Police on Tuesday launched an expert panel tasked with discussing driving rules for autonomous vehicles, including a potential revision to road traffic laws. Experts in law, social infrastructure and other areas will discuss specific issues to be resolved as firms move closer to commercializing self-driving cars for public roads. The government has recently compiled a policy outline for introducing mostly autonomous cars by 2025. The panel is set to propose detailed rules such as how penalties will apply for accidents and traffic law violations involving level 3 and 4 autonomous vehicles. Level 3 autonomy allows drivers to move their attention from driving in specific situations while requiring them to take back control when the vehicle requests it.
BEIJING – Volkswagen AG, the world's biggest automaker, is in talks to form a joint venture with China's Didi Chuxing to manage part of the ride-hailing company's fleet of cars and help develop "purpose-built" vehicles for Didi's services. As part of the deal between Volkswagen and China's biggest ride-hailing service, expected to be signed early next month, the German automaker will initially manage a fleet of about 100,000 new vehicles for Didi, of which two-thirds will be Volkswagen Group cars, according to a senior executive at the carmaker. Volkswagen will also jointly buy some new cars with Didi to allow the Chinese company to expand its fleet. The two eventually plan to collaborate to design and develop dedicated vehicles, the executive said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the details are still private. The executive did not give financial details of the deal but said Volkswagen will get a slice of the revenue once the venture develops.
DETROIT – Federal safety investigators have booted electric car maker Tesla Inc. from the group investigating a fatal crash in California that involved an SUV operating with the company's Autopilot system. The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday it removed Tesla as a party to the investigation after the company prematurely made information public. "Tesla violated the party agreement by releasing investigative information before it was vetted and confirmed by the NTSB," the agency said in a statement. "Such releases of incomplete information often lead to speculation and incorrect assumptions about the probable cause of a crash." Tesla later issued a statement claiming that it withdrew from the agreement two days earlier after being told that it would be removed if it made additional statements before the NTSB finished its probe in the next 12 to 24 months.
NEW YORK – The vehicle in a fatal crash in California was operating on Autopilot, making it the latest accident to involve a self-driving vehicle, Tesla confirmed. The electric car maker said the driver, who was killed in the accident, did not have his hands on the steering wheel for six seconds before the crash, despite several warnings from the vehicle. Tesla Inc. tells drivers that its Autopilot system, which can keep speed, change lanes and self-park, requires drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel in order to take control of the vehicle to avoid accidents. Tesla said its vehicle logs show the driver took no action to stop the Model X SUV from crashing into a concrete lane divider. Photographs of the SUV show that the front of the vehicle was demolished; its hood was ripped off; and its front wheels were scattered on the freeway.
WASHINGTON – The co-founder of ride hailing company Lyft Inc. said on Tuesday a fatal collision in which an Uber Technologies Inc. self-driving vehicle struck a pedestrian could have been prevented. "I don't know all the specifics. I did see the video. It did look like both the tech and the driver could have or should have prevented that. But I don't know all the details," Lyft co-founder John Zimmer told a small group of reporters during a visit to Washington.
TEMPE, ARIZONA – Video of a deadly self-driving vehicle crash in suburban Phoenix shows a pedestrian walking from a darkened area onto a street just moments before an Uber SUV strikes her. The lights on the SUV didn't illuminate 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg on Sunday night until a second or two before impact, raising questions about whether the vehicle could have stopped in time. The crash Sunday night in Tempe was the first death involving a full autonomous test vehicle. The Volvo was in self-driving mode with a human backup driver at the wheel when it struck Herzberg, police said. The video shows the human backup driver in the SUV looking down until seconds before the crash.
Toyota Motor Corp. halted tests of its "Chauffeur" autonomous driving system on U.S. public roads after an Uber Technologies Inc. vehicle operating in autonomous mode under the supervision of a human safety driver struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona, on Sunday evening. "Because we feel the incident may have an emotional effect on our test drivers, we have decided to temporarily pause our Chauffeur mode testing on public roads," spokesman Brian Lyons said in an emailed statement, referring to its hands-off testing mode. The carmaker said it could not speculate on the cause of the crash or what it may mean to the future of the nascent automated driving sector. Toyota had been doing on-road testing with self-driving vehicles in Michigan and California, Lyons said. The company has kept the number of vehicles small so they could be rapidly updated as the technology advances, he said, declining to name a specific number of self-driving vehicles in operation.
TEMPE, ARIZONA/SAN FRANCISCO – A woman crossing a street was killed by an Uber self-driving sport utility vehicle in Arizona, police said on Monday, prompting the ride services company to suspend its autonomous vehicle program. The accident in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe dealt a potential blow not only to Uber's strategy but the eventual roll-out of robot cars on public roads. It was the first fatality from a self-driving vehicle, which are being tested around the globe in a high-profile race by global automakers and tech companies expecting that autonomous vehicles will transform transportation and the ride services business. The vehicle was in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel at the time of the accident, which occurred overnight Sunday to Monday, Tempe police said. "The vehicle was traveling northbound … when a female walking outside of the crosswalk crossed the road from west to east when she was struck by the Uber vehicle," police said in a statement.