Autonomous Vehicles 2018 Update: Pilots, Regulations, and Advancing Countries

Autonomous Vehicle 2018 Update
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You might be wondering: what’s happening with autonomous vehicles in my country? Over the last two years, media and news publications have been headlining autonomous vehicle operations, regulations, and advancements like wildfire. Countries around the globe have been launching both public and private pilots to test AV mechanics, technology, and applications. So where do we stand today? Continue reading for a 2018 update on Autonomous Vehicles, and check out our previous post on why Switzerland might be the leader in AV.

Autonomous Vehicles: 2018 Update

Autonomous Vehicle Pilots Around the Globe

You’ve already heard about autonomous vehicle pilots like the public transit shuttle by PostAuto/PostBus (launched June, 2016) and Next Autonomous Pods out of Dubai, but what’s the latest in AV Pilot launches?

  • Alberta, Canada: Coming to the cities of Alberta and Edmonton in our neighbouring Province of Alberta this fall is ELA, an electric, autonomous shuttle pod. The pod seats 12 seats and is handicap-accessible with a mobility ramp, as well as air conditioning and 4G data monitoring. ELA will mark the first autonomous vehicle pilot made accessible to the general public in Canada. Safety first! ELA will travel at low speeds of roughly 12 km/h and will only drive on separate roadways with no other vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians.
  • Texas, US: In Frisco, Texas, Drive.ai launched their self-driving pod last month. For the next six months, a fleet of bright-orange autonomous Nissan vans will transport residents around an extensively mapped area of this town with safety drivers. The company hopes to remove the human safety drivers from the vehicles by the end of the pilot in January, 2019.
  • California, US: Mercedes is planning to launch their luxury autonomous taxis in an unnamed Californian city next year, during 2019. The fleet is nothing to roll your eyes at, either: the fleet of S-Class luxury sedans and B-Class hatchbacks will perhaps mark the most luxurious AV pilot yet. Partnered with Bosch, they do plan to have safety drivers and will offer rides to passengers for free during the pilot.

Regulations and the av race

For quite a while it seemed that European countries were winning the race of bringing AV’s to the public roads. They have, indeed, had carsharing concepts the longest and seem the most advanced and capable of adopting driverless vehicles and the systems to support it.

But it now seems that, perhaps, Europe is falling behind. It seems that carmakers looking to test AV models prefer California over Europe, since they already have teams of engineers based in and around Silicon Valley. The population of California is another reason for them to opt for the West: Californians are tech-savvy and open to innovations.

Physically, California makes for a better space for testing, with wider streets and ideal weather conditions. And of course, the state government supporting AV pilots doesn’t hurt either.

Regulations in Europe must measure up to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, a standards-setting body responsible for regulating motor vehicles. So far, there has been no consensus amongst the roughly 60 countries participating for the introduction of driverless vehicles. The regulations instead focus on gradual innovations around the corner.

In addition, almost all of Europe is governed by UN’s Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which largely restricts AVs on public roads to very limited testing. Commercial operation of driverless vehicles is therefore years away from becoming a reality.

For some government bodies and figureheads, regulations will be made as they are needed.

“At this point the technology is so nascent I don’t think it is appropriate today to regulate this technology,” Heidi King, deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said in an interview. “It’s not there yet, but each and every day we are open to identifying when the time is right.”

As of 2018, we are still unsure of who will be the first to win the autonomous vehicle race. When entering a simple Google search, however, the overwhelming results in North America are quite telling. Perhaps indeed we were wrong about Switzerland?

Interested in becoming a part of the Autonomous Vehicles conversation? Nominate yourself or a friend for our Women in Shared Mobility AV conversations here.

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