Insights from AV Partners in Washington, D.C.

Last month (October 2022), members of the Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) met in Washington, D.C., for the organization’s annual meeting. Dedicated to bringing the conversation about autonomous vehicles to the public, PAVE regularly sets the stage for professionals in AV to gather, assess the state of the autonomous vehicle industry, and discuss how we can move forward together to educate the public on this new technology.

This year’s meeting kicked off with an introduction from Tara Andringa and Brad Stertz, the executive director and chairman of PAVE, respectively. As leaders in public policy, self-driving software, and autonomous trucking filtered in, the PAVE team introduced keynote speaker Bryan Reimer, Ph.D.

Consumer Attitudes, Autonomous Applications

Dr. Reimer revealed countless lessons learned and data points gathered from his work as a research scientist at MIT AgeLab and Associate Director at New England University’s Transportation Center. From consumers’ understanding of commercialized autonomy to building up consistency in the way the AV industry speaks, Dr. Reimer’s presentation dove into several challenges in bringing self-driving vehicles into everyday conversations.

He began his presentation by detailing consumer attitudes on autonomous driving. Since 2016, year-over-year data tells us that more and more drivers are becoming comfortable with driver-assisted driving programs; these advanced takes on cruise control are common in many vehicles available for consumer purchase today. However, as Dr. Reimer noted, car manufacturers often don’t educate on, or neglect to mention, these self-driving features during the sales process.

This brought Dr. Reimer’s presentation to its driving point: your average consumer doesn’t encounter much, if any, information about autonomous technology without specifically seeking it out. In events where a consumer should encounter autonomous technology, the AV industry hasn’t figured out to communicate that information concisely and consistently. As an industry, Dr. Reimer says, we need to band together to create narratives that are educational and accessible to wide groups of people.

During the Q&A section, questions from the audience sparked a conversation about how we bring those narratives to life. Dr. Reimer suggested that airlines and airports have achieved this consistency across state-level and federal regulations, even amidst different company brands, lines of business, and more.

Dr. Reimer noted that the difference between riding and driving is something to consider when communicating to the general public. Consumers, he says, will benefit from autonomous vehicles mainly because of the convenience of them. For instance, in the world of self-driving vehicles, consumers may think that a car will allow kids to ride in the backseat without any human interaction. This version of autonomous driving is still several decades away, but data reveals that it’s the baseline with which consumers operate when they think about self-driving technology.

In that same Q&A segment, Dr. Reimer shared that consumer knowledge of autonomy is almost completely limited to Tesla’s Autopilot system. In the grand scheme of commercializing and regulating the autonomous vehicle industry, companies must work together to define terms, share information, and start a broader conversation about autonomy and its everyday applications.

As this keynote presentation ended, audience members were left with the call-to-action to begin defining the question of how autonomy can gain the same consistency that airlines benefit from, and how that can be leveraged into a public-facing autonomous narrative.

Autonomous Vehicle & Trucking – Tomorrow

At the conclusion of the event, PAVE speakers detailed various upcoming events, opportunities to get involved, and updates to membership offerings. Alongside industry leaders like Torc, PAVE is expanding the world of autonomous driving to include policymakers, the general public, and all levels of stakeholder in the AV industry.

At Torc, we know that to reach our goal of safely commercializing this technology, we need to consider the viewpoints and deeply collaborate with our team members, industry colleagues, and local policymakers. That’s just part of the reason why we’re dedicated to creating autonomous trucks that are, first and foremost, safe as possible.

Like Dr. Reimer, we believe that autonomous driving – or riding, depending on your viewpoint – has the opportunity to make our lives more convenient. However, we expand convenience to include the real-world potential of reducing traffic accidents. We also include efficiency and asset utilization for fleet managers within our scope, providing freight professionals with a solution that combats the effects of the current labor gap to haul freight thousands of miles across the country.

With organizations like PAVE at our side, Torc is looking towards an autonomous future that meets these challenges head-on. If you’re interested in learning more about PAVE and its coalition of industry, nonprofits, and academics in autonomous driving, you can find their website here. To learn more about Torc Robotics and follow our journey to creating life-saving autonomous trucks, follow our socials.