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Driving the autonomous vehicle conversation

Although government, industry, consumers and futurists agree that autonomous vehicles will soon be traveling city streets, there is little agreement on how this transition will work with different levels of government. But speakers at Jan. 24 Mobility Talks event were cautiously optimistic.

John Bozzella, president and CEO of Global Automakers, a trade group that representing major manufacturers, said in his opening address that now is an especially “auspicious” time for the car industry. He pointed to the fact that the Consumer Electronic Show earlier this year featured several cars with autonomous driving features. And such innovation should not be slowed by regulation, Bozzella and other speakers argued.

The auto industry doesn’t need heavy regulation because it has a big financial investment in high safety ratings, said Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.). “The industry knows they have to get it right starting from day one.”

David A. Catania, who works for the Greenberg Traurig law firm, called for infrastructure spending that is more forward thinking. “If there is going to be a large infrastructure investment, my hope is that it would have an ample quantity for smart technologies as well, especially city infrastructure, and not just roads and bridges,” he said.

Standards and industry collaboration, however, are essential as vehicles become more automated and need to communicate with each other and the surrounding infrastructure, panelists said.

Ian Yarnold, from the United Kingdom Department of Transport, agreed.  He said that if two cars are headed toward each other, they need to be able to speak with each other to coordinate their collision avoidance.

The fact that vehicles are bought and sold internationally makes international vehicle-to-vehicle  standards important, the Japanese Ministry of Transport’s Yukihiro Ezaka said.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.

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