Intel Owned Mobileye Becomes First Company to Test Driverless Cars in NYC

Autonomous vehicle testing has begun in NYC, although it's very preliminary

Intel owned-Mobileye has begun testing two self-driving Ford Fusion sedans on NYC streets after receiving a special permit from New York State that allows "safety drivers" to keep their hands entirely off the steering wheel (reports are Mobileye went live in NYC about 6 weeks ago). The company’s test cars can also operate without police escorts, something, CNN reports, that has generally been required for any “hands-free” driving testing in New York City. Mobileye President & CEO Amnon Shashua said that there are plans to increase its NYC-based autonomous vehicle (AV) fleet to seven (up from two currently) over the next few months.

“I think for a human it’s very, very challenging to drive in New York City…not to mention for a robotic car.” - Mobileye President & CEO Amnon Shashua

Mobileye released a 40 minute unedited video of its vehicles navigating NYC streets (see below). While I personally think self-driving, in the sense of a driver completely being removed, is perhaps a decade, if not more, away - the Mobileye test in NYC is noteworthy. Extremely dense cities with lots of pedestrians, construction, weather variability, etc are generally seen as one of the most challenging environments for self-driving cars (i.e., one would expect self-driving on highways before a city). Mobileye’s Shashua also indicated an interest in launching a robotaxi service eventually, which then poses the interesting question of whether the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) would be involved in any future NYC AV licensing (i.e., if the cars are being used in for-hire transport similar to Waymo’s service in Phoenix)? In fact, as we mentioned in November 2020, NYC Council Member Justin Brannan proposed self-driving cars be regulated with special licenses (i.e., using existing medallions, perhaps FHV licenses) by the TLC. These definitely are the very early days of self-driving testing in NYC, but it’s something to keep track of.

“When Uber and Lyft first came to the city, there were no laws in place to stop them from flooding the streets…We didn’t see them coming back then and I think today, we’re still paying the price. This is a way for us to get in front of it…If Uber and Lyft want to go AV, then they need to work with existing medallions…That would prevent them from creating another bubble and steamrolling us” - NYC Council Member Justin Brannan

What do you think? Do you think self-driving cars are 1, 3, 5, 10 years+ a way in NYC? Are you nervous on its potential impact (i.e., drivers being displaced)? Do you think the TLC should be allowed to regulate AVs in NYC?

AutoMarketplace NYC Newsletter is written by Dawood Mian, Founder & CEO of AutoMarketplace. He covers the NYC for-hire transportation industry and related news. Search AutoMarketplace for cars, parts, tires, technicians, body shops, reviews, jobs & more. Find great deals at TLCMKT.COM (new site AutoMarketplace.io to be launched soon, sign-up to the newsletter if you are interested to learn more ahead of launch)