A proposal for autonomous vehicle technology in California

Surfer's beach El Granada, California in the early afternoon.
Dear Governor Elect Jerry Brown,

        Please write me back if you would like me to develop this idea further.

        The idea is to develop and implement autonomous vehicle technology (AVT) in California.

        The computer side of a project like this needs a software design and a hardware prototype.  The vehicle will have a kind of computer that reads sensors and sends control signals to the vehicle. This device presents a self describing interface. The autonomous vehicle computer connects to this interface. The interface tells the computer about the car and what this specific car can and can't do. 

       Instead of every make and model of automobile and truck having different and unique autonomous vehicle operation features, I argue that the car and the autonomous vehicle computer should be separate units. One advantage of partitioning the system is the autonomous vehicle programs can be tested on a simulator. Second, autonomous vehicle computer software can be written to optimize different objectives. An autonomous vehicle could run a commuter collision avoidance program and a ride sharing program too. A socially useful program would be an impaired or distracted driver program that helps a vehicle operate safely even if the driver is impaired by alcohol.

        The political side of this project needs somebody who can make the following points:

        We need 1 new chapter passed in the Vehicle Code.
        We need the drunk driving law enforcement establishment to put autonomous vehicle technology to work completely stopping drunk driving deaths.

The California government has two roles in this scheme:

        The first role for California government is to implement vehicle code and other laws to use the technology. One immediate field for laws enabling AVT use is in drunk driving accident prevention.

        The second role for California government is to bring together the makers and designers of autonomous vehicle technology (many of them are in the State now) to quickly roll out on California roads AVT technology.

        One California specific political purpose is to assist in the growth of California businesses furnishing the computers, sensors and programs required by autonomous vehicles.

        A second political purpose is to use AVT technology in California to facilitate the better use existing vehicles and roads with a higher load factor, lower CO2 emission, lower pollution and greater safety.

        I see one short term way a project like this can benefit California:

        Autonomous vehicle technology can provide a great reduction in injury and deaths due to drunk driving. The zero tolerance alcohol law has been estimated to reduce teen age binge drinking by 12%.

        A very simple use of autonomous vehicle technology with existing cars is to stop the car if the driver is drunk. A basic autonomous vehicle control setup could cost $3000.
        In California, the drunk driving problem has about 1700 fatalities per year, 28,000 injuries per year and 200,000+ DUI traffic stop events per year. These are 2008 numbers taken from:

        A second benefit to the State is autonomous vehicle technology can lead to many innovations in transportation. As the sophistication of the vehicle control adapter increases, layers of benefit appear.

An autonomous vehicle computer with just a GPS and a cellular data phone could do real time paid and insured ride sharing. This could raise the commuter miles per gallon by a factor of 50% or more with existing vehicles.
An autonomous vehicle computer with basic vehicle control and basic sensors could do coast between stoplights and stay in lane. The vehicle could avoid blind intersection, speed and fog related collisions.
An autonomous vehicle computer with more vehicle control could avoid cats, possums and deer. It could do self parking and . The driver could let go of the steering wheel. Public buses could run sometimes without an expensive operator driving the bus. Vehicles could caravan in groups.
Commercial vehicles are a huge market for AVT because commonly the labor cost of the driver equals the operational cost of the vehicle at around 35 mph. Long haul trucks run as fast as possible to minimize labor cost. With AVT technology, a long haul truck could be operated at the slower lowest fuel use and least pollution emitted speed.
An AVT computer could be used on a bicycle to enable the rider to reach every traffic light at the best time.

Thank you Governor Brown for reading this email.