Oakland Press: Peters say region is in ‘fierce competition’ to keep autonomous vehicle development here

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan) understands that in the Motor City, people love their cars.

They especially love driving them.

It’s not entirely surprising that they’re a bit uncomfortable with turning over the steering wheel to a computer, Peters said.

But, he said in a speech in Troy, the region is in “fierce competition” to capitalize on the rapid development of autonomous vehicles -- and the high-paying jobs that industry would bring.

Speaking to members of Automation Alley, a technology business association, Peters said Michigan is competing with computer whizzes in California and elsewhere, but holds some advantages over the others.

“One thing folks are learning is that making automobiles isn’t an easy business, “ Peters said. “Just last week it was reported that Apple is abandoning its effort to build its own car, and will focus its efforts on building an autonomous driving software system. The West Coast is learning that it is not easy to make a machine that safely moves your family at 65 miles an hour.

“Here in Michigan, we know how to do that. Now the race is on to see who can make cars moving 65 miles per hour and have them drive themselves, talk to each other, the infrastructure, pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists – all while delivering its passengers safely to their destination,” Peter said.

Peters said even more important than the jobs that autonomous vehicles would bring, they hold the potential to improve travel safety for all. About 94 percent of vehicle accidents are caused by driver error, he said.

Peters said vehicles are already for sale with certain components of self driving, and he expects the technology to continue to develop rapidly over the next few years.

All stakeholders -- the auto industry, academic experts and government regulators -- have to proceed quickly but still ensure that the technology is safe and convince the public that it is.

Peters is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and has been a strong advocate for the testing and deployment of automated vehicle technology. He also co-founded the bipartisan Smart Transportation Caucus, which brings together federal and state agencies, the auto industry, the wireless industry, transportation safety advocates and experts from the cybersecurity and privacy sector to help shape the policies and priorities that will encourage the development of smart transportation technologies.

By:  Anne Runkle
Source: The Oakland Press