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New Laws Pushing Driverless Cars to Roam the Streets Legally

When the self-driving car debuted in August 1961, the innovative mode of transportation proved that it deserved a spot on the streets. To date, lawmakers in the United States are doing everything they can to legitimize the use of self-driving cars. They believe that autonomous vehicles could make a bold impact on the society.

The technological advancements made to autonomous vehicles are just hints of what’s more to come. Which is why, bills like the Safety Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution (Self Drive Act), and the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV Start Act) will definitely help self-driving cars reach their full potential.

What is the Self Drive Act?

In September of last year, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Self Drive Act. The legislation guarantees that autonomous vehicles will have a safe and advance development. It also promises self-driving cars a positive testing and an upright deployment.

According to Greg Walden, the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, “Self-driving cars hold the promise of making America’s roads safer, creating new economic opportunities, and helping seniors and those with disabilities live more independently. The Self Drive Act strikes the critical balance of enhancing consumer safety while promoting the continued development of this cutting-edge technology.”

Reports suggested that Representative Robert Latta, R-Ohio sponsored the Self Drive Act. It also took more than 300 meetings with the stakeholders before the House approved the legislation.

The first thing to remember about the Self Drive Act is its collaboration with the Department of Transportation. The organization has two years to release a new rule for the manufacturers of driverless vehicles. The rule will oblige manufacturers to present safety assessment certification.

Second, the Department of Transportation has only a year to issue a safety security strategy. In the plan, the organization will assist manufacturers with the creation of a driverless car to its deployment.

Lastly, manufacturers need to prove that their autonomous cars are safe. If that happens, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will grant them exemptions. The said exemptions would begin at 25,000 and will grow on years to come.

All About the AV Start Act

Senator John Thune and Senator Gary Peters sponsored the AV Start Act. The bill creates guidelines for the technology of highly automated vehicles (HAV). People considered the statute as a Senate’s bill. AV Start Act also got the green light from the Senate Commerce Committee in October of last year.

Just like the Self Drive Act, the Senate’s law also allows the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to control the overall performance of the self-driving cars. Critics say that the said statute has already made various state and local officials happy.

The United States Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, and the National Governors Association are just some agencies that support the AV Start Act. The agencies stated in their letter that, “With this approach, state and local laws will continue to focus on the operational safety laws regulating motor vehicles and their operators after such vehicles have been constructed and introduced to public roadways.”

The bill lets manufacturers present the safety evaluation reports of their driverless cars to the Department of Transportation. The reports tackle areas like cybersecurity, crashworthiness, and safety. These reports must then proceed to the federal government before manufacturers start to create and deploy their cars.

Cities and Technologies: Elements that Could Help the New Laws Prosper

Self Drive Act and AV Start Act focus on protection, innovation, mobility, and development. If the laws achieved these four things, the world could see an 80% reduction in road accidents by 2040.

This data from the consulting firm, KMPG is a living testimony that different places in America are on board to new laws. Last year, 33 states have presented legislation related to self-driving vehicles.

The District of Columbia also known as Washington, D.C. is giving autonomous vehicles a voice of their own. With the help of the automotive manufacturer, Audi Washington, D.C. was able to inaugurate a pilot project.

Because of Audi’s Traffic Light Information feature, its car models can now get information from a centralized traffic light system. Drivers will know how much time left before the red light turns to green.

Scott Keogh, the President of Audi in America, said, “Not only do vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies like Traffic Light Information help to reduce driver stress, they are also essential infrastructure developments as we continue toward an automated future.”

The TLI feature of Audi started in Las Vegas in 2016 and now, different cities are adopting it. From Dallas to Palo Alto, the TLI feature is creating a bold impact on the growing industry of driverless cars.

Right now, Audi is using a 4G LTE hotspot in order to process the feature of TLI. However, the automotive manufacturer is planning to upgrade once the technology of 5G is out on the market.

A Roadblock for the New Laws

In spite efforts of strengthening the laws for driverless cars, there are still people who oppose to the idea – and a prominent one is Senator Dianne Feinstein.

She said, “It seems to me that you have to have a period of time where these cars are put on roads, but not necessarily heavily impacted California freeways that are going 65 to 75 miles per hour. That’s my view, I’m a driver, and I know I wouldn’t feel very comfortable.”

Feinstein and other senators are demanding some changes to the new legislation. She believed that driverless cars are not yet ready for roadways or they might be prone to cyberattacks. According to Feinstein, she just wants to ensure the safety of the people.

Senator Richard Blumenthal also supports Feinstein, saying that the computer-driven cars are unproven technology. He recently test drove a Tesla Model 3 and Blumenthal said the Tesla left him with a “false sense of security” and would have collided with the other car without Fisher’s intervention.

“It felt frightening to be headed in a vehicle with no guarantee it would stop,” he said.

However, the people who support the new bills like Senator John Thune mentioned that they are willing to work with critics who have objections and give a proper solution to their concerns. Thune is willing to do all this as long as the changes will not undermine the real point of the legislation.

Self Drive Act and AV Start Act are just the first ones that could help better the purpose of the autonomous vehicles. Moreover, politicians need to find a common ground to implement better legislation for the growing industry of driverless cars.


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Mini-Antibodies in Shark and Camel Blood are Creating New Drugs

It is hard to imagine what sharks and camels could have in common. However, in an unusual case of convergence, researchers discovered that both species carry a type of antibody that is half the size of the conventional ones. Often referred to as mini-antibodies, these proteins are more soluble, can bind to pathogens more efficiently, and can do their work inside cells.

Understanding Antibodies

Within our lymphatic system are Y-shaped proteins called antibodies. These antibodies also referred to as immunoglobulins and gamma globulins are the foot soldiers that ward off invading antigens such as bacteria or viruses. Conventional antibodies have two heavy chains, two light chains, and two antigen-binding sites. Upon detection of rogue antigens, antibodies start neutralizing toxins by locking its antigen-binding sites on the outer walls of the toxins. This stops the virus or bacteria from moving around and causing further damage to the cells.

Mini-antibodies, in contrast, are devoid of the light chain. They only carry two heavy chains and antigen-binding sites. The significance of this discovery lies in the mini-antibody’s capacity to reach deep into every nook and cranny and bind effectively with its target molecule.

Camels and the Discovery of Mini-antibodies

Like any other groundbreaking discoveries, this smaller antibody was a serendipitous discovery. Students from the Free University of Brussels in the late 1980s refused to use human blood samples for a lab exam because of the possibility of contracting diseases. They also rejected the idea of killing a lab mouse for this study. Left with few resources, students had to use a stash of frozen dromedary camel serum as an alternative. The study left them with puzzling results. The antibodies that they have extracted were mini-versions of the conventional types. This led the team to look further into the blood samples of animals from the same family such as llamas and camels. And their findings—all had the same miniature antibodies.

Camels and sharks may soon take center stage in medical science
Camels and sharks may soon take center stage in medical science

 Sharks and Nanobodies

Popular culture painted sharks in a villainous image. Mention the word shark and one can quickly conjure images of swimmers fighting for their lives against this ferocious predator. However, exciting developments in the field of immunology may change this perception soon. Scientists have identified sharks as a source of nanobodies with great potential in helping fight diseases in humans.  Nanobodies are a novel class of therapeutic proteins that contain the structural and functional properties of heavy chain-only or Camelid-type antibody—sans the chains. Apart from their small size, nanobodies are highly soluble, stable, heat-resistant, and easily replicated.

Attack of the Nanobodies

Nanobodies have introduced a host of applications that is helping advance the research, diagnostic, and therapeutic segments in the field. Researchers use nanobodies in the study of intracellular protein function because of their small size. Conventional-type antibodies usually disintegrate upon attachment to the outer walls of the cells. Nanobodies can pierce through cell walls while the target cells go about its business. This attribute of the nanobodies is used to manipulate proteins. Cells can be triggered to either deplete or manufacture nanobodies within its walls, depending on the desired outcome. Certain molecules can be very shifty that it is difficult to study its structure. Nanobodies are becoming a valuable tool in cell imaging as it helps in stabilizing molecules.

Examination of unstable molecules and processes that were previously difficult to pin down is now possible through nanobodies. Biochemist Hidde Ploegh of the Boston Children’s Hospital shares that the ability of the nanobodies to stabilize proteins is helpful in further understanding their structures.

Remedy comes in small packages

For therapeutic applications, nanobodies are useful in treating blood-clotting diseases. An antibody derived from camels and llamas will soon be available in the market that will help treat a rare clotting disease. Researchers are also looking at treating rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and lupus with the help of these mini-antibodies. Medical researchers are also looking at nanobodies to help treat brain diseases. Blood-brain barrier rebuffs large molecules including conventional antibodies and many drugs.  Nanobodies may be able to cross this barrier, allowing the medicine to cross into the brain. Ossianix, a United Kingdom-based biotech company, has started developing a technology using a shark-derived antibody.

Nanobodies loaded with cancer-killing compounds can attach itself to specific cells making cancer treatment less painful and less expensive. These mini-antibodies are also useful in tracking down cancer and tumor cells. Nanobodies with fluorescent tracers can be introduced into the patient’s system, bind tightly to tumor cells, making it easier to identify and extract them.

The potential of mini-antibodies and nanobodies in the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases is open for further research. Current trends and directions are quite promising. Most of all, we have fierce sharks and dependable camels as part of our team.