US Department of Transportation puts trust in innovators to deliver driverless cars

The US Department of Transportation (DoT) has released new guidance that calls for lighter regulation on driverless tech.

It is hoped that the new guidelines, titled ‘A Vision for Safety 2.0’, will stimulate innovation and to give the US a head start on global competitors in developing the technologies that will transform transport in coming decades.

The DoT’s guidance advises automakers and technology companies  to voluntarily submit safety assessments, while states are being asked to use a light regulatory hand.

“The new guidance supports further development of this important new technology, which has the potential to change the way we travel and how we deliver goods and services,” said US Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

“The safe deployment of automated vehicle technologies means we can look forward to a future with fewer traffic fatalities and increased mobility for all Americans.”

Featured image courtesy of Mercedes

Despite the DoT’s commitment to driverless technology, some consumer groups expressed dismay at the new guidlines.

The Consumer Watchdog, for one, argued that the autonomous vehicle guidelines posed a threat to highway safety, and called for the enactment of enforceable federal motor vehicle safety standards specifically covering self-driving cars.

“This isn’t a vision for safety,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director. “It’s a roadmap that allows manufacturers to do whatever they want, wherever and whenever they want, turning our roads into private laboratories for robot cars with no regard for our safety.”

A Vision for Safety 2.0 builds on the previous guidelines for autonomous vehicles issued by the Obama administration last year.

The new version is half the length of the original, and the new streamlined approach to driverless technology was welcomed by carmakers.

“The revised policy provides clear, streamlined, and flexible guidance for the safe and responsible design, manufacture, and deployment of self-driving vehicles,” General Motors said in response.

“General Motors appreciates DOT’s clarification of the separate roles of federal and state governments in regulating self-driving vehicles and its guidance for state policymakers.”

Jaguar imagines a future where its connected, AI steering wheel is the only part of the car you own

Jaguar Land Rover has revealed an intelligent and connected steering wheel, which it imagines will be the only part of the car people will own in years to come.

Sayer – the name Jaguar has given to its steering wheel concept – is the first voice-activated, artificial intelligence (AI) steering wheel that will be able to carry out hundreds of tasks, and has been explored as part of Jaguar’s ‘FUTURE-TYPE’ project, which will explore mobility in 2040 and beyond.

“Need to be at a meeting two hours away from home by 8am tomorrow? Simply ask Sayer from the comfort of your living room and it will work out when you get up, when a car needs to autonomously arrive at your door and even advise which parts of the journey you might enjoy driving yourself,” reads a press release from Jaguar.

Mercedes interpretation of a driverless car

Alongside Sayer, Jaguar also imagines a on-demand service club that will replace the traditional model of car ownership.

Jaguar describes the on-demand service club as offering ‘drivers’ either sole ownership or the option of sharing the car with other people signed up for the service.

“Imagine a future of autonomous, connected and electric cars where you don’t own a single car, but instead call upon the vehicle of your choice where and when you need it. That’s a future vision Jaguar Land Rover is exploring with Sayer, the connected steering wheel that could be the only part of the car you own,” said Jaguar.

Regardless of Jaguar’s vision of a connected steering wheel that connects to any car, there has been much debate as to whether driverless cars of the future will need a steering wheel at all.

Last month, Ford was granted a patent for a car with a fully removable steering wheel and foot pedals, which Ford said could become optional extras in future.

The worry with equipping driverless cars with a steering wheel is that it could encourage drivers to switch between automatic and manual driving, and the time it takes to comfortably transition between these two states could lead to accidents occurring.

Jaguar Land Rover will reveal its Sayer steering wheel at Tech Fest, which will take place at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. The exhibition is open to public from Friday 8 September until Sunday 10 September.