There's been a lot of partnerships and deals made in the autonomous driving space. Part of that is due to the sheer complexity of autonomous driving, the other part is the incredibly high cost of going at it alone.
That's why we've seen automakers snap up self-driving startups and/or partner with technology companies. In August 2016, General Motors (GM) - Get Report acquired Cruise Automation for a reported $1 billion, only to draw interest from SoftBank (SFTBY) and Honda (HMC) - Get Report last year. After the latter's investment, Cruise carried a $14.6 billion valuation.
Ford (F) - Get Report is in a similar situation. The automaker bought Argo roughly $1 billion back in August 2017, and recently agreed to an investment from Volkswagen (VLKAF) (VLKAY) that valued the subsidiary at $4 billion. For Toyota Motors' (TM) - Get Report part, the automaker recently partnered with Nvidia (NVDA) - Get Report , after the latter's very impressive GTC conference.
But these three are doing more than just making and taking investments, and teaming up with other companies to advance their autonomous driving capabilities. In fact, they're trying to advance everyone's autonomous driving program by forming an allegiance for self-driving car standards.
Together, the trio of Ford, GM and Toyota has formed what they are calling the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium.
Why Autonomous Driving Needs Regulation
The government is in a tricky spot when it comes to autonomous driving. The industry has grown very rapidly in a very short period of time and it continues to enhance its capabilities at a rate that makes it hard to govern.
But the pace of innovation isn't the only thing that makes it difficult, it's the amount of government bodies that are involved that also complicates matters. In short, there are federal, state and county regulations that companies would have to adhere to. Some states and some counties have put regulations in place, but overall, it remains a pretty unresolved issue.
When we attended Nvidia's GTC conference in Washington D.C. last fall, it was clear that lawmakers wanted to be proactive with the industry and protect consumers while also not wanting to be too restrictive. At the same time, they made it clear that automakers and tech companies would be responsible for getting the public on board.
In all, that's why we have so much complication in the regulatory department -- something the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium is trying to help with. The trio of automakers will be joined by SAE International and the hope is that they can work with regulators and industry participants to set some sort of ground rules.
The Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium wants to "work to safely advance testing, pre-competitive development and deployment."
The autonomous driving space has received plenty of pushback after a fatality in Arizona in March 2018. Since then, reception to self-driving cars has cooled quite a bit. Oddly, consumers are overlooking just how dangerous today's driving conditions are now, as there are roughly 40,000 auto-related fatalities in the U.S. each year. However, that doesn't stop drivers from getting in their car each morning. Because it's what they've known their whole lives, they accept this risk each time they drive or ride in a human-piloted vehicle.
That's not to say there should be zero regulation, otherwise the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium would not have wasted its time forming. But that said, this technology should be embraced for its advanced safety implications, not shunned due to one-off incidences. The more quickly we get everyone on the same page -- consumers, industry companies and regulators -- the more quickly we can move forward and achieve those safety standards.
Consumers will eventually go to what's convenient and safe, but regulators and companies need to set the standard and that's what the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium is hoping to start.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.