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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is aware of growing development in self-driving vehicle technology, and wants to make sure future rollouts go smoothly.
The NHTSA wants to be as prepared as possible, taking a look at state and federal regulation regarding autonomous vehicles. NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind understands his agency must be proactive, understanding future risks: "The first time a self-driving car hits somebody, and someone gets hurt or is fatally injured, we're going to get the phone call."
It will be years before a full self-driving car is available to drivers, but Rosekind admits "we have a lot of catch-up to do."
Forty-four percent of drivers don't like the idea of self-driving vehicles as a personal vehicle, with 41 percent preferring a vehicle that allows for human takeover ability, and just 15 percent approve of a fully capable self-driving vehicle, according to a survey from the University of Michigan Transport Research Institute.
The survey revealed men and younger survey participants approve of self-driving vehicles on a larger scale, while women and older drives have major concerns. And it looks like drivers want a steering wheel and pedals, just in case they feel the need to take over.
"Self-driving vehicles are often discussed in regard to their potential safety, energy consumption and environmental benefits," said Brandon Schoettle, a co-author of the study, in a statement published by NBC News. "However, less attention has been paid to considering the actual level of automation, if any, that drivers desire in their vehicle."
Google is racking up test miles with its self-driving vehicles, and while accidents have occurred, the company is paying special attention to driving on surface streets.
During a speech at the Automated Vehicle Symposium, Google director of self-driving vehicles, Chris Urmson, discussed some of the most unique experiences Google self-driving vehicles have faced. One scenario involved a duck running across the road, while a lady in an electric-powered wheelchair chased the duck around.
"It doesn't matter how long you gave me, I never would have come up with that scenario. There are no rules. The DMV has nothing in its handbook," Urmson said. It's a unique challenge, as the Google self-driving vehicle must be able to identify that "this is weird... I'm just going to chill out here and let that all play out."
It looks like Daimler wants to begin testing its self-driving trucks on German roads in 2016, if all goes according to plan, according to German media sources.
Daimler first showed off its self-driving truck in Germany last year, and road tests were expected to be announced within a couple of years. Full production is likely 2-3 years away, as the German company expects increased pressure from automakers and tech companies.
"We are positive that we will get approval for tests on German motorways within the next [few] weeks," said Wolfgang Bernhard, a Daimler executive board member, in a statement published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper.
The refreshed 2016 Honda Accord is coming packed with technology, as it will be the first Honda model that supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The vehicle features a 7-inch Display Audio touchscreen interface and 7.7-inch HD display screen, Honda Sensing driver-assistive technology, and HD Radio.
Both CarPlay and Android Auto support connecting an iPhone or Android-powered smartphone in the vehicle - making it even easier to access mobile apps.
"Where else to introduce the most technologically advanced midsize sedan, the 2016 Accord, than in Silicon Valley," said John Mendel, EVP of automotive division at American Honda Motor. "Customers want their vehicles to be more intelligently integrated with their smartphone-powered lives, and we are committed to delivering that experience starting with Accord, retail car buyers' most popular vehicle the past two years."
Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) thinks self-driving vehicles would be better tested in a controlled environment, such as a race track instead of public roads.
"It is an incredibly hazardous environment to be out on the streets," Sen. Peters said while speaking at an opening of the University of Michigan Mcity track. Even though Michigan still hasn't approved self-driving vehicles on public roads - which is scheduled to begin in 2016 - it looks like Peters isn't a fan.
Google self-driving vehicles have been involved in a number of auto accidents, though the autonomous vehicle acted accordingly - and human drivers were at fault in each incident.
Google recently said a self-driving vehicle was involved in its first injury accident, after passengers in the customized Lexus SUV complained of whiplash after the car was rear-ended. It looks like distracted driving was the culprit, with a driver too focused on a smartphone instead of the road. The following video shows how the incident occurred:
Here is what happened, according to Google: "One of our Lexus vehicles was driving autonomously towards an intersection in Mountain View, CA. The light was green, but traffic was backed up on the far side, so three cars, including ours, braked and came to a stop so as not to get stuck in the middle of the intersection. After we'd stopped, a car slammed into the back of us at 17 mph - and it hadn't braked at all."
Even though many human drivers don't like the idea of autonomous vehicles, Google and other companies promote autonomous driving as a safer alternative. All of the accidents the Google self-driving vehicles have been involved in, other human drivers were responsible for the collision.
It looks like Uber is interested in securing itself some autonomous electric vehicles from Tesla Motors, where it would buy every single autonomous vehicle that Tesla makes in 2020.
With around 500,000 electric vehicles to be made in 2020, Uber would be scooping up every autonomous car it makes in the year. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is fully on-board, while an early Tesla investor and board member, Steve Jurvetson, is also keen. During the Top 10 Tech Trends dinner, Jurvetson said: "I believe they are already safer than my parents and I would trust my kids with them".
Now all Tesla has to do is ramp up production to the point of making 500,000 autonomous electric vehicles per year, but Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that he expects Tesla to be capable of producing half a million cars per year by 2020.
Luxury automaker Jaguar is working on introducing autonomous functionality to vehicles, but don't expect a full self-driving car anytime soon. Ultimately, Jaguar wants humans to be in control and able to drive their own vehicles while behind the wheel.
"We don't consider customers cargo. We don't want to build a robot that delivers the cargo from A to B," said Wolfgang Epple, R&D chief at Jaguar, while speaking to the media during a recent UK press event.
Instead, Jaguar wants to include semi-autonomous feature in vehicles, boosting driver comfort and making vehicles safer. Offerings such as parking-assist, remote control functionality via smartphone, lane-assist, and other technologies seem to have drawn more interest from engineers at Jaguar.
Delphi and Google were both testing their autonomous vehicles in the Bay Area town of Palo Alto last week, and it looks like a close call never occurred. Reuters has defended itself after originally breaking the story on Thursday, with both Delphi and Google clarifying their versions of the story shortly thereafter.
"During a recent visit with Reuters, our Delphi expert described an actual interaction that we counter all the time in real-world driving situations," a Delphi spokeswoman told the media. "In this case, it was a typical lane change maneuver. No vehicle was cut off and the vehicles didn't even come close to each other. Both automated vehicles did exactly what they were supposed to do."
The Delphi autonomous vehicle and Google test car were about one lane width apart, and there was no immediate danger.