HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C.—The coming autonomous vehicle revolution, in all its aspects including safety, testing and legal issues, was the major topic of the 33rd Clemson University Global Tire Industry Conference, held recently in Hilton Head.
Semi-automated vehicle safety features—such as tire pressure monitoring systems, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning systems and blind spot warning systems—are the building blocks for autonomous vehicles, according to Eugene A. Petersen, director of standards and regulations at Consumer Reports.
Consumer demand for safety has driven the adaptation of new safety features, Petersen said. In a national CR survey of 1,097 drivers who said they were likely to buy a new car in the next two years, safety edged out cost as the most important buying factor, with reliability third, he said.
Cars with full or partial autonomous driving may well be commonplace in the next decade, according to Petersen. Yet this has created some concern at CR, he said.
"We feel people are going too far with these systems," he said. "We think there should be sensors to tell you when to put your hands back on the wheel."
Tires on autonomous vehicles will need not only TPMS but treadwear sensors, weather-related sensors, and ride and handling feedback, according to Petersen.
Tires will be tailored to vehicle dynamics, such as controlled speed limits and predictive steering rates, he said.
"I'm having a hard time understanding this, because I like driving," Petersen said.
James A. Popio, vice president of Smithers Rapra & Smithers Pira North America, agreed with most of Petersen's observations, but added one of his own.
"Getting to full autonomy is going to be tough," Popio said.
There are excellent reasons to adopt AV technology, according to Popio. It has the potential to reduce vehicle-related injuries and deaths by 50 to 90 percent, and it could drive cost savings by reducing traffic jams and promoting ride-sharing, he said.