By on June 18, 2019

Two decades ago, the Federal Communications Commission decided to allocate a portion of the radio frequency spectrum for Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC). The plan was to utilize that slice of the airwaves for ultra-modern automotive technologies relating to vehicle-to-vehicle and/or vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a whole lot of activity on those channels.

The automotive industry was concerned it might need dedicated frequencies for use in autonomous-vehicle applications or some, yet unknown, technological advancement. But cable companies are annoyed that it’s being “wasted” and have started to antsy. They’ve asked the FCC to revoke carmakers’ exclusive rights to the frequencies and reallocate the majority of the 5.9-GHz band to the Wi-Fi systems that currently carry internet traffic for cable customers.

Hoping to encourage the commission to see things its way, Ford took FCC Chairman Ajit Pai out for a ride in an extra-special F-150 to plead its case. However, I feel like I can already predict whose side he’s going to take on this issue… and it isn’t going to be the automakers’.  (Read More…)

By on October 21, 2018

The Federal Communications Commission has decided to review how the radio spectrum intended for wireless communications should be divided. While a seemingly normal part of its duties, the reassessment could open up a part of the spectrum that was previously reserved for automotive applications. The super-high 5.9 GHz frequency reserved for cars was deemed important because it would help enable low-power connectivity in remote and high-density areas, allowing for vehicles to more reliably transmit information between each other and the infrastructure. This was framed by the interested parties as essential for helping to develop safe, autonomous driving systems but it could likely also work to aid any data-based services they offer in the future.

Meanwhile, cable companies, the telecom industry, and internet service providers (ISPs) don’t think it’s fair that automakers are getting their own slice of bandwidth when they’re not even using it yet. Carmakers have been working on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure, and dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) for years without much in the way of consumer applications.  (Read More…)

By on October 4, 2018

With Honda and General Motors teaming up on a self-driving car and GM’s Super Cruise getting the green light from Consumer Reportsit’s already been a busy week for automotive autonomy — and it’s only getting busier.

The U.S. Transportation Department plans to repudiate 10 locations previously outlined by the previous administration to serve as federally recognized proving grounds for self-driving vehicle tech. But don’t think for a second that this means the noose is tightening around the neck of autonomous testing. The Trump administration is preparing a new initiative that will lead to nationwide testing from just about anyone who can cobble together a vehicle with advanced driving aids.  (Read More…)

By on August 29, 2018

Car noise hearing

One of the benefits touted by early electric car advocates was a reduction in noise pollution stemming from automobiles. Electric motors have the potential to run far quieter than their internal combustion rivals, which could result in softer-sounding roadways.

The U.S. Department of Transportation started seriously worrying about the safety implications of silent-running vehicles back in 2010. Still, it wasn’t until this year that it legally imposed artificial noises on EVs as a way to warn inattentive or impaired pedestrians. Starting in 2020, vehicles with a GVWR of less than 10,000 pounds must emit a pedestrian-warning noise at speeds below 18.6 miles per hour.

However, despite a lengthy dialogue between government and industry, Ford was apparently seeking an exception for the federally mandated noise maker(Read More…)

By on June 1, 2018

fuel gauge vintage

The Trump administration has enacted phase two of its plan to revise Obama-era rules designed to cut pollution from vehicle emissions. In a proposal sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its intention to rescind the California waiver that separates it from the federal standards the state uses to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.

Since allowing California to set its own emission standards would effective split the country’s auto market, the EPA has been clear that its ideal solution would be to cut a deal with the Golden State. Agency head Scott Pruitt previously said California “shouldn’t and can’t dictate [fueling regulations] to the rest of the country,” but acted in a manner that suggested a compromised could be reached.

This was followed by a lawsuit filed by 17 U.S. states, along with the California governor’s office, California attorney general, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), alleging that the EPA had “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in its decision to roll back the previous administration’s decision. While the odds are good that the Trump administration wasn’t ever interested in bending to California’s more stringent pollution policies, this was likely the point of no return — squashing any hope for meaningful negotiations. (Read More…)

By on April 22, 2018

autonomous hardware

Thanks to the incredibly lax and voluntary guidelines outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automakers have had free rein to develop and test autonomous technology as they see fit. Meanwhile, the majority of states have seemed eager to welcome companies to their neck of the woods with a minimum of hassle. But things are beginning to change after a handful of high-profile accidents are forcing public officials to question whether the current approach to self-driving cars is the correct one.

The House of Representatives has already passed the SELF DRIVE Act. But it’s bipartisan companion piece, the AV START Act, has been hung up in the Senate for months now. The intent of the legislation is to remove potential barriers for autonomous development and fast track the implementation of self-driving technology. But a handful of legislators and consumer advocacy groups have claimed AV START doesn’t place a strong enough emphasis on safety and cyber security. Interesting, considering SELF DRIVE appeared to be less hard on manufacturers and passed with overwhelming support.

Of course, it also passed before the one-two punch of vehicular fatalities in California and Arizona from earlier this year. Now some policymakers are admitting they probably don’t understand the technology as they should and are becoming dubious that automakers can deliver on the multitude of promises being made. But the fact remains that some manner of legal framework needs to be established for autonomous vehicles, because it’s currently a bit of a confused free-for-all.  (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2018

uber volvo

Ever since last week’s  fatal accident, in which an autonomous test vehicle from Uber struck a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, it seems like the whole world has united against the company. While the condemnation is not undeserved, there appears to be an emphasis on casting the blame in a singular direction to ensure nobody else gets caught up in the net of outrage. But it’s important to remember that, while Uber has routinely displayed a lack of interest in pursuing safety as a priority, all autonomous tech firms are being held to the same low standards imposed by both local and federal governments.

Last week, lidar supplier Velodyne said Uber’s failure was most likely on the software end as it defended the effectiveness of its hardware. Since then, Aptiv — the supplier for the Volvo XC90’s radar and camera — claimed Uber disabled the SUV’s standard crash avoidance systems to implement its own. This was followed up by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issuing a suspension on all autonomous testing from Uber on Monday — one week after the incident and Uber’s self-imposed suspension.  (Read More…)

By on March 20, 2018

Uber Volvo Autonomous

Details are trickling in about the fatal incident in Tempe, Arizona, where an autonomous Uber collided with a pedestrian earlier this week. While a true assessment of the situation is ongoing, the city’s police department seems ready to absolve the company of any wrongdoing.

“The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” explained Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir. “His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.”

This claim leaves us with more questions than answers. Research suggests autonomous driving aids lull people into complacency, dulling the senses and slowing reaction times. But most self-driving hardware, including Uber’s, uses lidar that can functionally see in pitch black conditions. Even if the driver could not see the woman crossing the street (there were streetlights), the vehicle should have picked her out clear as day. (Read More…)

By on March 19, 2018

uber volvo

In the evening hours of March 18th, a pedestrian was fatally struck by a self-driving vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. While we all knew this was an inevitability, many expected the first casualty of progress to be later in the autonomous development timeline. The vehicle in question was owned by Uber Technologies and the company has admitted it was operating autonomously at the time of the incident.

The company has since halted all testing in the Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto, and greater Phoenix areas.

If you’re wondering what happened, so is Uber. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened an investigation into the accident and is sending a team to Tempe. Uber says it is cooperating with authorities. (Read More…)

By on March 5, 2018

TRI Platform_3.0 autonomous Lexus

Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration embraced autonomous technology by redefining how it categorized cars. Spurred by automakers and tech companies, the government has opened its eyes to this new technology and seen it as a way to potentially save lives by reducing the number of roadway accidents caused by human error.

Congress has been confronted with numerous pieces of legislation on the matter, too — prospective laws that would allow automakers to put hundreds of thousands of autonomous vehicles on the street, without the need to adhere to existing safety regulations. Many have called the move necessary if the United States hopes to be the first country to produce a truly self-driving car and start saving some lives.

It sounds almost too good to be true, and some claim it actually is. A group of public interest organizations is attempting to sound the bullshit alarm, claiming automakers are misleading government officials in the hopes of developing and profiting from unproven technology.  (Read More…)

By on January 25, 2018

us-capitol, public domain

Bipartisan legislation to “promote the safe development of autonomous vehicles” is currently being held up by a trio of Democrats, according to U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune. While much of Congress is hoping to push the AV START Act through, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and two colleagues have blocked unanimous consent — stalling the bill’s swift progress by forcing a floor vote.

Thune, who sponsors Senate Bill 1,885, told reporters he hoped Feinstein and the other Democrats would see the light. “We could save a lot of lives,” Thune said, adding that 94 percent of car crashes are caused by human error. “It is cutting-edge technology, transformational in terms of the economy.”

However, the opposition isn’t convinced autonomous vehicles are at a point where it’s safe to roll them out en masse on public roads. (Read More…)

By on October 13, 2017

fuel gauge

A bipartisan pair of congressional representatives from Michigan are proposing a new bill, the Fuel Economy Harmonization Act, that would aid automakers in complying with federal fuel efficiency requirements. Introduced on Wednesday, the bill would extend the life of fuel economy credits that are set to expire in five years and raise the ceiling on transferrable credits between car and truck fleets. Under the proposal, manufacturers could also be given additional credits for lowering fleet-wide emissions under new metrics.

Penning the bill, congresspersons Fred Upton (Republican) and Debbie Dingell (Democrat) said they believed the automotive industry would benefit from having a single set of fuel rules. The bill suggests rolling the NHTSA’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and the EPA’s light-duty vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions mandates into one cohesive program.

While economy mandates have been growing, nationwide fuel consumption has still gone up. Likewise, the average mpg of cars sold in the United States hasn’t changed much over the last three years. With pump prices remaining low, consumers have flocked to less-efficient models like crossovers and SUVs.  (Read More…)

By on October 8, 2017

dot headquarters

Last week, we discussed how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had some staffing gaps that needed shoring up. While it remains shy one administrative head, the White House saw fit to officially appoint a new deputy administrator — effectively replacing acting deputy administrator Jack Danielson’s interim leadership.

Danielson has served as the NHTSA’s executive director since 2015, but spent the last eight months filling in for an absent department figurehead. He’s being relieved by Heidi King, an economist with the federal government and experience in the private-sector. (Read More…)

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.  (Read More…)

By on August 11, 2017

pumping fuel

While the Trump administration continues gearing itself up to loosen fuel standards for automakers, much to the chagrin of environmentalists and other countries, the agencies that set those benchmarks want to pick your brain a little before making a final decision. You’ve got an opportunity to be part of the process — the painfully boring, yet incredibly important, process.

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation opened a public comment period on the reconsideration of the standards for greenhouse gas emissions for light vehicles built for the 2022-2025 model years. Additionally, the EPA wants comments on the appropriateness of the existing 2021 standards. The agencies are inviting the public to submit any relevant (i.e. factual) data and information that can inform a final decision of the standards.  (Read More…)

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