Weekly Brief: Driverless cars could cost governments millions in lost traffic violations

In this week’s Brief: The Brookings Institute, Google, Waze, Uber, Lyft, Shanghai OnStar, Mercedes-Benz, Daimler Trucks, Freightliner Inspiration Truck, Lexus and Mazda.


Talk about a Catch 22. Driver-related errors lead to accidents that cost society more than a million lives and 50 million injuries worldwide every year. They also generate vital revenue for governments in the form of speeding tickets and traffic violations, from turning across a double yellow to breaking a red.


The Brookings Institute published a fascinating editorial on this topic last week, alongside a report breaking down just how significant a financial toll driverless cars could take on lost traffic violation revenue. In the state of California alone, it nets out to hundreds of millions of dollars in lost speeding tickets and DUIs.


“The hundreds of millions of dollars generated from poor driving-related behaviors fund transportation infrastructure, public schooling, judicial salaries, domestic violence advocacy, conservation, and many others,” the Brookings Institute wrote.


The question is how this reality shapes driverless car adoption and future laws and regulations that might help replace lost revenue streams from traffic and parking violations. Cities have already been waging battles against ridesharing companies like Uber, for example, as they eat into tax revenues that they would otherwise collect from traditional taxi services.


You can read the full article here.


In other news, Google-owned mapping company Waze launched a pilot in Israel for a new ridesharing service called RideWith. The service allows passengers to find drivers who are taking a similar route to a similar destination at a similar time. Those drivers, in turn, receive an estimate for the cost of the trip based on gas and wear and tear on their vehicles and can accept a rideshare with a passenger or decline. They also have access to rider profiles to help make a decision. Unlike ridesharing competitors Uber or Lyft, RideWith limits drivers to two ridesharing trips a day along routes they normally travel.


Shanghai OnStar restructured its servicing packages to make them more customisable for individual users. Drivers can now choose from four basic service packages and then add on additional services, from navigation to hands-free calling to stolen vehicle recovery, like toppings at an ice cream shop. The shake-up follows a customer survey that suggested demanded for more tailored packaging.


On the advanced driver assistance front, Mercedes-Benz said it plans to roll out the most advanced package of advanced drivers assistance technology on the market when it debuts the new 2016 E Class. The car includes a smartphone key and an app that allows smartphone remote control parking. There’s also active brake assist and what Mercedes is calling Intelligent Drive Next Level, which essentially drives the car itself up to speeds of 200 km/h, so long as lane dividers and surrounding traffic can help give the car its bearings.


Daimler Trucks said it will soon start trials of fully autonomous trucks on German roads, as it has already done with the Freightliner Inspiration Truck in Nevada, US. It’s also preparing new safety systems for series production, including active braking assist, blind spot monitoring, lane assist and a mirror cam that morphs traditional side-view mirrors into live streams on a cockpit screen. No specifics on dates yet, just lots of "near futures".


Google announced that it will start to test drive autonomous vehicles in Austin, Texas. The Google Car is staying put in Mountain View for the time being, but two Lexus SUVs with Google tech on-board are Texas-bound, marking the maiden voyage for Google self-driving tech outside of California.


Finally, Mazda joined the smartphone auto app caravan with Mazda Mobile Start. The app works for iPhone or Android and does your standard suite of smartphone remote control features: remote lock/unlock, panic button, carfinder, engine start and stop. The price tag isn’t cheap: $500 for dealer installation with a $65 fee to renew the service each year thereafter.


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


Andrew Tolve is a regular TU contributor.

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