Companies from the Motor City to Silicon Valley welcomed the Obama administration's new self-driving car policy this week, but there is still a long road ahead full of obstacles before robots entirely replace humans as motorists. For auto makers and technology firms, the guidelines detailed Tuesday represent an early victory that steer clear of regulations with legal force and pressure states to avoid developing conflicting rules that could frustrate rollout efforts. But the government's unwillingness for now to aggressively draft firm, prescriptive rules shows how unprepared some regulators, urban planners and insurers are for an autonomous overhaul. Questions remain about whether the federal government will ultimately need to unwind decades of safety regulations to accommodate for vehicles that don't have steering wheels, brake pedals and other features designed for human interaction. Assuming manufacturers can overcome all the technical challenges of building an autonomous car, the burgeoning field would change the fabric of everyday life in a way that hasn't occurred since automobiles replaced horse carriages.
Ford announced Wednesday it will partner with Lyft to deploy autonomous cars. Lyft's agreement with Ford adds the automaker to the ride-hailing service's current list of car companies it's teaming up with for self-driving technology. The partnership will "help both companies progress toward a more affordable, dependable and accessible transportation future," Ford said in a blog post. The announcement comes after Ford promised last December to offer a fully autonomous vehicle for ride-sharing and ride-hailing services by 2021. The company gave a glimpse of its next generation Fusion Hybrid self-driving car at the time.
Lyft Inc has formed a self-driving car division, company executives said, a bold investment for the second-largest U.S. ride-services firm as it jockeys for position in the highly competitive autonomous vehicle race. The executives said on Thursday the company would soon open a facility in Palo Alto, California known as'Level 5' that would eventually be staffed by'several hundred' engineers. Lyft engineers will collaborate there with autonomous vehicle experts from other companies to build self-driving systems. Lyft Inc has formed a self-driving car division, company executives said, a bold investment for the second-largest U.S. ride-services firm as it jockeys for position in the highly competitive autonomous vehicle race Waymo and Lyft are joining forces against ridesharing giant Uber, which is racing to develop its own self-driving vehicles. 'Waymo holds today's best self-driving technology, and collaborating with them will accelerate our shared vision of improving lives with the world s best transportation,' the Lyft statement read.
The bill, which was passed unanimously by a House panel in July, would allow automakers to obtain exemptions to deploy up to 25,000 vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards in the first year, a cap that would rise to 100,000 vehicles annually over three years. Automakers and technology companies including General Motors Co and Alphabet Inc's' self-driving unit Waymo have been pushing for new federal rules making it easier to deploy self-driving technology. Meanwhile, some consumer groups have sought additional safeguards. The bill will be voted under fast-track rules that do not allow for amendments. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has been working on similar legislation but has not introduced a bill.
Science-fiction visionaries have long promised us all kinds of futuristic transportation options, and while jetpacks and teleportation are still some ways off, the technologies are finally in place to make self-driving cars a reality. It's time for automakers to put the pedal to the metal as they compete with technology companies and other industry disruptors to put partially or fully autonomous vehicles on American roads. The auto industry has a head start: After decades of investments, today's vehicles offer many partially autonomous features like lane departure systems, adaptive cruise control, and emergency braking. Emerging technologies could enable even more vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity, making the leap to fully driverless cars even smaller. In fact, executives from several leading automakers foresee advanced self-driving technology being available by 2021 or even sooner;1 some envision vehicles without steering wheels or pedals to be driven by advanced technology and sensors and not people.