July 20, 2023
Chair, Sonecon, LLC
Executive Vice President, Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness (CCMC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Executive Vice President, Center for Technology Engagement (C_TEC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Executive Vice President, Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Senior Advisor to the President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Senior Vice President, C_TEC, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Around the world, new technologies are being embraced for their innovative solutions. From artificial intelligence to 5G capabilities, this abundance of new technologies is advancing civilization by introducing safer and more efficient capabilities — and one standout technology keeping people safe on the roads is that of autonomous vehicles (AVs).
To better understand the evolving AV market, the U.S. Chamber hosted an event to discuss the key findings and implications of its recently released Innovation Highway Report. Dr. Robert Shapiro, the lead author of the report and chair at Sonecon, keynoted the event by discussing the social and economic benefits of AVs and their potential to elevate the U.S. as a fierce competitor in the global race for leadership in this market.
Being the First to Introduce New Technology Has Its Benefits
Self-driving vehicles used to be an idea of the future — but now, they’re becoming a reality. While still in its early stages, AV technology has improved greatly in recent years, as governments worldwide strive to be the leader in AV innovation by introducing the most cutting-edge technology.
“In a world organized economically around interlocking markets … the companies and countries that lead in developing and adopting these innovations often secure an important economic advantage — it's a first-mover advantage,” Shapiro explained.
While the full implementation of AVs is expected to take one to two decades, Shapiro highlighted the incremental introduction we’ve already seen of autonomous driving features. Upon full adoption, he believes the technology will generate trillions of dollars annually due to its wide range of benefits.
“Experts characterize this process through five… levels of automation,” Shapiro explained. “Level two, for example, is cars with certain automated features that can work together, such as lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control, while drivers perform everything else. But today, we're already seeing testing of technologies for level four AVs with vehicles capable of driving themselves under limited traffic and other conditions.”
According to Shapiro, as higher stages are achieved — with level five achieving full autonomy — cars will introduce complex technologies, including LIDAR sensor systems, 360-degree radar, the next generation of GPS navigation, and infrared systems that analyze and transmit data to get passengers where they need to go safely.
Adoption of AVs Will Likely Be Faster Than New Technology Has Been in the Past
Historically, consumers haven’t always been quick to adopt new technologies, as the benefits often aren’t immediately clear. However, Shapiro believes the benefits of AVs will be apparent, which could result in a quicker adoption process than the spread of computers.
“More than 90% of traffic accidents are related to driver behavior and mistakes — [such as] drunk driving, unreasonable speeding, [and] distracted drivers,” Shapiro said. “Level five AVs eliminate all of these deficiencies, so people should see quickly how AVS will sharply reduce traffic accidents.”
He continued, explaining the advantages the nation could find by achieving 25% adoption of level five AVs.
“Using 2020 accident rates and cost estimates… 25% adoption should mean nearly 1.5 million fewer accidents annually, save 12,000 lives per year, and [provide] economic savings of about $94 billion,” Shapiro said.
The Deployment of AVs Will Require Modernizing Safety Standards and Regulations
The report noted that AVs will bring some negative consequences, including an increase in electricity generation. However, the benefits are expected to be unmatched — from lower healthcare and insurance costs to ease of mobility for disadvantaged citizens to environmental benefits like reduced congestion.
“AVS will be a boon for nearly 21 million Americans who don't have driver's licenses and for 14.5 million households that have no access to automobiles,” Shapiro said. “25% adoption rate of level five AVs should increase the annual vehicle miles traveled by… 2.4 billion miles for people with disabilities, 4.9 billion miles for older people, and 4.6 billion miles for non-drivers.”
However, as new AV technology is introduced, Shapiro believes that achieving broad public acceptance will require government intervention.
“We have to consider which nations and companies will shape the future being created by AVs — who will be the first to market with safe and flexible technologies and establish the standards and regulations necessary to win broad public acceptance?” Shapiro said. “The data-intensive operations of AVs will also produce huge amounts of personal and industry-sensitive data for manufacturers,... [so] the global leaders in AVs will also influence how those data are stored, accessed, and ultimately governed.”