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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: Alphabet Gets Approval for Its Dream ‘Digital District,’ Two States Push Forward With Driverless Car Testing, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

Google’s Alphabet gets a green light to create a ‘digital district’ in Toronto, that includes driverless taxis

One of Alphabet’s spin-off companies, Sidewalk Labs LLC, has signed a major deal with Canada’s Waterfront Toronto to create a miniature “digital city” within the bustling metropolis, in the Quayside area of the Eastern waterfront. The district will take a stab at what the future of transportation looks like by featuring all manner of robotic mobility, including robot taxis, “driverless bike-like vehicles,” robotic delivery vehicles and even autonomous trash collection. Read more about Alphabet and Toronto’s plans from Bloomberg News.

 

GM, Cruise Automation to become the first to test self-driving cars in Manhattan

Officials announced this week that together, General Motors and their newly acquired partner Cruise Automation will be the first to test self-driving cars on public roads in the state of New York. The tests will begin in early 2018. Each test car — a Chevrolet Bolt — will have a pair of humans on board to ensure safety, and will employ Level 4 autonomous technology within a geofenced location. As the editorial staff of Ars Technica put it, GM and Cruise will have their work cut out for them, surely–“Manhattan’s roads are a hellish agglomeration of potholes, double- and even triple-parking, and pedestrian and vehicle traffic unlike anywhere else in the country. Gridlock is routine, and few quarters are given by other drivers before slamming on the horn in displeasure and disgust.” I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Read more from Ars Technica.

 

California may allow self-driving cars to be tested without humans in them by 2018

The Golden State is considering allowing self-driving cars to be tested on roads without humans inside them by the middle of next year, officials announced last week. Officials from the Department of Motor Vehicles proposed a new streamlined timeline for the regulations on Oct. 11, allowing a 15-day comment period from the public. The proposal is expected to be finalized by the end of this year, and approved by the beginning of next year. Then, human-less test cars could be hitting the roads by June 2018 or possibly even sooner, reports indicate. Read more from the Los Angeles Times. 

Image: A line of self-driving Chevy Bolt test cars / Credit: General Motors

Ford and Domino’s Team Up to Autonomously Deliver Pizza, Uber Promises Self-Driving Taxis in Toronto By the End of the Year, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

Ford and Domino’s team up to deliver pizzas in autonomous cars (sort of)

Ann Arbor, Michigan residents have a chance to get their pizza delivered in a driverless car–sort of. Domino’s teamed up with Ford Motor Co. for a special pilot program to test people’s reactions to receiving their pizza from a robot. However, though the car is fully capable of driving itself, a Ford engineer will still be behind the wheel, just in case. Customers who order pizza in Ann Arbor will be notified when their pizza has arrived and will have to go outside to meet the car and remove their pizza from a warming oven slot in the outside of the car. Both Ford and Domino’s want to gauge people’s reactions to the technology as well as to having to walk outside to get their pizza themselves, rather than have a delivery employee ring their doorbell. Ford said this is the first step toward many autonomous plans they hope to realize in the future, including robot taxis and delivering groceries via self-driving cars. Read more from Bloomberg News.

 

Tesla releases Autopilot update

Earlier this month, Tesla Motors released a new update to the Autopilot software, namely the “2017.32” update, to all vehicles equipped with the second-generation hardware. The sole new feature introduced was Automatic High Beams, which automatically switch back to low beams when oncoming traffic is detected. Other than that, the only changes with the update were general improvements to the Autopilot software. Founder and CEO Elon Musk famously announced in October that a new update would make all cars worldwide fully capable of driving themselves, but it appears that update is still coming. Reports have detailed clashes between Musk and his engineers over the announcement, claiming they were not told the announcement was coming and were unsure of the technology’s safety and reliability, particularly after a July 2016 crash in which a driver utilizing Autopilot was killed in a crash. It remains to be seen when Musk’s promise of a fully autonomous Tesla will come to fruition. Read more from Elektrek here and here, and read more from Inc. Magazine here.

 

Uber promises self-driving taxis in Toronto by the end of the year

Seemingly bouncing back from a hiatus following a crash involving one of their self-driving test cars in March, Uber is getting self-driving cars back on the roads of Toronto. The rollout is starting small with only two vehicles doing mapping and data gathering on the University of Toronto campus to improve efficiency and accuracy, but Uber promises the vehicles will be fully operational and able to pick up passengers by the end of this year. Read more and see a video from Complex Canada.

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.

Lexus: Enjoy Driving While We Still Can?

The latest commercial from Lexus for its new 2017 Lexus IS luxury sedan has raised some interesting questions among car enthusiasts: Could the thrill of driving be on its way out? Should we take advantage and enjoy it while we still can?

Obviously, that’s the premise of the commercial — that driving the new 2017 Lexus IS is so thrilling, you should savor every moment, while drivers still have the ability or choice to drive. In the last few seconds of the commercial, the car morphs into a self-driving car, and the driver is left to ponder those times when he could enjoy the power of the car’s controls in his hands.

However, one interesting note — the driver’s hair goes from youthful and dark to gray during the morph, suggesting that, while Lexus is all but promising to deliver a self-driving car in the future, it’s not just around the corner — it’s long enough away to age a man considerably.

Image and video by Lexus

News Roundup: Serious Crash Involving Self-Driving Uber Car Under Investigation, Why Driverless Crash Liability Should Be Modeled After Vaccine Laws, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of recent headlines to come out of the driverless and connected-car industries over the past week:

Uber’s self-driving test cars return to the roads after 3-day halt following serious crash

Uber’s fleet of self-driving test cars returned to the roads in San Francisco Monday after the entire program was halted for three days following a serious crash in Arizona Saturday. Testing in Tempe, Arizona and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania remains halted as the investigation into the crash continues. Police in Tempe, Arizona said the accident occurred when a normal human-driven vehicle failed to yield to the driverless Uber car in an intersection. The two cars collided, causing the Uber car to roll over. Tempe police reported that the driver of the normal car was cited for the accident. An Uber employee was sitting behind the wheel of the Uber car, and fortunately was not injured. Uber representatives say a more detailed report will be released after the investigation concludes. Read more from TechCrunch. See photos and video from the accident on ABC15 Arizona.

 

What if driverless vehicle legislation were modeled after vaccine compensation cases?

In this article, Automotive News writer Katie Burke presents an interesting theory, in which legislation regarding liability in driverless vehicle collisions were modeled after the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. That law created the Office of Special Masters within the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, with the sole purpose of hearing cases in which a family claims their child was injured as a result of a vaccine. The law also created a special fund from which families who prove their child’s injury was caused by a vaccine are compensated. The act marked a turning point for U.S. pharmaceutical companies, allowing them to confidently continue researching and creating new vaccines without fear of losing billions in injury lawsuits. Burke thinks modeling legislation regarding liability in driverless car crashes in a similar way will encourage automakers working on developing the technology to continue their work without similar fears. What do you think of the idea? Read more from TheTruthAboutCars.com.

 

North Dakota Senate unanimously passes law requiring full study of autonomous vehicles

On Monday, the North Dakota Senate passed a new law 45-0 requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) to work with the technology industry to conduct a study of the use of autonomous vehicles on the state’s highways. In addition, the study will focus on laws surrounding self-driving vehicles, including licensing, registration, insurance, ownership of data, and inspections. Results of the study must be presented at the next general assembly. In the same session, the Senate rejected a related bill that would have made the owner of a driverless vehicle the owner of any data gathered by or stored within the vehicle. Presumably, lawmakers want to encourage driverless vehicle manufacturers to share data collected by the vehicles with transportation agencies to allow for continued improvement of systems. Read more from InForum.

 

Photo Credit: Uber

News Roundup: California DMV’s New Proposed Driverless Car Regulations, How Alexa and Cortana May Soon Take Over Your Car, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of some of the biggest headlines to come out of the driverless and connected-car industries over the past week:

Many applaud California DMV’s newly proposed regulations for testing driverless cars

This past Friday, March 10, the California Department of Motor Vehicles released new proposed regulations for the testing of driverless cars in public, which look remarkably like laws recently passed in Michigan. Many are applauding all the changes made since releasing a significantly stricter version back in September. DMV reps say they listened closely to a wealth of feedback from stakeholders after the September draft and implemented many of them. In particular, the new regulations reverse their previous requirements that driverless test cars must have a human driver in the car while testing in public, and that prototype vehicles must include a steering wheel and pedals (which reportedly made Google/Waymo executives very happy). However, if the vehicle does not include those conventional features, the manufacturer must show the DMV they have approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A mandatory 45-day comment period is currently in effect, ending April 24, after which a public hearing will take place. DMV representatives said they hope the regulations will officially go into effect by the end of the year. Read more from Bloomberg Technology.

 

Automakers turn to personal assistance tech like Cortana, Alexa to develop better connected-car voice commands

While systems like Ford’s Sync are already appearing in cars on the market today, many industry analysts say the technology still contains many flaws, with limited available commands and continuous voice recognition difficulties. As connected-car technology becomes more and more in demand, automakers like Ford, Volkswagen and Nissan are turning to personal assistant apps like Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana to improve in-car voice command systems. VW announced they are trying to combine Alexa with their Car-Net system and apps so that, while driving, you can ask Alexa to do things like add items to your ongoing shopping list that is synced between your car and your personal device. Reps say you’ll even be able to ask Alexa through your Amazon Echo at home to tell you how much gas your car has in it. Ford said it is integrating Alexa into its current Sync system, with some paired features debuting this summer. Nissan said they are partnering with Microsoft, but have not announced a launch date yet. Read more from CAR magazine.

 

Whoa! Intel buys Mobileye for more than $15 billion

In the biggest acquisition of an Israeli tech company to date, Intel announced this week that is acquiring Mobileye for an astounding $15.3 billion, after partnering with them since late last year. Mobileye is known for its computer vision systems for autonomous cars, including sensor fusion, mapping and front- and rear-facing camera technology. They are also working on crowdsourcing data for high-definition maps, as well as getting involved in policies and regulations surrounding autonomous driving. Intel has been getting involved with driverless technology as of late, most recently partnering with Mobileye and BMW and pledging $250 million to invest in the technology, particularly how much data autonomous cars can generate. The sale of Mobileye to Intel is expected to take about nine months to close. Read more from TechCrunch.

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

The Growth of the Autonomous Car Market

GetOffRoad.com

The autonomous car market is currently growing at an exponential rate and many driverless vehicles are expected to be on our roads this year, in large numbers.

Critics have publicly stated how they feel about these types of vehicles hitting our roads, but many fail to realize that this development started more than 80 years ago, and the experts feel these initial plans — and the public testing in 2016, along with huge investment in between — will be put into practice before we know it.

There have been many financial, practical and scientific challenges involved in the development of these vehicles that we decided to explore further.

In this infographic, we explore:

  • The history of autonomous cars
  • The challenges involved in engineering the coveted autonomous car
  • How DARPA have been involved in testing driverless cars
  • The advent of Google X
  • The science behind autonomous vehicles
  • What the future holds for the autonomous car market
  • Which car brands have driving patents for autonomous vehicles
  • The projected launch date for driverless card (for test or commercial purpose)
  • Projected market penetration of autonomous cars in the UK
  • SAE levels explained

The Growth Of The Autonomous Car Market

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