Hear the Conversations 35:18 – 20.2 mb mp3
“Our mission is to inform state public policy and improve governance in Michigan, and a forum like this one is part of our broader mission to connect the university with the Capitol downtown,” Matt Grossmann tells Kirk Heinze on Greening of the Great Lakes from the February 15 “Michigan’s Drive toward Autonomous Vehicles” forum held by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR) at Michigan State University.
The forum is part of IPPSR’s public forum series on hot topics facing the state legislature.
“This is an area where the state is already moving ahead and has already passed some policies to allow autonomous vehicles to operate on Michigan roadways. So it’s an important time to step back and see what we’re getting ourselves into and what kind of issues might arise that we’ll have to address in the future.
“People have safety and economic concerns about drivers and truckers and other kinds of industries that might be affected by autonomous vehicles, and so we have to learn what the public’s concerns and aspirations are in order to address this policy issue.”
Grossmann says Michigan is “at the very center of this major technological innovation of our time.”
Hayder Radha is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of CANVAS – Connected and Autonomous Networked Vehicles for Active Safety at Michigan State University.
“MSU, literally for decades, has been developing really world-class technologies that are at the core of autonomous driving,” he says. He makes the distinction between autonomous and connected vehicles.
A vehicle equipped with sensors and a computer is an autonomous vehicle. An autonomous vehicle isn’t necessarily a connected vehicle. And a connected vehicle isn’t necessarily an autonomous vehicle. He says the two technologies are basically being developed separately, but the MSU CANVAS program brings them together.
“When vehicles start talking to other vehicles, then we talk about connectivity,” says Radha. “When we bring the two technologies together, we believe that will enable a whole new host of mobility services that are much more powerful than having either technology operating on its own.”
Radha and his colleagues “really believe that enabling autonomous and connected driving will save fuel significantly because of the concept of platooning where vehicles follow each other minimizing congestion. It’s a challenge, though, because it’s like trying to teach a child to drive.”
Matt Smith is with Intelligent Transportation Systems at the Michigan Department of Transportation/Michigan Council on Future Mobility.
“Essentially our role in fostering and encouraging this technology and investing in it is at the heart of our core mission which is to get people safely from point A to point B,” says Smith. “We see this technology as being very important for our future.”
Smith discusses testing and evaluation of the technology under way at the American Center for Mobility and the role of the U.S. Army in developing these new technologies.
“There’s a lot of autonomous and connected vehicle technology that actually has already been developed and proven out in the military. And there’s a lot of opportunity to bring that technology into the civilian world where everybody can benefit from it.
“Hands down, the main thing we want to focus on is providing an environment that allows our automotive sector partners to develop and deploy this technology.”
“Never before have we really seen the convergence of so many technologies in intelligent transportation,” says Farnsworth. She says both a challenge and an opportunity are developing the workforce necessary to see these new technologies come to fruition.
“It’s going to have to be a thoughtful design by education institutions, and they’re going to have to collaborate. We need to be able to work together in a way so that we can graduate students for jobs that don’t even exist yet.”
Researchers and innovators are also working on cyber security issues surrounding the development of these technologies “because of the complexity of these technologies that are converging at once.
“I can’t stress enough the number of jobs that are going to be created because of this new economy; it’s just mind boggling. It’s an exciting time, though. Never before since the inception of the automobile have we really seen such a change in the way that we live, drive, and get from point A to point B much safer and much better.”