News Roundup: Singapore Signs Deal to Launch Driverless Buses, Analysts Point to 2025 as ‘Point of Disruption’ For Industry, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

Driverless buses to launch in Singapore within three years

On Monday, April 10, Singapore’s Land Transit Authority (LTA) signed an agreement with the company ST Kinetics to build and test autonomous buses. ST Kinetics is expected to provide two 40-person shuttle buses to be tested in public, likely in the areas of the University of Singapore campus and Jejong Island. If testing goes well, additional vehicles will be tested in more locations, and then LTA said they hope to launch the buses to the general public by 2020. ST Kinetics said the buses navigate via GPS signal and have sensors and radar that can detect pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles up to 200 meters ahead. The company also said the buses can currently operate in rain of up to 10mm, and is working on increasing that to operate in heavier rain. Read more and see video from ChannelNews Asia.

 

Boston Consulting: One-quarter of all miles traveled will be autonomous by 2030; automakers not moving fast enough

A new study released by the Boston Consulting Group this week said they expect by 2030 that one-quarter of all miles traveled will be in autonomous vehicles, with a significant percentage in shared vehicles. The shift is expected to start in the early 2020s, they said. Particularly in cities with more than 1 million people, BCG analysts think it will soon be more economically advantageous for people to ditch their personally owned vehicles and opt for robot taxis and autonomous ride sharing. However, BCG also criticized automakers for not moving fast enough in developing and regulating autonomous vehicles. BCG warns that automakers that do not put significant effort into this now will see their biggest assets – their sellable vehicles — turn into liabilities by 2030, when 5 million personal cars will be replaced by an estimated 4.7 million autonomous vehicles, they expect. Read more from Bloomberg.

 

Is Australia the most eager nation for driverless cars?

According to a new survey by Roy Morgan Research, Australians are warming significantly to the idea of driverless cars. Forty-six percent of citizens in a recent survey said they would hop into a driverless car today. Specifically, 51 percent of men and 41 percent of women–who appeared the more cautious gender–said they look forward to driverless vehicles. A whopping 61 percent of millennials compared to 26 percent of baby-boomers said they look forward to the technology. Roy Morgan Research said they expect the main point of disruption in the auto industry to take place in 2025. Australia has been blazing down the driverless trail for a few years now, hosting trials of self-driving cars on public roads, implementing driverless technology into its public transit systems, and conducting research at the professional and university levels. Read more on Which-50.com.

Photo: ST Kinetics test vehicle in Singapore, courtesy of ChannelNews Asia.

News Roundup: Volkswagen Unveils ‘Sedric,’ Its New Level 5 Autonomous Car, Truck Drivers Push Back Against Autonomous Trucks, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A look at some of the most interesting news to come out of the driverless transportation industry this week:

Volkswagen unveils ultra-modern-looking Level 5 autonomous car

No, this isn’t a giant Pokémon on wheels–it’s Volkswagen’s new fully autonomous concept car, named “Sedric” (a mashup of the term “self-driving car”), just unveiled this week. Volkswagen is hailing it as a Level 5 autonomous car, “capable of operating any driving mode in any environmental condition, allowing passengers to sit back and enjoy the ride.” The concept is evident by the car’s interior, designed to look more like a mobile lounge than the interior of a car. The car will be optimized for shared mobility, meaning passengers will have a “universal mobility ID” and be able to hail a Sedric from anywhere with their smartphones. Sedric will automatically recognize and remember each passenger when it arrives, allowing the passengers to talk to them in any language naturally, including with slang. Passengers will also be able to choose whether to look at the world passing by through the windshield, or choose entertainment like a movie or TV while they ride. Read more and see photos from SlashGear.

 

Trucking companies push back against autonomous trucks

The Alliance for Driver Safety and Security recently voiced its opposition to claims that autonomous trucks will soon take over the industry and cost truck drivers their jobs. Representatives say that the “accountability” of human drivers is too important to fully hand over to a machine, and that drivers should not be worried about losing their jobs to technology anytime soon, at least in the next few years. “A change to driverless vehicles will occur gradually–if at all,” the Alliance said recently. The organization represents major trucking companies like J.B. Hunt, Knight Transportation and KLLM Transportation, among others. “Truckers, after all, are not just operators but also cargo monitors and a key point of communication for logistics providers,” they explained. Read more from Supply Chain Dive.

 

Toyota unveils new autonomous concept car

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) unveiled its new autonomous concept car, called the Toyota Advanced Safety Research Vehicle (TASRV), at the company’s annual Prius Challenge in Sonoma, California recently. The vehicle consists of Toyota’s plug-and-play autonomous system on a Lexus LS 600hL. Toyota representatives say the “flexible” system will be easy to upgrade often as the technology continues to advance. The on-board technology in the TASRV “focuses heavily on machine vision and machine learning and includes an array of layered and overlapping LIDAR, radar and camera sensors that reduce the need to rely on high-definition maps.” Toyota reps said they believe the technology will have invaluable applications throughout the industry as it helps bring driverless technology to areas without high-definition mapping. The car will also be able to share data with and gathered from other cars. Read more from Kelley Blue Book.

News Roundup: Trump Administration Reviews Federal Self-Driving Car Guidelines, Roborace Shows Off New Driverless Race Car, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of headlines to come out of the driverless transportation industry the past week:

Roborace and NVIDIA show off electric driverless race car

Roborace is creating some buzz with previews of its new electric, driverless race car, powered by a “brain” created by NVIDIA. According to Engadget, the car features a 540kW battery and four 300kW motors, which the Roborace team says can push the car up to 320 km per hour, or 199 miles per hour. The car is outfitted by a wealth of sensors, including two radars, five LIDARs, 18 ultrasonic sensors, two optical speed sensors and six AI-driven cameras, all feeding into NVIDIA’s “brain.” The car’s ultra-futuristic styling comes from chief designer Daniel Simon, who has worked on such science-fiction blockbusters as Tron: Legacy and Captain America: The First Avenger. No word yet on when the car will first race on a real racetrack, but the team promises more demonstrations this year. Read more and see photos from Engadget.

 

New Transportation Secretary ‘reviewing’ federal driverless car guidelines released under Obama administration

Brand-new U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told the National Governor’s Association this past weekend that the Trump administration is “reviewing” federal guidelines regarding driverless vehicles, released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) late last year. Automakers, tech companies and transportation officials across the globe have been holding their breath since the new president took office, wondering if President Trump would scrap the progress made during the final months of President’s Obama’s second term, or would embrace it and press ahead. Positively, though, Chao said the new administration wanted to be “a catalyst for safe, efficient technologies, not an impediment.” Read more from The Hill.

 

Renault-Nissan, Transdev partner up to start on-demand driverless car service

Renault-Nissan and Transdev have signed a research contract to develop an on-demand service that connects people to driverless cars to get around. Transdev consults and helps manage public transportation operations in Asia, Europe and North America, and is involved in a number of pilot autonomous vehicle tests in France. The app the two companies plan to build will assist both sides of the business–the consumers that hail the driverless cars for rides, and the operators of the fleet companies. The Renault-Nissan Alliance says it plans to launch cars that can navigate city intersections and heavy urban traffic without driver intervention by 2020. Read more from Fortune.

 

Survey: The More Familiar People Become With Driverless Cars, The More They Accept Them

Bobatoo.co.uk

A new survey by insurance advice website Bobatoo.co.uk has found that the attitudes of UK drivers toward driverless cars is beginning to improve.

Bobatoo ran the same survey 18 months ago and found that UK motorists were not too keen on the idea of self-driving cars taking to the roads.

It would seem attitudes are beginning to soften though, as the new survey results show that more UK drivers are looking forward to the prospect of driverless cars.

Of the 2,109 respondents to this latest survey, 34 percent admitted to being “excited” about self-driving cars, a significant increase from the 2015 survey when just 26 percent of respondents said they were “excited.”

A similar change in opinion was evident when respondents were asked if they would prefer a self-driving car over their current car. In 2015, 28 percent said they would rather have a driverless car. That figure has now jumped to 37 percent.

One of the reasons for this apparent change in attitude could be the increase in awareness of self-driving cars among the UK public as a whole. In 2015, more than a third of respondents were not aware that companies like Google and Uber were working on driverless car technology. That figure is down to just 24 percent now, suggesting that the more familiar we become with the technology, the more we accept it.

Revealing the results of the new survey, a spokesman for Bobatoo said, “When the idea of self-driving cars was first mooted by the likes of Google, the main concern among the public was about safety.

“The results of our new survey show that, whilst there is still a long way to go, it would seem that the general public is not only warming to the idea of self-driving cars, they are actively looking forward to them.”

By The Numbers:

A total of 2,109 UK residents were surveyed.

Gender:

Male – 53%

Female – 47%

Age:

17-24 – 12%

25-35 – 28%

35-45 – 21%

45-55 – 27%

55-65 – 8%

65+ – 4%

Do you have a valid U.K. driving license?

Yes – 72%

No – 28%

Are you aware that companies such as Google are currently developing self-driving cars?

Yes – 76%

No – 24%

How do you feel about the development of self-driving cars?

Excited – 34%

Concerned – 28%

Not bothered – 38%

Would you prefer to have a self-driving car instead of your current car?

Yes – 37%

No – 45%

Don’t know – 18%

 

Image: Rendering of Google driverless car / Credit: Google

News Roundup: Tesla’s New Self-Driving Hardware to Debut This Month, Three Groups Get Green Light For Testing Driverless Cars in Ontario, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A look at some of the biggest headlines to come out of the driverless and connected-car industry over the past week:

Elon Musk says Tesla will roll out new self-driving feature before the end of the year

After announcing that all cars made after Oct. 19 would feature all-new self-driving hardware, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said this week that the company would gradually start activating the new capability “in about three weeks.” However, there still appears to be much confusion and speculation over just how “autonomous” the new feature will be, including whether a driver will still be expected to keep eyes on the road, or hands on the steering wheel. Additionally, some Tesla owners are upset that the newer models hae been stripped of so many of their previous features, in favor of the new hardware. Read more from Computer Business Review.

Three groups get licenses to test driverless cars in public in Ontario

Ontario’s Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca pulled up to a press conference recently in the “Autonomoose”–a self-driving Lincoln MKZ hybrid sedan–to announce to reporters that three groups have been granted permission to test their driverless prototypes on public roads in the province. The University of Waterloo’s Centre for Autonomous Research will test the MKZ starting early next year; Erwin Hymer Group is the second, and QNX, a division of Waterloo’s BlackBerry, will develop vehicle software in association with its test of automated features of a 2017 Lincoln. Read more from TheStar.com.

Construction begins on American Center for Mobility in Michigan

Progress on the new American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan is moving quickly. Just months after the sale of the old 330-acre Willow Run test site was finalized, construction on the ACM has already broken ground. A ceremonial first dig by officials including Governor Rick Snyder was conducted last week. ACM will be a site for testing autonomous and connected-car vehicle technology, and is expected to be open for business by this time next year. Read more and see photos on Detroit Free Press.

News Roundup: Singapore Adds Hybrid Buses to Its List of Driverless Options, Fisker Teases Its Answer to Tesla’s Model 3, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A look at some of the most interesting headlines to come out of the driverless, connected-car world this week.

Driverless taxis and shuttles test so well, Singapore moves on to buses

After public tests of self-driving taxis and shuttles have gone so well, Singapore is already planning to expand its driverless transportation offerings. This week, news outlets like TechCrunch, Engadget and ChannelNewsAsia gave a sneak peek of designs for driverless hybrid buses that feature Lidar, V2X capabilities and even night-vision. An initial pilot launch will apparently consist of two full-size buses that will transport passengers between Nanyang Technological University and CleanTech Park, and potentially even beyond to Pioneer MRT station. The first route has been tested with a driverless shuttle since 2013, TechCrunch reports. See maps of the routes and read more information about the buses and testing on TechCrunch.

 

Henrik Fisker posts teaser photo of driverless car he says will give Tesla a run for its money

Renowned automotive designer Henrik Fisker teased fans this week by posting twfisker-driverless-caro photos of what he says is his forthcoming autonomous-capable car that will give Tesla’s Model 3 a run for its money. The first photo is dark and only shows the front bumper, but was enough to get people excited. The second photo is a dark silhouette of the entire car with its wing-style doors up. Fisker said the long-range electric car will eventually have full autonomous capabilities, and that he is teaming up with a top automotive supplier for the autonomous system, though he declined to state which one. Read more from the Business Journal.

 

Wanis Kabbaj’s TED Talk: What a driverless world would look like

Transportation geek Wanis Kabbaj thinks we can find inspiration in the genius of human biology to design the transit systems of the future. In his recent TED Talk, Kabbaj asks, what if traffic flowed through our streets as smoothly and efficiently as blood flows through our veins? Get a closer look at Kabbaj’s vision and hear his TED Talk on Ted.com.

 

Images courtesy of Henrik Fisker

British ‘What Would You Do in Your Driverless Car’ Survey Yields Unexpected Results

Jennifer van der Kleut

When South London-based logbook lender Varooma set out to find out what activities Britons would most like to do in their driverless cars once they no longer have to drive their vehicles themselves, they got some unexpected results.

Instead of giving expected answers like sleep, work or watch videos, most Britons said–they wouldn’t be in a driverless car in the first place.

A whopping 73 percent of Britons surveyed said they prefer to drive themselves over taking a driverless car.

Along the same vein, 38 percent of responders said they would not purchase a driverless car, even if they were readily available for purchase and were the same price as regular cars.

Are autonomous vehicles better suited to future generations? Varooma suggests their survey results may indicate just that. Results said that 18- to 24-year-olds would be most comfortable and “chill” engaging in other activities rather than paying attention to the road in a driverless car.

Then, after skipping a generation or so, acceptance of the idea of driverless cars gains traction again as people enter their senior years. The survey results show that people of ages 55 to 64 are more likely to want to purchase a driverless car than adults age 45 to 54.

The idea of autonomous vehicles have long been touted as a solution for aging drivers, as well as those with physical disabilities.

However, those open to the idea of driverless cars did have a few ideas of what they would like to do on their commutes if they didn’t need to pay attention to the road.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 24 percent of men age 18-24 said they would “catch Pokemon.” Twenty-two percent said they would “catch up on sleep.”

Almost all responders said they would love to read a book or watch a movie.

Interestingly, more women said they would be a little distrusting of the technology and would probably keep one eye on the road (22.3 percent) than men (16.3 percent).

What jobs would Britons trust their car to do without them, while they were at work?

Another popular idea in regards to autonomous vehicles is the idea that your car could perform simple jobs for you while you are otherwise engaged, such as daytime work hours. So, Varooma also asked their survey takers what jobs they would feel comfortable sending their car to do while they were at work.

The number-one response from middle-aged men was “send their car to the car wash.”

The top answer from women of the same age was to send their car to pick up take-out food.

When it came to driving around their children, though, the numbers were a lot lower. Only around 4 percent of responders said they would feel comfortable having their autonomous car drive their children to school without them.

Even fewer said they would feel comfortable sending their car to deliver cash to someone–3.6 percent.

Varooma’s survey was conducted through Google consumer surveys. Their survey netted 1,591 online responses.

 

Mobility As A Service in the US – Who’s the Bank?

Burney Simpson

The time seems right for Mobility as a Service (MAAS). Travelers are looking to cut costs, congestion, and the bother of owning a vehicle. And autonomous technology and driverless vehicles could bring costs down so MAAS would be affordable for the masses.

A successful MAAS program will need a mix of transportation providers like public transit, privately-held firms like Uber and Lyft, shuttle and bus services, bike share programs, traditional taxi firms, car-share outfits like car2go, and others depending on the metro area.

But any MAAS project will also need three behind-the-scenes providers to grease the wheels.

Those are an app creator, a data analyzer, and a bank, said Tim Papandreou, director, Office of Innovation, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

“You need an entity that can create and maintain the app, (and an entity) to gather and analyze the data so transportation options are continually updated and improved, to meet customer needs and offer incentives,” said Papandreou. “Third, (there’s the entity) that will act as a payment facilitator. It will send money to the transportation provider.”

A single payments firm is essential, said transportation consultant Carol Schweiger.

“You pay one entity for all these services or else the concept won’t work. You can’t have users paying multiple providers,” said Schweiger, president of Schweiger Consulting.

Schweiger refers to a MAAS scheme where the traveler pays a monthly subscription fee to a service, covering her daily commute and a certain number of weekend and evening trips. That service is responsible for divvying up the funds to the transport providers.

LOGICAL PROVIDERS

MAAS is evolving but generally refers to a subscription-based, phone-app accessible mix of transportation options providing door-to-door service.

moovel-transit2Schedules and fees of the transportation providers will have to be online, integrated and continuously updated. That goes for weather and road condition information. The service is operated real-time, so a subscriber can preplan a journey, or find, pay for, and jump on the best option on the fly.

For now, there appear to be firms ready to step into the first two roles that Papandreou describes.

One ride search provider is the moovel app launched by Daimler this spring in Portland, Ore. It offers smartphone searching and the ability to make payments to multiple providers. But moovel is pay-as-you-go, there’s no monthly subscription service, says a spokesperson.

Second, data gathering and analysis is becoming core to intelligent transportation systems (ITS) with multinational giants like Siemens, Microsoft, IBM and others exploring the sector.

What’s missing is three, the bank.

Ford and GM are logical providers of this service though neither has expressed interest publicly in becoming a MAAS bank.

A BRIDGE TOO FAR?

Papandreou says the auto OEMs are still getting their heads around the idea of integrated mobility, so throwing in the concept of banking may be a bridge too far.

But it isn’t far-fetched.

Each has a financial arm with deep pockets.

The Ford Motor Credit Corp. provides loans through its Lincoln Automotive Service Corp. in the U.S., Canada and China. Net income for Ford Motor Credit tallied $1.4 billion in 2015, with managed receivables of $127 billion. Put simply, receivables measure the amount customers owe on loans.

GM subsidiary General Motors Financial reported net income of $646 million and total assets of $66 billion last year.

And there’s the possibility that fewer consumers will be buying cars if MAAS-style systems take hold.

“GM has to find new ways to make money if they don’t sell as many cars,” said Schweiger.

One way to do that could be to finance the system and earn income from payment processing.

“There are billions of transactions every day, this is a tremendous opportunity,” said Papandreou.

For now, the two big American auto OEMs don’t appear to be interested. GM is focused on expanding Lyft, in part with driverless vehicles it develops with Cruise Automation.

Ford’s new FordPass seeks to connect with customers through their smartphones. Millennials can do cool stuff like reserve a parking space and start their car.

But the payment angle is a work in progress. A customer earns rewards by purchasing Ford services, and the rewards can be redeemed at a Boomer brand like McDonald’s. A Ford spokesperson says FordPass is evolving, and changes will be coming.

Mobility As A Service is evolving too, and there will be different approaches in different cities. MAAS banking is a move away from an auto OEM’s core skill set but financing such a system could be quite rewarding.

Story photo – Piggy by Pictures of Money, 2014.

In Q1 2016, the Biggest U.S. Demographic Buying Mobile Data Service Was…Cars

Jennifer van der Kleut

Can you name someone you know who does not own a smartphone? It might be tough. It’s no secret that the U.S. smartphone market is heavily saturated.

When it comes to cellular service and data plans, the biggest piece of the pie when it comes to sales continues to be existing customers–that is, people who are already devoted smart-device customers, but are looking to upgrade to fancier, more high-tech mobile devices with better features, or who are switching providers to get a better deal on their service.

But an interesting new market report indicates that the biggest growth these days is coming from new customers wanting new types of devices–and the most attractive new customer is actually your car, Recode reports.

“In the first quarter, for example, the major carriers actually added more connected cars as new accounts than they did phones,” Recode reported.

In fact, 32 percent of all net-add devices (new devices previously not hooked up to data service) were cars last quarter, indicates industry consultant Chetan Sharma in her U.S. Mobile Market Update report.

Sharma reports that AT&T has been adding the most new connected-car clients, though Verizon remains an undisputed, overall industry leader.

“Verizon’s IoT/Telematics accounted for $195M in Q1 and is likely to cross the $1-billion mark in 2016, making the U.S. the hotbed for ‘Connected Intelligence’ activities, growth, and continued experimentation,” Sharma said.

Sharma reported that Apple dominated the device market in Q1, with a 39-percent share, and Android business rose only slightly, mostly thanks to sales of Samsung devices, while Sony, HTC, LG and some other Android players suffered “deep losses.”

Looking ahead, Sharma predicts the U.S. mobile data traffic to grow by 65 percent in 2016.

America’s First ‘Truly Sustainable’ Town, Babcock Ranch, Will Run on Driverless Transit

Jennifer van der Kleut

A former ranch in Florida is aiming to be America’s first truly sustainable town, powered by solar panels and natural gas, and run on driverless transit through a public ride-hailing app.

When the expansive property first went up for sale 10 years ago, the owners received offers from all around the world, according to FastCoexist.com. But the owners decided to sell it to Kitson and Partners, a developer who had a very special plan in mind.

After selling 74,000 acres to the state of Florida to be a nature preserve–the Florida Panther and black bear are found on the land, according to TIME Magazine–Kitson and Partners set about designing the town of Babcock Ranch, which could soon be home to 50,000 pioneering residents.

Babcock Ranch will reportedly be an optimally planned city that is largely walkable. A majority of homes will be close enough to downtown that most people can walk or bike to work or shopping. For those that need to go longer distances, or who will need to commute to another city for work, will be able to hail a driverless electric car through a public app similar to Uber or Lyft, explains Syd Kitson.Babcock Ranch plans

Kitson and Partners have other revolutionary plans in the works as well. Eventually, they want homes to be equipped with tele-health and graywater-recycling infrastructure, and they will be built to withstand all types of weather, so that residents can shelter in place during tornados or hurricanes without having to be evacuated out of town.

They are also researching the newest technology in energy storage. The current plan is that solar energy will power the town during the day when the sun is out, and at night, it will switch over to a grid powered by natural gas. Eventually, Kitson says they want to find a way to store up energy created by the solar panels during the day so that they no longer have to rely on the grid at night.

“The holy grail for renewable energy is figuring out how to store it so you don’t need to turn to the grid at night,” Kitson says. “We’re talking to several companies about how we can do that, even at a neighborhood scale, almost like a micro-community of a system,” Kitson told FastCoexist.com.

Excitingly, construction on the town is already underway. The driverless electric public transportation system is already in the works, and homes should start being built this summer, FastCoexist reports.

TIME Magazine says the town is approximately five times the size of Manhattan, and will be powered by a solar energy plant that features more than 350,000 panels.

Kilson says starting a town like Babcock Ranch from scratch is easier than trying to transform a already existing town.

“How you design your roads—thinking about pedestrian walkways and bike paths, if you’re making it walkable and bikeable and pedestrian-friendly—doing that from the beginning is much easier,” he told FastCoexist.com.

“Babcock Ranch will exemplify what it means to be a town of the future,” he told TIME. “The first residents will be settling into a whole new way of life—one that is conscientious, engaging and connected.”

Images of renderings created by Babcock Ranch.