automated vehicle industry, as it seeks to revolutionize the transportation industry.