Autonomous Vehicle Safety Reports Leave a Lot to Desire

Madison, Wisconsin – On the heels of the California Department of Motor Vehicle annual autonomous vehicle disengagement report, Beijing’s Innovation Center for Mobility Intelligent (BICMI) published its 2019 survey of self-driving vehicles being tested on local roads.

Both reports, which hinge on tracking disengagements – or the frequency at which human safety drivers were forced to take control of their autonomous vehicles – are a stark reminder of how little we have to measure the safety and performance of autonomous vehicles.

“Comparing disengagement rates between companies is worse than meaningless. It creates perverse incentives,” said Bryant Walker Smith, associate professor at the University of South Carolina’s School of Law and an expert in self-driving cars.

Smith explained to the Verge that if he were to register in California and never test, for instance, he’d look good. “If I wanted to look even better, I’d do a ton of easy freeway miles in California and do my real testing anywhere else,” he continued.

California law requires that every company testing autonomous vehicles on public roads submit data on the number of miles driven and the frequency of disengagements. Beijing is one of the few cities globally to mandate that autonomous car companies disclose their disengagement results too.

According to Verge coverage of the California report, the total number of autonomous miles driven in California last year rose 40%, to more than 2.87 million, thanks largely to a notable increase in public on-road testing by Baidu, Cruise, Pony.ai, Waymo, Zoox, and Lyft.

But the report has generated considerable discussion about whether disengagements communicate anything meaningful. Echoing similar sentiments as Smith, Waymo, which drove 1.45 million miles in California in 2019 and logged a disengagement rate of 0.076 per 1,000 self-driven miles, said that the metric “does not provide relevant insights” into its technology. Cruise, for their part, drove 831,040 miles last year and reported a disengagement rate of 0.082, said the “idea that disengagements give a meaningful signal about whether an [autonomous vehicle] is ready for commercial deployment is a myth.”

Meanwhile, Venture Beat reported that a total of 77 autonomous vehicles from 13 China-based companies covered over 646,000 miles on Beijing roads during 2019, according to the BICMI. That’s up from the 95,000 miles eight firms drove in 2018.

The BICMI report doesn’t break out disengagement numbers by company or vehicle, but it said 86% of disengagements in 2019 resulted from human takeovers. Examples might include drivers tinkering with data-recording equipment, changes in planned routes, or “personal reasons” (like bathroom breaks). The remaining 14% of disengagements were attributable to some form of mechanical or software system failure.

The inherent weakness of using disengagements to measure the success of autonomous vehicles are glaring.

For starters, the very nature of public road testing means that the environments are inconsistent. A mile in Palo Alto is very different than a mile in downtown San Francisco.

Also, in California, the vague DMV definition of disengagement means that car companies aren’t following the same protocols. The DMV defines disengagements as “deactivation of the autonomous mode when a failure of the autonomous technology is detected or when the safe operation of the vehicle requires that the autonomous vehicle test driver disengage the autonomous mode and take immediate manual control of the vehicle.” That leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

For example, a self-driving car owned by GM Cruise ran a red light in San Francisco after the safety driver took control to avoid blocking a crosswalk. But the company didn’t include the incident in its report because, according to Cruise’s interpretation, the human driver didn’t act out of safety concerns or a failure of the autonomous system.

And finally, nowhere in either report is it specified which advanced driver assist system (i.e. adaptive cruise control) failed and precisely what event triggered the disengagement.

The result is that it is impossible to make an apples-to-apples comparison about the performance and safety of these vehicles.

And if you thought you could turn to the federal government for better data, think again. Most major players in the US have also submitted voluntary safety reports to the federal government as part of the Department of Transportation’s voluntary guidance. But these reports read more like marketing documents.

The reality is that if the public wants to understand how safe self-driving vehicles are, one alternative is to consider leveraging methods and techniques currently being used by insurance providers. After all, insurance groups have a lot at stake when it comes to understanding the quality of these systems.

When the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) set out to evaluate the success rates of active lane-keeping systems in 2018, for instance, it tracked the number of times the vehicle had to overcorrect after crossing clearly marked lane lines. Why? Because evaluating the safety of these vehicles requires the collection of relevant and targeted data about specific advance driver assist systems.

An alternative approach, according to Smith, would be for companies to release testing summaries with details and context about each disengagement. While not ideal, the thought is that with more information about precisely which system failed and under what conditions, the public could conceivably start teasing out some meaningful conclusions. But no company to date has done that.

And short of any new regulations set forth by public authorities, the industry may have to forge its own path by developing their own standards. Dmitry Polishchuk, head of Russian tech giant Yandex’s autonomous car project, noted that Yandex hasn’t released any disengagement reports because they are “waiting for some sort of industry standard” to overcome the discrepancies in how companies are defining and recording disengagements. The right industry standard could help overcome this test-and-don’t-report alternative.

The good news is the SAE has created a task force to provide definitions, information and best practices to support verification and validation of self-driving systems. It’s still unclear, however, when we can expect to see the fruits of their labor.

At this point, there is little reason to expect much will change in 2020, which leaves us in a frightful situation: There are currently millions of miles being driven by automated vehicles on public roads, and no one can agree about what data we should use to measure their safety.

If that’s not reckless driving, then what is?

 

Robert Fischer is President of GTiMA, a Technology and Policy Advisor to Mandli Communications, and an Associate Editor of the SAE International Journal of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. Follow Rob on Twitter (@Robfischeris) and Linkedin.

Eric Nutt is the Chief Technology Officer of Mandli Communications, Inc., and an Associate Editor of the SAE International Journal of Connected and Automated Vehicles. Follow Eric on LinkedIn.

Overcoming The High Carbon Debt of Electric Vehicle Production

Editor’s Note: While the WI AVPG is focused on advancing the safe deployment of AV tech, occasionally we cover other emerging technologies, like the electric, shared, and connected aspects of the future of transportation.

 

WASHINGTON, DC – While it’s nice to have a new year for a fresh start, resolutions can be tricky, especially if you are considering buying an electric vehicle to reduce your annual carbon footprint.

Though studies show that over their lifetime EVs produce fewer emissions than gas guzzlers, EVs generate considerably more CO2 than their gas counterparts on the assembly line. Without reforms to EV manufacturing, or access to green energy to fuel the vehicle once it hits the road, studies suggest it could take years – well beyond the scope of your 2020 resolution – for an EV to be greener than a gas car.

Today, transportation accounts for almost 30% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, more than any other sector, including agriculture, industry, and yes, even electricity generation.

The good news is that the smooth, emissions-free ride of an electric vehicle shows a lot of promise in the fight to decarbonize transportation.

Recent years have seen a flurry of studies, like this 2018 International Council on Clean Transportation report, affirming that over their lifetime EVs produce fewer emissions than gas-powered cars.

But the same report notes that Chinese EV battery manufacturers, who currently produce over 60 percent of the world’s lithium-ion batteries, also generate 60% more CO2 during fabrication than an internal combustion engine vehicle.

That’s right, when an EV roles off the assembly line, relative to the manufacture of a gas car, an EV has added to greenhouse gas emissions, not reduced them.

How long does it take for an EV to break even with its gas-powered counterpart, you ask?

The short answer: anywhere from 6 months, if you believe the 2015 Union of Concerned Scientist report, to 9 years or more if you go with World Economic Forum numbers. That’s quite a spread, admittedly, but depending on the underlying assumptions in the study, like the size of the battery and the range of the vehicle model, the results can be dramatically different.

But the more nuanced answer to the question is that the time it takes for an EV to break even with a gas car depends on two key variables: how the vehicle is manufactured, and how you fuel it once the vehicle hits the road.

When it comes to manufacturing, the ICCT report notes that Chinese EV manufacturers could cut their emissions by 66% if they adopt American and European manufacturing techniques. It’s not clear if that leads to a 66% reduction in the time it would take for an EV to break even with a gas car – a 1:1 ratio – but a CO2 reduction of that size in the assembly phase would undoubtedly help.

Once the EV hits the road, a car battery is only as green as the fuel that feeds it – a coal fed battery is dirtier than a solar powered battery – so access to renewably sourced energy becomes a key factor for an EV to catch up to a petrol car.

To cite one of the more ominous studies, in Germany, according to the WEF, where about 40% of the energy mix is produced by coal and 30% by renewables, a mid-sized electric car must be driven around 78,000 miles, on average, to break even with a diesel car, and 37,000 miles to match a petrol car. That would take about 9 years for an electric car to be greener than a diesel car, based on annual German driving behavior.

For some added perspective, if you were to apply the same logic to the state of Wisconsin, for example, where only 9% of energy is renewably sourced, and folks drive on average 15,000 miles per year, it would take 375,000 miles, or 15 years, to break even with a diesel car, and 180,000 miles, or 7.5 years to match a petrol car.

That’s a long time, especially when you consider motorists who buy a brand-new car typically keep it for about six years. At these rates, a first time EV buyer may never have the opportunity to be more green than a gas car.

There is reason for optimism, notes Lori Bird, the Director of the US Energy Program at the World Resource Institute. Not only is renewable energy the fastest-growing energy source in the U.S, increasing 100 percent from 2000 to 2018, but we are seeing some positive trends when it comes to pairing EVs with green energy.

Austin Energy has developed a network charging program, called the Plug-in Everywhere Network, that allows customers to access a network of charging stations that source 100% of their charging electricity from wind. Approximately 35% of EV owners within Austin Energy’s service area participate in this program.

There are also managed charging programs, like a recent pilot called Charge Forward, run by Pacific Gas and Electric and BMW in April 2018, where customers agreed to delay charging for up to an hour each day to better align with available renewable energy, in exchange for lower charging rates.

The City of San Diego, for their part, kicked off a partnership with Sand Diego Gas & Electric and others in 2012 to implement a pilot project at the San Diego Zoo, where 10 photovoltaic canopies were installed, giving customers access to five charging stations. When not in use, the solar energy is stored in a battery system.

Meanwhile, other utilities offer discounts to customers willing to charge when renewable energy is being generated – also known as time-based rates. Southern California Edison, for example, introduced in January 2019 competitive rates that incentivize customers to charge on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., when solar is abundant, and off-peak hours on weekends from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m., when the wind is available.

While these examples may feel small in scale, BNP Paribas, one of the world’s largest banks, sent warnings to the oil industry in a 2019 report, stating that “the oil industry has never in its history faced the kind of threat that renewable electricity in tandem with EVs poses to its business model.”

Solar and wind energy, paired with electric cars, the report concludes, provides up to seven times more useful energy for mobility than gasoline on a dollar-for-dollar basis. And that economic reality could hit oil companies sooner than they think.

Bottom line, the stakes are high when it comes to climate change, so any edge in the fight to decarbonize transportation must be explored. Fortunately, strategies to beef up EV access to renewable energy and reform manufacturing practices seem to show some promise.

It has been said that inflated expectations are the number one reason new year resolutions fail.

If purchasing a shiny new electric vehicle is part of your plan to downsize your carbon in 2020, you may want to temper your ambitions.

While in the long run buying an EV makes perfect sense, you won’t likely hit your target by year-end.

 

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Robert Fischer is President of GTiMA, a Technology and Policy Advisor to Mandli Communications, and an Associate Editor of the SAE International Journal of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.  Follow Rob on Twitter (@Robfischeris) and Linkedin.

 

How Cities Can Digitize Their 21st Century Mobility Policies

For the better part of the last century, cities used analog systems like lane markings and curbs to manage their transportation network.  As we move into the new digital age of transportation, cities are finding innovative ways to digitize their transportation policies.

Every morning on my way to work, I drive through what could be the most over-engineered intersection east of the Mississippi.

This rather typical four-way crossroads is packed with an atypical and whopping 36 traffic lights (if you count each red, yellow and green light), 8 pedestrian crosswalk signals, 6 strategically placed video cameras, and a spattering of street signs – 14 specifically – indicating street names, speed limits, turn lanes, parking and bus zones. All that gear to manage one intersection!

When I described the scene to a friend over lunch one day, he joked: “That, there, is the face of big government and the visible overreach of the administrative state.”

Overreach or not, cities have always been responsible for managing their surface transportation network, and for the better part of the last century, they did so using analog systems like stop signs, lane markings, curbs, and police officers.

Today, however, we are moving into a new digital-age of transportation with ride-hailing, micro-mobility, drones, and autonomous vehicles. If cities are to live up to their mandate in this brave new world, they must not only have policies in place about this digital world, but they also must embed policies directly into this digital world – in other words, digitize their policies.

Afterall, decisions are happening at lightning speeds in the digital realm. From the GPS-based route optimization when you order a ride, to the payment systems for the ride service, to the safety-critical vehicle-to-infrastructure communication systems, the digital world is where the action is happening.  And remember, part of the promise of autonomous vehicles is that they will one day remove the human from the driving equation entirely, ultimately shifting all of the decision making to the digital world.

Which is why Chicago, Portland, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, and other cities jumped to form the Open Mobility Foundation (OMF), whose mission is to govern the new Mobility Data Specification (MDS).

MDS is a set of data specifications and data sharing requirements that force mobility companies to report basic data on the location and use of their equipment. While MDS, in its current form, is focused on e-scooters and e-bicycles, it was originally developed by the LA DOT to better manage AV deployments, and extending it to AVs remains a goal.

But MDS alone won’t enable digital traffic management.  Cities will also need a high definition map of the city, or as the latest “Technology Action Plan” [pdf] by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation describes it, a “digital infrastructure that mirrors the current hardscape and that gives transportation assets like curbs, streets, sidewalks, airspace, and subterranean space a digital identity.”

That’s right, code is the new concrete, and a key tenet of OMF’s mission is that the city is going to own and govern its digital twin.

“Going forward, each city must manage its own Digital Twin, which will provide the ground truth on which mobility services depend,” states the OMF bylaws [pdf].

The result is that all stakeholders—both cities and the private mobility companies—will operate off the same digital map, with MDS acting as the data and communication protocol.

By combining MDS with a digital twin of the urban environment, cities will finally be in a position to digitally – and actively – manage private sector service providers.

For instance, a city could digitize their AV policies directly into the digital twin—in other words, embed into the universal map rules like speed limits and where and when vehicles can park, instead of relying on street signs that AVs may or may not recognize.

Furthermore, using the MDS protocol, not only could a city track precisely where and when AVs are operating, but policy violations could be enforced in real-time, instead of relying on snail mail for ticketing.

There are around 90 cities in the world piloting MDS, according to the Executive Director of OMF, Jascha Franklin-Hodge, who shared his estimate at a recent conference in Los Angeles.

One thing is for sure, byzantine analog methods for managing transportation aren’t likely to cut it any longer. City officials need new tools and technologies that allow them to fulfill their role as planners, operators, investors, regulators, and enforcers of the surface transportation network.

And though some folks, like my friend, may find solace in a future with fewer analog systems lining our streets, don’t be fooled by the digital regs hiding beneath the surface.

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Robert Fischer is President of GTiMA, a Technology and Policy Advisor to Mandli Communications, and an Associate Editor of the SAE International Journal of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.

Digital Transportation: The Future of Urban Mobility

The physical scale and unprecedented population growth in some cities have officials grappling with how to manage their transportation network. The Open Mobility Foundation has a bold, digitally-based vision to help cities meet their mobility goals.

PORTLAND, Oregon – What used to be a relatively quick, uneventful drive into Portland from my southwest neighborhood has turned into a traffic debacle. I knew commuter life in Portland had changed forever when, on this last visit, my GPS said, “Are we there yet?”

Portland is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, and like many booming cities, population growth and gridlock have swelled hand in glove. But there is reason for optimism, as Portland and 15 other cities this summer inaugurated the Open Mobility Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to modernize city planning technology and help communities meet their mobility goals.

Cities have always been responsible for managing their surface transportation network, and for the better part of the last century, they did so using analog systems like stop signs, lane markings, and curbs.

Today, however, the transportation ecosystem is surging ahead digitally, with new modes of transportation like ridesharing, scooters, and self-driving vehicles being introduced yearly.

In principle, this phenomenon should be a welcome novelty. After all, with limited budgets, cities can’t just keep adding new transit routes.

But these digital modes of transportation offer plenty of potential in their own right. More than 48% of trips in the most congested cities are under three miles, according to a recent INRIX report, which analyzed over 50 million trips. If a fraction of these trips were replaced by shared bikes and scooters, cities would experience less traffic, reduced emissions, and a boost to the local economy, according to the research group.

Of course, there is a darker side to this tech. Scooters clog narrow sidewalks, lay strewn in the middle of crosswalks, and have been known to force pedestrians into a hurdle race over these wheeled platforms. Meanwhile, ride-hailing firms like Uber and Lyft, which at their inception were hyped as traffic busters, admitted in August they are making congestion worse in some cities.

Indeed, harnessing the promise of these new forms of mobility, while mitigating the bad, has been a challenge for cities.

Which is why Portland, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, Minneapolis, and others jumped to form OMF, whose mission is to govern the new Mobility Data Specification.

MDS, which was originally unveiled by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation last year, is a set of data specifications and data sharing requirements that force mobility companies to report basic data on the location and use of their equipment.

The principle is simple: If a city is going to manage its surface transportation network effectively, it better know where ‘stuff’ is.

But MDS alone won’t solve congestion. In order to leverage MDS data to mitigate traffic, cities will need a high definition map of the city, or as the latest “Technology Action Plan” [pdf] by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation describes it, a “digital infrastructure that mirrors the current hardscape and that gives transportation assets like curbs, streets, sidewalks, airspace, and subterranean space a digital identity.”

That’s right, code is the new concrete, and a key tenet of OMF’s mission is that the city is going to own and govern its digital twin.

“Going forward, each city must manage its own Digital Twin, which will provide the ground truth on which mobility services depend,” states the OMF bylaws [pdf].

The result is that all stakeholders—both cities and the private mobility companies—will operate off the same digital map, with MDS acting as the data and communication protocol.

For the first time, cities will be in a position to digitally, and actively manage private sector service providers.  For instance, a city could digitize their scooter policies directly into the digital twin—in other words, embed into the universal map rules like where and when scooters can park. Using the MDS protocol, the city could track precisely where and when scooters are operating and parking, even fining the scooter company or user when city policies are violated.

While MDS in its current form is focused on dockless e-scooters and bicycles, the good news is that it’s extendable to other types of digitized mobility like ride-hailing companies, and even autonomous vehicles.

In addition to supporting real-time management of mobility providers, officials also plan on using the digital twin as a digital testing ground to build and simulate a transportation system that could be exponentially more efficient than the existing network.

To seize this opportunity, OMF founding members are following LA’s lead, and working to build their digital infrastructure.

Indeed, the physical scale and unprecedented concentration of human beings in many cities have officials on edge, asking important questions about disease control, food production, education, housing, employment, migration, and transportation.

One thing is for sure, byzantine analog methods for managing transportation aren’t likely to cut it any longer. City officials need new tools and technologies that allow them to fulfill their role as planners, operators, investors, regulators, and enforcers of the surface transportation network.

It has been said that “technology is best when it brings people together.”

Let’s hope—in this case—the tech keeps us apart.

______________ 

Robert Fischer is President of GTiMA, a Technology and Policy Advisor to Mandli Communications, and an Associate Editor of the SAE International Journal of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. Follow Rob on Twitter (@Robfischeris) and Linkedin.

U.S. Falling Behind in Smart City Deployments and Key 21st Century Infrastructure

Silicon Valley

Smart cities are either going to be the pinnacle of modern living or an Orwellian nightmare, but one thing seems for sure: the United States probably isn’t going to be the first to find out.

Recent reporting underscores that the United States has fallen behind its neighbors in both smart city deployments and 5G network rollouts—the latter of which is slated to be the connective tissue of these future cities. The news has some experts on edge.

“China is developing 500 smart cities – almost half of the world’s total and more than 10 times North America’s figure,” according to Graham Allison, the former director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, writing in a recent Axios article. In contrast, Allison continued, “the U.S. is developing 40 smart cities, less than 4% of the globe’s total.”

The IDC tells a similar story in the recently released “Worldwide Semiannual Smart Cities Spending Guide.” In the United States, only four cities (New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Chicago) are forecast to spend more than $300 million on smart city programs this year. Meanwhile, 11 cities in China will exceed the $300 million level in 2019.

What about the race to build 5G networks, which have faster speeds, higher throughput, and are considered the backbone of the internet of things, smart cities, and even autonomous vehicles?

The Defense Innovation Board, a who’s-who of tech royalty that advises the Defense Department, met in April and published a critical report on the country’s 5G effort, effectively confirming that Beijing has taken the lead.

“The country that owns 5G will own many of these innovations and set the standards for the rest of the world… [and] that country is currently not likely to be the United States,” wrote the board, which includes former Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and Walter Isaacson, a former chief executive of the Aspen Institute.

They have a point: according to patent analytics firm IPlytics [pdf], the United States is behind in the 5G patent race. The Chinese 5G market accounts for 34% of all 5G patents and technology; South Korea accounts for 25%.  Trailing behind those two countries are the United States and the European Union–both of which account for 14% of the 5G market.

I.P. ownership aside, the Unite States isn’t faring much better when it comes to building out 5G networks.

“If you count the launch of commercial service in any form, the U.S. is in front of China,” writes Elizabeth Woyke in a December article for the MIT Technology Review. Both countries have carriers that claim to have introduced early 5G services to a limited number of mobile customers.

On the other hand, Woyke continued, “if you think a country needs to roll out 5G to all its major cities in order to claim leadership, China looks likely to come out ahead.”

China Tower, a company that builds infrastructure for the country’s mobile operators, has said it can cover China with 5G within three years of the government’s allocation of spectrum.

“That points to national coverage by 2023,” warns Woyke. Based on the tone of the Defense Innovation Board report, it doesn’t seem likely the United States can compete with that timeline.

AT&T, for example, plans to cover nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population with 5G by 2021; Verizon has similar plans. However, at this point, there is no clear path to full national coverage in the United States.

Complicating the rollout in the United States are the 80 cities and counties suing the FCC over new rules designed to accelerate the buildout of America’s 5G infrastructure. The rules limit municipal authorities to charging $270 per cell site per year and also impose a “shot clock” limiting how long authorities can take to review installation requests.

The FCC argues that the new rules will free up $2 billion in capital for wireless providers to use in underserved areas like rural communities; cities are claiming the federal government has overstepped its bounds, undercutting local control of infrastructure.

Further slowing the 5G rollout in U.S. communities are health concerns. The service will require thousands of small cell antennas placed throughout cities, and critics have said that the radiation could increase the risk of cancer, fatigue, headaches and other effects—claims that lack scientific support.

The National Cancer Institute recently weighed in, summing up the field of concern by saying a “limited number of studies” showed evidence of a”“statistical association of cell phone use and brain tumor risks,” but added that “most studies have found no association.”

Long story short, it’s not looking so good for the United States right now. Underinvestment in smart city deployments—relative to other countries—coupled with a forecast of a long 5G rollout and low patent ownership is unnerving some experts.

Then again, there may be a silver lining to this tale. After all, in the event these cities do turn into Orwellian nightmares, who would want to be the first to find out anyway?

 

Robert Fischer is President of GTiMA and a Technology and Policy Advisor to Mandli Communications. Both GTiMA and Mandli work with national, international and regional authorities to advance smart city standards, policies, and best practices – especially as they relate to the future of mobility. Robert is also an Associate Editor of the SAE International Journal of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. 

Follow Rob on Twitter (@Robfischeris) and Linkedin.

Redefining Privacy in the Era of Connected Vehicles

The future of mobility will look and feel very different.  Want instant access to all your favorite TV shows so you can entertain your children wherever you go?  You got it.  How about access to directions, route changes, and knowledge of the intentions of all the vehicles around you?  Yup, consider it done.

Making this all possible is the world wide web, and the good news is 98% of all new vehicles in 2020 will be connected to the internet, with 100% expected by 2025.  However, along with the advantages of this connectivity, you get a mountain of privacy concerns.

The reality is that companies providing your in-car services – like entertainment and navigation services – will also have access to a slew of additional information about you, including how often you drive over the speed limit, how aggressively you drive generally, and where you go and how long you stay there; and that’s just for starters.  There is even talk of these service companies eavesdropping on your conversations or monitoring your emotions while you drive.

It’s unclear at this point how consumers will be able to keep these vehicles in check, but car companies can learn a great deal from the European Union’s (EU) latest attempts to regulate privacy.

On May 25, 2018, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect, ushering in key protections for consumers. For example, a data subject – that’s you enjoying your connected vehicle services – must be able to withdraw consent as easily as you gave it.

GDPR also forces companies to factor in privacy concerns at the outset of product development lifecycles. This forces companies to think early on about what data they need, and for what purposes.  In other words, they shouldn’t just arbitrarily start collecting data, then figure out how to monetize it down the road.

Consumers should be pleased with these developments, but the real question remains: how well are companies implementing these requirements?

According to a January 2019 Cisco Study, there is still room for improvement.  Only 59% of companies reported meeting the GDPR requirements seven months after it went into effect, even though they could see GDPR coming down the regulatory pipeline years ago.

The report also highlights some consequences for not living up to the GDPR. For starters, companies’ sales cycles suffered; those who failed to meet GDPR requirements saw a 60% delay in their average sales cycle.

Another problem companies faced was a jump in costs associated with data breaches – which it turns out were more likely to happen when GDPR standards were not followed. For instance, there was a 27% higher probability of a data breach costing $500k for companies that didn’t meet GDPR requirements.

GDPR aside, perhaps the best example of the costs associated with ignoring customer privacy concerns is Facebook. In the last year alone, Facebook had the biggest single-day loss in stock market history at over $100 billion dollars and was also forced to enter multi-billion dollar negotiations with the FTC over privacy issues.

You definitely don’t want to drive a mile down that road auto companies.

It’s pretty simple, actually: consumer privacy matters and car manufacturers better start taking this issue seriously.  If we’ve learned anything, customers will flock to companies that take their data, and by default their privacy, seriously.

So, consider this fair warning, auto industry: we want our in-car television service, but that’s all.

Nothing more; nothing less.

 

Eric Nutt is the Chief Technology Officer of Mandli Communications, Inc., and an Associate Editor of the SAE International Journal of Connected and Automated Vehicles.

Follow Eric on LinkedIn.

 

The Best Kept – and Dirtiest – Secret About 5G

The Trump administration unveiled a major push Friday to accelerate the rollout of 5G infrastructure.  Under the new plan, the Federal Communications Commission will release the largest trove of U.S. wireless spectrum ever to be auctioned off.  The FCC also proposed a $20 billion fund to expand broadband in rural America, connecting up to 4 million households and small businesses to high-speed internet.

The table is set; the meal, as in the buildout, comes next.  But the reality is we may not want to sit down for this dinner, because one of the best kept – and dirtiest – secrets about 5G is the energy consumption required to support the network.

“A lurking threat behind the promise of 5G delivering up to 1,000 times as much data as today’s networks is that 5G could also consume up to 1,000 times as much energy,” Dexter Johnson recently wrote for the IEEE Spectrum.

The infrastructure required to support 5G is going to be massive – beyond what most people can comprehend, including industry specialists.

Unlike the current 4G networks which rely on signals that transmit for miles by large cell towers, 5G will need small cell sites every few hundred feet to broadcast its short-range signals.

For some perspective, your typical wireless provider – like AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint – have about 70,000 macro cell towers spread across the US.  That’s a huge number, but in return, you get near nationwide coverage.

For a fully built-out 5G network in Dallas, for example, the city will need a whopping 10,000 small cell sites.  That’s right, 10,000 antennas in just one city; keep in mind there are over 19,000 cities in the US.

Gulp.

But it turns out predicting the amount of energy required to power a 5G network is a hard thing to do.

As you deploy more small cells on top of the existing cellular infrastructure, the total energy consumption of the network will grow.  Even though energy consumption of a small cell is lower than a conventional macro cell – which will eventually be phased out – you need many more small cells to provide full coverage.

Exactly how many?  It’s still not clear, so making net 5G energy consumption predictions remains a challenge at this point.

That said, there aren’t a lot of reasons to be optimistic, according to Vetiv and technology analyst firm 451 Research, who recently surveyed over 100 global telecom operators.  More than 90 percent of respondents believe 5G will result in higher energy costs.

This result was also consistent with Vertiv’s internal analysis, which found that 5G could increase total network energy consumption by 150-170 percent by 2026.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however.  Some experts, like Emil Björnso, associate professor at Linkoping University, believe that power consumption should come down on 5G infrastructure over time.

“Just as computer processors become vastly more efficient over time, the analog and digital circuits that are used in base stations will become more efficient,” he recently told the IEEE Spectrum.  “The first generation of 5G hardware will be all about delivering all the new features to the market, but then there will be time to refine the hardware,” he continued.

Bottom line, it’s hard to know who to believe at this point, but let’s be real: this wouldn’t be the first time engineers built a solution to solve one set of problems, only to cause another set of problems.

Mining bitcoin today, for example, consumes more electricity than is generated by all of the world’s solar panels combined.  In other words, as David Wallace-Wells wrote in The Uninhabitable Earth, “In just a few years we’ve assembled, out of distrust of one another and the nations behind the ‘fiat currencies’, a program to wipe out the gains of several long, hard generations of green energy innovations.”

So yes, the 5G table is set, and improvements in speed, coverage, and reliability sound great, in principle.

But if these advances lead to higher energy consumption at precisely the moment in time when the world needs to cut and clean its energy consumption, then maybe this meal isn’t worth sitting for.

 

Rob Fischer is President of GTiMA, a tech and policy advisor to Mandli Communications’ strategy team, and an Associate Editor of the SAE International Journal of Connected and Automated Vehicles.  GTiMA and Mandli Communications are both proud partners of the Wisconsin Autonomous Vehicle Proving Ground .

Follow Rob on Twitter (@Robfischeris) and Linkedin.

2019 Already a Big Year for “Smart City” Development

Smart cities and all their fancy gadgets – like autonomous vehicles –  won’t magically appear. Cities have to plan for them, infrastructure must be built to support them, and regulations surrounding their operations must be set.

In this regard, if 2018 was the year of the smart city skeptic, as CityLab wrote in December, then 2019 may well be the year of a smart city revival.

For starters, there has been an uptick in smart city strategic planning, according to Roland Berger’s second smart city index, released in early March.

Despite “smart cities” being an agenda item in city halls for many years, the reality is that most cities haven’t been taking a strategic approach to their “smart” status.

This trend appears to be shifting, however. The number of cities with a smart city strategy has almost doubled in the past two years, rising from 87 to 153.

While that is a considerable jump, Roland Berger, a global consulting firm, warns that good strategy is only the first step; implementation is what really counts.

Seen that way, there is still plenty of room for improvement, as 90 percent of those cities surveyed still don’t have an integrated plan with a single entity in charge of coordinating work, and clear responsibilities for the different groups involved.

Cities that do have a central decision-making body, like Vienna with its Smart City Agency or London with its Chief Digital Officer, perform well on implementation and lead the rankings as a result.

Planning aside, 2019 is also turning out to be a pivotal year for the rollout of 5G technology—considered to be the connective tissue for the internet of things, smart cities, and even autonomous vehicles.

Unlike the current 4G networks, which rely on signals that transmit for miles by large cell towers, 5G will need small cell sites every few hundred feet to broadcast its short-range signals.

And if you’ve been paying attention to the headlines, the U.S. and China are locked in a heated battle over who will get the chance to build this next generation of telecommunication infrastructure, as all the major contracts to build out 5G networks across Europe and the U.S. will be signed in the next 6-18 months, according New York Times reporting.

Both superpowers realize that whoever controls these 5G networks has the advantage—in times of war and peace. After all, the 5G system is a physical network of switches and routers, and what is good for consumers is also good for intelligence services and cyberattackers.

To curtail Chinese companies from winning these buildout contracts, the Trump administration has pushed for a ban on Huawei technology in UK, Australia, Poland, the European Union, the Philippines, and a slew of other countries.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell sent a letter to the German government in early March, for instance, threatening to curtail German access to U.S. intelligence if Berlin decides to issue contracts to Huawei, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter.

While U.S. efforts to ban Huawei 5G technology overseas have stumbled, the US along with Australia, Japan, and Taiwan have all decided to ban and phase out the company’s products.

The Trump administration is doubling down on the Huawei ban by also promoting elements of a leaked memo from the National Security Council to the White House on his 2020 campaign trail, which called for an unprecedented federal takeover of a portion of the nation’s mobile network to pay for and build a nationalized 5G network.

Key to Trump’s domestic strategy is a set of new federal regulations aimed at streamlining 5G infrastructure installation by limiting the authority of US cities.

The FCC in September 2018 passed a controversial set of rules—much of which went into effect on January 15—which limits municipal authorities to charging $270 per cell site per year and also imposes a “shot clock” limiting how long authorities can take to review installation requests.

The FCC argues that the new rules will free up $2 billion in capital for wireless providers to use in underserved areas like rural communities.

The new rules drew immediate protest from cities and counties around the country, and by October over 20 local governments took legal action and filed three separate suits. Each case makes the same basic argument against the FCC, claiming the federal government has overstepped its bounds and undercut local control of infrastructure issues.

Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler has called the FCC order a “land grab against local infrastructure.”

Today, more than 80 cities and counties have filed lawsuits against the FCC, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco is expected to render a decision in the lead case in April.

So to all the smart city skeptics out there, 2019, while it doesn’t scream smart city revolution, is already showing signs of significant smart city evolution.

Not only are cities cranking on their “smart” plans, but the US-China 5G war is heating up and U.S cities are in the throes of challenging – and by default shaping – the next generation of telecom rules that may, or not, accelerate the rapid deployment of key smart city technologies and services.

Oh yeah, and it’s only April.

 

Rob Fischer is President of GTiMA, a tech and policy advisor to Mandli Communications’ strategy team, and an Associate Editor of the SAE International Journal of Connected and Automated Vehicles.  GTiMA and Mandli Communications are both proud partners of the Wisconsin Autonomous Vehicle Proving Ground .

Follow Rob on Twitter (@Robfischeris) and Linkedin.

Let’s Hope Trump Considers Infrastructure a National Security Issue Too

Over and over again, when President Donald Trump has tried to make monumental change to U.S. policy, he has—pardon the pun—trumpeted the same justification: national security.

This tactic has been predictably divisive. Slapping tariffs on U.S. allies under a flimsy national security pretext nearly crippled an already weakened World Trade Organization; the Muslim travel ban to protect Americans from terrorists divided the country and frayed U.S. relations; and the ongoing border-wall debacle has forced hundreds of thousands of federal employees to go without pay.

“It’s his universal solvent,” said Bobby Chesney, a national security law expert at the University of Texas Austin, referring to the administration’s inclination to cite national security to justify major policy moves.[i]

But maybe, just maybe, Trump might also be willing to consider the decaying condition of U.S. infrastructure a matter of national security. And if Congress played along, perhaps we’d finally get a comprehensive infrastructure bill.

It’s actually not a radical proposition: infrastructure—specifically the National System of Interstate Highways—got its jump start as a national security issue.

In 1919, a 28-year-old Lt Colonel and West Point graduate volunteered to join a motor-vehicle caravan across the country. It was just the adventure this young officer needed—he had missed out on all the action in the Great War, assigned instead of combat to overseeing a stateside training camp. His name was Dwight D. Eisenhower.

What was then called the War Department was increasingly excited about the automobiles possibilities as a tool for combat, and a cross country convoy offered a chance to explore the capabilities of these new cars and trucks.

There was just one problem: a car without roads is like a bobsled without ice. “To those that have known only concrete and macadam highways of gentle grades and engineered curves, such a trip might seem humdrum,” wrote the future president in his memoir. “In those days, we were not sure it could be accomplished at all. Nothing of the sort had ever been attempted.”[ii]

In 1904, the United States had a grand total of 141 miles of paved roads, not counting city streets.[iii] By 1916, the federal government threw its weight into road building and created the Bureau of Public Roads, endowed with $75 million to hand out to states to help build interstate highways.[iv] The nations surfaced road mileage nearly doubled between 1914 to 1926, from 257,291 miles to 521,915 miles.[v] Nonetheless, when the caravan set off from Washington DC at 11:15 am on July 71919, the convoy managed to advance only 46 miles that first day; on some days, the convoy progressed only three miles.[vi]

Fast forward 25 years, Eisenhower had risen to become commander of the Allied Forces in World War II, and he was deeply impressed by the German autobahns. Not only was the road network an impressive engineering feat with their banked curves and divided highways, but in wartime it was much more resilient than rail lines, allowing German forces to maneuver behind their lines swiftly even when the railways had been compromised.

When Eisenhower was elected president in 1952, he took those lessons with him to the White House. “After seeing the autobahns of modern Germany…I decided as president to put an emphasis on the kind on this kind of road building,” he later wrote. “The old convoy had started me thinking about good, two-lane highways, but Germany had made me see the wisdom of broader ribbons across the land.”[vii]

Even so, it took a couple of years and several unsuccessful attempts to get Congress to fund a National System of Interstate Highways. Although boosted by public support—72% of American families owned cars by the mid-1950s—there was also the cold war argument that the roads were essential to national defense. If the Russians shot nukes at U.S. cities, the argument went, freeways would help millions of civilians evacuate quickly. To drive home the point, the project was renamed the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.[viii]

Congress finally passed a bill to fund interstates in 1956, an act that would allocate 25 billion to build 41,000 miles of roads. When the U.S. interstate highway system was completed in 1991—nearly 20 years behind schedule—it stretched 46,876 miles and cost nearly $130 billion.[ix] At the time, it was the biggest public works project in American history and for a time the envy of much of the world.

That was then.

By 2015, U.S. road quality was ranked 14th, according to the World Economic Forum, behind countries like the UAE, Singapore and Portugal.[x] America’s roads today are often crowded, frequently in poor condition, chronically underfunded and are becoming more dangerous. More than $2 trillion is needed to repair 4 million miles of roads in the United States, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.[xi]

Despite this unfortunate turn of events, polarization in Congress this decade has neutered its ability to pass a comprehensive infrastructure bill. Optimist believe 2019 could be different, however.

“Over the past month, it’s been frequently observed that infrastructure is a subject that’s especially ripe for bipartisan legislation,” Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said in December. “This administration will continue to work with Congress to enhance existing infrastructure programs.”[xii]

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the new chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he intends to have infrastructure policy legislation ready by summertime. The plan, DeFazio explained, would include a nationwide vehicle-miles-traveled pilot program, which many believe will add additional revenue streams to fund road repairs.

“There’s ways we could make the existing infrastructure carry people better, while we invest in the new infrastructure,” DeFazio said in December.[xiii]

Bottom line, it’s time to get a comprehensive infrastructure bill passed, Mr. President and Chairman DeFazio. And if you need to, use national security as an excuse.

Eisenhower did it.

 

 

 

Rob Fischer is President of GTiMA, a senior tech and policy advisor to Mandli Communications’ strategy team, and an Associate Editor of the SAE International Journal of Connected and Automated Vehicles.  GTiMA and Mandli Communications are both proud partners of the Wisconsin Autonomous Vehicle Proving Ground .

Follow Rob on Twitter (@Robfischeris) and Linkedin.

 


[i] Restuccia, A. (2019, January 8). ‘It’s his universal solvent’: How Trump sidelines Congress by invoking national security. Politico. Retrieved January 9, 2019 from https://www.politico.com/story/2019/01/08/trump-sidelines-congress-invoking-national-security-1088723

[ii] Dwight D. Eisenhower,At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends (Doubleday, 1967), 157.

[iii] “Highways History, Part 1,” Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century, National Academy of Engineering, http://www.greatachievements.org/?id=3790.

[iv] Tom Lewis, Divided Highways: Building the Interstate Highways, Transforming American Life (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013), 339-49, 532.

[v] “Roads,” Encyclopedia.com, http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Roads.aspx

[vi] Vince Beiser,The World in a Grain (Riverhead Books, 2018), 50-1.

[vii] Eisenhower,At Ease, 166-7.

[viii] Richard F. Weingroff, “The Year of the Interstate,” Public Roads, January-February 2006.

[ix] “Interstate Frequently Asked Questions,” Federal Highway Administration, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/interstate/faq.cfm.

[x] The Global Economy. (2015). Roads Quality – Country Ranking. Retrieved from https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/rankings/roads_quality/

[xi] Sudo, C. (2017, November 28). America’s Roads are Crumbling and Packed with Cars. Forbes. Retrieved January 9, 2019 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/bisnow/2017/11/28/americas-roads-are-crumbling-and-packed-with-cars/#18aeacf31659

[xii] Lamb, E. (2018, December 11). DOT Announces BUILD Grant Recipients. Transport Topics. Retrieved January 8, 2019 from https://www.ttnews.com/articles/dot-announces-build-grant-recipients

[xiii] Mulero, E. (2019, January 3). Trump, Congress Eye Possibility of Infrastructure Bill in 2019. Transport Topics. Retrieved January 9, 2019 from https://www.ttnews.com/articles/trump-congress-eye-possibility-infrastructure-bill-2019

Singapore sets standards for Autonomous Vehicles

Singapore has released a set of national standards to guide the safe development and deployment of autonomous vehicles.

The standards, known as Technical Reference 68 (TR 68), were developed under the purview of the Singapore Standards Council (SSC).  Four working groups were formed comprising representatives from the AV industry, research institutions, universities and government agencies to cover four key areas: vehicle behavior, vehicle functional safety, cybersecurity, and data formats.

These efforts were also supported by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Land Transport Authority (LTA), according to a joint press release.

TR 68 relates to the safe deployment of Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) Level 4 and 5 vehicles.  At these levels, the vehicle is fully autonomous in limited and all driving scenarios, respectively.

“In addition to safety, TR 68 provides a strong foundation that will ensure interoperability of data and cybersecurity that are necessary for the deployment of AVs in an urban environment. The TR 68 will also help to build up the AV ecosystem including startups and SMEs as well as testing, inspection and certification service providers,” said Choy Sauw Kook, director-general at Enterprise Singapore.

Responding to queries from Channel News Asia, the group said that TR 68 could be the first such national standard of its kind in the world.

“Currently, there are related ISO standards and United Nations Economic Commission for Europe regulations on specific topics concerning automated vehicles such as safety, cybersecurity, and messaging formats,” they said.

“Based on industry feedback, this could be the first such national standard in the world,”  the group continued.

Mr. Doug Parker, chief operating officer of Aptiv Autonomous Mobility, said the company is happy to have contributed to the standards as “it will facilitate the commercialization of autonomous vehicles” in Singapore.

Aptiv, a Delphi spin-off, bought US autonomous driving start-up nuTonomy in 2017, which has an office in Singapore.

As a provisional standard, TR 68 will continue to undergo refinement as AV technology matures, with feedback from the industry. The feedback gathered will be used to review TR 68 as it is eventually expanded to cover other aspects of AV development and deployment.

TR 68 documentation can be purchased from the Singapore Standards eShop.

 

Rob Fischer is President of GTiMA, a senior tech and policy advisor to Mandli Communications’ strategy team, and an Associate Editor of the SAE International Journal of Connected and Automated Vehicles.  GTiMA and Mandli Communications are both proud partners of the Wisconsin Autonomous Vehicle Proving Ground .

Follow Rob on Twitter (@Robfischeris) and Linkedin.