Your Next Ve­hi­cle: Who’s Driv­ing?

Sun­shine State read­ies for driver­less cars to hit the road

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - CON­TENTS - Semi­con­duc­tor chip com­pa­nies such as Nvidia and In­tel cre­ate the “brains” of self-driv­ing cars.

Per­haps a self-driv­ing car is in your fu­ture, and sooner than you think. Ford, BMW, Google, Lyft and Tesla are some of the com­pa­nies say­ing they will have self-driv­ing cars on the mar­ket by 2021. That’s just around the cor­ner! Many com­pa­nies are work­ing on the com­plex tech­nolo­gies needed in these cars, such as sen­sors and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence soft­ware. But the suc­cess of self-driv­ing cars de­pends on much more than just tech­nol­ogy. Ar­eas such as pub­lic pol­icy, laws and reg­u­la­tions, cy­ber se­cu­rity, in­sur­ance, li­cens­ing and the hu­man-ve­hi­cle in­ter­face must be con­sid­ered and mod­i­fied to cope with the new en­vi­ron­ment.


Self-driv­ing cars are also called “as­sisted driv­ing” and “au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles.” The So­ci­ety of Au­to­mo­tive En­gi­neers, or SAE, and the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion have de­vel­oped a 0-to-5 scale to cat­e­go­rize au­to­ma­tion. Level 0 means no au­to­ma­tion. Level 5 is full self-driv­ing un­der all con­di­tions—the ve­hi­cle op­er­ates without a hu­man driver or oc­cu­pants. (“Lev­els of Au­ton­omy” side­bar has more in­for­ma­tion on the SAE scale.)


The key ar­gu­ment un­der­pin­ning the de­vel­op­ment of self-driv­ing cars is their po­ten­tial to re­duce the num­ber of auto-re­lated fa­tal­i­ties. Traf­fic ac­ci­dents take the lives of more than 33,000 peo­ple an­nu­ally in the United States. Most re­sult from dis­tracted driv­ing. Au­to­ma­tion sys­tems do not get dis­tracted. Self-driv­ing cars prom­ise bet­ter uti­liza­tion of busy road­ways. Their sen­sors al­low ve­hi­cles to ride closer to­gether, al­low­ing more cars on the road and im­prov­ing traf­fic con­di­tions and

con­ges­tion. Au­tosteer­ing, auto lane chang­ing, traf­fic-aware cruise con­trol and blind-spot de­tec­tion all make driv­ing eas­ier and more com­fort­able.

When peo­ple are asked to­day if they want a self-driv­ing car, 56 per­cent re­port that they are not sure they would. Dis­trust is of­ten the ini­tial re­ac­tion to any new tech­nol­ogy. When cell­phones and home PCs and the Int er­net were first in­tro­duced, peo­ple could not en­vi­sion how they might use them. Fa­mil­iar­ity and ed­u­ca­tion made the dif­fer­ence.


Most new ve­hi­cles have some Level 1 ca­pa­bil­i­ties, such as cruise con­trol and prox­im­ity warn­ings in­di­cat­ing your car is com­ing too close to an­other ob­ject. Some have Level 2 au­to­ma­tion (mul­ti­ple au­to­mated sys­tems), and a few have Level 3 (lim­ited self-driv­ing).

Nis­san’s all-elec­tric 2018 Leaf in­cludes two Level 2 sys­tems. ProPilot As­sist is an adap­tive cruise con­trol that can main­tain a set dis­tance be­hind an­other ve­hi­cle, a cen­tered po­si­tion in the lane and will br ake

The key ar­gu­ment un­der­pin­ning the de­vel­op­ment of self-driv­ing cars is their po­ten­tial to re­duce the num­ber of auto-re­lated fa­tal­i­ties.

to a tem­po­rary stop in traf­fic and re­sume driv­ing as traf­fic moves. ProPilot Park does what its name im­plies—it parks the car for you (that’s for me!).

BMW, In­finiti, Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Tesla are some of the other c ar com­pa­nies pro­mot­ing their progress in au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles. Some of their ve­hi­cles al­ready have Level 3 au­to­ma­tion sys­tems.

The huge scale of the ef­fort re­quired for one com­pany to build self-driv­ing cars has prompted BMW to team up with Fiat Chrysler, chip­maker In­tel and cam­era and soft­ware man­u­fac­turer Mo­bil­eye to build a plat­form for au­ton­o­mous car tech­nol­ogy by 2021. Other ma­jor chip­mak­ers are in­vest­ing bil­lions of dol­lars to par­tic­i­pate in what prom­ises to be an enor­mous mar­ket.


Since com­put­ers don’t get dis­tracted by cell­phones or im­paired by drugs and al­co­hol, self-driv­ing cars prom­ise to re­duce the in­ci­dence of auto ac­ci­dents and fa­tal­i­ties. But ac­ci­dents will hap­pen and will be widely pub­li­cized.

In the ab­sence of a na­tional frame­work es­tab­lish­ing rules for driver­less cars, the le­gal frame­work for au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles varies by state. At least 41 states and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., have con­sid­ered such leg­is­la­tion, and a data­base has col­lected this leg­is­la­tion for ev­ery state.

Florida is a very promis­ing mar­ket for driver­less cars. It is one of many states work­ing ac­tively to de­velop an ap­pro­pri­ate frame­work by the time fully au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles are ready for mar­ket.


South­west Florida’s at­trac­tive­ness as a re­tire­ment and win­ter sea­son des­ti­na­tion means that older peo­ple make up a large pro­por­tion of our pop­u­la­tion. Med­i­cal ad­vances help peo­ple to live longer, but they of­ten lose the mo­bil­ity they pre­vi­ously en­joyed. Many se­niors would like to stay in their homes, but find they have to move once they are forced to give up driv­ing. Self-driv­ing cars prom­ise to be a great so­lu­tion for in­de­pen­dent liv­ing.

The ad­vent of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles has ben­e­fits for ev­ery­one, not just peo­ple who buy them. The in­creased safety of au­ton­o­mous cars

will re­duce mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents, the great­est cause of non-dis­ease-re­lated deaths. De­creased road con­ges­tion from au­to­mated cars would ben­e­fit all who live in our area as the vol­ume of sea­sonal res­i­dents and tourists in­creases.

The Florida Au­to­mated Ve­hi­cles Sum­mit is an an­nual con­fer­ence de­signed to ex­plore “what Florida is and should be do­ing to cre­ate a fa­vor­able cli­mate for im­ple­ment­ing and de­ploy­ing au­ton­o­mous and con­nected ve­hi­cle tech­nolo­gies.” The sum­mit’s or­ga­niz­ers are the Cen­ter for Ur­ban Trans­porta­tion Re­search at the Univer­sity of South Florida, the Florida De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion, and the Tampa Hills­bor­ough Ex­press­way Au­thor­ity.

At the sum­mit in Novem­ber in Tampa, we heard from sub­ject mat­ter ex­perts from gov­ern­ment, in­dus­try and academia. It also in­cluded univer­sity stu­dents work­ing on these tech­nolo­gies who will in­herit the fu­ture we are ex­plor­ing.

Florida is one of the lead­ers in driver­less cars. Ex­pect to see one in your fu­ture! Sandy Teger lives on Sani­bel and is a part-time tech­nol­ogy con­sul­tant at Sys­tem Dy­nam­ics Inc. She’s also a grand­mother of four, or­ga­nizes the an­nual Sani­bel Cap­tiva Heart Walk and is a gar­den and wine en­thu­si­ast.

An ex­ten­sive map­ping pro­gram aids Tesla's au­to­mated tech­nolo­gies.

State Sen. Jeff Bran­des (R-St. Peters­burg) checks out Uber's au­to­mated tech­nol­ogy.

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