Fleet of AVs Approved for Use in California

August 18, 2022, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

The Weather Network recently reported on the decision by the California Public Utilities Commission which made a fleet of 30 autonomous vehicles (AVs) legal to operate with no human drivers on board. Experts and proponents of Avs contend that they are already safer than human driven vehicles and that the time has come to allow them to operate.

Opponents argue that they may be suitable in some certain controlled areas but that they are not suited to many of our roads yet.

One fact that both groups agree on is that the Avs are far more fuel efficient and drastically reduce carbon and pollutant emissions that conventional car travel produces.

The article is attached below and is well worth a read. Key takeaways include that Avs are safe, and that anyone can reduce their fuel consumption by adopting driving practices like slowing down, not accelerating or braking suddenly, keeping your tires inflated, and servicing the car regularly.


DRIVERLESS EV TAXI FLEET SHOWS POSSIBLE CLIMATE BENEFITS OF AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES - A. Jacquemain Contributor

In June, regulators in California greenlit one company’s robo taxi service in San Francisco. Cruise, a company owned by General Motors, was granted permission to charge fares for rides in driverless taxis in the quieter parts of the city during the middle of the night.

The authorization, by the California Public Utilities Commission, makes the Cruise fleet of 30 autonomous vehicles (AVs) the first in California to run with no human driver on board.

The Cruise fleet in San Francisco exclusively uses the Chevy Bolt, an electric vehicle (EV), and the company has given each of the 30 cars names — like Poppy and Scampi — as if to compensate for the missing human element of the experience.

Proponents believe that AVs are already as safe or safer than human-driven vehicles, and that they offer more than a future of greater convenience and less congestion. Driverless vehicles could also drastically reduce the emissions we produce from car travel.

These emission reductions would largely come in the form of advancements in infrastructure, according to Opher Baron, distinguished professor of Operations Management at the Rotman School of Management.

“One of the things you often see is drivers suddenly accelerating to get through a green light, or suddenly stopping when the light changes,” Professor Baron told The Weather Network. “You burn a lot of gas in those situations.”

“There are several experiments we’re running in different cities where the cars have information about the traffic lights, and so they can regulate their speed to get to a green light.”

There is also the issue of the flow and coordination of traffic.

“When you and I drive, we need to maintain two or three seconds between us, but when cars are coordinated their reaction time is milliseconds,” said Baron. “It means they can ride closer to each other and create platoons, and save energy this way.”

 

On top of this, Baron explained that AVs could be built lighter for driverless deliveries, which could occur at night when no driver would want to work, reducing daytime traffic.

Mario Herger, a technology trend researcher, shares a vision of a future in which not everyone needs to own their own vehicle.

“Let’s say we don’t own cars but we have a robo taxi service that I can order in a minute or two,” Herger said. “Those cars could operate many more hours per day than privately owned cars. It also means they would not need to park.”

“In the U.S. alone we have 28 parking spaces per vehicle. So when you calculate that every parking space costs between $20,000-$40,000, all the parking spaces together are worth more than the cars on the road,” Herger told TWN.

Driverless vehicles have experienced numerous setbacks over the years, resulting from countless, complex obstacles posed by real world situations. Designers have had to train AVs, which “see” using a laser detection technology called LiDAR, to process shapes in motion in kaleidoscopic urban settings, and to “anticipate” the intentions of pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles. The data required to process this information is vast — one to four terabytes for just a single car, according to Herger.

Such practical challenges, and other systemic ones, have impeded the mainstream adoption of AVs that some prognosticators predicted for as early as this decade. But the advancements in AV technology remains impressive for an industry that is less than 20 years old.

The first AVs were born in 2004, when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) ran its “Grand Challenge” to “accelerate the development of autonomous vehicle technologies” for military purposes.

After three such challenges — two carried out in the desert and one on an air force base requiring driving in traffic — the technology gained a foothold in the private sector. By 2010, Google’s self-driving vehicle had logged 100,000 miles.

Waymo, a company, developed out of the Google project, has been offering driverless taxi services in Chandler, Arizona, since October 2020. Other cities like Stockholm, Sweden, and Singapore have well-developed AV research programs.

In Canada, the AV sector is at the regulatory stage. Toronto developed an Autonomous Vehicle Tactical Plan in 2020.

The ease, comfort, and cutesy names are meant to remove anxiety from the driving experience, and to reassure users. Skepticism toward AVs has continually revolved around their perceived safety, despite the statistics on the Waymo website noting that 94 per cent of collisions in the U.S. involve human error.

And indeed AVs offer many potential safety advantages by eliminating the human element altogether.

“People are distracted, they’re on their phones, they may be drunk, they may be on drugs, they may be angry, they may be tired,” Herger told TWN. “The hope is that 80-90 per cent of car crashes we see today will be avoided by autonomous cars.”

But the launch of the Cruise fleet has not been without some speed bumps.

Multiple outlets, including the San Francisco Examiner and Wired, have reported on problems with the driverless taxi service, usually involving vehicles losing touch with the Cruise server and stalling in intersections, or the company losing contact with the cars, so that they can no longer track their location or see their passengers.

The sight of a stranded Cruise cab probably sends the wrong message for an industry working to avoid the perception that it has stalled. But while AVs haven’t yet exploded in popularity, as analysts long promised, the environmental benefits may provide some meaningful steps forward.

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Deutschmann Law serves South-Western Ontario with offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Woodstock, Brantford, Stratford and Ayr. The law practice of Robert Deutschmann focuses almost exclusively in personal injury and disability insurance matters. For more information, please visit www.deutschmannlaw.com or call us toll-free at 1-866-414-4878.

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