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News Roundup: U.S. Senate Approves Driverless Car Bill, Federal Government Gives State Millions For Automated Taxi Service, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

Driverless car bill passes in the U.S. Senate

Members of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved a bill similar to one already passed in the House of Representatives that will presumably help clear the way for driverless car technology to move forward. The bill keeps approval of driver’s licenses, regulation of insurance and enforcement of traffic laws within the states’ purview, but places oversight of the design and manufacture of driverless vehicles in the hands of the federal government–specifically the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Like the House bill, the Senate bill also permits Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to hand individual auto manufacturers exemptions from federal safety standards for up to 100,000 vehicles per year while they are fine-tuning their technology; and it also places responsibility with tech designers to protect their vehicles from cyber attacks. Read more from the Washington Post. 

 

Federal government giving South Carolina county millions for driverless taxis?

According to a news report from a USA Today-affiliated regional newspaper, the federal government has pledged millions of dollars toward the development of a driverless taxi service in Greenville, South Carolina. Greenville Online says $4 million has been pledged to help develop the nation’s first automated taxi service in Greenville County. In a news conference Thursday, county officials announced the first test vehicle will be deployed on the Clemson University campus, in connection with the college’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). While the test vehicle is only the size of a golf cart, officials said the program’s expansion will feature typical-size vehicles, as well as possible non-emergency medical vehicles for senior and disabled residents. A group called the Global Autonomous Vehicle Partnership is matching funds to help the development of the autonomous vehicles. Read more from Greenville Online.

 

Driverless startup hires execs away from Google’s Waymo, Microsoft

Driverless vehicle startup Nauto is fresh off a monster round of funding, and is already looking to expand its business both locally and globally. In a first step toward that goal, the startup announced this week that it has hired executives from Microsoft, and Google Alphabet’s self-driving car spinoff, Waymo. Waymo’s former head of business, Jennifer Haroon, has joined Nauto as its new vice-president of corporate development and business operations. Microsoft’s former vice-president of global enterprise sales, Sanket Akerkar, joins Nauto as its new senior vice-president of global fleets and insurance. Nauto most recently raised $159 million in funding from a number of major firms, and already has several lucrative partnerships in place with auto manufacturers such as General Motors, BMW and Toyota. The company currently outfits commercial fleets with accident detection devices (shown in image), and is looking to scale out its geographic operations and commercial business. Read more from Recode.

Image: Nauto accident detection device / Credit: Nauto Inc.

NVIDIA rebound lifts D20

After a down week last week NVIDIA (NVDA) returned to its winning ways, leading the Driverless Transportation Weekly Stock Index to an unlikely rebound. Eight D20 price gainers overcame twelve price losers and forced the improbable bounce as the D20 added 1.3 points or 0.6 percent while both the Dow and S&P lost value.  With the markets jittery about the events in Charlottesville, the Dow dropped 183.81 points to close down 0.8 percent at 21674.51 and the S&P lost 0.6 percent and closed at 2425.55.

NVIDIA was the D20 percentage price gainer adding 3.6 percent to its stock value and closing at $161.50.  Last week’s sell-off despite good news about over achieving on quarterly earnings and sales seems to finally have reversed itself.  In other NVIDIA news, it has invested in Chinese autonomous trucking startup, TuSimple.

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

Up and Comers:

Rumors are that Uber is close to naming GE’s ex-CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, to its recently vacated CEO position.  Uber has gone through a gauntlet of issues starting with sexual harassment accusations of a toxic work environment, to Waymo’s lawsuits claiming that Otto, which Uber acquired last summer, stole trade secrets, and now with a fired CEO founder, Travis Kalanick, and a Board of Directors in open dispute.  If Immelt takes the position he will have the fall-out of those issues and a competitor, Lyft, which has taken advantage of Uber’s public missteps to grow its market share from 15.2 percent last year to 22.9 percent in July, according to Second Measure.

Innoviz, Israeli start-up, has been selected by automotive supplier and D20 constituent, Delphi (DLPH), to be its LiDAR supplier. Delphi has recently declared a shift in focus emphasizing supplying the auto parts market with high tech and driverless solutions.

D20 Drops 2.3 percent as Dow and S&P also decline

Fourteen stock price losers easily overcame six price gainers to drive the Driverless Transportation Weekly Stock Index (D20) to a 2.34 percent drop this week.  None of the indexes fared well as the Dow slumped 1.1 percent and the S&P 500 lost 1.4 percent to close at 2441.32.

Leading D20 price percentage gainer, Renesas Electronics Corp (TSE:6723) of Japan, jumped 5.6 percent as it announced volume shipment of its R-Car system-on-chip (SoC).

Two thirds of the D20’s 2.34 percent decrease was caused by NVIDIA’s (NVDA) 6.7 percent tumble.  NVIDIA lost $11.25 per share in this week’s trading despite announcing better than expected fiscal 2Q2018 earnings.  NVIDIA’s revenue jumped 56% year over year and earnings more than doubled, yet its stock price dropped significantly.

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

Up and Comers:

Oryx, an Israeli LiDAR start-up, has raised $50 million in a Series B round.  Oryx’s approach to LiDAR differs from its established competitors, like Velodyne LiDAR, in that it has no moving parts and uses antennas instead of photo-receptors. This approach should make the devices less costly and more reliable.  It has plans to ship units for testing on vehicles in the second half of 2018.

Faraday Future announced that it signed a lease on an existing automotive plant in Hanford, CA signaling the end of its plans to build its own plant from scratch in Nevada.  It plans to move into the plant in November 2017 to be able to deliver its FF91 vehicles to customers by the end of 2018.  Faraday Future continues to seek additional funding to continue its development and production plans.

News Roundup: Self-Driving Car Systems ‘Tricked’ By Vandalized Road Signs, Ultra-Modern Driverless Pods to Debut in Dubai, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

Some of the most interesting headlines to come out of the driverless and connected-vehicle industries over the past week:

U.K. government: Car sellers will be held responsible if cars are hacked

In a surprising and bold move, the British government’s Department of Transport on Sunday, Aug. 6 released new guidelines regarding cybersecurity of connected vehicles. In particular, the guidelines state that in cases where a connected vehicle’s system is hacked, the board members of the company that sold the breached vehicle will be held accountable. Furthermore, the guidelines state that “companies should build in-house knowledge of security threats, while getting help from third parties where appropriate,” such as by utilizing open-source platforms and peer-reviewed code when appropriate. The companies “need to be able to support data forensics if something goes wrong,” the department stated. Read more from Fortune Magazine.

 

Researchers discover that graffiti on road signs can trick self-driving cars into driving dangerously

In a rather disturbing new discovery, researchers announced this week that many self-driving car systems can be fooled by simple graffiti on road signs. “Placing stickers or posters over part or the whole of a road sign could be used to trick the smart car into ignoring stop signs, even if visually they appear the same to the human drivers,” said a team of researchers at the University of Washington. In particular, the study revealed that stickers added to a stop sign tricked a self-driving car’s software into thinking it was a speed limit sign for 45, so the car drove right through the stop sign. In another example, by simply altering the color of a right-turn arrow on a road sign, the self-driving car’s software misinterpreted the sign to be a stop sign, and stopped in the middle of traffic. The team said they hope the results of their study help developers to build better defense systems in autonomous vehicles. Read more from The Telegraph

 

Careem’s ultra-modern driverless pods to hit Dubai streets soon

The Middle East is fast becoming a transportation innovation powerhouse. Careem, the Middle East-based tech company behind the highly successful car-booking app of the same name, announced that their sleek, ultra-modern driverless pods will soon be hitting the streets of Dubai. Overall, Careem says they aim to have at least one-quarter of all vehicle trips in the emirate to take place in a driverless vehicle by the year 2030. Careem recently announced the wrapping up of the company’s Series E funding, bringing the company’s total valuation to around $1 billion. Significant recent investors hail from the U.S., Germany and Saudi Arabia. In addition, Careem’s self-driving software was created in partnership with California-based NEXT Future Transportation, and Careem’s navigation system now integrates with Google Maps. In another impressive innovation, Careem contracted with Digital Barriers for its new driver facial recognition system, which will virtually eliminate cases of car theft by preventing cars from operating for anyone other than the car’s owner or other approved users. Careem’s car-booking app operates in 80 cities worldwide, and boasts roughly 6 million users. Read more about Careem from ZDNet.

Image: Rendering of Careem’s driverless pods that will soon hit the streets of Dubai. Credit: Careem

Led by NVIDIA, D20 Leaps to Record High

In a nearly across the board sweep, nineteen price gainers and one unchanged stock drove the D20 to new heights this week.  The D20 jumped 5.2 percent, closing at a record high of 223.51.  The D20 easily outpaced the Dow, which gained 1 percent and the S&P 500 which added 1.4 percent and closed at 2459.27.

As the D20’s leading price percentage gainer this week, NVIDIA (NVDA) continues to hit new records and stun the market with its meteoric price rise.  Its partnership with Baidu continues to enchant the market causing its price to rise 12.4 percent this week and closing at $164.95 per share.  Because of its staggering share price run, gaining 625 percent since August 2015, NVIDIA is now 24% of the total value of the D20.  This week’s 12.4 percent gain accounted for the more than half of the D20’s 5.2 percent increase.

The lone non-gainer of the week was Nissan (NSANY).  It remained unchanged at $20.23 per share.

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

Up and Comers:

Cortica, founded in Israel, is building AI systems based on analysis of how human and animal cortical networks process natural stimuli.   Cortica is now applying those AI methods to “teach” autonomous vehicles with unsupervised learning.

News Roundup: China’s New Driverless Transit Doesn’t Need Tracks, Trump Administration Addresses Driverless Vehicle Guidelines, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of some of the most interesting driverless industry headlines of the past week:

China shows off new train-bus-tram hybrid that doesn’t even need tracks

Rail transit firm CRRC recently showed off the future of transportation for China. It’s called a “smart bus,” but the industry is describing it as a train-bus-tram hybrid that doesn’t even need tracks. The smart bus can navigate itself without a driver, and needs only lines painted on the ground–no tracks necessary. The prototype vehicle is 32 meters long and can hold a whopping 307 passengers over three connected rail cars, and engineers say rail cars can be added or subtracted as needed. The vehicle can travel at speeds of up to 70km (43.5 miles) per hour and can go a distance of up to 25km (15.53 miles) after charging its lithium battery for just 10 minutes. The official name of the system will be called ART – short for Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit — and government officials say it will debut on a 6.5-km track painted through the city of Zhuzhou beginning in 2018. Officials say it will bring down the costs of public transportation from more than $100 million per km for the existing subway system, to just over $2 million per km for an ART line. Read more from Mashable.

 

Trump administration promises new driverless guidelines by end of year

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao met with automakers in Detroit Monday and spoke briefly about the Trump administration’s plans for driverless cars. Chao promised a revised set of guidelines, different from those released near the end of former President Obama’s second term in September, by the end of this year. Many expect guidelines under President Trump to have a “lighter touch.” Chao pointed to cases such as California, where the number of companies testing the technology is up from just four in 2014 to 30 today, seemingly as proof that looser regulations are helping the technology to progress faster. However, Chao addressed Silicon Valley directly and encouraged more companies to be willing to share data, to help the government learn more about the technology as they work to create the best guidelines for the country. Read more from The Detroit News and The Hill.

 

Lyft adds Boston-based nuTonomy to its list of high-profile driverless car partners

Not long after just announcing a driverless car partnership with Google’s Waymo, ridesharing company Lyft has announced another lucrative project, this time with Boston-based tech firm nuTonomy, for another pilot project. The project will reportedly kick off in the coming months and the first item on its to-do list will be “R&D into the passenger experience,” Lyft CEO and co-founder Logan Green reportedly said in a conference call. Green added, if all goes well, the partnership “could lead to thousands of nuTonomy cars on the Lyft platform.” nuTonomy is known for piloting the world’s first driverless car ridesharing program in Singapore, and recently started testing driverless cars in Boston, where the company is based. Read more from Forbes.

 

Image: Still of Chinese ART rail car from YouTube video by CGTN

News Roundup: Volvo’s Autonomous Garbage Truck, Paris’s Driverless Race Car, and More

A roundup of news headlines to come out of the driverless and connected-car industries this week:

Volvo shows off its new autonomous garbage truck

This week Volvo debuted a video that shows its new prototype autonomous garbage truck in action. The concept is being hailed as the future of waste management. It will reportedly save money on personnel as it only requires one employee to manage, versus a team of two to three employees currently (one to drive, and at least one to load and unload garbage cans) and it will streamline refuse collection by doing it faster and more efficiently. The way it works is this: one employee walks on foot and follows the garbage truck, which drives itself. With each stop, the employee pushes a button and loads garbage cans into the machine and then takes them out after they have been emptied. The truck features sensors and software that is identical to that in Volvo’s prototype self-driving passenger cars, which Volvo gets from its partner, Uber. Uber’s mapping capabilities allows the route to be pre-programmed into the system so the truck knows exactly where to go. Read more, see photos and videos from Motoring.com.

 

Autonomous race car debuts in Paris

The French city of Paris saw its first autonomous vehicle hits its streets recently when the self-driving Robocar wowed crowds in Formula E’s Paris ePrix. The car completed 14 turns of a 1.9-kilometer track, negotiating completely by itself without a driver. “The team has worked so hard to get us to this point in a short amount of time. The car is alive and it has emotion and its own personality already. Roborace is the only company in the world right now testing driverless technologies on city streets without a human in the car – this is something truly unique,” Robocar CEO Denis Sverdlov told media. Robocar is capable of speeds over 200mph.  The car uses a number of technologies to drive itself including five lidar sensors, two radar sensors, 18 ultrasonic sensors, two optical speed sensors, six A.I. cameras, GNSS positioning, and is powered by NVIDIA’s Drive PX2 brain, which is capable of up to 24 trillion A.I. operations per second, to be programmed by teams’ software engineers. Read more from Gadget.

 

Ford CEO Mark Fields being replaced by director of self-driving car division

Earlier this week the news broke that Ford’s CEO Mark Fields had been ousted, largely due to the fact that the company’s stock has dropped roughly 40 percent in the few years since he took over the company. Today, the New York Times reports that the executive to take Fields’s place as CEO is none other than Jim Hackett. Hackett previously served as the CEO of the office furniture giant Steelcase, and had recently joined Ford as the director of the company’s smart mobility division, which includes the research and development of self-driving cars. Though Ford has been working on self-driving car technology for a few years now, Fields reportedly had been criticized for not advancing the technology quickly enough. Read more from the New York Times.

Image: Still photo from Volvo video

News Roundup: A New ‘Language’ for Driverless Cars That Recognizes Hand Signals, Autonomous Buses Help Paris Address Smog, Traffic Problems, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A look at some of the biggest headlines to come out of the driverless car industry recently:

New ‘language’ for driverless cars helps them recognize pedestrian hand signals

A team of four researchers from Imperial College London and Royal College of Art in the U.K. have developed a new “language” for self-driving cars called “Blink.” They say the language will teach self-driving cars how to recognize pedestrian hand signals. This will make it possible for pedestrians to wave at driverless cars to signal that they want to cross the street in front of the cars, which will trigger the car to stop and display a “green light” on the windshield letting the pedestrian know it’s safe to go. Or, conversely, they can wave the car off, letting the car know it’s safe to keep going. The developers say they hope the technology helps increase humans’ comfort level in interacting with driverless car technology. Read more from Deloitte.

 

Driverless buses arrive in Paris

Two autonomous shuttle buses began transporting passengers between two train stations in Paris in the last few weeks. The buses, built by renowned autonomous bus company EasyMile, can transport 12 passengers each and are completely autonomous, as well as electric. City officials say they are not only excited to try out the EZ10 buses because of their interest in driverless technology, but also because Paris is struggling with problems of smog and traffic congestion, and they are confident this new innovation can help offer solutions to both problems. Read more and see photos from DigitalTrends.com.

 

Ford invests $1 billion in self-driving car company

Ford Motor Co. announced this week that it will invest $1 billion over the next five years in Argo AI, a company that will provide driverless technology for a self-driving car Ford plans to introduce in 2021. Argo AI representative said the company is now looking for a Pittsburgh headquarters, and will hire about 200 people here and in other cities. Ford said the amount of top talent found at Argo AI and in the Pittsburgh auto industry helped solidify the decision for them. Read more from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Photo: An EasyMile EZ10 autonomous shuttle bus / Credit: EasyMile

News Roundup: Dubai Residents Get Free Rides on Driverless Shuttle, Blackberry Expands Partnership with Ford Motor Co., 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:

 

Mercedes exec aims to clarify statement made on whether it would prioritize safety of car occupants over pedestrians in driverless car accidents

It’s an ethics dilemma that has caused controversy for years when it comes to talk of a driverless future–if a driverless car is faced with the choice of plowing ahead into a pedestrian, or veering to avoid the pedestrian but potentially crashing the car into a median and risking the lives of the car’s occupants (or any number of similar no-win traffic situations), which is the right choice? Well, it appeared at a recent public appearance by Christoph von Hugo, Mercedes manager of assistance systems, active safety and ratings, that Mercedes planned to always prioritize the safety of a car’s occupants over a pedestrian when he said, essentially, “save the life you know you can save.” However, Mercedes now appears to be backing away from those comments after backlash from outlets who surveyed consumers and found that many people would be uncomfortable riding in a driverless car programmed to sacrifice the life of the imagined pedestrian. Read more on Mercedes’ position (or lack thereof) from BT.com.

 

Dubai residents treated to sneak-peek rides on driverless shuttle

Dubai pedestrians were treated to a surprise glimpse into the future recently when Road and Transport Authority officials offered them rides in their new driverless shuttle. The vehicle was part of a public transport trial by the emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). The automated, 12-passenger shuttle bus carried passengers down a 700-metre stretch of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, between a stop opposite Dubai Opera and the Vida Downtown Dubai hotel. After their ride, officials asked passengers to fill out a survey assessing their confidence in the technology, and whether they thought it was a passing fad. Read more from The National.

 

Blackberry expanding partnership with Ford, Ford will replace Microsoft’s Sync with Blackberry’s QNX platform

Since acquiring the QNX platform in 2010, Blackberry is reportedly focusing on a lucrative partnership with Ford and hoping it will pull them in a profitable new direction since abandoning their smartphone business. As part of a new agreement between Ford and Blackberry, reported by Blackberry recently, Blackberry will dedicate a team of engineers to work with Ford on replacing Ford’s current Sync by Microsoft infotainment system with QNX. Industry analysts say this bodes very well for Blackberry’s future as they transition from a hardware to a software company. Read more about the Ford-Blackberry partnership from TechRepublic.

Renesas and Cohda Announce Partnership For Autonomous, Connected Systems

Twelve losers and eight gainers helped the Driverless Transportation Index (D20) slide 0.9 percent this week to close slightly above 160, at 160.46.

Both the Dow and S&P also lost ground this week.  The Dow closed down 0.4 percent at 18240.49, while the S&P dipped to 2153.74, a loss of 0.7 percent.

Renesas Electronics (TYO:6732), this week’s D20 price gain percentage leader, jumped 4.2 percent to close at ¥640 per share. Renesas announced its partnership with Cohda Wireless to deliver a V2X platform for autonomous and connected vehicles.

Renesas will provide the V2X R-car system-on-chips (SoCs), while Cohda will add its V2X and CAV software solutions.  The combination will create a V2X reference solution that will support both North American and European communications standards for V2X connected vehicles.

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

 

Up-and-Comers:

Palo Alto, California-based Nauto, Inc., after raising $12 million in Series A funding in April 2016, announced that it has added an undisclosed amount to that round with funding from BMW, Toyota and the insurance company Allianz.

Nauto’s technology combines real-times sensors, forward-looking cameras and cabin-view cameras to understand the driving context in real-time.  Nauto is selling their system and its predictive capabilities to vehicle fleet managers and insurance companies.