Recap of Detailed Sum. of Jan 16, 2018 Meeting Program

"Look Mom. No Hands!"

Predicting the Future at NECA's Winter Dinner and Program

NECA's January 16, 2016 meeting was one of the most interesting ever. We invited a panel with their fingers on the pulse of the issue of autonomous vehicles.

photo in image gallery, clockwise from top left: Eric Wulf, Mat Paisner, Jim Sproul, Rebekah Faria, Kris Carter

James Sproul, founder and Managing Director of The Sproul Company, sits on the board of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems' (AUVS) New England Chapter. Jim was involved with the launch of the first autonomous vehicle summit in the Boston area, and more events spotlighting emerging vehicle technology are planned. For upcoming events, visit

During his presentation, he reviewed the 5 levels of automation: Level 1, driver assistance (widely available now); Level 2, partial automation (more features are available and being introduced in new models all the time); Level 3, conditional automation during which the passenger can take over command (already available); Level 4, high automation (already available in select vehicles); and Level 5, full automation. He explained that the technology uses existing GPS technology combined with sensory cameras but few states have developed and passed the legislation necessary before fully autonomous vehicles can be widely used. MA does has pending legislation, and Boston is a leader, but we are the only New England state to have begun this process. Boston's focus is on safety, reliability and equity (access). He advised our audience to get in sync at the legislative level (ex. through MA DOT) and to develop partnerships with suppliers and software developers.

Rebekah Faria, Business Development Manager for GM Fleet and Commercial, provided the manufacturer's perspective. GM's vision is for a future with zero crashes, emission and congestion. She noted that GM is currently focusing on active safety features, both already available and for the future, with the goal of self-driving cars reducing accidents due to human error, with the potential of 1.25 million lives saved. GM has set a goal to have mass production of fully autonomous vehicles by 2019 and an all-electric fleet by 2026.

Rebekah described the many features already offered and in development to fulfill GM's vision. She noted two categories, alerts (vibration, audible or light) and braking, creating a veritable alphabet soup of features. Under alerts: FCA, front end collision; FDI, following distance indicator; LCA, lane change with side blind spot; LKA, lane change assist. Under braking: ACC, adaptive cruise control; FAB, forward automatic braking; IBA, intelligent brake assist; FPB, front pedestrian braking. You may already have some of these features in your car.

Kris Carter, a representative of the City of Boston Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics, discussed the initiatives currently being implemented as well as what has happened in the past 2 years. The City has similar goals of safety (reduce collisions, save lives), reliability (make travel more predictable in our very changeable climate), and access (interconnected neighborhoods, access for all, enhanced mobility for seniors and youth). The Mayor has issued an executive order to create a fleet of autonomous vehicles, that are electric and promote ride sharing.

Several companies are already testing autonomous, electric vehicles in South Boston's waterfront district. Through their testing, they have identified several unique conditions to address: Boston drivers, our weather, double buses with flex in the middle, and seagulls! He noted that the City would like to encourage ride sharing and less vehicle ownership which will both reduce congestion and the demand for parking.

Kris pointed out that there is a moral aspect to the whole concept of autonomous vehicles and the integration of artificial intelligence. Does the car perceiving a barrier, but does not realize it's human, act (to put it bluntly) to kill the pedestrian or the person in the vehicle? Check out

Our final speaker was one well-known to us, Eric Wulf, CAE, Executive Director of ICA. He reviewed some vehicle ownership and driving trends indicating that the industry needs to be fully prepared by 2051 for fewer cars and drivers on the road. The more immediate challenge to the industry (full and flex) is problems and damage reports relative to new technology: 61.2%, transmission; 39%, stop/start systems; 37.8%, collision avoidance systems; 37.8% keyless entries. ICA has been reporting this data to the automotive community to raise awareness and reach manufacturers. Eric noted a two-prong solution to many of these problems: educate drivers and car wash operators, and install simplified buttons in vehicle design to disengage systems at risk.

ICA has hired a research firm to collect and maintain data, and to update an informative web site each month. To date, they have information on 17 makes and 115 models, most information derived from owners' manuals. They have found that a lot is not in those manuals so they also are working with dealership sales staff. We encourage you to visit for the most current information collected by ICA.

Our audience responded to our panelists' presentations by asking lots of insightful questions from the audience: What autonomous technology is already in use by the military? What are the demographics to whom autonomous vehicles will appeal? What will happen to car lovers? Has the pace of technology already outstripped our ability to learn about it? What is being done in the area of cyber security to protect cars, drivers and the public? What common sense features (ex. to reduce distracted driving, prevent alcohol related accidents) are being introduced?

The biggest question, requiring the most advanced crystal ball, came last: Will all vehicles be self-driving and shared in the future? The panel was split.


Day of Event:01/16/2018
Time Starts:05:30 PM
Time Ends:09:00 PM


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