Over July 20-23, 2015, the Automated Vehicles 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, autonomous, 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. With its new M-City driverless car center meant to test prototypes and large research university, Ann Arbor is a hotbed of innovation and ideal location for the 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 the development of the new technology.
Addressing Concerns of Autonomous Vehicles
A primary concern with autonomous vehicles is safety and security. A wireless hack to the vehicle’s navigation system while transporting people would be a huge threat. This was recently demonstrated on a Jeep Cherokee by Wired Magazine where the brakes and engine ignition could be remotely hijacked. With that said, large strides are being to ensure the security of connected vehicles.
Another concern is whether automated vehicles and ones driven by humans can co-exist. However, Google’s fleet of 23 Lexus RX450h SUVs only experienced 12 minor accidents over their combined 1.8 million miles – all of which were the fault of another human hitting the car.
Recognizing the Benefits of Automated Mass Transit
City buses have consistent set routes. Verifying that 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.
The Future of Autonomous Personal Automobiles
Google has spearheaded the personal automated vehicle industry by developing and testing its fleet for millions of logged miles. Their automated vehicle combined with their extensive map database resulted in significantly fewer accidents than human drivers. It’s clear that Google intends to be a player in the industry and having the world leader in map technology makes the widespread adoption more simple.
However, issues remain to be addressed as for 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.
Automating the Shipping Industry with Driverless Vehicles
Commercial shipping trucks have highly specified routes, and subsequently significantly fewer possible road combinations compared to personal vehicles. Unlike human drivers, automated trucks do not need sleep – they do not have restrictions on hours. Atomated routes could effectively double the 11-hour restriction the department of transportation limits drivers to each day.
This would significantly increase productivity and lower shipping costs. While the benefits are clear, some questions remain. How will an automated truck negotiate a shipping dock if there is no driver, and what about gas?
NovaStar is strategically located near Ann Arbor and 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.