Car Industry

Audi, Toyota, Waymo and others launch self-driving car education group

PAVE will endeavor to educate the public about autonomy's abilities and limits.

Lexus LS 500h autonomous research car

Self-driving cars are on the way -- but does the public understand their abilities and limits?

Toyota

Automakers and suppliers are working hard to develop autonomous cars and other self-driving technologies. But ensuring members of the public understand what those technologies can do -- and also what they can't do -- is a different challenge. That's why Audi, Daimler, General Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen, Waymo and several suppliers have founded a new partnership to provide that information.

PAVE, or the Partners for Automated Vehicle Education coalition, was announced at a press conference at CES on Monday. The group intends to teach people about self-driving technology using three key strategies. First, PAVE will work to get both consumers and policymakers (i.e. legislators) behind the wheel with driver-assistance technology. Second, the group will hold educational workshops on the technologies for legislators. And finally, PAVE will offer "educational materials" that car dealers and service centers can offer to customers.

Although the coalition also hopes to reduce the number of crashes and fatalities on American roads, PAVE does not necessarily plan to endorse only certain types of technologies.

"It's not about lobbying for one specific type of technology or one way to do things," says Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, one of PAVE's members. Instead, she says, the goal is "to help Americans better understand the potential and the promise of these technologies."

"We want to dispel the confusion about this technology that's often misunderstood," Hersman said. "We will provide clear and factual information so consumers understand this technology and what to expect."

For automakers, many of whom are already PAVE members, the group's education efforts should also ensure that car shoppers understand the benefits of driver-assist features in new models, as well as future self-driving cars.

"No matter how good or ready the technology is, we need to ensure that society develops a level of trust with this automated technology," said Kelly Kay, executive vice president of the Toyota Research Institute.

Kyle Vogt, founder of Cruise Automation, agreed with the need for more public education. He said that his company likens today's push for autonomy to the space race -- the difference is, he said, that it's being led by private companies who need to build trust with consumers.

"People need to understand the technology to feel comfortable with it and ultimately to trust it with their lives," he said.

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