April 3, 2019

Ford, GM and Toyota partnership for self-driving cars may save billions of dollars

On Wednesday, Ford, GM and Toyota announced a new partnership to collaborate on safety standards for self-driving cars. The companies formed a consortium that will work with industry and government to expedite regulations on autonomous vehicles. Arthur Wheaton is an expert on the auto industry and director of Western NY Labor and Environmental Programs for the Worker Institute at Cornell University. He says that in an industry especially averse to uncertainty, working together to cut costs makes complete sense.


Wheaton say: 

“It comes as no surprise that many of the large Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s) are joining forces to have consistent rules. This makes complete sense as the fights over standards and rules can create additional costs, delays and wasted human resources.

“The concept is similar to having the same rules for everyone and the same basic requirements for meeting safety and quality. The auto industry hates uncertainty, it takes years and sometimes decades, to prepare a new vehicle or new technology to market. Having different standards and rules makes it incredibly expensive and risky. 

“By having GM, Ford and Toyota partner in this consortium to bring a shared standard for autonomous vehicles to market should make it much safer and eventually much cheaper for everyone. It may save the auto industry billions and billions of dollars in research and development costs if they can share data and infrastructure.”


Bart Selman, professor of computer science at Cornell University and director of the Intelligent Information Systems Institute, says that a well-regulated approach to self-driving cars can also provide a roadmap for the introduction of other AI technology into the broader society. 

Selman says:

"This is a good move for the developers of self driving cars. Safety, trust, and proper regulations are central components in the introduction of automated control.

"Developing trust is a long process. Moreover, as the situation with the 737 MAX crash shows, public trust can be lost quickly and is very hard to restore. Although much remains unknown about the crashes, it is likely that economic factors and commercial pressure may have played a role in the approval and certification process.

"One message that is emerging clearly is that any automation that falls back onto human control in case of malfunction is quite likely not a good strategy. We should, therefore, aim for fully autonomous driving. However, the autonomous systems need to be designed to have multiple levels of redundancy in terms of sensors and control, as well as a safe fall back mode for extreme situations.

"I hope and assume that other key players in the development of self driving cars will join in. Given that self-driving cars have the potential to dramatically reduce the number of traffic fatalities around the world, it’s important to introduce the technology in a safe and trustworthy manner as soon as feasible. From an economic perspective, it is also be good for the U.S. to be a leader in this area.

"In broader terms, a well-regulated approach to self-driving cars can also provide a roadmap (no pun intended) for the introduction of other AI technology into the broader society.

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