The Latest on Autonomous Cars

Despite encountering some missteps along the way, autonomous (self-driving) vehicles seem to be an inevitable part of our future. 

At its annual Elevate conference, held recently in Washington, D.C., the ride-sharing company Uber announced its partnership with Volvo is back on track, after being suspended last year. Uber developed the self-driving Volvo XC90 SUV in collaboration with the Swedish automaker and plans to put a fleet of the SUV’s on the road in greater numbers in 2020. Currently, they are being tested on public roads in Pittsburgh. The companies entered into a partnership in 2016 and 2017 and Volvo signed a “framework” agreement to sell Uber a fleet of vehicles between 2019 and 2021, to be deployed as self-driving cars in Uber’s network as an autonomous ridesharing service.

Volvo, which has long staked its reputation on safety, says this new partnership is a natural continuation of that commitment. “We believe autonomous drive technology will allow us to further improve safety, the foundation of our company,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive officer of Volvo Cars, speaking at Elevate. “By the middle of the next decade, we expect one-third of all the cars we sell to be fully autonomous. Our agreement with Uber underlines our ambition to be the supplier of choice to the world’s leading ride-hailing companies,” he added.

While these vehicles may appear to be “normal” at first glance, they aren’t. “What it looks like from the outside isn’t much different, but what’s going on inside enables us to run our full autonomy system—things like 360 degrees of camera coverage, 360 degrees of LiDAR and radar,” said Eric Meyhofer, CEO  of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), adding, “These give the vehicle everything it needs in order to operate autonomously.” A key component of the XC90 is its comprehensive backup systems for both steering and braking. The battery system is also equipped with a backup to ensure it can come to an immediate and safe stop if any of the primary systems fail.

There are still legislative obstacles to overcome in the widespread adoption of autonomous cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are proposing the removal of what are considered unnecessary regulatory barriers to the introduction of automated driving systems (ADS) vehicles in the United States. The agencies are seeking public comments as they move ahead with proposed regulatory actions. “One of the department’s priorities is to prepare for the future by engaging with new technology while addressing legitimate public concerns about safety, security, and privacy, without hampering innovation,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. “Our mission is to protect Americans on our roads,” said Heidi King,  NHTSA Deputy Administrator, adding, “As automated driving systems develop, NHTSA will continue to adapt to make sure the agency is equipped to ensure public safety while encouraging innovation.”

At Ric’s Body & Paint, we’ll continue to keep an eye on what’s happening in the world of autonomous vehicles, as they play an ever-increasing role in our country’s transportation future. 

For now, we’re going to keep concentrating on providing top-shelf collision repair and general auto body repair services for the vehicles that are driven the old-fashioned way—by people!  

To learn more, please contact us today.

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