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MRF January 2019 Update

By Andy Kelly
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) held its fifth and final “National Dialogue on Highway Automation Workshop,” in Dallas, Texas, back in November. I was able to attend the fifth and the first Workshop, which was held in Philadelphia, in June of 2018. The first workshop dealt with planning and policy. Now even though the FHWA said it is initiating a national conversation with partners and stakeholders, as well as the public at-large, to receive broad input on key areas of interest I never saw any pubic at-large attending any of the two workshops that I attended. In fact, all I ever saw was vendors trying to keep their products out in front and bureaucrats pushing their agenda and keeping the conversation narrowly focused.

It is not when autonomous vehicle (AV) will ever be on the road, it is now that they are on the road. In Fresno Texas they are using AV’s in an office park to shuttle people around in a controlled environment. Ford and its partner Argo AI. are planning to start testing in Miami while Waymo expects to launch a robo-taxi service in Phoenix next month. General Motors has plans to debut its own automated ride-hailing service in a U.S. city within one year. Also, General Motors is so interested in autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles that they are shutting down assembly plants to focus on electric and AV’s. These are only some of the America manufacturers. European and Asian Manufacturers are also testing in the United States.

There is really no standards that these manufactures must abide by except for a loosely worded Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J3016, a Taxonomy and Definitions for terms related to on-road motor vehicles automated driving systems. This will classify the different levels of automation, level one being something that I drive up to level five that is fully automated. But still each manufacture is coming up with their own technology and for proprietary reasons will not share anything with anyone.

I am not saying regulation from the federal government is the end all answer. The airlines have had auto-pilot technology for years but think about this, the Indonesia Lion Air Crash, the black box revealed the pilots struggled for control of the plane. It was reported that the auto-pilot kept forcing the plane into a nose dive. This was apparently caused by the automatic system receiving incorrect sensor information.

All you hear at the workshops is AV’s will get the country closer to “the road to zero: a vision for achieving zero roadway deaths by 2050.” It does scare me when I read publications put out there about the future of highway safety and only time will tell what will happen to the on-road motorcycles. We are letting these dreamers give us nightmares by not keeping an eye on what they are up to.

I had heard some bureaucrats talking about using the infrastructure that exists now, except for better paint on the roads to guide the AVs. But with this idea what happens when it snows? Others talked about AV only lanes on highways and other special roads. Who is going to pay for this and how many years will it take? It looks to me that most of the ride sharing and mass transit will just be in an urban environment but what rules and how will a private AV work outside of the urban environment?

If you have ridden any distance, then you know the issues with bugs. Now, what would happen when a big oozy gooey bug gets splattered on one of the sensors? The AV is rolling across I-80 at 70 miles per hour. Is it just going to stop dead in it tracks or is it just going to try to wake the driver up and say, “IT’S ALL YOURS NOW.” Or better yet, what if the couple are in the back seat doing whatever? I asked the what if question the people from FHWA and Volpe “which is a U.S. DOT center in Massachusetts to help develop AV systems”, and the answer was we will cross that bridge later or better said they have no idea.

The Bureaucrats also talked about platoons of vehicles which would be mostly tractor trailers. I asked again, “what will happen with all the extra weight from the trucks running 20 feet apart, on a four-lane bridge, which will more than double the weight travelling across the bridges causing additional stress on infrastructure? Their answer was “we are working on it.”
Megan Ekstrom was working on the AV START Act S.1885 before she left. Now we cannot just sit back and hope someone else picks up the torch. We all should be contacting our federal Congressmen or Senator’s Toomey and Casey and ask them what they are planning to do about this. Now I am not saying that they have all the answers, but we must get everything out into the open and make sure we as motorcyclists do not become classified as vulnerable users and taken off the highways. Become a member of the MRF to help give the organization more strength to walk into offices in Washington D.C.

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation has contracted with Husch Blackwell Strategies, a lobbying firm based in Washington D.C., to pursue passage of our anti-profiling resolutions in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. William “Rocky” Fox will lead our efforts with his assistance from his colleagues at HBS.

As information, on May 20, 2019, the individual and joint membership dues, for the Motorcycle Riders Foundation will increase for the first time in many years. My suggestion would be to renew your membership before that date or, if you have a one-year individual or joint membership increase it to a three year membership to lock in the savings for three years.

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Updated: 5/7/09 12:00 AM