CTS and CES 2018: Automotive Tech Innovators Ready to Wow in Las Vegas

In just a few days, Las Vegas will be buzzing with tech innovators from not only the world’s top electronics companies, but also dozens of automakers and firms working on connected and automated driving systems.

It all starts with the 2018 Consumer Telematics Show (CTS), which takes place Monday, Jan. 8 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino.

2018 Consumer Telematics Show (CTS)

CTS aims to bring together power players from automakers and technology companies that are working on connected and autonomous driving systems. Attendees can listen to presentations and forums with top executives and engineers from big-name companies, and have the chance to network.

The long list of companies confirmed to attend and/or participate in this year’s event includes Volvo, Volkswagen, Jaguar Land Rover, NVIDIA, AT&T, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Bose, BMW, Denso, Honda, Ford Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Lamborghini, Nissan, and many more.

See an up-to-date list of attendees on the CTS website here.

Highlights from this year’s list of speakers include:

  • Volkswagen of America: Burkhard Huhnke, Senior VP of e-mobility
  • Karma Automotive: Ken Stewart, Chief Business and Technology Officer
  • Hyperloop One: Matt Jones, Senior VP of Software
  • General Motors (GM): Kurt Hoppe, Global Head of Innovation – Connected Cars; and Nick Pudar, Director of Strategic Initiatives
  • Mobileye: Uri Tamir, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives
  • Continental: Lars Shultheiss, Head of Sales & Portfolio, Business Unit Infotainment & Connectivity
  • Audi: Brad Stertz, Director of Government Affairs
  • IBM: Rajiv Phougat, Chief Technologist – Industry Solutions, AAD

Forums and presentations at this year’s event cover a wide array of relevant topics, including the automotive data revolution, next-generation user experiences, the coming reality of autonomous vehicles, connected vehicle cybersecurity concerns, cities and mobility, electric vehicles and more.

The full agenda and schedule for CTS 2018 is available here. 

2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

Later in the week, the 2018 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) hits Las Vegas, from Jan. 9-12.

For roughly 50 years, CES has been drawing in technology enthusiasts and producers from all over the world. It is often the place where companies officially unveil their newest products and technologies, with flashy presentations. Many times they also show off lofty concepts that haven’t even been fully developed yet, in a bid to impress.

Two venues–the Venetian’s ballroom and the Monte Carlo’s Park Theater–will play host to a long list of keynote speakers this year, which will hail from companies like Intel, Ford Motor Co., the Huawei Consumer Business Group, Baidu, Qualcomm, Verizon, Comcast, Discovery Communications, YouTube, Hulu, and many more. See a full list of this year’s speakers, as well as videos from many of last year’s speeches, on the CES website here.

Though CES initially started out as an event mostly focused on the latest consumer gadgets, it has come to be quite the showcase for the latest in automotive innovation as well. Specifically, in the last decade, many automakers are choosing to show off the progress they are making toward connected and self-driving vehicles. In fact, it was named one of the 10 best automotive shows worldwide by USA Today recently.

This year, forums on topics such as “Autonomous Vehicles in the Cities of Tomorrow,” “The Future of Mobility and Autonomy” and “Cybersecurity and the Auto Industry” are scheduled to take place this year, with panelists from power players like Deloitte, Mobileye, General Motors, Renesas Electronics, Harman and Movement.ai are scheduled to take part.

Major media outlets like TechCrunch and The Verge predict that the automotive portion of this year’s show will be significant.

“Once again, a number of top car companies will be present, including Ford and Toyota. My guess is you’ll be seeing A LOT of self-driving car demo videos out of this year’s show,” TechCrunch said in an advance article.

“The auto industry is flush with [electric vehicle] and smart mobility startups these days. Tesla is still the most sound competitor to any of the big three automakers, but there’s a CVS receipt-sized list of others trying to fill the space between ‘tech company’ and ‘car company,'” said The Verge in their own preview article. “Many of them will be at CES showing off autonomous shuttles, self-driving technologies, electric scooters, and other futuristic transportation ideas — all things that companies like Ford (or Google, Intel, GM, you name it) are also working on in different capacities.”

In fact, The Verge reports that Byton, a Chinese automaker that has poached a lot of talent from Faraday Future, will be at CES showing off their first car — an all-electric SUV that it’s referring to as a “Smart Intuitive Vehicle.”

Get all the information you could ever need about 2018 CES on the official event page here.

Image: Toyota unveils a concept car at 2017 CES / Credit: CES Photo Gallery

Tesla Model 3 Delivery Rumors Help Keep D20 Stock Index Even

The rumors circulating that deliveries of the Tesla Model 3 have significantly ramped up helped keep the Driverless Transportation Weekly Stock Index (D20) from suffering from a third consecutive weekly loss. 

Hundreds of Tesla Model 3 vehicles have appeared at delivery centers, leading the market to believe that the automaker has conquered its production problems after a slow start, and is finally creating the vehicles at the rate they originally planned.

Tesla stock has responded appropriately, gaining 9.0 percent this week, while being the leading price-percentage gainer for the D20 in each of the last two weeks.

With 11 price losers and nine gainers, the D20 remained unchanged this week, closing at 252.14 and stopping a slide after two consecutive weeks of losses. For the third week in a row it lost ground to both the Dow, which gained 1.3 percent, and the S&P 500, which inched up 0.9 percent and closed at 2,675.81.

Visit the Driverless Transportation D20 Stock Index page to learn more about it and its component stocks.

Up-and-Comers: 

Upstream, an Israeli-based startup, has announced it has landed a $9-million Series A round of funding. The focus of the startup is on security for connected vehicles. It aims to protect vehicles that use services like On-Star with a cloud-based SaaS application versus an on-board security application.

Ouster, a LiDAR startup, announced it has raised $27 million in a Series A, to push its technology into mass production. Its first product, a 64-channel sensor called OS1, is available now and priced at $12,000. The company has focused on design for manufacturability and has monthly production targets of 1,000 in January 2018 and tens of thousands by the end of 2018.

Image: Tesla Model 3 / Credit: Tesla Motors

News Roundup: Ford Teases All-New Hybrid-Electric Self-Driving Car, Ouster Puts Its Autonomous Drive Sensor Up For Sale Online, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

Ford teases all-new hybrid-electric car designed specifically as a self-driving model

Ford Motors’s executive vice-president of global products, Jim Farley, gave a small sneak-peek this week as to the company’s plans for a self-driving car. In a blog post posted on Medium, Farley said the company has been hard at work behind the scenes designing an entirely new hybrid-electric model to serve as the company’s flagship driverless car. Farley says it will be suited for commercial deployment in both ride-hailing and delivery fleets. Ford representatives plan to start testing these vehicles in 2018, and said they are currently on track for commercial deployment in 2021. The cars will reportedly be manufactured at the company’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant in southeastern Michigan. Read more from Car and Driver.

 

Ouster: Our self-driving Lidar sensor is better, cheaper, and you can buy it now

It’s no secret that there is intense competition in the driverless transportation industry for the software, hardware and sensors that allow vehicles to navigate without needing human drivers. One startup, Ouster, is making waves this week by announcing to the world that their Lidar sensor is better than anything else currently on the market, is less expensive, and, most notably, it’s available for purchase now. The San Francisco-based firm has put its spinning, 64-laser OS1 Lidar sensor up for sale on its website at a price of $12,000. What’s more, the startup said it has raised $27 million from investors like Ford Motors’s Bill Ford and Cox Enterprises to boost production in anticipation of orders. In comparison, one of the most popular sensors on the market today, Velodyne’s HDL-64 sells for $75,000, and Ouster says its sensor is lighter, smaller and more efficient. Some compare the size of Velodyne’s sensor to a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, whereas Ouster’s sensor is half the size of a standard coffee mug. Read more about Ouster and its sensor from Forbes.

 

Apple exec shows off self-driving technology to large group of researchers

The usually secretive Apple gave a rare glimpse into its work on machine learning last week when the company’s director of artificial intelligence, Ruslan Salakhutdinov, entertained a large group of AI researchers during a conference. Salakhutdinov demonstrated how Apple uses machine learning as a technique for analyzing large stockpiles of data, and how it can be beneficial to self-driving vehicles. VoxelNet, Apple’s machine learning project that pertains to self-driving cars, can reportedly detect obstacles such as pedestrians and cyclists efficiently using 3D scans taken by lidar sensors, as well as cameras that can effectively track a car’s location in real-time. Salakhutdinov demonstrated how the VoxelNet software can detect pedestrians even when they are partially hidden behind parked cars, and during inclement weather when raindrops fell on the sensors. Read more from WIRED.

Image: Ouster sensor on a self-driving car navigating in the rain. / Credit: Ouster

eTrans Systems, George Mason University Win Fairfax County Transportation and Mobility Hackathon

Jennifer van der Kleut

Teams from Fairfax, Virginia’s eTrans Systems and students from George Mason University’s College of Science led the winners of the Fairfax County Government’s first Transportation and Mobility Hackathon.

Held just before the Thanksgiving holiday, the contest encouraged teams to present innovative solutions to pressing problems such as traffic, congestion, public safety, advancing of connected and automated vehicle technology, and increasing mobility for senior and disabled citizens.

Submissions were judged over many criteria, including potential for scalability and widespread adoption, use of a diverse set of data in its design and approach, the potential for the biggest impact on local safety and quality of life, and how easily organizations could partner to implement the process.

eTrans Systems presented the idea for the E-Walk smartphone application, which would connect the user to traffic infrastructure and nearby connected vehicles in real time. The application would not only help the average cyclist or pedestrian as they approach traffic intersections, but would significantly improve safety for the disabled and visually impaired, who have a tough time finding that crosswalk button or being able to tell if vehicles or other humans are coming in their direction.

As the first-place winner of the Hackathon, eTrans Systems was awarded $3,000 by the Fairfax County Government for further work in developing the E-Walk app.

Runners-up included second-place winners All Traffic Solutions and third-place winners Qlarion.

The top winners in the student category, the team from George Mason University (GMU), presented their artificial-intelligence-driven early crash warning system, which won them a $1,500 prize.

Other entrants included Go Together, Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia Tech, Fluxity, Edge360 and Old Dominion University.

See video of many of the pitch presentations on the Fairfax County Government’s Hackathon web page.

Image via Pixabay

News Roundup: Apple Publishes Self-Driving Car Research, Uber Makes Big Purchase For Self-Driving Fleet, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

Apple publishes snippets of its self-driving car research online

In spite of its highly secretive past when it comes to whether or not the company is investing in the development of self-driving technology, Apple scientists this week published some of their research findings online. The paper, written by Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel, was submitted to the Japanese news outlet arXiv. It mostly discusses the two scientists’ ideas as to how self-driving cars could better spot human obstacles such as pedestrians and cyclists while at the same time using fewer sensors using only LiDAR. Zhou and Tuzel call their newly-dreamt-up software approach “VoxelNet.” In April, Apple filed an application for the testing of self-driving vehicles in California. Read more from Reuters.

 

Uber inks deal to purchase 24,000 Volvos for self-driving fleet

As the company deals with major blowback over its alleged cover-up of the theft of 57 million users and drivers by hackers, Uber is still moving ahead with big plans. Namely, one of its big plans that made headlines this week was a billion-dollar-deal with Sweden’s Volvo Cars to purchase 24,000 of the automaker’s XC90s for the forming of its own self-driving fleet. Uber representatives will reportedly add their own sensors and software to the cars to give them the ability to operate “pilot-less.” Uber previously agreed to use 100 XC90s for self-driving tests in Pittsburgh. Read more from SFGate.

 

UK’s new budget includes big investment to get driverless cars on public roads within the next few years

The UK’s Treasury announced this week that the government is including millions of pounds in its next budget for technology, with a significant portion earmarked for the advancement of driverless vehicle technology. The package will reportedly include 75 million for “artificial intelligence,” 160 million for the development of 5G mobile technology, and 100 million for the training of more computer science teachers throughout the nation. Interestingly, a press release by the Treasury also promised “bold reforms” and a huge investment of 28 billion for the advancement of driverless technology that means “nobody behind the wheel.” In particular, the British company FiveAI, which develops self-driving software, is already hard at work aiming to have driverless cars on public roads by 2019, though still with humans behind the wheel for emergencies. However, within just two years after that, FiveAI representatives say they expect to have fully-autonomous cars ready for the public that would include “remote supervision.” Read more from BBC News.

Image by Uber

Tesla Unveils Electric Semi-Truck and ‘Surprise’ Roadster

Jennifer van der Kleut

Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk made two huge unveilings this week, revealing a new electric semi-truck that can reportedly travel up to 500 miles on a single charge, and an electric sports car.

The big-rig, named the Tesla Semi, can reportedly go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in about five seconds. According to the Washington Post, it puts the driver at the center of the cab, much like a race car, and features touchscreens like the company’s Model 3.

Musk told the crowd at Thursday night’s event that the truck’s design makes for a simple, smooth ride, even if one is not trained to drive a large commercial truck.

“What does it feel like to drive this truck? It’s amazing! It’s smooth, just like driving a Tesla,” he said. “I can drive this thing, and I have no idea how to drive a semi.”

Musk touted the benefits of the Tesla Semi and how it will not only be kinder to the environment, but will also be at least 20 cents a mile cheaper to operate than diesel trucks, which he compared to “economic suicide.”

Musk promised the Tesla Semi will be available for purchase beginning in 2019.

While news outlets were prepared for the unveiling of the semi-truck Thursday night, Musk shocked many when he said during the event that he also had “one more thing” to show them, and brought out the new electric Tesla Roadster.

Fortune Magazine said even a majority of Tesla Motors’ roughly 30,000 employees weren’t aware of the surprise reveal.

Chief designer Franz von Holzhausen and a team of employees reportedly worked on the roadster in secret in a facility in Hawthorne, California, near where Musk’s other company, SpaceX, is headquartered.

Von Holzhausen drove the roadster prototype out of the back of one of the Tesla Semi trucks at the end of the big reveal event Thursday.

According to Fortune reporters who were at the event, the new iteration of the roadster “is roomier at four seats, comes with a removable top, and is faster. A lot faster. The car will travel a whopping 0 to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds [with] a top speed of 250 mph (or even more, Musk said).”

The roadster will reportedly be able to go up to 620 miles on a single charge, which is double the distance all of Tesla’s other vehicles can currently travel.

The roadster will be available in 2020, but the company is already taking reservations. The sports car will have a base price of $200,000, and those interested will have to put down $50,000 as a deposit to reserve one.

Meanwhile, as Tesla continues to unveil these “surprise” new inventions, one can’t help but wonder why the company continues to add new products to its already-overwhelmed line when it is so behind in delivering vehicles people have already reserved and are still waiting for.

Barely a week or two ago, Musk was lamenting the company’s “production hell” on the Model 3, which was released in July. In the first quarter following the Model 3’s release, the company had expected to deliver 1,500 of the vehicles, and only managed to produce 260.

Musk blamed the production lag on challenges with “robot callibration” and battery packs at the company’s Gigafactory production facility in Nevada, according to the Washington Post.

Musk describes the process of building a Model 3 car as “intensely automated,” pointing out that each car is assembled from scratch and includes more than 10,000 separate parts.

Images by Tesla Motors

Navya Self-Driving Shuttle Hit By Semi-Truck

Jennifer van der Kleut

Just two hours after officials celebrated the launch of a new self-driving shuttle service in downtown Las Vegas, the shuttle was in a crash with a semi-truck.

The eight-passenger, electric shuttle, built by Navya and operated by Keolis, was launched as part of a study on the efficiency of Level 4 autonomous vehicle technology and the public’s response to it, sponsored by AAA, Keolis North America, the city of Las Vegas, and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada. It is reportedly the first Level 4 autonomous vehicle to be launched on public roads in the U.S.

Early reports of the crash suggest that the fault lies with the other vehicle, however.

According to statements quoted by Car And Driver and the Associated Press, the Navya shuttle was cruising along down the street when a semi-truck began backing out of a driveway. As it was supposed to, the shuttle’s technology detected the obstacle and came to a complete stop. However, the semi-truck continued to back up, and eventually it struck the shuttle on the left-front driver’s side.

“If only the truck had the autonomous technology, this would likely not have occurred,” John Moreno, manager of AAA’s Northern California, Nevada and Utah office, told Car and Driver.

Moreno also told Car and Driver and the Associated Press that police told him they have issued a citation to the driver of the semi-truck.

Within days of the crash, which many are describing as a mere “fender-bender” with no injuries or significant damage, the shuttle was back in business, returning to its route downtown. However, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) plans to investigate the crash further, Car and Driver reports.

The shuttle is set to operate on a 0.6-mile fixed route that includes three pick-up/drop-off spots along Fremont East, located in downtown but separate from the bustle of the main Las Vegas strip. Over the next year, sponsors expect at least 250,000 passengers to take a ride in the shuttle, with each one being asked to complete a public perception survey after their ride. AAA plans to donate $1 for each passenger that rides the shuttle during the study, to benefit victims of the mass shooting that took place in Las Vegas on Oct. 1.

Image Credit: Navya

News Roundup: Waymo Debuts Level 4 Autonomous Cars on Public Roads, Renault Touts New Intelligent Driverless System, and More

Waymo goes Level 4-autonomous on public roads in Arizona

Google’s self-driving car spin-off company, Waymo, made headlines this week when it announced they were operating Level-4 autonomous cars on public roads in Arizona (and were the first company ever to do so). Level 4 means no “safety driver” monitoring conditions in the “driver’s” seat. As of mid-October, Waymo reps say their driverless mini-vans have been running empty on Arizona roads with no one in the driver’s seat, but with a Waymo employee riding like a passenger in the back of the vehicle. Soon, Waymo CEO John Krafcik says they will progress to allowing members of its Early Rider’s Program go for rides in the vehicles, and also expand the pilot to areas outside of their current location in Chandler, Arizona, which is a suburb of Phoenix. Read more and see a video on The Verge.

 

Renault: Our autonomous drive system can avoid obstacles as well as a pro human driver

Renault made some big claims this week that are raising eyebrows in the driverless vehicle industry. Reps say their new self-driving system has been tested against a professional driver (human) and that it has consistently been able to avoid obstacles just as well. The system was developed in partnership with Stanford University’s Dynamic Design Lab, led by director and engineer Chris Gerdes, who is a former U.S. Department of Transportation Chief Innovation Officer. Simon Hougard, director of the Renault Open Innovation Lab, said Renault’s goal is to be the first to bring “mind-off” technology to the mainstream consumer, with a goal of doing so by 2020. Read more and see a video on Engadget.

 

South Korea set to open driverless ‘test city’ in 2018

South Korea’s transport ministry announced this week that they will be opening their own mini city for developers to test driverless vehicles in, and that it will be called “K-City.” The city will be 320,000 square meters, and it will be located in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province. Roughly $11 billion won, or approximately $9.77 million U.S., has been invested in K-City so far. Representatives say the first part to be constructed was a testing highway and further plans will include features like “downtown areas, city outskirts and communal environments,” and that they plan to simulate at least 35 different driving conditions such toll gates, tunnels, intersections, construction sites and even train-track crossings. They first plan to open up K-City to Level 3 vehicles, in which a driver in the front seat is prepared to take over control if necessary, and move on from there. Read more from NextBigFuture.com.

Image: Waymo Level 4 self-driving mini-van / Credit: Waymo

News Roundup: Waymo Gets Patent For Exterior Airbags On Self-Driving Cars, Ford to Test ‘Cellular-V2X’ Tech in San Diego and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

 

Waymo granted patent for exterior airbags

Google’s self-driving car spinoff company, Waymo, has been granted a patent for an airbag system that would be located on the outside of a car. Since self-driving cars are outfitted with sensors, cameras, radar and lidar on the outside of the car, Waymo engineers argue that the car itself can predict an accident even sooner than a human driver can (or can’t, if he or she is distracted). The concept of exterior airbags could protect passengers in the vehicle from an impact, as well as “reduce the likelihood of severe injuries or damage to objects such as pedestrians, bicyclists, animals, other vehicles, or simply inanimate objects.” Read more from Silicon Beat.

 

Mcity autonomous vehicle testing ground gets big investment from automakers, corporations

Mcity, the University of Michigan’s testing ground for autonomous vehicles, has received a total of $11 million in funding from 11 different companies, both corporations and automakers. Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Honda all contributed about $1 million each, and other corporations like State Farm Insurance, Verizon, LG and others. Mcity is a 32-acre man-made “city” where companies can conduct research and test autonomous vehicles. The hub offers a number of varied conditions for vehicles to test in, such as different road conditions, four-lane highways, high-pedestrian streets featuring fake, mechanical pedestrians, and much more. Read more from HybridCars.com.

 

Ford partnering with AT&T, Qualcomm and Nokia to test ‘cellular-V2X’ technology

Ford Motor Co. announced this week that it has formed a partnership with Qualcomm, AT&T and Nokia to test cellular modems that can connect vehicles to each other and to roadside infrastructure to help better navigate in bad weather or construction zones. “Cellular-V2X” technology, as it is called, aims to connect vehicles with traffic lights, roadside beacons and other vehicles on the road to share real-time information about driving conditions. It’s meant to improve safety, as well as help speed up the deployment of self-driving vehicles. Testing is scheduled to take place in San Diego, California before the end of the year. For testing, Ford vehicles will be outfitted with Qualcomm hardware powered by AT&T’s 4G LTE cellular network and Nokia’s computing technology. Read more from Automotive News.

Image: Rendering of self-driving minivan with exterior airbags by Waymo

Volkswagen Comeback Leads D20 to Small Gain

A strong comeback has made Volkswagen (VLKPY) the Driverless Transportation Weekly Stock Index’s percentage price gainer of the week.

It appears that market analysts are beginning to think that Volkswagen is a “buy” again.  After a little over a year of stock market punishment that saw Volkswagen lose 42 percent of its market value in less than a month due to “Diesel-gate,” Volkswagen is making a comeback.

Volkswagen stock has almost made it back to where it was in early September of 2015–around $36 per share–which is when the bad news broke. Volkswagen’s stock jumped 5.45 percent this past week, closing at $35.22.

Thirteen price gainers just barely overcame seven large losers, to nudge the D20 up 0.17 points to close the week at 255.44. The D20’s 0.1 percent gain was not enough to beat the Dow which added 0.5 percent to its value or the S&P 500 which inched up 0.2 percent.

Chinese electric vehicle maker, BYD (BYDDY) was the D20’s stock price percentage loser this week. Its price dropped from $19.52 to $17.71, a 9.3-percent drop. Global competition in the electric and hybrid vehicle market continues to heat up and hurt BYD’s stock price.

Another D20 lowlight was Tesla (TSLA), whose stock price dropped 7 percent in advance of its earnings release this coming Wednesday, as the number of Model 3s produced in this quarter was 80 percent less than targeted.

Visit the Driverless Transportation D20 Stock Index page to learn more about it and its component stocks.

Up-and-Comers:

Nutonomy, the Boston-based driverless car software company, has announced that it was purchased by D20 constituent Delphi (DLPH) for $450 million. The purchase doubles the number of engineers working for Delphi on driverless technology to 200.  Nutonomy’s previous partnerships with Lyft and Peugeot will continue.

Blickfeld, a German start-up focused on developing LiDAR systems for driverless vehicles, announced that it has received $4.25 million in venture seed funding. Blickfeld’s approach is to use off-the-shelf components and silicon, which should lower the cost per unit when they are put into production in vehicles. One of the investors is Fluxunit, part of Osram/Sylvania, one of the world’s leading lighting technology companies.