The future of autonomous transport has a new champion, with the announcement today of a coalition between key players in the growing driverless car market.
Self-driving cars have come under a lot of scrutiny of late, due to highly publicised incidents such as the death of the woman in Arizona during an Uber driverless car test.
Surveys such as that issued by the AAA suggest that nearly three quarters of Americans are afraid to ride in a driverless car, while another issued this month by the Society for Risk Analysis says that in China at least, people think that self driving vehicles (SDVs) should be at least four times safer than cars driven by people.
Yet driverless cars, as with many other forms of autonomous technology, are becoming an immutable part of our future.
For the growth of the SDV market to continue, disruptive companies like Uber, Waymo and even traditional auto companies such as Ford and Toyota recognise that public trust for SDVs must be nurtured.
In addition, the growth of the driverless car market will lead to job creation. The increase in sales of LiDAR sensing technology required for safe operation of SDVs alone is indicative of this.
This is the thinking behind the formation of the Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity (PTIO), executive director Maureen Westphal told The Verge.
“Concern for the safety of workers and the public is paramount to PTIO,” she wrote in an email, “and safe deployment of [autonomous vehicle] technology is fundamental to securing better job opportunities for workers, so we plan to engage with a variety of concerned stakeholders already having conversations and planning for this transition to an autonomous vehicle future.”
The primary mandate of the PTIO, which also includes Lyft, Daimler, FedEx and the American Trucking Association and will operate as a 501(c)(6) nonprofit policy group, is to build public trust in driverless cars through ‘a well-rounded and data-based understanding of the impact and implications of autonomous vehicles on the future of work’, the group stated.
Additionally, the group will seek input from interested parties regarding their ‘expertise, concerns, and aspirations’, as well as fostering ‘foster awareness of existing and near-term career opportunities for workers during the transition to a new autonomous vehicle-enabled economy’.
While it’s not the first such coalition – Google, Uber, Volvo and Lyft created the lobby group The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets in 2016 – Westphal has told The Verge that the PTIO’s focus will be centred on the impacts of SDVs on society as compared to lobbying for changes to legislation.
“While the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets is doing very important work on issues related to autonomous vehicle safety and implementation, the Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity believes that while society prepares for the practical impact of autonomous vehicles, we must also focus our efforts on the human impact as it relates to Americans’ careers and jobs,” she said.