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News Roundup: Uber Self-Driving Car Arm Nearly Shut Down, New Partnerships For Delphi, Waymo, Lyft, BMW and Intel

Jennifer van der Kleut

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

Google’s Waymo teams up with Lyft

Google’s driverless company, Waymo, announced it is teaming up with ride-hailing company Lyft to develop self-driving car technology. The two companies have agreed to work together on “pilot projects” with the aim of bringing driverless vehicles into the mainstream. Working with Waymo will give Lyft access to loads of data, and working with Lyft will allow Waymo to expand its testing and open doors to new areas. Read more from The Telegraph.

 

Uber narrowly avoids shut-down of self-driving car work over lawsuit

A federal judge stopped just short of shutting down Uber’s self-driving car operations due to Waymo’s lawsuit against the company for allegedly stealing its technology. Instead, the judge has banned Anthony Levandowski from having anything to do with Uber’s self-driving car work. Levandowski used to be the head of Google’s self-driving car division (later spun off into the separate company called Waymo) until he left for a similar job at Uber. Waymo alleged Levandowski stole the company’s technology secrets and took them to Uber. A federal judge this week barred Levandowski from working on Uber’s self-driving car technology. The move is likely to cause significant delays in Uber’s progress toward developing its own fleet of autonomous cars. Read more from the New York Times.

 

Delphi partners up with BMW and Intel

Delphi has announced that it is joining into a partnership with BMW and Intel to develop self-driving technology. In particular, the three companies said they will be collaborating on “perception, sensor fusion and high-performance automated driving computing.” In addition, an executive from BMW said other companies could be joining the multi-company partnership very soon. Delphi is seen as being very lucrative to the partnership because of the company’s expertise in “data analysis and electrical architecture,” which are viewed as critical to the development of autonomous cars. Read more from USA Today.

 

News Roundup: BMW to Release Car With 3 Levels of Autonomy in 2021, Dubai Developer Orders 25 Driverless Vehicles to Drive Its Residents Around, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

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

BMW announces intent to release Level 3, 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles in 2021

BMW’s senior vice president of autonomous driving announced this week that the automaker will be releasing its “i” model in 2021, and that it will be Level-5 autonomous, meaning it will be capable of operating in any situation or condition without human assistance. The company said the 2021 model will be capable of three varying levels of autonomy — Levels 3, 4 and 5. BMW recently partnered with Intel and Mobileye (and, we just learned, Intel is in the process of acquiring Mobileye) to develop autonomous systems. BMW said the car will be inspired by the Vision Next 100 concept car it unveiled last year, which implies the car will most likely be a standalone creation rather than an upgraded version of one of its current models. Read more from Reuters and the Normangee Star.

 

Australian university wants you to name its new fully-autonomous bus

Australia’s Curtin University has built its own fully autonomous shuttle bus, and has launched an online contest to name it. The shuttle is 100-percent electric and can carry up to 11 passengers. It can travel at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour and finds its way through input digital programming, GPS navigation and and remote sensors. Though a “chaperone” currently rides in the bus to monitor things and can take over the controls manually if needed, Curtin University representatives say it is fully capable of operating without a driver. Beginning at the end of March, the bus will begin a regular route on the Curtin campus, transporting people between buildings. Read more and see a video of the shuttle bus on Curtin University’s website.

 

Dubai developer purchases 25 autonomous vehicles

Dubai-based developer Meraas has awarded a contract to 2getthere, out of the Netherlands, to build 25 driverless vehicles to transport passengers around its Bluewater Islands development. The group rapid transit vehicles (GRTs) will each carry 24 passengers, and will be used to transport passengers 2.5 km each way between the development, the harbor and the Metro station. Representatives say they expect the GRTs will be capable of transporting between 3,ooo to 5,000 people per hour between the three high-traffic spots. Similar 2getthere vehicles are already being used to make similar trips in Abu Dhabi and the Netherlands. Read more from MEED.

Photo: Curtin University autonomous shuttle, courtesy photo

CES 2017: All the Driverless, Electric and Connected-Car Buzz

Jennifer van der Kleut

Thursday marks the opening of one of the biggest technology shows of the year, and that includes innovations in transportation–the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2017).

In addition to all the newest tech gadgetry that is making a buzz–everything one can imagine, from fitness tracker rings to smart hairbrushes to the latest drones–many automakers choose CES as the place to show off their newest concept vehicles.

Here are just a few of the most exciting highlights automakers showed off during the media preview days early this week:

Faraday Future FF 91: Secretive tech company Faraday Future unveiled its production-ready car, and it appears to be getting the biggest pre-show buzz of all. The FF 91 is an electric vehicle with impressive stats, including the ability to go nearly 400 miles without a charge, and speeding up from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under three seconds. The exterior boasts a deployable Lidar sensor, and the interior features luxurious reclining seats. The FF 91 is expected to hit the market in 2018. Read more and see plenty of photos from CNET Roadshow.

The Fiat Chrysler Portal: The all-new electric portal is being outed as the ultimate car for millennial tech-lovers. The in-car entertainment system boasts more than 20 connected apps for pairing with your mobile phones, cameras, tablets and even laptops, and features facial and voice recognition for a smooth user experience. The seats don’t just recline, either–they “float” on inline tracks that allow them to rotate 360 degrees, lie flat, or even be removed altogether. That all comes in handy when it’s in Level 3 autonomous mode. The car also features vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology that allows the car to communicate with other cars, the Internet, roadside infrastructure and more. Read more from Fortune.

Ford’s Next-Generation Autonomous Fusion Hybrid: Ford announced last month it would be debuting its new and improved autonomous Fusion Hybrid at CES 2017. It’s been three years since Ford first started testing autonomous Fusions, and this latest iteration features a sleeker look with less-obvious Lidar sensors, more processing power, and improved hardware. The Business Journal says Ford is also expected to show off improvements to its on-board SYNC infotainment system. Read more from Ford’s Blog on Medium.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: Fiat-Chrysler America (FCA) will show off its newest model, which it was tasked with building 100 of for Waymo (the company Google spun off its self-driving car arm into). The car gets 30 miles of all-electric range or 530 miles of total range. FCA is also expected to show off its fourth-generation connectivity system, Uconnect. Read more from the Business Journal.

BMW’s HoloActive Touch System: The future is now, according to BMW. The automaker will show off its new user interface concept which actually floats in the air like a hologram and is operated by finger gestures rather than a touchscreen. Read more from the Business Journal.

DriverlessTransportation and our sister company, eTrans Solutions, are on hand for all of the excitement this week in Las Vegas, and next week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Photo: The Chrysler Portal, courtesy of Fiat-Chrysler America

News Roundup: Apple Admits It’s ‘Heavily Invested’ in Automated Driving, Nissan Uses Driverless Leafs to Tow Cars At Its Plants, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

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

Apple ‘investing heavily’ in driverless car software

In a recent letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration written by Apple’s director of product integrity, Steve Jenner begged U.S. regulators to embrace “fair competition” among companies working on driverless vehicle systems. Excitingly for followers of the industry’s progress, media outlets that wrote to Jenner asking about the company’s motives behind the letter got a statement in reply in which Jenner said he wrote it because “Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and automated systems.” Read more from Fox News.

 

Nissan using self-driving vehicles to tow cars around its plants

Nissan is testing the waters of driverless vehicles by using some to tow cars around its manufacturing plants in Japan. At a recent demonstration, Nissan employees hooked up a driverless Leaf to a full trailer and let the car tow the trailer around with no one at the wheel. Nissan executives say they are excited about the technology and think it will help reduce costs and improve efficiency. They said they may decide to roll the test out overseas as well. Nissan hopes to release an autonomous car by 2020. Read more from the Daily Mail.

 

 

BMW aims to out-cool Uber, starts testing driverless cars in Germany

BMW admitted last week that it will soon begin testing of driverless vehicles in Munich, Germany. The automaker’s biggest focus for the initiative is its goal of becoming the “coolest” ride-hailing firm on the market, competing with big rivals such as Uber. BMW executives said the test will consist of 40 vehicles operating within the inner parts of the city of Munich and plans to eventually roll out testing in other cities as well. Read more from The Daily Mail.

News Roundup: Hyundai Quietly Debuts New Self-Driving Ioniq, Intel Invests Millions in Autonomous Car Technology, and More

A quick look at headlines from around the driverless and connected-car industries this week:

Intel to partner with BMW and Mobileye, invest millions in autonomous car technology

Intel Corp. announced this week that it plans to invest more than $250 million over the next two years to develop fully autonomous driving technology. The longtime chip-maker plans to collaborate with BMW and Mobileye to develop the technology. When asked why they decided to get involved in autonomous car technology, CEO Brian Krzanich said the company is particularly interested in the amount of data each autonomous car can generate, which they estimate to be at least 4 TB per car. Read more about Intel’s announcement on Nasdaq.com.

 

Hyundai quietly debuts new autonomous Ioniq

Hyundai surprised a lot of people by putting the brand-new autonomous version of its Ioniq car on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show recently with no fanfare. The new Ioniq reportedly looks identical to the all-electric version of the sedan and utilizes a lidar system with three advanced radars combined with three forward-facing cameras, blind-spot sensors, GPS antenna and “smart cruise” radar. Hyundai said it will offer rides in the self-driving Ioniq at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas in January. Read more from The Detroit News.

 

Budapest’s AImotive expands autonomous car technology business to U.S.

AImotive, started in Budapest, is expanding its reach to the U.S., having recently opened an office in Mountain View, California, and potentially eyeing other locations across the country. AImotive is working on tech solutions to help automakers enable Level 5 autonomy, the highest level. The company’s aiDrive software allows vehicles to learn to identify objects, tap into landmark-based location-recognition protocols, and engage in real-time tracking and control of the gas, break, horn, and headlights. Read more about AImotive on Business Journal.

News Roundup: A Semi-Autonomous Motorcycle, Driverless Cars Hit Public Roads in England, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of some of the most interesting news to come out of the driverless, connected-car world this week:

BMW says helmets won’t be needed with their self-balancing motorcycle

While most of the world is focused on semi-autonomous features that can make cars safer, BMW has been quietly focusing on a semi-autonomous motorcycle. This week, the auto manufacturer unveiled its design for the Vision Next 100 bike, with features like semi-autonomous steering and self-balancing wheels. Instead of a helmet, the bike will come with a visor that has an internal display super-imposed over the road and surrounding environment. The bike’s connected-vehicle system will give alerts about obstacles and risks on that display. BMW says the self-balancing wheels are so effective, a rider won’t even need to put their feet down on the ground when they stop, and it will be so hard to crash the bike, traditional helmets and padded, protective clothing won’t be necessary. Read more about the Vision Next 100 on CNNMoney.

Driverless cars tested on UK public roads for the first time

As Britain keeps moving toward its goal of having driverless cars on the road by 2020, a test car hit the public streets of Milton Keynes for the first time on Tuesday. Traveling at about 5 km per hour, the small two-seater driverless pod car navigated the streets of the largely pedestrianized southern town, stopping for people that crossed in front of it and safely turning corners. The pod car, heavily adapted from a compact Renault car, was developed by the Oxford University spin-out Oxbotica. Read more about the driverless car’s first public trip from Reuters.

Lots of driverless news out of California this week

According to news outlets like Ars Technica, Wall Street Journal and Elektrek, things are really heating up in California, where the number of companies that have been issued permits to test autonomous vehicles has just climbed to 17, up by three just since the end of summer. The two newest permits were issued to Wheego, an electric vehicle powertrain engineering company, and Valeo, a familiar name in the industry as a longtime tier-one automotive supplier. Also recently, Chinese tech firm Baidu received a testing permit. In other California news, Elektrek was one of the first to spot prototypes of Google’s long-awaited self-driving Chrysler Pacific mini-vans in Mountain View last weekend, and published a few somewhat grainy photos. Read more recent industry news from Ars Technica.

Image: Vision Next 100 semi-autonomous motorcycle prototype, by BMW.

How Do You Buy a Million Cars When You Can’t Make a Dime?

Burney Simpson

The summer of 2016 is proving a topsy-turvy time for driverless industry as headwinds buffet ridesharing technology firms Uber and Lyft and auto OEMs foresee fully autonomous vehicles in a few years.

Isn’t this supposed to be a quiet time for business? Take a breather, sit by the water, and eat some Michigan cherry burgers.

Not in transportation technology.

For instance, Ford announced it was working to launch fully autonomous automobiles by 2021. BMW, Intel and Mobileye joined to say they will have vehicles in production for the same target date. Ridesharing titan Uber says it will launch this month driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh, though some employees will be in the car to ensure safety.

Forget the 10 years down the road baloney. We’ll be Level 4 Autonomous in three to five years.

Yet for all the excitement there’s been some downer news.

A number of outlets reported that Lyft was seeking a buyer, despite the $500 million that GM pumped into it earlier this year. (Lyft later denied the buyer story, blaming it on archrival Uber). Earlier this year Lyft pledged to its investors to keep its U.S. losses under $50 million a month.

And Bloomberg reported that Uber told its investors it lost $520 million in the first quarter, and more than $750 million in the second. This after losing about $2 billion in 2015. That must have played a part in Uber’s decision to sell its China operations to competitor Didi Chuxing.

SHAKY FOUNDATIONS

It’s valuable to keep in mind the shaky foundations of Uber and Lyft because the two have been touted as an important foundation for the growth of autonomous vehicles.

Supposedly car owners are going to shift to ridesharing to get around, abandon their cars, and start trying out all kinds of shared transportation options. That means mass transit, bike share, car share, semi-customized bus lines, even walking for crying out loud.

No more Single Occupancy Vehicles. American commuters unite. You have nothing to lose but your fat guts and bubbly butts.

The theory is that Uber, Lyft and other transportation providers will buy hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of autonomous vehicles from BMW, GM, Ford, etc.

They’ll phase out their human drivers, the most expensive part of their operations, and offer driverless vehicles that get you to work. For the ride home you’ll be allowed to drink and not drive. Just in time for legal marijuana baby!

Moovel2But if these guys can’t make money now, how do they buy/lease a million high-tech autonomous cars? Does Uber go back to investors like Goldman Sachs and Benchmark Capital for another $16 billion? It sounds like investors have told Lyft to stop the losses, despite whatever it denies.

Look, there’s been some great news for the ride sharers too. Lyft provided nearly 14 million rides in July, while Uber churned out 62 million.

Lyft President John Zimmer told Business Insider his company is on its way to providing $2 billion worth of rides. Uber, valued at $69 billion, will use the $1 billion it received from Didi to get out of China to grow in Southeast Asia or battle Lyft in the U.S.

But consider this – investors can be fickle, as proven by several tech bubbles already this century; Lehman Brothers is just the latest giant to have a huge valuation before it crumbled; and the stock market is hitting record levels.

Transportation technology offers an intriguing mix of glamour and grease that the VC geniuses love. For the rest of us it’s vital to see through the glamourous front so we don’t slip on the grease.

Graphics from Ford, Car2Go.

BMW, Intel and Mobileye Promise Autonomous Car Ridesharing Company Launch in 5 Years

Jennifer van der Kleut

In somewhat of a surprise move, BMW has announced it has developed a self-driving car that will be ready to hit the market in five years.

Why is it a surprise? Because BMW has never mentioned working on the technology–while, meanwhile, everyone from Google to Tesla, Ford, General Motors and others have been making their own autonomous-car announcements one after the other over the past year or two.

As WIRED reported, BMW made the announcement Friday that it will be deploying these fully-autonomous cars for ridesharing purposes.

The cars will rely on technology from chip-making giant Intel and the popular Israeli firm Mobileye. As we reported, Mobileye recently teamed up with Colmobil Corp., and has already put the first autonomous car up for sale in Israel.

Mobileye’s comprehensive, high-tech mapping technology is making the firm a highly sought-after partner for autonomous car development.

“Mapping is the key to making these cars work. A self-driving car with detailed maps can dedicate far more computing power to identifying and addressing things like cyclists, pedestrians and other cars in real-time,” WIRED stated. “That’s why TomTom still exists, and why BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen chipped in to buy [Nokia’s] mapping company Here last year.”

As Bloomberg points out, this announcement makes BMW AG the first automaker to set a specific date to promise delivery of autonomous cars to market.

Ridesharing businesses have been identified as big potential money-makers for autonomous vehicles. Already, several automakers including Volkswagen, Toyota, General Motors, Ford and Chinese company Didi Chuxing have announced plans to launch ridesharing/robot taxi companies, some of which are already operating in select markets.

Robo-taxis will make up 40 percent of automotive profits by 2030, making them a bigger revenue-generator than selling vehicles to individuals, according to consulting company Roland Berger, reports Bloomberg. In particular, they could prove to be very helpful to the elderly and the disabled.

FotoNation Preps Camera Systems for Autonomous Vehicles

Burney Simpson

FotoNation has partnered with Japanese automotive camera supplier Kyocera to develop and supply surround-view and rear-view camera systems that auto OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers can install in autonomous vehicles.

San Jose, Calif.-based FotoNation is a provider of computational imaging vision systems like Park Assist and 360 surround view for automated vehicles.

Japan-based Kyocera is an international supplier of electronic components, semiconductor packages, mobile phones, and other products. It reported net sales of $12.7 billion in its fiscal year ending in March.

Kyocera’s rear-view camera modules are widely used by auto OEMs.

“This (partnership) will jump start making these cameras more intelligent,” said Sumat Mehra, FotoNation’s senior vice president of marketing and business development.

Surround-view, or e-mirror, systems garnered publicity at this year’s CES show when BMW displayed a prototype vehicle with the technology (See “CES 16-Ford’s Plucky LiDAR, BMW’s Mirror, GENIVI’s New Member”).

The systems eliminate the need for side-view mirrors, and reduce the aerodynamic drag they cause. However, current federal rules require the mirrors.

The coming of driverless vehicles is building the demand for the camera systems the two partners plan to market. Tessera, FotoNation’s parent, told analysts in January that the total market for driver monitoring and rear/surround view technology could reach $1.3 billion.

FotoNation’s Driver Monitoring Systems (DMS) use driver identification and biometric technology to detect human faces, eyes, irises, smiles, blinks and head/eye movements.

It has already compiled a library of about 20 million images, said Mehra.

Autonomous vehicles will need this combination of image technology and image library to both monitor driver behavior and to watch the road, he said.

“This makes sense from an insurance perspective,” said Mehra. “Is the driver attentive, is he looking at his phone? … These are all things we will be required to know in the future.”

Mehra says products from the partnership could be launched in the 2019-2020 timeframe. That is a bit behind the May 2018 deadline for all new vehicles in the U.S. under 10,000 pounds to have rear-view cameras.

Daimler Gets Moovel-ing on Mobility As A Service

Burney Simpson

Daimler launched a Mobility as a Service (MAAS) firm in North America called moovel, with promises to offer a choice of transportation options at the push of a smartphone app button.

Moovel is designed to link riders with providers of public transportation, car-sharing, ridesharing, bike sharing, and other forms of transportation.  

Moovel was launched as a pay-as-you-go service, with consumers having the ability to use their smartphone as a payment device for trips.

The concept of MAAS is evolving. In general it refers to a subscription-based, phone app-accessible mix of transportation options for users. The mix can include public transit, privately-held firms like Uber and Lyft, bike share programs, traditional taxi firms, and car-share firms like car2go.

Major auto OEMs are investing in MAAS-style services following the growth of non-traditional transportation offerings, especially among younger consumers.

Daimler operates car2go in about 30 cities in Europe and North America. Rival BMW announced this month it had begun operating its ReachNow car-sharing service in Seattle, and would possibly expand it to nine more cities (See “Siren of Mobility Entices BMW, Jaguar, Peugeot”).

MOBILE TICKETS AND PAYMENTS

Daimler said its launch of moovel is in response to the growth of urban populations worldwide, and to the rise in rides on public transportation. In 2014 there were nearly 11 billion public transportation rides, the highest ever, says Daimler.

For riders, moovel will offer mobile ticketing and payments for public transit agencies. For transit agencies, moovel helps them integrate with ”last mile/first mile options like bike share and on-demand car services,” according to Daimler.

The creation of moovel comes from Daimler’s 2014 purchase of transportation app provider RideScout. Last June, RideScout bought GlobeSherpa, a mobile book and ticketing service for public transit.

Moovel inherits from its two parents a number of agreements with public transit agencies in major metropolitan areas.

For example, in the Chicago area moovel has a relationships with the Chicago Transit Authority, the suburban PACE bus service and the metro-wide Metra train service.

In California, moovel has deals with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and the North County Transit District.

Plans call for moovel to eventually offer Ridetap, a software development kit or SDK, that app developers can build on to assist users get to their final destination.

RideTap is currently operating only in a private beta mode in Portland, Ore. A program there allows users to request a Lyft ride, or reserve a car2go. Moovel says RideTap will be launched more widely later this year.

In Germany the moovel app offers access to car2go, the car-sharing firm Flinkster, the taxi booking and payments app mytaxi, the German railway company Deutsche Bahn, and public transportation, says Daimler.

Nat Parker, co-founder and former CEO of GlobeSherpa, is now CEO of moovel NA. Joseph Kopser, co-founder and former CEO of RideScout, is now president of moovel Group GmbH.