After more than three decades maintaining and upgrading Michigan’s transportation systems, the state’s former head of transportation division (Michigan Department of Transportation, or MDOT), Kirk Steudle, has seen it all.Working with partners, big and small, and tackling problems, also big and small, Steudle has been on the front lines of smart city dreams and disappointments — not to mention witnessing the disruptions in the automotive world, with three of the world’s biggest automakers right in his backyard.With a responsibility to maintain nearly 10,000 miles of state highways and more than 4,000 bridges, certainly the state has had its share of basic structural and funding issues.Michigan’s Mcity, for example, has been attracting cutting-edge tech companies and global automakers alike to its 32-acre testing facility.Since then, Toyota has opened its own research testing facility in the state, and the American Center for Mobility has christened a 500-acre site for autonomous vehicle research — where GM’s Willow Run plant once stood.Just before his retirement in October 2018, Steudle chatted with Digital Trends about what he’s learned, and he offered some words of advice for municipalities trying to upgrade their infrastructure for the digital age.“I hate the term smart cities,” Steudle said.
Government red tape is often blamed for stifling innovation but that s not always the case.The US Department of Transportation, for example, recently designated 10 proving ground sites for autonomous vehicle testing in the US.Described as a logical next step in the DOT s effort to advance the safe deployment of automated technology, the hope is that these designated locations will encourage testing and bolster the sharing of information around self-driving vehicle technology.Addressing the matter directly, US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the proving grounds will collectively form a Community of Practice around safe testing and deployment in which participants will openly share best practices in order to learn at a faster rate and accelerate the pace of deployment.The DOT selected the 10 proving grounds from a field of more than 60 applicants which included academic institutions, cities, state Departments of Transportation, partnerships and private entities.The locations chosen are as follows:
The U.S. Department of Transportation has identified 10 sites as officially designated proving grounds for autonomous vehicle testing int he U.S., including The Willow Run, Michigan-based American Center for Mobility, Concord, California s GoMentum Station, the City of Pittsburgh and more.The sites are designed to help the locations share best practices and information, forming a core community that Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx hopes will help spur the collective progress of autonomous vehicle development.The list or proving grounds were narrowed from an applicant pool of over 60, which included a range of different types of organizations including privately held facilities, enter state transportation departments, municipalities and cities and academic institutions.The choices, in the end, were made by the DoT based on a number of factors, including a healthy mix of conditions and facility types, with the aim of building a final designee list that can provide a range of testing scenarios and share that data collaboratively with one another.Federal designation gives these initial pilot program members a chance to help set the national tone on autonomous vehicle and systems standard in the U.S.: They ll likely be instrumental in helping the DoT establish its further recommendations and guidelines for companies developing autonomous vehicle tech, and help establish the process through which self-driving arrives on U.S. roadways for consumer and commercial uses.Here s the full list of all 10 pilot designated proving grounds:
Michigan s new American Center for Mobility at the historic Willow Run one-time manufacturing complex broke ground this week, paving the way for the launch of the technologically advanced testbed for autonomous and connected vehicles.The 335-acre site will play host to a new facility designed to help automakers and other stakeholders globally test their cars, connected infrastructure tech, vehicle communication systems and more across a variety of conditions in the hopes of speeding up the roll-out of this tech for a safer driving future.The new test facility, which was announced earlier this year, is designed to help Michigan reaffirm its position at the head for he automotive industry, with an eye to the changing priorities of the field given the rapid improvements being made in autonomous driving tech.The Willow Run site will play host to a brand new facility designed not only for testing, but also for research, product development, education and more.It s also about helping create and maintain voluntary industry standards for autonomous and connected vehicle tech going forward.The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration presented draft guidelines for broad industry use around self-driving tech, but in addition to open comment and debate among the stakeholders involved, it makes sense that an actual full-scale testing facility where the parties involved can all interact and conduct research in tandem would help facilitate some kind of consensus building.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA doesn t want development to stop or even slow down, presumably because overwhelming evidence shows humans are the cause of almost all — 94 percent — fatal crashes.Consumer Reports, meawhile, has called on Tesla to disable Autopilot mode in all its vehicles.Tesla, which has offered to share all autonomous data with the NHTSA, for its part refuses to stop disable Autopilot, arguing that this data collection process is essential to improving the technology.Now three U.S. legislators from Michigan are proposing that automakers take testing off public roads and onto a national testing location, preferably in their home state, according to the New York Times.Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and U. S. Representative Debbie Dingell met in Detroit with NHTSA head Mark R. Rosekind and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to make their case.There are four potential self-driving test centers, two that already exist and two that could be candidates — the Michigan lawmakers favor one of the latter.
FORDThe cradle of American automotive innovation has in the past decade migrated 2,000 miles from Detroit to Silicon Valley, where autonomous vehicles and other advanced technology is coming to life.If Senate Bills 995, 996, 997, and 998 all pass as written, they d represent a substantial update of Michigan s 2013 law that allowed the testing of autonomous vehicles in limited conditions.He says lawmakers clearly want to make the state ready for the commercial application of autonomous tech.In contrast, California, home of Silicon Valley, recently proposed far more restrictive rules that would require human drivers be ready to take the wheel, and ban commercial use of autonomous tech.The legislation says the automated driving system is the legal operator, but, Smith says, It s not clear what this means or to what it extends, and it will require substantial clarification.In contrast, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration s announcement in February that it would count computers as human drivers is a less dramatic legal move that allows Google to move ahead with its plan to get rid of the steering wheel and pedals, without thinking about liability concerns just yet.That s no surprise, since the bills reserve the right to operate on-demand robo-fleets for motor vehicle manufacturers.
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