Although many fleets have announceed their commitments to acquire alternative fuel vehicles and conduct autonomous vehicle test projects, the Coronavirus pandemic has put a crimp in the development of AV technologies.
Several automotive companies postponed self-driving vehicle testing and deployment, and the shutdown of ride sharing services also has set back progress in AV technology development.
In May, Ford Motor Co. postponed AV commercial deployment for a year. Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent company, Alphabet Inc., temporarily suspended its on-road testing and ride-hailing offerings in Arizona.
Uber Advanced Technologies Group also reported layoffs of 3,500 employees due to the pandemic. General Motors shut down Maven, the car-sharing service GM debuted in 2016,which at that time it proclaimed was the wave of the future.
“The very premise of AV technology is to improve public safety and provide societal benefits, such as reducing the number of injuries or fatalities due to traffic accidents, reducing traffic congestion, and making transportation accessible for the elderly or people with disabilities,” say attorneys Chethan. Srinivasa and Pakin Pongcheewin of the law firm of
Foley & Lardner.
“AV companies have stepped up to the plate by applying their technology to solve unique problems posed by the pandemic,” they point out. “Indeed, AVs can be deployed to automate tasks during the stay-at-home order and enable social distancing by providing contactless services.”
Companies in China deployed AVs to disinfect areas. Robotaxi services provided transportation for people, and were modified to provide a temperature measurement and take disinfection measures.
“While COVID-19 will eventually disappear, these AV-based technical innovations are here to stay and will provide valuable benefits to society for the long-term,” the attorneys predict.