The battle for autonomous cars will be fought on US soil.
The United States may not be the first country you think of when you think of loose regulations on automobiles. Sure, the current administration just rolled back fuel economy targets, but the US has strict emissions and safety regulations that prevent us from importing in a variety of vehicles as well as draconian limitations of technologies such as headlights. One area where the US is quite lenient is autonomous car testing. Many manufacturers test their self-driving cars in the US and Automotive News reports that Europe is falling behind due to its stricter regulations.
Volkswagen is one of the companies that see the advantage of testing self-driving cars in the US. The German automaker recently attempted to purchase a California-based autonomous car startup called Aurora Innovations to help develop and build its Sedric Concept. Johann Jungwirth, Volkswagen Group's chief digital officer, is already concerned about European regulations regarding autonomous cars. VW has slated the Sedric for a 2021 launch but will now release the car in the US instead of its home market in Germany as it initially planned.
The Sedric Concept was first shown off at the Geneva Motor Show, then again at the Frankfurt Motor Show, insinuating that the car was built with the European market in mind - now, the US will be the target market. "My goal is to be in the first U.S. cities with driverless cars in 2021," Jungwirth said. A rollout in China, Singapore and in the Middle East will follow, "and then comes Europe. We would love to come earlier since it's our home market, but the legislation just isn't there."
The US is simply a better place to develop autonomous cars at the moment. Many automakers have teams of engineers in Silicon Valley and the California state government supports autonomous car testing. By comparison, Europe is hampered by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, which represents 60 countries and has yet to reach a consensus for a rollout of self-driving vehicles. VW has the potential to buy one of the first to market with a Level 5 autonomous car, which would be huge for the company's brand image.