By on September 21, 2017

Trump

Supposedly, everyone eagerly anticipates the day they can own a shiny-new self-driving car, but automakers, regulatory agencies, consumer advocates, Silicon Valley, and the White House are debating how exactly that’s supposed to happen. They haven’t reached a consensus yet — and that’s probably not likely to change anytime soon.

Most autonomous cars rely on array of cameras, LIDAR, GPS, inertial measurement devices, and complex control systems used to interpret sensory information before reacting accordingly. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems (V2V) are regarded by many as essential components to establishing fully automated travel. The theory is that, by allowing cars to communicate directly on a broadband frequency, they can better predict each other’s movements.

However, a recent Bloomberg article accuses the technology of “going nowhere fast,” citing the Trump administration as the chief culprit, and alluding to the direct stifling of technology that would give cars “superpowers” in the next few years.

I probably won’t have the opportunity to say this often — and it feels kind of strange to say it now — but these accusations aren’t entirely fair to the president or his administration. 

While there is little debate over the merits of of V2V, suggesting a government-mandated solution is the only way to ensure its progression is a dubious claim at best. General Motors is already implementing vehicle-to-vehicle communications on the Cadillac CTS and has made some of the most impressive strides in self-driving technology of any manufacturer.

The Federal Communications Commission has already made room on the airwaves for V2V, so the bandwidth is there for automakers that want to grab it. And grab it they likely will, as most would prefer to minimize the risk of a crash when liability laws are still up in the air.

However, V2V technology isn’t anywhere close to ready for a wholesale rollout. The federal government only started testing V2V systems in Ann Arbor in 2012, installing sensors on a few thousand cars in a collaboration with the University of Michigan. But the Department of Transportation said it wanted to expand testing to larger cities and even considered mandating V2V in everything from new cars to pedestrians’ smartphones — after making plans to run trials in Florida in 2015.

For the sake of clarity, they were testing the system itself and not how fully autonomous vehicles would respond to it.

Still, I’ll concede that not encouraging the program and forgoing mandates could hurt the initial market successes of V2V technology. Bloomberg made this point when it interviewed Glen De Vos, chief technology officer at Delphi Automotive, which supplies all manner of autonomous-driving systems.

“Unless it gets mandated, nobody is going to put it on their cars,” said De Vos. “As we meet with regulators, we continue to pound the drum and tell them these early-warning systems in V2V communications have huge safety benefits.”

However, Delphi has a lot to gain from pushing V2V implementation, including data mining. In April, De Vos announced investments and partnerships in three privately held companies to help carmakers profit from the increasing amount of data produced by the growing number of vehicles connected to the internet and each other.

Speaking on the issue earlier this year, De Vos outlined Delphi’s plan after purchasing a minor stake in an Israeli company that produces a platform which takes data generated by connected cars and lets carmakers offer the data for sale on a marketplace accessed by third-party suppliers. “They’re a data broker, they’re providing enabling technologies allowing the [automaker] to market their data across a wide array of services and vendors,” said DeVos.

Delphi also invested heavily into Movimento, which provides over-the-air software updates and data management, in 2016 and Control-Tec, a data analytics company, in 2015. However, a business wanting to remain profitable doesn’t mean the safety claims are bunk — just that the source of information might have a specific agenda.

Bloomberg also interviewed parts supplier Robert Bosch GmbH, which (surprise!) also said V2V systems were essential to a self-driving vehicle.

Here’s the largest problem with the Bloomberg assertion: when autonomous vehicles come to market en masse they’ll be on the road with millions of older vehicles that don’t have V2V capabilities. That makes the technology essentially worthless as a safety measure until it can be deployed in a majority of vehicles, which would take decades.

Those first connected vehicles will be about tracking your driving habits and selling your data to advertisers as much as they are bolstering your safety — both of which are major incentives for automakers to include the technology, by the way.

Despite the Obama administration’s loose proposal to equip all new cars with V2V transponders, the Trump administration is not stressing its importance. But it isn’t stifling this technology. Automakers absolutely have the opportunity to take advantage of V2V systems but they’re still trying to establish how to make a self-driving car function in the real world, not a hypothetical one where every machine is on a Skynet-like network.

In fact, for better or for worse, the Trump administration is trying to give automakers carte blanche to test self-driving platforms to their heart’s content, without much regulatory oversight. While a potential affront to public safety, it’s not likely to kill the development of any autonomous technologies — including V2V. However, the White House’s free-market approach to this extremely complicated issue gives no assurance that things will be done correctly, either.

“There will be a competitive process in which those projects that have greater innovation and are more forward looking will have a larger share of our federal dollars,” said Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao during her announcement of the administrations Vision for Safety 2.0. “The technology will determine the trend.”

One thing Bloomberg gets correct is that the technology will be more effective if implemented via a government-sanctioned standard. Likewise, V2V could be further improved by networking with traffic lights and transit systems. However, no government agency or research group has reached the point where they can propose a comprehensive plan for such an enormous task.

We’re jumping the gun on this issue when we claim there is a clear path to making autonomous vehicles a reality. The technology may exist but we are scrambling to keep up with the logistics involved — and nobody seems to have a firm understanding on how best to handle it. There’s plenty more research to be done before we start making definitive statements on who has the right approach.

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31 Comments on “You Not Having a Car With ‘Superpowers’ is Somehow Donald Trump’s Fault...”


  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    According to Mensa member** and actress Jennifer Lawrence, the earth is mad at Trump, hence hurricanes. So if he has the power to literally create hurricanes, killing the self driving car is a piece of cake.

    ** OK I made that part up

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Jack & Mark Baruth swear that Trump is and will continue to MAGA.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    Ok, so let me see if I’ve got this straight. Several companies with stand to make a ton of money if V2V is mandated on cars think V2V should be mandated on cars. Wait a sec, let me go put on my shocked face.

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    “However, the White House’s free-market approach to this extremely complicated issue gives no assurance that things will be done correctly, either.”

    Hmmm good point. After all only govt knows how to do things correctly. And usually under budget and on time as well. Lada was a far superior car to Toyota after all.

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      Yeah, F-35s are a real bargain too.

    • 0 avatar
      Phillin_Phresh

      I couldn’t agree with you more. When was the last time that the government did anything good for our society? I fondly remember such free-market innovations as the interstate highway system, the Apollo space program, and Medicare.

      • 0 avatar
        BobNelson

        Phillin_Phresh,

        Exactly!

        And let’s not forget the other side of the ledger: the government’s responsibility in horror stories like the long decline and ultimate collapse of the previously dominant American automobile industry.

        • 0 avatar
          Ubermensch

          Yeah, cause it was the government that forced the big 3 to make crappy cars that couldn’t compete with the imports. /s

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            You didn’t know? Tip O’neil and Reagan personally penned the GM X body while throwing back scotch at Ted Kennedy’s house. Ted needed a new car anyway what with all the trouble that Oldsmobile had given him.

  • avatar
    ash78

    “General Motors is already implementing vehicle-to-vehicle communications on the Cadillac CTS”

    It must be like Grinder for Caddies. There are relatively few of them, so they have to work extra hard to seek each other out. Meanwhile, the 5-series and E-class don’t need this because they’re already everywhere.

    Is the service called CaddyCruiser™? That would be amazing.

  • avatar
    BobNelson

    There are a ton of technology standards that we use every day, from Bluetooth to HTML. Both hardware and software. The government is not involved.

    There’s no reason for the government to dictate inter-auto communications, any more than telephone communications… and neither GSM nor CDMA was ever government mandated.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Government should not mandate how to achieve the ability to create autonomous vehicles and I don’t think they will. Regulations are generally technology neutral; they set a bar and it is up to the developer to choose whatever method they want to meet the standard.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      If one views this from the “tin foil hat” perspective, government involvement would mean that they would be in a position to use V2V to track virtually everyone with a vehicle or cell phone or use V2V to control vehicles.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    I would love a car-to-car communication device that I could use to tell the car in front of me to get the heck over to the right lane.
    .
    .

    • 0 avatar
      xtoyota

      You wouldn’t need to do that because the CAR IS DRIVING not you and IT said we are driving at the most efficient speed

    • 0 avatar
      PlaysInTraffic

      Which is why government would never allow it.
      Just recall how the more control-freakish people in government disliked previous instances of vehicle to vehicle communication, like CB radios or even, FFS, flashing your lights to warn others of speed traps.

  • avatar
    Steve65

    “huge safety benefits”

    Huge surveillance state benefits too. The government is already routinely vacuuming up petabytes of data about peoples’ movements and communications for no legitimate reason. Having vehicles blaring every detail of their route and operations can only add to that problem.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      No, the government does not care about you movements. The greedy bastards that run Corporate America do. From the article:

      “…However, Delphi has a lot to gain from pushing V2V implementation, including data mining. In April, De Vos announced investments and partnerships in three privately held companies to help carmakers profit from the increasing amount of data produced by the growing number of vehicles connected to the internet and each other….”

      These profiteers will sell your privacy for a dollar. One advantage of government involvement could be the prohibition of selling personal data. Not that this administration will care about that if the head of the FCC and his anti-privacy stance is any indication. Frankly the erosion of privacy by private interests is very sad. My friend who is a Miami Dade cop visited recently and he brought his work laptop. On it is a database by a company called Vigilant Technologies. They track data from license plate scanners. That would be fine if it contained data from police operated scanners but no, most of its data comes from scanners in tow trucks operated by repo companies. Sure enough, most of my cars’ plates were in there. It would not take too much effort to use this data to plot your whereabouts. Frankly if you are not mad you are not paying attention

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        The financializiation of the U.S. Economy continues unabated, and has even accelerated since the Great Recession/Repression/Financial-Economic Crisis.

        It does not matter if Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr., or Obama or Trump are in POTUS, nor which “different” party controls the House and Senate – the parasitic financialization (whereby subsidies to and rent-seeking by banks, private equity and other financial actors, versus producers of things and labor, continue to increase – siphoning off incremental gains in real value-added activity) continues to consul e the real, productive economy st rapid speed.

        This is why I will, be honest with my child and tell him, assuming nothing changes, it is better to be part of the subsidized financial sector than a producer of real things (i.e. – be a bond trader instead of a factory owner).

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          p.s. – e.g. Be a lender to subprime borrowers on auto loans or better yet, consumer appliances, and get 30% to 530% annual interest lending money, rather than produce vehicles or appliances (or thjngs).

        • 0 avatar
          BobNelson

          DeadWeight,

          I agree with your description of the evolution of the economy… but I wouldn’t make it anonymous, as you do.

          “The banks” and other institutions you name are not “artificial intelligences”. On the contrary, they are passive instruments; nothing more or less than tools in the hands of the Ultra-Rich.

          As Warren Buffet said, “There is indeed a class war going on. And my side is winning!”

    • 0 avatar
      BobNelson

      Steve65,

      “Huge surveillance state benefits too.”

      Turning America into a surveillance state is a Congressional choice. The Patriot Act and its offspring.

      We have been presented with a false alternative between security and privacy, and have voluntarily abandoned our privacy.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    One CTS to another: “Hey, why don’t we crash into each other and send these a-holes to the hospital so we don’t have to haul their asses around town anymore”

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    It’s one thing for a hacker to steal my credit car number. I don’t need a hacker steering me off a cliff on PCH.
    .
    .

  • avatar
    xtoyota

    For the life in me I don’t know how driving autonomous cars will interface with regular cars ……. it will be like driving bumper cars at the amusement park

  • avatar
    RS

    “I probably won’t have the opportunity to say this often — and it feels kind of strange to say it now — but these accusations aren’t entirely fair to the president or his administration.”

    Bet you could without too much effort. He’s getting way to much credit for imaginary things he hasn’t done and little or none for the good things he has. Especially given his short time in office and the headwinds from Congress and the media.

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