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Torc Robotics, Blacksburg

Autonomous Vehicle Companies Build Foundation of Trust WHEN ANDY SCHAUDT addresses an

audience, he typically asks how many of them have ever ridden in an automated vehicle. At best, a smattering of hands reach skyward. He then recasts the question: How many have ever used cruise control in their cars? “Everybody raises their hands,” said Schaudt, program director for the Center for Automated Vehicle Systems at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). Schaudt would then tell his audience that cruise control is indeed a form

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of automation — and that engineers, researchers, and the industry have been conducting research into it, and similar applications, for the better part of 40 years. The two responses arguably illustrate both the present state of robotic technology and the public’s understanding of what it can and cannot do. “It leads to a discussion that we’re using all of these terms interchangeably, and we really don’t understand what they mean,” Schaudt said. “The key is that automated vehicles today are not completely taking the driver out of the loop, so they are not

fully ‘self-driving’ in that sense.” As the nation is well on the path of coming to grips with the emergence of unmanned technology, Virginia is assuming a significant place in the progression. This likewise entails careful assessments, each step of the way, of the capabilities as they emerge into practicable use among the general populace. VTTI, the second-largest university-level transportation institute in the United States with 560 employees, leads much of Virginia’s research into understanding what automation can do. The Virginia