Mobility: It’s a word whose meaning has become unmoored in a sea of often meaningless back-and-forth discussions about how human beings should get from point A to point B. If it has any connection to the current debate over the best way to get around, it’s through vehicle autonomy, a topic so dense and misunderstood that it can even have experts scratching their heads at times.
That’s why a number of automakers, tech firms, and academics have banded together to form Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, or PAVE. It’s essentially a public information campaign to better inform policymakers and the public about self-driving vehicles and all they entail.
While you may or may not agree that self-driving cars are the answer to our transportation woes (after all, those crumbling roads won’t fix themselves), the horse is out of the barn, so to speak. There are test cars on the road all over the country, and despite the odd accident, autonomy seems to be progressing deeper into the wilderness of public misunderstanding. If experts agree on anything concerning autonomous vehicles (AVs), it’s that people need to understand them better before they’ll be accepted as a legitimate form of transportation.
PAVE-ing the Way to Understanding
PAVE, which includes General Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen, Waymo, SAE International, and Stanford University’s Center for Automotive Research, among other entities, was announced in January 2019 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The coalition plans to host a series of educational workshops across the country with the goal of helping consumers and policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels better understand driver assistance and self-driving technology. PAVE hopes better, more comprehensive information will help officials make better-informed decisions regarding transportation as it pushes into a more technologically-dependent era.
The workshops will center around hands-on demonstrations of driver assistance and AV technology. PAVE hopes to show consumers and policymakers the three main benefits it sees in autonomy: safety, sustainability, and (there’s that word again) mobility.
In the realm of safety, PAVE sees AVs – which don’t drive drunk, get distracted, or fall asleep at the wheel – as a means to reduce crashes. They also see a potential to reduce congestion, which can lower carbon emissions and other pollution, ticking the sustainability box. Mobility, in this case, pertains to the improved ability of elderly and disabled people to get around when driving is no longer an option.
There’s little doubt that AV technology will eventually take root and change the way humans ambulate. The question is, when? If PAVE is successful in its PSA-oriented mission, the shift could come sooner than it would otherwise – within a vacuum of ignorance and doubt.