Ep 56: Feds embrace autonomous cars; AVs to impede pedestrian-only zones; Cruise Automation gets $2.75 from Honda

Honda Cruise AV

Annnnnd…. we’re back with Episode 56! Sorry for the brief, unscheduled break the last two weeks, but let’s dive in and pick up where we left off! Today: a brief discussion on our last #FridayPollDay on Twitter, and then: the Feds get serious about autonomous cars (in a good way); autonomous cars may actually get in the way of pedestrian-friendly urban cores; and GM’s Cruise Automation gets a further $2.75 billion from Honda! All this… right now.

The Feds get serious about AVs (in a good way)

The NHTSA has rolled out its so-called federal guidance on autonomous vehicles entitled “Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0” with a shift from restrictive regulation to voluntary guidance. Furthermore, the NHTSA’s previous limitation to just ten AV testing grounds across the country has now been expanded indefinitely; the only limitations will be state-imposed. Also relaxed will be the arguably illogical imposition upon truly driverless cars with human-driven car regulations. Simply put, this means no more regulation on whether cars must have human necessities like a steering wheel and pedals (presumably, though, they will still require seatbelts, because physics). Naysayers point to the glaring omission regarding so-called “Voluntary Self-Assessments” which were required-not-really-required by automakers to detail any incidents while testing their AVs. To date, only Ford, Nuro, Waymo, and GM have submitted such assessments, which tend to be more of an informal slide deck than an official document.

AVs may actually impede pedestrian-friendly urban cores

There’s an article over at GreenBiz by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Assistant Professor of Regional Planning Daniel Piatkowski suggesting that “we can have a world of safe, efficient, driverless cars, or … a world where people can walk, bike, and take transit in high-quality, human-scaled communities.” Simply put, he believes that a world full of AVs will displace a world full of humans (walking, biking, etc). It’s an interesting argument, but one that I question.

Cruise Automation gets a further $2.75 billion, this time from Honda

Cruise automation (about which we’ve written (and spoken) lot over the past year) has raised yet another astounding sum of money: this time, a whopping $2.75 billion, and this time, from Honda. This latest investment — on top of last May’s $2.25 billion from SoftBank’s Vision Fund — gives Cruise a post-money valuation of $14.6 billion. While there aren’t yet any details on what the new CruiseDuh (HonCruise?) will look like, suffice to say, it will be a fully realized, purpose-built AV: think no steering wheel or pedals; large lounge seats and TV screens, then. Perhaps. Maybe. We shall see.

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