Commercial autonomous vehicles hitting the roads soon despite concerns

Global Business

They are the latest automobiles set to hit showrooms across the globe. The focus for most car makers remains on the present. But it would appear the future has now also arrived with autonomous vehicles, on a commercial level, set to become a reality.

CGTN’s Dan Williams has this report.

“I think 2018 will be remembered as the year when these science projects turn into commercial reality. Our company alone is going to deliver over two million autonomous vehicles this year that are going to start saving lives here today,” saidJack Weast, Intel Autonomous Driving Solutions chief architect said.

All across the event, there are various examples of that autonomous vision, including an autonomous truck from a Stockholm-based company. No driver means more space for goods.

The company said the trucks will be in operation on Swedish roads later this year, having already signed a deal with a supermarket chain to deliver goods to stores.  The truck will work autonomously, although it can be controlled remotely should any issue occur.

“Instead of having the driver in this driving seat, we remove it and it is now controlled remotely. So we have autonomous self-driving but we still have the operator and remote control of the vehicle,” Robert Flack, Einride CEO said.

In the U.S, General Motors hopes to launch a fleet of robo-taxis next year. While Ford will advance the testing of self-driving cars this year ahead of a ramping up to full-scale production.

“We are looking at autonomy as an opportunity. Our timing for launch actually at scale is still in three years in 2021 but we have vehicles already being tested that you will see in different places in the U.S. today,” Sherif Marakby, Ford Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification vice president said.

The pace has left governments in a scramble to keep up.

U.S Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the federal government will introduce updated autonomous guidelines this summer in an effort to modernize regulations. But she warned that more still needs to be done to win over public opinion.

“Seventy-one percent of the public feels some kind of anxiety about augmented systems, autonomous vehicles. And it is really incumbent on the manufacturers and the hi-tech industry to assuage those concerns. Consumer acceptance will be the constraint of their growth,” Chao said.

But not everyone is convinced. Some warn that the pace is too fast and that safety issues cannot be swept aside.

“Well, there are different levels to autonomous cars and the auto industry is saying we are jumping right in to level four, which means no brake pedals, no steering wheels, no gas pedal. And so therefore, we need an exemption from safety standards. Well I don’t think that is right. In many ways, this is almost like an attempt to deregulate auto safety,” Joan Claybrook, advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Consumer Co-Chair said.

For many, autonomous cars remain the stuff of science fiction.  But the message from the auto show is clear. The era of driverless vehicles has arrived.