The U.S. ranks fourth – behind The Netherlands, Singapore, and Norway – on the 2019 Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index, compiled by consulting firm KPMG.
Although the U.S. public still seems to be struggling with what to think about AVs, Richard Threlfall of KPMG notes that “we have seen a huge acceleration in investment in AV technology, in policy adoption by governments to encourage AVs, and in media coverage of the topic.”
Several important milestones occurred along the way in 2018:
- China allowed for the first tests on its public roads.
- The California Department of Motor Vehicles removed a requirement that AVs must have a human driver to take over in emergencies.
- Japan announced plans to provide AV service for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
- Ford created a new AV division.
- Europe’s first autonomous ride-hailing service was launched, and
- Ford, Walmart and, Postmates announced a pilot to deliver groceries with AVs.
The Netherlands gets the top spot in the firm’s ranking because it has plans in place for more than 100 driverless trucks to run routes between major cities, intends to reward a special driver’s license for AVs that perform up to certain test standards, and has created a general framework to help in a wide range of situations, such as quickly introducing AVs for airport public transportation and avoiding AV interaction with people on bikes in urban areas.
One of the highlights for AVs in the U.S., the report notes, is that states like Ohio, Arizona, Michigan, and Massachusetts are opening access to road trials and creating coordinating agencies. However, what the country does lack is a strong national approach, which means that states are spending a lot of time trying to attract AV business.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is highlighted in the report for having launched a program to get a grasp on AVs. VDOT officials predict this coordination will result in an AV pilot operating in 2019.
Thankfully, KPMG addresses one of the main dilemmas of the AV revolution, in that there will need to be a whole lot of hand-holding and public education baked into all future efforts. With so much emphasis on getting the technology, planning, and policy correct, this has been neglected, and it’s showing since so much of the public remains uncertain and skeptical about AVs.
While it wasn’t in the 2018 rankings, KPMG introduced a measurement for public enthusiasm for AVs. India (24th overall) and Mexico (23rd overall) are tops in the category, which “suggests that countries currently lacking good road transport may be particularly keen to adopt AVs. These countries would rise quickly in the rankings if governments actively developed other pillars.”
Photo by UN Geneva/Flickr.