Society’s pivot point on self-driving cars


Society’s pivot point on self-driving cars

Last year, approximately 40,000 people died in car accidents in the United States, and about 94% of car accidents are caused by human error. Halving the number of road deaths would be considered a triumph, yet every time an autonomous vehicle crashes, regulatory bodies and the media begin to point fingers, denouncing the technology as a danger to society. Therefore, misconceptions regarding the safety of self-driving cars must be addressed and their value demonstrated to society.

At the 2018 Movin’On Summit, Don Civgin (Allstate), Young Tae Kim (International Transport Forum) and Leon He (Huawei) joined Joanna Kerr (Greenpeace) to discuss the disconnect between the anticipated benefits of self-driving cars and public opinion.

Self-driving cars have too many benefits to not become a mainstay. Although the mobility industry is rife with experimentation and in a state of relative upheaval, several entities must change to help this new ecosystem emerge: OEMs, data providers, governments, regulators, parking lots, financial systems and insurance, to name a few. In Civgin’s own words, “These are not small technology changes, these are life-transforming things.”

“The private sector plays an important role, but it’s policymakers that should change the system.”— Young Tae Kim, International Transport Forum


Goals need to be aligned

According to Civgin, the transportation ecosystem needs to change, but getting there is going to be a very bumpy road. To bring all the actors together, organizations of every type must change their objective function.

“The way the system works right now, goals are not aligned, economics are not aligned — everybody is chasing something different,” he says. “It’s going to take us looking beyond that immediate goal and looking a little further ahead as a group, and then I think we’ll make a lot of progress.”


Policy change often slower than tech advances

Transformation in mobility requires leadership across multiple organizations. As a society, we need to expect more leadership in order to get these various actors to come together so they can start taking concrete action.

When asked how quickly this long-awaited transformation could take place, Young Tae Kim predicts the main contributions will come from innovative companies, because in the private sector, institutional change has always been slower than technological development. He adds that it’s important to maintain the pace of collective actions, but in the end it’s up to governments to combine these efforts and set regulations and standards.

“The private sector plays an important role, but it’s policymakers that should change the system.”— Young Tae Kim, International Transport Forum


Private companies collaborate to find data-driven solutions

As two private companies, Allstate and Huawei demonstrate that private interests can walk the talk when it comes to collaboration.

Huawei launched an open lab, inviting partners to join them in finding solutions to product integration and compatibility issues, such as synchronizing differences between technical norms and regulations that could skew data readings in electric vehicles, for example.

Over several years, Allstate has collected approximately 35 billion miles of driving data, analyzing it to try to predict shifts in the industry in the hopes of deploying a new ecosystem. Since data will be the lifeblood of collaboration between different groups, Allstate has created Arity, a platform that transforms data into insights to help partners such as Uber and Lyft, and even competitors, better evaluate risk.


Testing makes perfect

Singapore and the Netherlands rank highest in KPMG’s Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index, thanks to their scores the four pillars: Technology & Innovation, Infrastructure, Policy & Legislation and Consumer acceptance. Obviously, all pillars are codependent, but the aspect of exposure to the technology seems to be of importance.

Singapore, for example, is essentially its own test area (most of the population is exposed to self-driving cars on a daily basis), and in the Netherlands approximately 75% of the population seems to be in regular contact with autonomous vehicles. These two cases could provide interesting insight into how to get people on board: stop saying self-driving cars are safe and start showing it.


This article is excerpted from the Movin’On Minutes. For more content on sustainable mobility, sign up for our newsletter