Forget those Tesla accidents: GM says you can trust its autonomous vehicles

General Motors is racing to electrify its wide range of vehicles in a concerted effort to overtake Tesla as the world’s # 1 electric vehicle seller. But it is also competing with Tesla on another front: autonomous vehicles.

On that front, GM feels like it has an edge. Its advanced hands-free driving assistance system, Super Cruise, will double its coverage area to 400,000 miles of freeways and routes by the end of the year. Next year, the automaker will unveil its next iteration, Ultra Cruise, which GM says will cover “95 percent” of driving business. And its robotaxi division, Cruise, is currently picking up and dropping off passengers in San Francisco as part of the city’s first truly commercial autonomous transportation service.

But at the moment, public perceptions of AV and driver assistance technology are not great. People see headlines from Tesla’s latest accident or remember the woman who was killed by a self-driving Uber vehicle in 2017 and conclude that autonomous vehicles are too dangerous for public use.

This could hurt GM’s efforts to put more autonomous and partially automated vehicles on the road. The company is counting on an educational campaign, in addition to media news, to help consumers understand the differences between a Super Cruise-equipped Chevy pickup, for example, and a fully self-contained Cruise Origin, which is set to put itself in motion. I travel as soon as next year.

GM President Mark Reuss today posted an article on LinkedIn outlining the automaker’s approach to safety, both with regards to its Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) such as Super Cruise and Ultra Cruise and its fully integrated projects. autonomous like Cruise. It also revealed some new details about the technology that will include the Ultra Cruise system, such as a lidar sensor “behind the windshield” and a new smartphone app “which will be visible from inside the parked vehicle and will offer information such as driver statistics, trips. and user history. “

“You may have read some recent headlines that may lead some to wonder if these technologies are ready for prime time,” writes Reuss, citing a recent Pew Research Center poll showing that only 26% of Americans believe autonomous vehicles are a “good idea,” while a whopping 44 percent think otherwise.

GM, like most automakers, is aware of the mountain it will have to climb to convince its customers that partially and fully autonomous vehicles can be a boon to society or at least a convenient and attractive means of transportation. That said, the company is keen to put more AVs into circulation in the interest of beating its competitors in the market.

“Wish things went faster? Of course I would, “said Jason Fisher, chief autonomous vehicle engineer at GM, in an interview with The border. “We want to be first in the industry and there is a lot of revenue to be made when looking at the total address market. We want to conquer that market “.

Fisher acknowledged that there is a lot of confusion about the differences between AV and ADAS, which can make it more difficult to address the skepticism that exists about this technology.

“We need to help people understand – and it’s very clear from General Motors’ point of view – that Super Cruise is not a fully functional autonomous vehicle, [and] that the driver should still command control of their vehicle, “he said.” We are very, very clear about what is fully autonomous and what the driver’s responsibility is. “

Other companies are less conscientious in educating people about the differences between AV and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). Tesla called his ADAS “Autopilot” and then launched a more advanced version called “Full Self Driving”, which critics say is a prime example of “autonowashing,” the act of making misleading claims about the technology’s capabilities of a vehicle.

A coalition of advocacy groups, including AAA, Consumer Reports, Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, JD Power and the National Safety Council, recently released a set of new universal term recommendations for ADAS capabilities as well, arguing that a common language will help. reduce driver confusion.

As the timeframe for mass adoption of autonomous vehicles seems to lengthen further into the future and more companies divest from AV projects or sell them outright, GM says it is still fully committed to the technology. Company CEO Mary Barra said earlier this year that GM would be selling AVs for personal use by the middle of the decade, a bold prediction that overturned expectations that AVs would only be suitable for use. commercial due to expensive sensor suites.

The road to get there will be very bumpy. Cars will crash, as always, and while most of the time it will be a human driver’s fault, occasionally it will also be the AV’s fault. Earlier this summer, a driverless Cruise vehicle crashed into another vehicle in San Francisco, injuring the occupants of both vehicles and causing a federal investigation.

It was only the latest in a series of incidents that have occurred over the past year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there have been at least 130 accidents involving vehicles equipped with automated driving systems, 23 of which were reported by Cruise.

At times it can feel like autonomous vehicles are spinning, stuck operating in small neighborhoods in a handful of cities, and only available to the bare minimum of real bikers. But technology has progressed, albeit very slowly, which is, of course, by design. AV companies like Cruise need to be sure vehicles can drive safely before committing to expanding the territory in which they operate. They want to be fast, but they are aware that moving too fast can lead to catastrophe.

“We don’t want to be a laggard in history,” Fisher said. “We want to be first, but we want to be the safest company around.”

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