First, it is clear that autonomous vehicles will not be dependent on infrastructure improvements. Although our president talks every so often about the need for large projects there, we’re not seeing much action from either him or our elected representatives. In the meantime, to some extent as a result, the emphasis of almost all of the development work being done on driverless cars assumes they will need to interpret their environments themselves, with help coming from other vehicles instead of from roadside and related technology.
Second, the United States is now way out in front at developments in this field, with the largest efforts centering around American companies, American testing grounds, and the cooperation of American cities. It seems likely that we will lead the world’s way here. That was made even clearer by serious international political problems, which do not rate to end soon, impeding the country which could have been, all around, more suited for progress here than any other – Qatar.
Third, autonomous 18-wheel trucks, which can be sent in convoys in the setting best fitting driverlessness, expressways, now look like they will be on the road for production sooner than we expected. The only real metaproblem they have is people’s fear (imagine the movie Duel with 20 of them), which, though, will eventually subside.
Fourth, as I predicted, capable-seeming consortia are forming, and have lately added a new category of partner with expertise at managing large numbers of vehicles, rental car companies. We will surely see the likes of bitter breakups, Ford-against-GM-caliber lawsuits, and perhaps alliance components defecting to others for the right price. Yet, in contrast with July 2016, all know that no company, or even pair of companies, can get it done by themselves.
Fifth, in general, governments have done the right thing by working constructively with organizations developing this technology, and have been unexpectedly restrained about throwing up roadblocks.
Sixth, for consistency with others I am now using the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration’s levels of autonomous driving. With the exception that I believe there will be a stage during which multiple driverless vehicles will be loosely controlled by remote human operators, the NHSTA scheme is quite similar to the one I developed. For definitions of the levels they use, you can find a good summary article, along with a link to the original NHSTA document, at http://www.techrepublic.com/article/autonomous-driving-levels-0-to-5-understanding-the-differences/.
Continue to follow the Work’s New Age blog to keep you current on the progress of driverless vehicles, and its effect on work opportunities. We expect many, many more updates, along with a new forecast of the above next summer.