Autonomous and Self-Driving Vehicle News

In autonomous and self-driving vehicle news are Escalent, Beep, Cruise, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Local Motors, Navya, Nuro, Toyota, Uber, Waymo, California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah.

Escalent Research Shows Jekyl or Hyde Consumer Comfort

Escalent, a top human behavior and analytics firm,  released proprietary research exploring the future of the relationship between drivers and their cars in the wake of broad autonomous vehicle (AV) adoption. Friend, Servant or Evil Twin: Forging a Positive Driver-Car Relationship with Self-Driving Vehicles offers AV technology developers a new look at consumer attitudes regarding the idealized autonomous experience, from comfort with various levels of AV-enabled experiences to expectations regarding the likely winners of the AV adoption race.

While the study confirms drivers’ wariness with ceding control to AV technology, nearly two in five respondents (43% in Europe, 37% in the United States) express comfort with low-speed self-driving cars in ideal conditions, such as Tesla’s Smart Summon. However, that willingness drops to 20%–35% for autonomous driving at higher speeds and less-than-ideal-conditions. Like the development cycle for AV technologies, consumers are likely to exhibit incremental shifts in attitudes over time, with seeing self-driving cars on the road in daily situations playing a key role in increased trust and comfort.

Manufacturers’ biggest challenge is understanding the expectations drivers have for their daily use of AVs and aligning marketing of such vehicles to those needs. Over half of consumers (52%) envision a service-oriented relationship with AVs, categorizing future self-driving vehicles as personal assistants or servants. Consumers over the age of 60 share an even more skeptical and less humanized view of future interactions with an AV-enabled vehicle. By contrast, the highly tech savvy under-30 age group demonstrates a more optimistic and personalized view of its use of AVs, with responses reflecting much higher rates for friendship and guardianship.

“AV manufacturers have not yet captured the imagination of consumers to envision a future with a self-driving car that enhances the driving experience beyond the traditional, functional role of a vehicle,” said Paul Hartley, managing director of Escalent’s technology group. “It is paramount for AV developers to engage a nuanced and iterative adoption process to build consumer trust, comfort and excitement for AV technology.”

Furthermore, a significant percentage of consumers trust and look to big tech developers to win the race to develop fully autonomous vehicles. While a majority of respondents in the United States and Europe expect traditional and specialist automakers to make slow, steady strides in AV development, 27% of Americans predict hardware or software tech firms will be most successful. By comparison, 18% of Europeans surveyed see tech developers as the companies most likely to put AVs on their roads.

USDOT, Automakers and States Join AV TEST

The U.S. Department of Transportation today announced nine companies and eight States that have signed on as the first participants in a new Department initiative to improve the safety and testing transparency of automated driving systems, the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) Initiative. The participating companies are Beep, Cruise, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Local Motors, Navya, Nuro, Toyota, Uber, and Waymo. The States are California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah.

“Through this initiative, the Department is creating a formal platform for Federal, State, and local government to coordinate and share information in a standard way,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The AV TEST Initiative will include a series of public events across the country to improve transparency and safety in the development and testing of automated driving systems.
Participants can share information about their activities, which will help increase the public’s awareness of testing, centralize the Department’s role in promoting safety and innovation, and build stronger relationships among Federal, State, and local governments and stakeholders.

Additionally, this voluntary initiative will provide an online, public-facing platform for sharing automated driving systems testing activities and other safety-related information with the public. Online mapping tools may show testing locations at the local, State, and national levels, as well as testing activity data, which may include dates, frequency, vehicle counts, and routes.

“Automated driving system technologies hold the promise to help prevent fatal crashes, save lives, and reduce the severity of the crashes that do occur. Under the leadership of Secretary Chao, NHTSA is committed to facilitating the safe testing, development, and eventual deployment of advanced vehicle safety technologies through enhanced transparency and information sharing with all our State and local partners,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens.

The AV TEST Initiative will be open to all stakeholders involved in the safe development and testing of automated driving system vehicles. At the State and local level, participants may include departments of motor vehicles, departments of transportation, highway safety offices, and city governments. At the automotive industry level, participants may include developers, manufacturers, suppliers, operators, and testers.

How can we train self‐driving vehicles to have a deeper awareness of the world around them? Can computers learn from past experiences to recognize future patterns that can help them safely navigate new and unpredictable situations?

These are some of the questions researchers from the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) AgeLab at the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics and the Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) are trying to answer by sharing an innovative new open dataset called DriveSeg.

Through the release of DriveSeg, MIT and Toyota are working to advance research in autonomous driving systems that, much like human perception, perceive the driving environment as a continuous flow of visual information.

“In sharing this dataset, we hope to encourage researchers, the industry, and other innovators to develop new insight and direction into temporal AI modeling that enables the next generation of assisted driving and automotive safety technologies,” says Bryan Reimer, Principal Researcher. “Our long‐standing working relationship with Toyota CSRC has enabled our research efforts to impact future safety technologies.”

“Predictive power is an important part of human intelligence,” says Rini Sherony, Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center’s Senior Principal Engineer. “Whenever we drive, we are always tracking the movements of the environment around us to identify potential risks and make safer decisions. By sharing this dataset, we hope to accelerate research into autonomous driving systems and advanced safety features that are more attuned to the complexity of the environment around them.”

To date, self‐driving data made available to the research community have primarily consisted of troves of static, single images that can be used to identify and track common objects found in and around the road, such as bicycles, pedestrians or traffic lights through the use of “bounding boxes.” By contrast, DriveSeg contains more precise, pixel‐level representations of many of these same common road objects, but through the lens of a continuous video driving scene. This type of full scene segmentation can be particularly helpful for identifying more amorphous objects – such as road construction and vegetation – that do not always have such defined and uniform shapes.

According to Sherony, video‐based driving scene perception provides a flow of data that more closely resembles dynamic, real‐world driving situations. It also allows researchers to explore data patterns as they play out over time, which could lead to advances in machine learning, scene understanding and behavioral prediction.

DriveSeg is available for free and can be used by researchers and the academic community for non‐commercial purposes here. The data is comprised of two parts. DriveSeg (manual) is 2 minutes and 47 seconds of high‐resolution video captured during a daytime trip around the busy streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The video’s 5,000 frames are densely annotated manually with per‐pixel human labels of 12 classes of road objects.

DriveSeg (Semi‐auto) is 20,100 video frames (67 ‐ 10 second video clips) drawn from MIT Advanced Vehicle Technologies (AVT) Consortium data. DriveSeg (Semi‐auto) is labeled with the same pixel‐wise semantic annotation as DriveSeg (manual) except annotations were completed through a novel semiautomatic annotation approach developed by MIT. This approach leverages both manual and computational efforts to coarsely annotate data more efficiently and at lower cost than manual annotation. This data set was created to assess the feasibility of annotating a wide range of real‐world driving scenarios and assess the potential of training vehicle perception systems on pixel labels created through AI‐based labeling systems.

— Beep, an Orlando-based autonomous shuttle service provider, is among 17 initial participants selected by the United States Department of Transportation  (USDOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  for the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing Initiative (AV TEST Initiative).

The AV TEST Initiative is focused on facilitating greater public understanding and awareness of AV projects, gathering detailed input from stakeholders on challenges and successes regarding the safe development and testing of autonomous vehicles, and engaging in meaningful and informed relationships between participants and USDOT to enhance safety. Other participants include Cruise, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Local Motors, NAVYA, Nuro, Toyota, Uber, and Waymo.  The state transportation departments of California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah are also included in the initiative.

“Automated driving system technologies hold the promise to help prevent fatal crashes, save lives, and reduce the severity of the crashes that do occur.  Under the leadership of Secretary Chao, NHTSA is committed to facilitating the safe testing, development, and eventual deployment of advanced vehicle safety technologies through enhanced transparency and information sharing with all our State and local partners,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens in press release announcing the initiative.

A component of the AV Test Initiative will include an online portal accessible to the public this summer. Beep and other stakeholders will voluntarily provide information for the portal that is pertinent to ADS testing activities they are conducting across the country. The public will then have the ability to search projects by state and learn the unique details about each project on the portal.

“We are pleased to participate in the AV TEST Initiative and applaud the USDOT and NHTSA on an initiative meant to create the needed transparency for safe deployment and operation of autonomous technology across the country,” said Joe Moye, CEO at Beep. “Beep has been engaged with NHTSA as part of their AV test program where we, as an autonomous service supplier, share regular information on how these shuttles operate and respond in various, live scenarios interacting with pedestrians, bicyclists and mixed traffic. This initiative will allow us and others in the AV industry to advance our collective learnings with the goal of improving public visibility and awareness of our results while building meaningful relationships among other participants and stakeholders to enhance safety for everyone.”

The initiative aligns with USDOT’s AV 4.0: Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies, which is intended to protect users and communities, promote efficient markets, and  coordinate efforts to ensure a standardized Federal approach. AV 4.0 also supports AV technology growth and leadership while promoting more opportunities for collaboration, such as this AV TEST program.