Tech Leaders, Policymakers Convene at Chamber of Commerce

Tech Leaders, Policymakers Convene at Chamber of Commerce

September 30, 2016  | Greg Rogers

September 30, 2016

“We’re in the fourth industrial revolution. . . Yet we have bureaucracies that still operate with DOS prompts… we need to change that.” -Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC).

tecnation1Too often, tech-focused events focus on the oohs and ahhs of innovation. Keynote speakers and panelists boast of transforming the mundane to the sublime, or the tedious to the automated – yet they miss the essence of innovation: to solve real, human problems.

The Chamber of Commerce’s marquee tech policy forum, TecNation, brought a wide variety of policy wonks, government leaders, and tech leaders together to discuss tech solutions for the modern age.

This event was a showcase for innovation in smart cities, big data, and transportation technology – but it was also a narrative about how technology can be harnessed to solve problems and improve the lives of others.

CityFi

“A true smart city does not leave people behind.” -Ashley Hand, Co-Founder of CityFi

CityFi helps city leaders and their communities find solutions for their most pressing problems in transportation, data analysis, equitable development, public-private partnerships, and other issues facing smart cities.

Among others, it has helped the City of Los Angeles to develop its transportation technology strategy to increase sustainability, safety, and data sharing.

“How do we redefine the city to address needs of the aging population, and address younger populations too?”

Showing two Scientific American covers published 100 years apart, Hand conveyed the importance of understanding our cities: how do we get around them? Where do we live? Who do we interact with?

Cities need to be able to use critical data about how their residents use transportation options, where they choose to live, how much space is lost to parking, and all of the other data that can help us hear the heartbeats of our cities.

It is in this space – the intersection of citizen squeamishness and wonky eagerness for data sharing – that Hand is most comfortable.

“We need a new social contract for sharing information” to help cities make informed decisions, she declared. By bringing data analysts into government and harnessing the converging fields of data analysis, automation, and autonomous vehicles, cities could experience another major transformation.

This is CityFi’s modus operandi – the intrepid policy entrepreneurs have a portfolio spanning the United States (and even reaching Astana, Kazakhstan) that details how cities can use information about transit use to optimize services, reduce congestion, and initiate mutually-beneficial public-private partnerships.

Chauffeurs and Guardian Angels

“More than 35,000 Americans lost their lives in car accidents in 2015 . . . equal to two jumbo jets falling out of the sky every week. If we had that, there’d be hell to pay.” –Hilary Cain, Director, Technology and Innovation Policy, Toyota

To deliver on their promise of reducing the senseless loss of lives to car collisions, autonomous vehicles must rely upon much more than simply following a set of preprogrammed algorithms and logic paths.

While engineers are capable of programming autonomous vehicles to take an unprotected left turn or yield to another vehicle at a stop sign, the real challenges of driving are much more than preparing a self-driving car to obey the rules of the road.

On a single trip, a driver can interact with construction work blocking part of a lane, police officers directing traffic, pedestrians jaywalking, and a cyclist running a red light. A human driver that has personal autonomy and is not bound to specifically programmed procedures can typically navigate these situations with ease – given they are paying attention, obeying verbal instructions, reading body language, and fully considering the innumerable data points around them and situations that may immediately change.

Autonomous vehicles, in other words, must be autonomous drivers.

Speaking on a panel that covered artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, Cain made the argument that AI is a critical component for autonomous vehicles.

She uses an example of bringing every person in Washington into the same room to write down every possible scenario that a car might encounter on the road, and then programming the car to deal with it.

“We would still miss something,” Cain says, “and this is why AI is important – it can jump in when the car isn’t explicitly programmed to handle something.”

tecnation3

Recognizing the current limitations of autonomous vehicles, she outlined the two types of autonomous vehicles Toyota is considering for development:

  1. Chauffeur mode – A fully autonomous (AV4/5) vehicle that does not need human intervention at all, and possibly does not even allow humans to drive. This would displace many livery and freight drivers but would expand mobility options for the entire population.
  2. Guardian Angel mode – A semi-autonomous vehicle (AV3) that operates using the same AI while allowing people to drive, but steps in only to guarantee safety and prevent collisions. This would not yield the same mobility benefits for people with disabilities, children, and the elderly – but at the same time it would not displace taxi or truck operators.

The most surprising part: “We’ll let the market decide where this is all going to work out.”

While most players in the autonomous vehicle field have firmly stated the foreseeable endpoint for their technology – whether AV3 or AV4/5 – the wait-and-see approach by Toyota suggested caution and restraint in the face of hungry tech interlopers in the auto industry.

Issa and Lyft Discuss Sharing

“Regulation is something that’s inherently fixed in time. Innovation is the opposite.” –Joe Okpaku, Vice President of Government Relations, Lyft

During the final session, Joe Okpaku appeared on the same panel as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Co-Chair of the Sharing Economy Caucus, to discuss how this new market paradigm has shifted the nature of work and transportation in the 21st century.

Rep. Issa presented a narrative of technology that allows citizens to break free of government regulations – and also eliminate the barriers to market entry that typically enable regulatory capture.

Emphasizing that he and the caucus co-chair, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), want to maximize taxpayer dollars through responsible tech solutions, Issa pointed to Lyft as an example of the changing regulatory and labor landscapes:

“We’re a country that was build over the last 50 years with the concept of full-time jobs. This is transforming, with college students that now have three flexible sharing economy jobs.”

Issa predicted the House would approve a bill that night allowing federal workers to use transit benefits through transportation network companies (TNCs) while DC’s metro system undergoes intensive repairs – however, the bill did not reach the floor.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not share the tech-enabled cringe of the day:

“In one of our polls, we found that millennials were more likely to correctly identify Pikachu than Joe Biden,” -Kyle Dropp, Co-Founder and Chief Research Officer of Morning Consult.

Share

Related Articles

Guest Op-Ed: The Rise of Delivery as a Service

Guest Op-Ed: The Rise of Delivery as a Service

Everyday life entirely changed for most when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. Out...

House Spins Wheels Reviewing Autonomous Vehicle Technology

House Spins Wheels Reviewing Autonomous Vehicle Technology

KITT, Herbie, the Batmobile – autonomous vehicles (AVs) have captured the public imagination for decades. Now, they’ve captured the...

"Getting Protected: How Do We Secure Transportation Systems in a Hyper-Connected World?" Centennial Recap

On May 7, 2021, the Colonial Pipeline ceased all production to contain a virtual threat from damaging pipeline operations. The sudden loss...

Op-Ed: Why Automated Driving Faces a Monster Uphill Battle

Op-Ed: Why Automated Driving Faces a Monster Uphill Battle

My three-year-old daughter takes her friend’s power wheels car for a first-time spin. I briefly show her how to turn the steering wheel...

Are federal AV investigations a first step toward federal regulation? Not necessarily, experts say

Are federal AV investigations a first step toward federal regulation? Not necessarily, experts say

"There hasn't been a lot of concrete regulation. The federal government has been largely permissive, and there are very few regulatory...

Webinar: The New Mobilities: Smart Planning for Emerging Transportation Technologies

Webinar: The New Mobilities: Smart Planning for Emerging Transportation Technologies

New transportation technologies are coming online faster than ever. While many of these emerging technologies are helping to expand our...

Congressional Hearing Discusses Promises and Perils of Automated Vehicles

Congressional Hearing Discusses Promises and Perils of Automated Vehicles

On May 18, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce held a hearing on "Promises and...

Guest Op-Ed: The Current State of Public Policy for Autonomous Trucking

Guest Op-Ed: The Current State of Public Policy for Autonomous Trucking

The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) has long advocated for the benefits autonomous vehicles can bring to the nation’s...

Senate Commerce Looks at AV Development, but Pulls Bill from Schedule

Senate Commerce Looks at AV Development, but Pulls Bill from Schedule

This week, a Senate committee hearing looked at autonomous vehicle (AV) safety regulation, but the committee then postponed debate on AV...

Research on Low Speed Automated Vehicles Demonstrates Their Limitations and Potential

Research on Low Speed Automated Vehicles Demonstrates Their Limitations and Potential

During the final week of the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting, the Transit Cooperative Research Program released...

Webinar: How Automated Delivery Could Shape the Future of Local Commerce

Webinar: How Automated Delivery Could Shape the Future of Local Commerce

COVID-19 has highlighted both the value of home delivery and contactless service. Automated vehicles (AV) could potentially enable both....

Guest Op-Ed: It Turns Out, Humans Are Pretty Smart: Developing Self-Driving Cars Is Harder Than We Thought

Guest Op-Ed: It Turns Out, Humans Are Pretty Smart: Developing Self-Driving Cars Is Harder Than We Thought

Self-driving cars. We’ve been promised for years they were “coming soon.” Most estimates a decade ago thought self-driving cars would...

Be Part of the Conversation
Sign up to receive news, events, publications, and course notifications.
No thanks