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self-driving

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Will General Motors and Ford be able to rise to the challenge of self-driving cars? 

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes isn't sure. 

a chevy bolt
General Motors

The U.S. House will vote on bills after Labor Day that would let automakers test self-driving cars in every state, replacing the current state-by-state patchwork of regulations, and allow cars without steering wheels and other human-operated controls.

Two Michigan members of the House, Democrat Debbie Dingell and Republican Fred Upton, helped draft the bills.

line of chevy volts
Courtesy of General Motors

General Motors is adding to its fleet of automated cars. The company hopes to maintain what it says is a big advantage in a crucial technology of the future.  

GM put 50 self-driving Bolt EVs on public roads late last year.  At GM's Orion Township plant, CEO Mary Barra showed off some of the 130 next-generation self-driving Bolts that will soon be added to the fleet.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

The hottest topic in the auto industry in 2016?  It's no contest, says Michelle Krebs of Autotrader. 

Self-driving or autonomous cars captured most of the biggest headlines, from a deadly accident involving a semi-autonomous Tesla car, to General Motors' announcement last week that it would test self-driving Chevy Bolts on metro Detroit roads in 2017.

Krebs says some of the buzz is just that - buzz.  But she has been impressed by the pace of developments, with Google, Uber, GM, and others all in some stage of testing autonomous vehicles on public roadways.

General Motors

General Motors' CEO Mary Barra announced Thursday that the automaker will be testing autonomous vehicles on the streets of Detroit soon.

Self-driving Chevy Bolts are already being tested in California and Arizona.  The Bolt is GM's new long-range electric car.

Michigan's bad weather makes it ideal for the next place to test how safe and reliable self-driving cars can be, said Barra – on a day when the high temperature reached 16 degrees.

"This will be our main location for cold weather, as well as winter driving conditions," she said.

Computer rendering of overpasses at American Center for Mobility.
State of Michigan

Willow Run is more than 330 acres of crumbling concrete and weeds today. 

But the site of the B-24 bomber assembly plant during World War II will soon be transformed  into miles of roads, highways, overpasses, and nighttime lighting, where the self-driving and connected cars of the future will be developed and tested. 

At the groundbreaking Monday, Governor Rick Snyder said the project will keep Michigan in the driver's seat as the world changes.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes says Ford could stand to refresh its model lineup, and should invest more in connected vehicles.
Ford Motor Company

The Next Idea

Start talking about Willow Run and chances are pretty good that images of Rosie The Riveters building B-24 bombers in World War II come to mind.

But there are big plans being cooked up to transform the old factory grounds near Ypsilanti into a highly advanced proving ground for autonomous and connected vehicles.

Pete Bigelow spells it all out in his story for Car and Driver.

wikipedia/creative commons

Self-driving cars, taxis and buses could pose a threat to the viability of commuter trains and subways,  according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group. 

Nicholas Lang of BCG estimates between a third to to half of rail passengers could migrate to self-driving transportation by the year 2040.

One example of how this could happen:  imagine automated mini-buses that seat up to 15 people.  Lang thinks they could be more comfortable, convenient and cheaper than existing public transportation.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes says Ford could stand to refresh its model lineup, and should invest more in connected vehicles.
Ford Motor Company

Last week the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx made the rounds through the news outlets, excitedly talking about new guidelines for autonomous cars.

But Foxx admitted there's a lot not covered in the guidelines because there's a lot the auto industry and the government have yet to figure out.

NPR’s Sonari Glinton joined us today to talk about the secretary’s comments, and the ongoing push toward autonomous vehicles.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes says Ford could stand to refresh its model lineup, and should invest more in connected vehicles.
Ford Motor Company

Nearly 75% of people surveyed by AlixPartners say they'd be interesting in an autonomous, AKA self-driving car.

The number jumps to 90% if the self-driving car includes the option of letting a human take control if deemed necessary.

Mark Wakefield of AlixPartners says he thinks his survey found more interest in self-driving cars because of the way they phrased the questions. The survey provided details about the positives of self-driving cars, in addition to the negatives.

user: mariordo / Wikimedia Commons

Federal safety regulators have told Google the computer in their self-driving car can be considered the driver - in lieu of a human.

One analyst says that decision is a "launching pad" for the technology.

Rebecca Lindland of Kelley Blue Book says many regulations were written long before the self-driving car was a twinkle in Google founder Larry Page's eye. So recognizing the computer as the driver helps to make the technology feasible.

Volvo

Usually, the biggest buzz at the North American International Auto Show surrounds a vehicle.

This year, you could argue the big buzz was about a trend: The race toward self-driving, or autonomous, vehicles.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that President Obama would seek $3.9 billion in the next federal budget to encourage the development of autonomous vehicles, which Foxx says show the potential to save thousands of lives.

Semi-autonomous vehicles are already on the road, with more to come.

MARIORDO / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Autonomous vehicles promise to dramatically reduce congestion in large cities and save thousands of lives, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

That's why the Obama administration will ask Congress to budget $3.9 billion over the next ten years to help spur the development of the technologies that enable cars to drive themselves.