We’ve said before: Like it or not, self-driving vehicles are at our doorstep. The questions that surround their pending arrival are several, however: How deeply and how quickly will they penetrate the market? How will consumers respond to the new products? How will governments legislate to enable them to coexist safely with other vehicles on the road?
These questions have yet to be fully answered.
Three big automotive players have created a consortium to try and provide direction and, hopefully, answers in the domain. Ford, GM and Toyota are partnering in the new entity with SAE International, a group implicated in all things to do worth automotive engineering, with the objective of ensuring optimal safety in regards to autonomous-drive vehicles.
The new entity, called the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium (AVSC), will focus first on the development and testing of self-driving vehicles operating on SAE 4 and SAE 5 levels.
"The work will ultimately inform and accelerate the development of industry standards for autonomous vehicles (AVs) and harmonize with efforts of other consortia and standards bodies throughout the world."
- AVSC statement
The consortium was formed because, while there are many companies working on autonomous driving systems, neither the industry as a whole nor government authorities are sure about the regulations that will apply when the first Level 4 or Level 5 self-driving vehicles are actually ready for use on public roads.
The classifications created by SAE International – autonomous-drive capabilities are sorted in five levels, with Level 5 being the ability to function with human intervention – have helped to define standards, but beyond that much work needs to be done.
"Our goal with the consortium is to work with industry and government partners to expedite development of standards that can lead to rule making."
- Randy Visintainer, Ford CTO of autonomous vehicles
The approach being taken contrasts with that followed by Tesla, and it shows that much work still needs to be done on the legislation front. The California-based automaker has pledged to launch its fully autonomous technology but compel human occupants to maintain an interaction with the machine (i.e., eyes on the road, hands ready to intervene), and this as long as clear regulations have not been implemented.
Stay tuned, as things are likely to evolve very quickly in this domain.