• By John R. Quain

The Week in Autonomy: Dents and the DOT


Last month, there were three reported autonomous vehicle accidents in California, a state where the department of transportation makes such information public. All three were minor fender benders and all three (drum roll, please) were the fault of the other, human drivers.

A Zoox powered vehicle got tagged from behind on a Monday morning while in standard driving mode with a biped behind the wheel. Afterward, the driver pulled over, but the cyclist....did not. So chock one up for another hit-and-run.

Meanwhile, on Bryant Street in San Francisco a parked GM Cruise (so also not in autonomous mode) got its front bumper scratched by another vehicle. This would hardly raise an eyebrow in New York City, but at this early stage of development AVs in accidents of any sort need to be reported.

Speaking of which, Waymo also joined the September roster of dented AVs in San Francisco when it was hit from behind in a parking lot. The Waymo vehicle was in autonomous mode and had stopped to wait for another driver when it got rear ended.

On the regulatory (or lack thereof) front: The U.S. Department of Transportation issued an “AV 3.0” updated set of guidelines that mainly addressed autonomous trucking issues. The DOT said Level 4 autonomous trucks without drivers could be legal. Safety advocates complained that there's still no oversight and that the guidelines are vague (they are indeed vague). One group quipped that the AV 3.0 guidelines are more like AV 1.0.

Finally, in the business of autonomy, Honda announced it would take a $750 million stake in G.M.’s autonomous vehicles unit, G.M. Cruise Holdings. It's a smart bet (Honda had been talking to Waymo). GM has compatible industry sensibilities, and its Super Cruise (based on different technology) is already the best of breed in semi-autonomy. By comparison, Toyota's $500 million bet on Uber seems less, well, you know, prudent.

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© 2023 by John R. Quain

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