Dear Wheego Enthusiast,
In This Issue:
U.S. DOT Lays Out Role for States in Regulating Self-Driving Cars
Excerpted from an article by Ben Miller for Government Technology
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx addresses the media on Sept. 20 in Washington, D.C.
- U.S. DOT Lays Out Role for States in Regulating Self-Driving Cars
- Why Most Self-Driving Cars Will be Electric
- Drive Electric Week: 236 events in 212 cities, 7 countries, 46 US states this year
States need to start paving the way for self-driving cars now, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That was the main message behind a conference in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 20, where Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx drew lines in the sand for what the federal government is responsible for and what the states are responsible for when it comes to the new technology. A document
from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also suggested several issues that states should begin clarifying.
That includes issues of crash liability, regulatory language and how to approach distracted driving. Meanwhile, NHTSA asserted its authority over safety standards as well as performance of the vehicles. In order to maintain flexibility as the technology develops, the agency wants to implement a 15-point safety assessment for new cars that focuses on standards instead of solutions.
Other parts of the document will also be subject to annual updates, Foxx said.
“We intend for this policy to be a living document within the department,” he said during the event. “It is effective today, but we expect ongoing dialog about it.”
One big issue NHTSA wants states to address: the use of regulatory language that points to humans. NHTSA has already clarified for federal purposes that a car’s software can be considered a “driver.” Now the agency is recommending that states do the same, which will mean combing through scores of policies and codes. In fact, the agency is calling on states to go through a lot of different policies looking for unnecessary barriers standing in the way of automated driving — traffic laws, licensing, registration, insurance and more.
The issue of insurance is largely unsettled as well. Though some automakers have said they’ll take responsibility for any crashes their software causes, others have not. That leaves the question of who pays who up in the air.
To answer those questions more effectively, the guidelines call for states to identify a lead agency on automated driving regulation and set up a task force bringing together representatives from offices of information technology, transportation, law enforcement and other relevant areas.
Generally, the document said, states will be responsible for:
- licensing and registration;
- traffic laws and rules;
- conduction of safety inspections; and
- insurance and liability matters.
NHTSA will be responsible for:
- the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards;
- recalls and other enforcement measures;
- educating the public on safety; and
- writing performance guidelines for industry.
Mark Rosekind, administrator of NHTSA, specifically noted that the document allows a path for fully self-driving cars — a path that diverges markedly from the one California is headed in. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has taken some of the most advanced steps in regulating automated driving, proposing a set of rules this year
that would require a licensed human to be able to take over driving at a moment’s notice.
If made permanent, that setup would kill many of the uses for autonomous vehicles that the industry — and some of the speakers at the DOT’s event in Washington — have spoken so excitedly about. Colleen Sheehey-Church, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, highlighted the inherent safety advantages of removing the ability of drunk people to drive. As if to underscore her speech about the death of her teenage son at the hands of an impaired driver, an ambulance screamed by while she was reciting a string of crash statistics. “Autonomous vehicle technology, and specifically the driverless cars, can absolutely be a game changer,” she continued after the sirens faded.
Henry Claypool, policy director for the University of California, San Francisco’s Community Living Policy Center, talked about how the vehicles could bring mobility to people who only have limited access to it right now. That’s also a use for self-driving cars that would be hampered if government required humans to be able to take over driving.
“The real costs range from not being able to get and hold a job to not being able to pick up your kids from school to the civil rights implications of being segregated away from a society simply because [you aren’t able to drive],” he said. Read the full article here.
Watch for Wheego’s test vehicles collecting data in Atlanta, Ga and Sonoma, CA.
Why Most Self-Driving Cars Will Be Electric
Excerpted from an article by Greg Gardner, Detroit Free Press
As our urban transportation landscape becomes automated over the next decade, it could spark an electric car revolution. Spend enough time around these early self-driving vehicles and you notice that nearly all are hybrids or pure electric vehicles. Today, hybrids, plug-ins and pure electrics are a marginal piece of the U.S. market, accounting for a scant 2.8% of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. through the first eight months of 2016, according to hybridcars.com. But a decade from now, electric cars will appeal far beyond the granola-eating, tree-hugging, climate-change evangelizing base that has sustained them thus far. You may not own one, but you will have ridden in them. The change won't be instant, but it will be steady.
So why will our autonomous future likely be an electric one? First are the regulatory reasons, namely gas mileage requirements. Then there are engineering reasons — electric vehicles are easier for computers to drive. And, of course, ride-hailing services will increasingly make up a higher percentage of daily miles driven, and it will be easier, cheaper and safer to recharge an unmanned car than to gas one up. "One of the biggest changes will be in the growing difference in cost of ownership between electrified and internal combustion engines," Ford CEO Mark Fields said last week, repeating his company's pledge to spend $4.5 billion to introduce 13 new electric vehicle nameplates by 2020. A competition, of sorts, between Silicon Valley and Detroit has been ongoing in the past decade for the engineering and computer programming talent needed to create the next generation of smart, connected and ultimately self-driving vehicles. The two sides will likely have to work together — either through mergers and acquisitions or strategic partnerships — and electric cars will be the platform. The federal government's corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards will vary depending on the mix of trucks, SUVs and passenger cars a manufacturer sells, but a substantial portion of electrified vehicles will be needed to achieve the goals.
And then there are the engineering reasons. "There are a lot fewer moving pieces in an electric vehicle. There are three main components — the battery, the inverter and the electric motor," said Levi Tillemann-Dick, managing partner at Valence Strategic in Washington, D.C., and author of "The Great Race: The Global Quest for the Car of the Future." "An internal combustion engine contains 2,000 tiny pieces that have to be kept lubricated and they break every once in a while." An electric car needs more electrical brainpower to manage the vision, guidance and mapping technology and process the ever-growing volume of software coding. Most of these vehicles will initially be deployed in dense urban environments — think Uber's demonstration in Pittsburgh. There almost certainly will be stringent emissions guidelines in place. Electric vehicles have no emissions.
Glen DeVos, Delphi Automotive vice president of engineering, said most hybrids and electric vehicles are configured for drive-by-wire, steering-by-wire, brake-by-wire, systems that structurally are compatible with automated driving. The by-wire technology replaces traditional mechanical control systems with electronic control systems. This flexibility expands the number of options for the vehicle's design. Eliminating mechanical linkages can reduce weight. Another factor is that automated vehicles for ride-hailing services will be used more intensely — up to about 40% of a 24-hour day, Tillemann-Dick estimates, compared with less than 5% for privately owned vehicles that spend most of a day in a driveway or parking lot or deck. If ranges of current EVs such as the Chevrolet Bolt are already 238 miles, that likely will improve by the time these vehicles meet safety regulations and are deployed in large numbers.
As Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing businesses grow, suddenly the cost of owning, fueling and maintaining these vehicles will be less than the cost of paying drivers and fueling the vehicles with gas. For example, today an average Uber driver earns about $40,000 a year after the company takes its commission from his or her fare revenue, according to www.idrivewithuber.com/. If the company could buy an automated electric vehicle for about $30,000, Tillemann-Dick estimates the cost per mile could be reduced by as much as 80% as the cost of the electricity would be about half of where gasoline is today in the $2.20 to $2.40 per gallon range. Remember, these cars will be driving more hours per day than most human drivers. “The only caveat I’d offer is that you can do an autonomous car with an internal combustion engine, but what is going to drive the Ubers and Lyfts to opt for EVs is reliability and lower fuel cost," Tillemann-Dick said.
Drive Electric Week: 236 events in 212 cities, 7 countries, 46 US states this year
By Stephen Edelstein for Green Car Reports
Between September 10 and 18, more than 120,000 people around the world turned out for National Drive Electric Week—the annual event dedicated to the promotion of electric cars.
With 235 events in 212 cities, seven countries, and 46 U.S. states, the event once again surpassed the "national" part of its name to become an international happening. That made 2016 the biggest Drive Electric Week ever, according to organizers. It started six years ago as National Plug-In Day, before expanding into a week-long event.
The week-long collection of local gatherings and drives continues as a collaboration of the advocacy group Plug-In America, the Sierra Club, the Electric Auto Association, and various smaller local groups. It's based on the belief that there is no better way to encourage electric-car adoption than to give the public an opportunity to get up close with plug-in cars and their owners.
Organizers report that 7,368 test drives took place throughout the week, almost certainly helping in that mission. Simply getting "butts in seats" is often noted by advocates as one of the most effective ways to create positive impressions of electric cars. Other individual events included electric-car rallies, speeches by public officials, and information sessions. One such rally was the "Electric Juice Bar Crawl" in Las Vegas, where electric-car drivers toured the various public charging sites in Sin City—and gave rides along the way. A ride-and-drive event in Watts, California, included booths with information on financing and purchase incentives aimed at low-income individuals. New charging sites were unveiled in Pittsburgh and Sacramento, and home charging-station giveaways were held at events in Cupertino, California, and Poolesville, Maryland.
Additional events with speeches by public officials included Hawaii Governor David Ige, California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair Mary Nichols, and the mayors of numerous cities.
It wasn't just about electric cars either: electric buses were demonstrated in Juneau, Alaska, Richmond, California, and Concord, New Hampshire. In addition to the U.S., events were held in Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, and New Zealand.
If you missed out on National Drive Electric Week this year, it's never too early to start planning for next year. National Drive Electric Week 2017 is already scheduled for next September 9-17.
Head over to the National Drive Electric Week website for more information.
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