DETROIT — Many cities compete to get more self-driving technology experiments on their roads, but when Inrix announced its plan to launch its technology in Portland, Maine, locals responded with suspicion.
Inrix, a connected-vehicle data and analytics company that acts as an intermediary among the public sector, automakers and autonomous vehicle operators, said it would launch AV Road Rules, a platform designed to bridge the data gap between highly autonomous vehicle operators and road authorities.
"There was a largely warm reception, with a notable exception. One of those being a letter to the editor written by a concerned citizen," said Avery Ash, head of autonomous mobility for Inrix.
The writer said Inrix was after "venture capital dollars and somehow [Inrix was] going to use Portland, Maine, and then take our profits elsewhere."
The man's letter was indicative of much of the public's reaction to autonomous vehicles, Ash said. If people don't understand the technology, many assume something about it is wrong or fishy, he said.
In response to the letter and other questions, Inrix worked with Portland to put together a panel of experts who took questions from locals at a middle school gym for more than two hours.
And it paid off. The man who wrote the letter admitted that Inrix had a pretty good idea. The meeting left people on both sides — the experts and the public — feeling better about the process, Ash said.
To expand the education initiative, Inrix became part of a group whose goal is to "inject some realism into this conversation," Ash said.
Partners for Automated Vehicle Education is a coalition of industry, nonprofit and academic institutions with one goal: to inform and educate the public and policymakers on AVs and the impact the technology will have on the future of mobility.
PAVE members also include AAA, Audi of America, Daimler, Intel, National Safety Council, NVIDIA, SAE International, Toyota, Volkswagen and Waymo.
"My hope is that PAVE can take that sort of a model and expand it," beyond education sessions and Q&As to be a resource for both constituents and policymakers, he said.
"It's not about convincing somebody that they should want an autonomous vehicle. It's about giving them information," Ash said. "We want to make sure you've got the information to actually make a sound decision and aren't worrying about Fast and Furious 8."