Washington Auto Show MobilityTalks Conference spotlights the coming of autonomous vehicles

Motor vehicles of the future driven by artificial intelligence, as opposed to human motorists, were the focus of this year’s Mobility Talks International Conference that preceded the 2019 Washington Auto Show on Wednesday, April 3. Spokespersons from various quarters of the auto industry paneled up at MobilityTalks with members of Congress, representatives from the United Nations and officials from the Trump administration to project the coming of autonomous motor vehicles, not as science fiction, or pie-in-the-sky, but reality.

In all, there were six program sessions in the morning running into the afternoon, followed by four breakout sessions from which to choose two. Setting the stage was the Congressional Caucus presentation by the Congressional Artificial Intelligence Caucus entitled The State of Artificial Intelligence, led by former Maryland congressman and presidential candidate John Delaney.

Reflective of the global automobile industry, MobilityTalks quickly branched into the international realm, with representatives from the United Nations Working Group on Validation Methods for Automated Driving forming a panel on regulation and certification of autonomous vehicles that included speakers from the Society of Automotive Engineers and Japan’s Automobile Standards Center.

Representatives from eight auto producing nations then discussed the challenges of autonomous vehicles from a public policy standpoint, which included an analysis of bringing AVs to the marketplace, and the big task of educating the public about them. Strategies on communicating the benefits of advanced technology, the like of autonomous vehicles, was then handled by another panel that included OEMs, NADA and AAA.

Breakout sessions in the late afternoon looked at the challenge autonomous vehicles will pose for state motor vehicle agencies as the first level of regulation, attested to by Christine Nizer, head of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration and Anne Ferro, president of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA). Another breakout session looked at the future of Mobility on Demand (MOD) and Mobility as a Service (MaaS). The breakout session on connected vehicles to “back up” autonomous vehicles was especially interesting, given the fact that the AV transportation system that is coming will need to ensure that AVs successfully and safely communicate with one another, along with the publicly provided infrastructure, or highways.

At the end of the day, the question is whether motor vehicles driven by artificial intelligence as opposed to human drivers is the proper way for the industry to proceed, and, if so, will autonomous vehicles be accepted by motor vehicle consumers? For its part, Mobility Talks International framed the question with industry experts and government regulators, so now it’s time to see what happens.

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