Weekly Brief: Carmakers pledge to make AEB standard by 2022

Safety organisations claim that automatic emergency brakes (AEB) would save an estimated 10,000 lives a year in the US if they were standard across all new cars. That’s nearly a quarter of all road-related deaths (38,300) in the US in 2015.

And yet regulatory bodies have been as slow to mandate the technology as carmakers have been to deploy it. Until last week, that is, when the US National Highway Transport and Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that 20 carmakers have pledged to integrate AEB across their line-ups by 2022. Participating carmakers represent more than 99% of the US auto market and include Audi, BMW, FCA US, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Tesla Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo Car USA.

The landmark deal doesn’t constitute a law, NHTSA stressed — that’s likely to come three years later in 2025, when trucks will be required to have AEB on-board as well. Many view AEB as a stepping-stone to an autonomous car future, as they rely on a similar mix of radar, cameras and lasers to detect imminent crashes.

In other news, General Motors (GM) and Lyft launched a short-term rental programme meant to get more Lyft drivers on the road. “Express Drive” debuts in Chicago with a fleet of Chevrolet Equinox crossovers equipped with OnStar. Rent starts at $99 (£68) a week including insurance and maintenance and the fee is waived if drivers meet a 65 rider quota for the week. The launch of Express Drive comes two months after GM entered into a strategic alliance with Lyft to develop an integrated on-demand network of autonomous vehicles. The programme is scheduled to expand to Boston, Washington, DC, and Baltimore this year.

The US Senate and its Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation conducted a hearing on The future of the self-driving car. Representatives from some of the biggest companies working on autonomous tech today — Google, GM, Delphi, and Lyft — used the opportunity to call for greater direction and support from the federal government so that companies aren’t hindered by complicated differences between state regulations.

"We propose that Congress move swiftly to provide the secretary of transportation with new authority to approve life-saving safety innovations,” said Google X director of self-driving cars Chris Urmson. “This new authority would permit the deployment of innovative safety technologies that meet or exceed the level of safety required by existing federal standards, while ensuring a prompt and transparent process.”

US Senators, in turn, expressed concerns about data privacy and hacking but failed to show any real grasp of how complex rolling self-driving cars out will be. They also seemed out-of-touch when it came to the many challenges that the technology will face in proving itself road-ready. No one even mentioned Google’s first at-fault accident, for example, which dominated headlines in the weeks prior to the hearing.

BMW laid out a new mobile strategy called Strategy NUMBER ONE > NEXT. Don’t ask us how they arrived at that name (is it a mathematical inequality?) but the gist of the plan is to increase emphasis on electric mobility and automated driving to meet the growing demand for complete and seamless connectivity. This will include BMW projects already underway, notably the BMW i line of electric vehicles, with new investments in high-definition digital maps, sensor technology, cloud technology and artificial intelligence to usher in the self-driving era.

On the navigation front, TomTom went freemium with its new TomTom GO Mobile app. The app has the same real-time traffic info, offline maps and speed camera warning features of TomTom’s popular TomTom Go satnav app but drivers get free access up to 75km (46 miles) every month. From there, they can upgrade with an in-app purchase.

Waze launched a Planned Drives feature that recommends departure times for future trips. Users enter a destination in advance and the app then harnesses historical data to recommend a departure time and route. On the day of the journey, it provides updates based on real-time traffic. When users enter a planned drive, they also get to see what that route looks like over the course of an average day, with lows and highs based on historical data.

Finally, telematics-based car insurance policies have grown 40% in the past year in the UK, according to annual research from the British Insurance Brokers’ Association. That brought the grand total to nearly half a million live policies (455,000) at the end of 2015, up from 323,000 at the end of 2014. This still represents a fraction of the 31.7M total cars on the road in the UK in 2016 but the growth trend is positive, especially among young drivers, which bodes well for the UBI industry.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.

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