Monthly Archives: January 2017

Cars Come to Your State

The day when self-driving cars will be sharing the road with human drivers is closer than you might think.

And in some ways, it’s already here.

But vehicles that take the driver out of the equation aren’t as futuristic as they sound. In fact, according to Business Insider, it is estimated that nearly 10 million self-driving cars will be on the road by 2020.

There were 22 companies testing autonomous vehicles in California as of February 2017, and Uber began offering autonomous vehicle rides, with a backup driver, in Pittsburgh last October.

Ford has announced plans to have a “high-volume, fully automated” autonomous vehicle commercially available by 2021 through a ride-sharing service. The vehicle will not have a steering wheel or pedals.

“Full autonomy is really just around the corner. It’s all the more amazing when you think about all the various hurdles that still have to be overcome between now and that point in time,” says Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis for the automotive research firm AutoPacific.

A new report suggests that states will need to take the lead in dealing with the traffic and safety issues that will arise when autonomous and driver-operated vehicles start sharing the roads. The Governors Highway Safety Association issued the report in February. As of today, no state has enacted a law prohibiting autonomous vehicle testing or operations, and  self-driving cars can operate legally in most, if not all states without any explicit authorizing legislation, according to the report.

One of the key challenges is how drivers of more traditional cars will react when they’re sharing the roads with autonomous vehicles, says Kara Macek, spokeswoman for the GHSA.

For example if autonomous vehicles are following the speed limit, will human drivers become aggressive around those vehicles? Research shows that they could, Macek says.

“Should they be programmed to break the law? We don’t have the answers, just the questions,” she says.

Another key takeaway from the report is the recommendation that states don’t rush to into passing laws or establishing regulations regarding issues related to autonomous vehicles.

“We’re really looking for model state laws to be developed and help states navigate so we don’t end up with a patchwork of inconsistency in this country,” Macek says. “So we’re looking to the federal government on some of those issues, in terms of establishing coordinated policies and practices.”

The Society of Automotive Engineers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrationdefines autonomous vehicles on a 0 to 5 scale, with Level 0 being no automation and Level 5 being full self-driving under all conditions, in which a vehicle can operate without a human driver or occupants.

More Technology and a Family Focus

Looking for a new car in 2018? There’s never been a better year for the American buyer.

Many models rolling onto showroom floors this year were designed specifically for the American market — even those from foreign automakers.

Take the all-new Volkswagen Atlas. It’s made in the United States for the American market. It’s large size and moderate price is expected to be a hit among minivan buyers.

“This is the biggest and boldest Volkswagen we have ever built in the United States, delivering the distinctive design and craftsmanship we’re known for, now with room for seven,” says Hinrich Woebcken, the head of Volkswagen’s North America Region. “The Atlas marks a brand new journey for Volkswagen to enter into the heart of the American market.”

Honda also took a cue from American consumers with its newly redesigned Honda Odyssey. The minivan has reconfigured seating for greater accessibilty for growing families, plus better tech features to appeal to Millennial buyers.

Technology was the buzzword for many auto manufacturers as they rolled out their 2018 models.

Cameras and sensors are now all working to help the driver stay aware of the surroundings and help the vehicle avoid collisions. Connectivity is also a priority, both between the vehicle and your smart devices, but also helping the passengers connect with the world.

“There is new technology being deployed across a wider range of cars,” says  IHS Automotive Senior Analyst Stephanie Brinley. “There are cars that can communicate with the home, and the car is increasingly a part of the Internet of Things. The pace of that integration is likely to increase.”