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January 22, 2018

Robotics/AI – SciPol Weekly, January 13 – January 19

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Bloomberg – Automakers Put on a Show in Detroit But Policy Storms Loom in D.C.

"I think this is going to be the most important public policy year since 2008," for the auto industry, said Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat and former General Motors Co. executive. Pending federal government actions -- from a possible North American Free Trade Agreement withdrawal to rolling back vehicle efficiency rules and enacting regulations paving the way for driverless cars -- stand to impact the auto industry for years to come.

OHS – FAA Drone Registry Tops 1 Million

The Federal Aviation Administration's drone registry has topped 1 million, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. She said the 1,000,000 total registration figure includes 878,000 hobbyists, who receive one identification number for all of the drones they own, and 122,000 commercial, public, and other drones, which are individually registered. "The tremendous growth in drone registration reflects the fact that they are more than tools for commerce and trade, but can save lives, detect hazardous situations, and assist with disaster recovery," Chao said. 

Reuters – Automakers, U.S. lawmakers hope for progress on self-driving car bill

Automakers and lawmakers expressed hope on Tuesday that U.S. Congress would soon pass a stalled bill aimed at speeding self-driving cars to market, even as safety advocates argued for more performance requirements. At the Detroit auto show, which featured companies that are aggressively pursuing self-driving technologies, members of Congress and automakers acknowledged it could take several months or longer for the bill to be approved by the U.S. Senate and signed into law, but said it had strong support.

The Hill – Positive Train Control prevents derailments — we must fund it

With the latest incident near Tacoma, Washington, since 2008 at least 40 Americans have paid for this unnecessarily complex state of affairs with their lives. Some 250 others have endured broken limbs and spilled blood, a death and injury toll that was largely preventable. In the immediate aftermath of the December Amtrak derailment that claimed three lives — two of who were active members of this association and one, Jim Hamre, who was on our board — I talked to a lot of experts whose opinions I respect. I went on to read the work of others whose insights I use every day in my job. But I found no consistency and little agreement, and that, I believe, is where much of the real problem lies.

The Hill – US to ‘carefully’ consider GM petition to test self-driving car

The federal government says it will “carefully” review a petition from General Motors to deploy a fleet of self-driving vehicles, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Sunday. GM said last week it had filed for government approval to deploy the Cruise AV, a fully autonomous car that has no steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator. The company is hoping to add the car to its self-driving rideshare fleet by 2019. “It is now coming to the stage with the rapid advancement of self-driving technology that this request is now a reality,” Chao said at the Detroit Auto Show, according to Agence France-Presse. “We will view the petition carefully and responsibly,” Chao added. 


Fortune – GM Wants To Launch a Self-Driving Car Without a Steering Wheel or Pedals

General Motors filed a petition asking the federal government permission to deploy self-driving Chevy Bolts that have no steering wheel, pedals, or other manual controls as it prepares to launch a robo ride-sharing service by 2019. The petition, which was filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is the latest step toward the company’s goal of deploying a commercial robotaxi service. The federal government has requirements for human-driven vehicles, that don’t necessarily correspond with a vehicle driven by AI. For instance, human-driven vehicles require an airbag in a steering wheel. But if there isn’t a steering wheel in the vehicle than that requirement would be impossible to meet. 

The Verge – A drone has rescued two people from rough seas off the coast of Australia

Lifeguards testing out new drone technology in Australia have saved two people stranded off the coast of New South Wales state, as spotted by Quartz. The drone footage shows a birds-eye view of the ocean before the drone ejects the yellow floatation device, which inflates when it hits the water. The two teenage boys were caught about 700 meters (0.4 miles) offshore at Lennox Head in a swell of around three meters (9.8 feet). They were able to grab onto the floatation device and swim to shore. “I was able to launch it, fly it to the location, and drop the pod all in about one to two minutes,” lifeguard supervisor Jai Sheridan told reporters.

The Verge – Google nipping at Big Auto’s heels in the race to build self-driving cars

Last year, the company that arguably made the biggest splash at the North American International Auto Show wasn’t even a company that made cars. Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, came to Detroit with its autonomous minivan in tow with the unspoken intent of striking fear in the hearts of the auto industry. According to a new report released today, it’s working. Waymo didn’t bother to show up to the Detroit Auto Show press days this year, but the shadow it casts is long. 


The Drive – Is All This New Automotive Safety Tech Working? Not If Drivers Don’t Understand It

January always arrives with an avalanche of new automotive technology, courtesy of both CES in Las Vegas and the North American International Auto Show, underway right now in Detroit. Much of the chatter in CES focuses on the arrival (sooner, later, or waaaay later) of autonomous vehicles, while Detroit tends to play up the sheet metal and the performance of new cars and trucks. Both, however, are also reliable showcases of all the not-quite-autonomous safety and convenience tech that’s creeping into our cars and is meant not only to take the stress out of driving, but make us better at it. But here’s a thought: Is all this stuff doing what it’s really intended to?

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