Over a century ago, the advent of the internal combustion engine took us from the era of the horse-drawn carriage to the era of the automobile. With the horse leaving the equation, vehicle designs began to emerge that focused on driver comfort and safety.
Since then, the company has come to accept a particular type of car design: gasoline-powered, inattentive to pedestrians and other road users, and often driven by a distracted human. Today, mobility is undergoing another major transformation, and we are building the sequel: the fully autonomous electric vehicle.
Autonomous vehicles (AV) now present a rare opportunity for transformational change by reimagining how vehicles are designed, how they are used and who they serve.
To support this transformation, we are announcing the launch of the Coalition for Safe Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification (SAVE). The founding members of SAVE – Zoox, Nuro and Local Motors – are united around three fundamental principles: building safe automated driving systems, deploying AVs on fully electric platforms and integrating new vehicle designs that improve mobility. and access for all.
Traditional vehicle designs will not suffice
Today, traffic jams are caused by the movement of single-occupant vehicles, pollution from gasoline-powered cars, inequitable access and the increase in the number of fatalities on the roads. SAVE will bring together policymakers, industry leaders and advocates to empower our communities with empowerment – and that includes rethinking the car.
After all, building an AV without any change in vehicle design is like building a cell phone with a rotating dial.
SAVE members design vehicles for a future of mobility at the service of all. Zoox has developed an autonomous vehicle designed to be shared and containing over 100 safety innovations not found in conventional cars.
Nuro builds occupant-less delivery VAs designed for the safety of people outside the vehicle, which can improve access to groceries in food deserts.
Local Motors is building a shuttle that provides first and last mile transit links, with design innovations that can improve accessibility for people with disabilities.
AVs will lead to safer vehicle designs for everyone
The public health crisis on our roads resulted in around 38,680 deaths last year. AVs can help reduce the 94% of fatal crashes in which a critical factor is driver error or choice – drunk driving, speeding and distraction – but if range is associated with long periods of time. new vehicle designs, AVs will help achieve even greater improvements.
Today, our roads are more dangerous for pedestrians than they have been since 1989. Vehicles have always been designed for the safety and comfort of drivers, rather than for people on the outside. has led to ever larger vehicle sizes that are deadlier to pedestrians and cyclists. Pickup trucks and SUVs now account for about 70% of new vehicle sales each year and are two to three times more likely to kill a pedestrian in crashes.
AVs offer an opportunity for a sea change in safety for people outside of vehicles, just as seat belts and airbags have dramatically improved occupant safety. A recent study from Virginia Tech found that self-delivered VAs can reduce fatalities and injuries by about 60%, based on design alone. In addition, new safety innovations such as the Zoox vehicle external lighting and sound system will allow AVs to communicate with pedestrians and other road users.
Zero-emission VAs will reduce emissions and improve efficiency
The future of transportation must be zero emissions, which is why we are building AVs from the ground up to be fully electric.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the transportation sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and the pollution it causes increases the prevalence of life-threatening childhood asthma, disproportionately affecting communities of color.
Yet a congested street filled with single occupant gasoline vehicles looks exactly like a street with electric vehicles, which is why we also need to fundamentally change the way vehicles are used.
The widespread deployment of electric VA in shared fleets, combined with public transport and active transport, can lead to an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. In addition, by switching to electricity and by “bundling Multi-person deliveries, delivery VAs could help prevent 407 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from 2025 to 2035 – effectively offsetting emissions from the power supply to every household in the four largest cities in the states -United for a decade.
VAs should offer accessible and equitable mobility options
Having access to a vehicle makes a person four times more likely to have a job, and access to affordable shared AV services can dramatically reduce household spending and connect low-income Americans to new employment opportunities.
Additionally, delivery VAs can help improve access to fresh produce for 14 million, or 70%, of the 20 million low-income Americans living in food deserts.
Vehicles have traditionally been designed around the able-bodied, limiting the mobility options available to the disabled and the elderly. The introduction of VAs gives us another chance to design accessible vehicles for the 25.5 million Americans with travel-limiting disabilities, which could lead to approximately 2 million new employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Regulatory modernization will unlock all the benefits of VAs
This year, Congress envisions a generational reinvestment in our nation’s infrastructure that will fund much-needed repairs and accelerate consumer adoption of electric vehicles. But using the new roads in the same way will not be enough.
Congress must seize the opportunity to modernize federal policies and reinvent the way our roads are used. Updating federal vehicle standards, while maintaining their safety objective, would promote the deployment of light commercial vehicles that provide safer roads, greater access, and a more sustainable and efficient transportation sector.
Otherwise we’ll find ourselves kicking freshly paved roads once again.