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MALE AND URBAN CONSUMERS MORE ENTHUSIASTIC FOR SELF-DRIVING CARS: A newly released Pew Center survey of 4,135 US adults conducted earlier this year shows US consumers are conflicted about the emergence of self-driving vehicles. The survey found that 65% of the respondents said they expect most cars will be autonomous within the next 50 years.
More respondents were worried about autonomous vehicles than were enthusiastic. Just over half (53%) said they were “somewhat” or “very” worried, compared to 39% who said they were “somewhat” or “very” enthusiastic. Among the 56% of respondents who said they would not ride in a self-driving car, the most common concerns were giving up control of the vehicle (42%) and safety concerns (30%).
However, the survey found some interesting differences between different groups’ willingness to ride in a self-driving car:
- While 51% of male respondents said they’d ride in a self-driving vehicle, only 35% of women surveyed said they’d be willing to do so. This is in line with findings from a Morning Consult survey earlier this year that also found men were more willing to ride in a self-driving vehicle.
- More than half (52%) of urban dwellers surveyed said they’d ride in a self-driving car, compared to 40% of suburbanites and 36% of rural respondents.
- Unsurprisingly, younger respondents were also more willing to ride in a self-driving car, with 51% of respondents aged 18-49 saying they’d do so, compared to only 35% of those aged 50 or older.
Among the 44% of respondents willing to ride in a self-driving car, the top reason they said they’d do so was simply for the experience, which was cited by 37% of them. Other common reasons included feeling self-driving cars would be safer (cited by 17%), the ability to do other things besides driving (15%), and reducing the stress associated with driving (13%).
The majority of the respondents also said they support several policies that could restrict self-driving cars in various ways:
- 87% of the respondents favoured or strongly favoured requiring someone in the driver seat at all times who could take control.
- 83% said they favoured or strongly favoured dedicated driving lanes for self-driving vehicles.
- 69% said they favoured or strongly favoured restricting self-driving cars from driving in certain areas, such as near schools.
Such rules could over time make consumers feel more comfortable with self-driving cars, alleviating some of the concerns around their safety. Those concerns could also be further reduced if self-driving cars prove beneficial to society. For instance, only 28% of those surveyed expected self-driving cars would reduce traffic congestion in major cities. However, studies have predicted that self-driving taxis hailed through mobile apps could vastly reduce the number of cars in urban areas. If self-driving cars reduce traffic, leading to fewer car accidents, it could make consumers rethink their opinions around self-driving cars.
GOOGLE AND ROLLS-ROYCE PARTNER ON SHIPPING SAFETY AND NAVIGATION: Rolls-Royce has agreed to partner with Google to improve its own software for detecting and avoiding objects at sea, Port Technology reports.
The agreement will allow Rolls-Royce, one of the world’s leading providers of marine propulsion systems, to use Google’s Cloud Machine Learning Engine to analyse marine data sets. Leveraging Google’s machine learning algorithms to detect patterns in these data sets which will then be applied to help Rolls-Royce’s software recognise and identify different objects in ship’s surroundings on the open ocean.
Rolls-Royce’s object detection technology can help with both manned and unmanned shipping vessels. Rolls-Royce previously used the system as an advanced safety system for ships owned by Stena Line, a Swedish ship operator. This type of object detection and avoidance technology is also a step towards autonomous ships, much like how advanced driver assist systems in cars today are essential building blocks towards self-driving cars. Earlier this year, Rolls-Royce demonstrated the world’s first remotely controlled commercial vessel in Copenhagen’s harbour, and opened a research center in Finland dedicated to autonomous shipping.
The company intends to eventually use small crews at centralised control centres to remotely operate unmanned cargo vessels around the world. Several major Japanese shipping firms are similarly planning to build fleets of remotely controlled vessels. This type of model would drastically reduce labour costs for shipping companies, which can make up half the total costs of operating a cargo vessel. However, maritime laws and regulations will need to be rewritten in order for autonomous or remotely controlled commercial vessels to cross the world’s oceans. International shipping is regulated by the UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which has said that it is considering changes that would enable unmanned ships to sail in international waters. In the meantime, shipping operators, their suppliers, and tech companies will accelerate their ongoing efforts to build sensors and software for unmanned vessels.
RIDE-HAILNG FIRMS’ REGULATORY ISSUES IN WESTERN EUROPE: Estonian ride-hailing company Taxify is moving into Paris for the first time, according to Engadget. The firm hopes that it will be able to carve out a large share of the city’s ride-hailing market by charging consumers 10% less on average than rival Uber, and taking 10% less in commission from drivers. Taxify, which operates in 18 countries, mostly in Europe, will only be able to use drivers with a professional chauffeur licence (known as VTC).
The company sees an opportunity in Western European markets as Uber confronts regulatory issues in the region. The world’s largest ride-hailing firm has struggled to maintain a strong presence in Western Europe. Notably, it’s licence to operate in London was rescinded last month by Transport for London (TfL), and its low-cost UberPOP service was temporarily banned in France after cab drivers protested the service. London was a major loss for Uber — its revenue was up 59% in the city in 2016 and it controlled 68% of the UK ride-hailing market, according to Dalia Research. Taxify entered London immediately following Uber’s loss of its licence, and is furthering that push with its move into Paris.
However, Taxify has been plagued with some of the same issues as Uber. Only a week after it launched in London, Taxify was banned by TfL. Additionally, France’s National Union of Taxis and the head of the VTC Union have already attacked Taxify in the press, arguing that its business practices will hurt drivers and consumers.
It’s looking increasingly likely that ride-hailing firms are fundamentally at-odds with many Western European cities’ regulatory policies. Part of the reason TfL revoked Uber’s licence in London was because the regulator said Uber failed to meet requirements around driver vetting and reporting practices. These requirements are designed for traditional taxi operators, and Uber and Taxify both argued after losing their licenses that they are technology platforms, not taxi operators. Therefore, they say, they should not be required to follow strict regulations that would add operational costs and complexity to their businesses. Moreover, Taxify’s experience shows that established taxi drivers and their unions, which have a great deal of sway in Western European countries, will always have ride-hailing firms in their sights. These challenges will persist until ride-hailing firms deal with these regulatory issues that have made Western Europe a particularly difficult market.
In other news…
- Ford announced that all of its vehicles sold in the US will have native connectivity features by 2019, according to The Star. In addition, the company plans to include native connectivity features in 90% of its vehicles sold in foreign markets by 2019. CEO Jim Hackett said the move will position the automaker well for a future where many competing automakers also offer connectivity features on all their models. Ford joins BMW, GM, and Mercedes-Benz in planning to build connectivity features into all their models in the coming years.
- Boeing will acquire Aurora Flight Sciences, a manufacturer of drones and pilotless flying systems, in order to eventually start manufacturing flying taxis, according to The Wall Street Journal. While flying taxis face technological and regulatory hurdles to get to market, the company views them as part of the future of transportation. In addition, CTO Greg Hyslop said the company will leverage Aurora’s machine learning technologies to bolster the technologies in its other offerings, which could include building machine learning applications for its planes and other aircraft.
- Electric vehicle (EV) sales hit a yearly high in September, and Tesla leads all manufacturers in overall sales, according to a new report from Inside EVs. Automakers delivered about 21,000 electric plug-in vehicles in the US last month, up from only 16,000 in August but off the monthly record for EV deliveries set back in December 2016. Tesla led all manufacturers with 8,095 EVs delivered last month, nearly twice the 4,112 delivered by GM, which came in second. This brings the total number of electric vehicles sold in the US this year to 142,514.
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