Autonomous Vehicles are closer to a Green Light but are we all at the same Intersection?

The NMA Foundation presents The Car of the Future weekly feature:

The U.S. House passed autonomous vehicle (AV) legislation this week with little floor debate. What with the health care crisis, multiple hurricane disasters, general infrastructure issues, why pass something that is not even tangible for the majority of motorists? Maybe our elected officials felt like they could at least agree on something, so why not vote on autonomous vehicles—the technology of the future? Not everyone is happy about this.

Teamsters were the only ones that won since the House legislation left off autonomous trucks—which will apparently be discussed at a later time. Teamsters are concerned about the unprecedented job losses created by the disruptive technology.

Cities and states are not happy. They are now relegated to vehicle registration and policing activities with no say on deployment or testing criteria. Local and state officials and the voters who elect them should have the some say over their own roads and streets since they are the ones ultimately paying for them. Traffic issues are always local issues and should never be handled by the federal government. Just because automakers and tech companies want autonomous vehicles is not a good enough reason for the feds to decide this for everyone.

Little discussion occurred on how this affects the everyday Joe and Jane driver. This is despite survey after survey coming out that motorists really don’t want to ride in driverless cars. The most recent—the Gartner Consumer Trends in Automotive study which surveyed 1,519 people in the U.S. and in Germany. Researchers found that 55 percent of respondents said they would not ride in a fully autonomous vehicle and nearly half said they would not give up their vehicle even if it saved them 75 percent over the cost of owning a car.

Just because the big automakers and big tech companies want to test AVs everywhere and anytime they want does not mean that they should. Private companies of course will be paying for the testing of their vehicles but who will be paying for the upgrades in infrastructure?

Apparently, current AV configurations have a hard time seeing colors on intersection lights if the sun is in direct competition. Many roads and streets will need to have repainted lines for AVs and sensors will have to need to be embedded in streets and on street furniture (streetlights, signs) in order to enhance vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-things (V2X).

Right now our government can barely repave roads, fill potholes and fix bridges. Where will the money come from for these AV upgrades when most of us want road maintenance and upgrades for the current vehicles that we actually drive?

As mentioned in this blog a few Sundays ago, current connected cars have a CAN protocol vulnerability. Since 2003, CAN (Controller Area Network) is the brain of the modern car which handles a vehicle’s internal communication system of electronic control units (ECUs). CAN is driven by as much as 100,000,000 lines of code per car.

In late August (this is an update), researchers reported that this CAN protocol vulnerability is unpatchable. To patch this problem would require changing how the actual CAN standard works at the lowest level. All a hacker needs is to understand how CAN works, have access to one of your car’s local open ports, and create a hack that could enable a Denial of Service (DoS) attack on safety systems such as brakes, airbags, and power steering.

Autonomous vehicles will be complex not necessarily due to the mechanics but due its brain—it’s internal and external connectivity. If we can’t rely on software engineers to get the basics right such as the CAN protocol in cars that we currently drive, how can we trust that they can actually protect us from all kinds of bad scenarios with vehicles that we have no control over?

It is hard to imagine widespread usage of autonomous vehicles any time soon.  Why are we pretending otherwise?

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The NMA Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting your interests as a motorist and citizen through the multi-faceted approach of research, education, and litigation.  The Foundation is able to offer this assistance through tax-deductible contributions. 

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If you are interested in learning more about the Car of the Future check out the following NMA resources:

NMA Driving News Feed—Over 50 Car of the Future stories are placed each month in the NMA Driving News—the go-to source for all your driving news information from around the country.

NMA’s Flipboard Magazine called Car of the Future—Over 50 stories are placed each month in this magazine devoted to the Car of the Future.  Stories featured include future car politics, industry news and thought pieces.

Pinterest Boards

Follow the National Motorists Association on Pinterest Here OR

Follow individual Boards that have a specialized focus on the Car of the Future:

Car of the Future

Car sharing/Ride sharing Watch

Concept Cars

Connected Cars, Connected Cities

Driverless Cars

Electric Cars (EVs)

Flying Cars

Future of the Motorcycle

Hybrid Cars

Hydrogen Cars

Solar-Powered Cars

If you have an interesting story about the Car of the Future, please feel free to send us a link to the NMA Email address nma@motorists.org.

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