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Autonomous Vehicles Blog - Driving the Future

Before your Christmas leftovers were even close to being eaten up, Amazon had already released a press release touting record-breaking sales figures for the holiday season—and autonomous vehicles played a critical role in the retail giant smashing its own holiday record. The December 26 release doesn’t mention AVs or robotics in any way (except a brief mention about a record number of iRobot Roomba vacuums being sold to consumers), but rest assured, the company relied on its increasingly large complement of autonomous vehicles to reach its lofty numbers.

After a decade of testing and over 10 million miles driven on public roads, Waymo officially launched Waymo One, the country's first commercial autonomous ride-share service. Waymo One will now begin providing customers rides in AVs 24 hours a day. Similar to other ride-share services, consumers use an app to request a ride and enter in their drop-off location. The app provides a fixed price for the cost of transporting the rider from their pickup location to the requested drop off location.

Gizmodo just published a story confirming that Uber has been “given the green light” to resume its testing of self-driving cars in Pennsylvania, according to reports from The Information. It appears that the company’s legal department made an internal announcement on Tuesday discussing the service, relaying the news that the company has improved safety features for the service in recent months.

Most of the media attention paid to autonomous vehicles relates to the capabilities of passenger vehicles. But other companies are moving ahead with producing autonomous vehicles for use in commercial settings, such as the mining industry. 

Transit agencies are poised to reap many benefits by implementing autonomous vehicle technology, but numerous barriers to implementation exist. At least that’s what the Federal Transit Authority says in its 2018 Strategic Transit Automation Research Plan (the “STAR Plan”).

Is Amazon becoming a car company? Not quite, but it may become the next big player in autonomous driving. As reported in several news articles like Forbes and The Street, Amazon has been heavily investing in autonomous vehicle technology to both save money and make money.

Eric Lazzari needed to get across downtown for a meeting and decided to use an electric scooter, according to The Denver Post. He knew the law, and was properly operating the e-scooter on the sidewalk. While stopped at an intersection, an angry pedestrian approached him, told him scooters didn’t belong on the sidewalk, and smacked him in the back of the head.

A recent study conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHSTA) attributes 94 percent of serious automobile crashes to human error. Based on this key fact, the NHSTA is hopeful that autonomous vehicles will considerably reduce the number of accidents and associated damages. The bad news is that determining who is at fault when AV accidents occur may prove to be a difficult task. Traditionally, accident liability has focused on the actions of the driver. With the advent of AVs, however, liability and risk will likely shift to manufacturers, dealerships, software programmers, relevant third-party suppliers, and the company in charge of training AV operators.

Along with the numerous benefits that the autonomous vehicle revolution promises come real concerns over the potential impact on jobs. That is why the Economics and Statistics Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce released a report titled The Employment Impact of Autonomous Vehicles, in which it hoped to identify the occupations most likely to be directly affected by the widespread business adoption of autonomous vehicles on public roads.

As we discussed previously on this blog, in recent years public policy officials and others have floated proposals to deal with automation via taxation – either a tax directly on “robots” themselves or a tax on capital gains that companies achieve through the use of automated technology.

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