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News Roundup: GM Opens Network to Infotainment App Developers, Lyft Announces Plans for Its Own Self-Driving Car Division in Palo Alto, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A look at major headlines to come out of the driverless and connected car industries over the past week:

GM opens network, allows app developers to test infotainment apps in real vehicle environment

General Motors (GM) has announced a move to make it easier for app developers to test their infotainment apps in a real test vehicle environment. GM announced that it is offering up its next-generation infotainment software development kit–NGI SDK–to the general development community. This will give developers access to GM’s Dev Client, and allow them to test their creations in a real-life test vehicle early in the process, which GM claims is the first time an automaker has done so. Mashable explains, once a developer is ready to make something, “they can download the new SDK, which has been available since January, to build out their app and begin emulating the in-car environment to kick things off.” GM says the open developers network is ready and open for new applicants. Read more from Mashable.

 

Lyft forms autonomous vehicle division in Palo Alto, California

Ride-hailing app Lyft announced it is setting up its own division dedicated to self-driving cars in Palo Alto, California. Reports indicate Lyft will focus on developing its own software network, including a navigation system, with plans to open up the network to the general public, allowing other tech companies and automakers to use the network, and potentially even share data. Industry analysts believe Lyft will likely monetize the program by taking a cut of ride-sharing fees collected by companies using their network. A Lyft spokesperson said a big motivation for the move is to help bring the environmental and safety benefits of autonomous vehicles to the world sooner. Read more from SFGate.

 

Microsoft joins Baidu’s driverless-car alliance, ‘Project Apollo’

Chinese tech giant Baidu and Microsoft have announced that they will be working together on driverless cars. Microsoft has reportedly joined Baidu’s Project Apollo. “Our goal with Apollo is to provide an open and powerful platform to the automotive industry to further the goal of autonomous vehicles,” said the president of Baidu, Zhang Yaqin, in news reports. Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, Azure, will reportedly be “instrumental” in the Apollo initiative. As much as 50 other famous firms and automakers, including Ford, Daimler, 13 car manufacturers from China, and many ride-sharing operators, component providers and suppliers have also announced plans to join Project Apollo. Read more from Investor NewsWire.

Image by Lyft

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: Driverless EZ10 Shuttle Scheduled to Debut in Taiwan This Summer, Industry Predictions From Australia, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

The latest driverless transportation headlines from the past week, summed up for you:

Driverless shuttle will launch in Taiwan this summer

A new EZ10 autonomous shuttle is scheduled to launch in Taiwan on various campuses of National Taiwan University (NTU) this summer. The vehicle itself was manufactured by French lightweight automobile manufacturer Ligier, and the self-driving technology is the product of another French company, EasyMile–original developer of the EZ10–together with Taiwanese firm 7Starlake. The shuttle has no back or front and can easily change direction at any point on its route. The shuttle can cruise at up to 20 miles per hour, and can carry up to 12 passengers, six sitting and six standing. It is also equipped to carry handicapped passengers. The shuttle is expected to debut first with a single route at the NTU Shuiyuan Campus in July, and will expand to additional routes later. Read more from Euro Transport Magazine.

 

Australia association insists all cars will be driverless, all highways will have dedicated lanes, within 10 years

One major association in Australia is getting mightly confident about the nation’s progress toward driverless cars. A new report from Roads Australia, one of the biggest associations for the nation’s roads, predicts that all new manufactured cars will be driverless within 10 years, and that all Australian roads will feature dedicated lanes for driverless cars within 5 to 10 years. The report also refers to American ridesharing company Lyft in stating that by the year 2025, it will be cheaper to pay to ride in a driverless car than to own and maintain one’s own vehicle, and that vehicle ownership will be all but nonexistent. While many say they are encouraged by Roads Australia’s report, however, plenty of others are calling it “ambitious” and “unrealistic,” including David McCarthy, an executive from Mercedes Benz in Australia. McCarthy said he is more inclined to believe that increasing levels of driving autonomy will happen over the next many years, but that reaching full autonomy across the board within 10 years is unlikely, in his opinion, not only due to the technology’s progress, but also lags in legislation. Read more from Drive.

 

Uber fires head of its self-driving car division

Presumably yielding to mounting pressure during their court battle with Google’s Waymo, Uber has fired Anthony Levandowski, the head of its self-driving car development division. Levandowski was previously the head of Google’s self-driving division, and Waymo alleges that when he left the company to accept the job with Uber, that he downloaded as many as 14,000 files, many relating to Waymo’s Lidar system, which is the key component to its self-driving car technology. Previously, a judge ordered that Levandowski halt working on any driverless car technology until the lawsuit was settled, but this week, Uber opted instead to fire Levandowski, who is still required to cooperate in the court battle and investigation. Uber has replaced Levandowski with self-driving car engineer Eric Meyhofer. Read more from Bloomberg.

Delphi Drives the D20 with Spin-off News

Delphi was among thirteen price gainers that beat out seven price losers to help the Driverless Transportation Weekly Stock Index (D20) gain 0.7 percent and close at 198.09 to clinch its third consecutive “up” week.

The D20 just outpaced the S&P 500 Index, which rose 0.6 percent and closed just under 2,400 at 2,399.29.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above the 21,000 mark at 21,006.94 for a 0.3-percent gain, but was still doubled up by the D20.

Delphi (DLPH) led the D20 with its commitment to spin off the combustion engine part of its business to focus on electric and connected vehicles. The market cheered as Delphi gained $7.30 per share, or 9.5 percent, to close at $87.70 a share.

French parts maker, Valeo SA (VLEEY) and Japanese electronics and chip manufacturer, Renesas (TYO:6723) both enjoyed good weeks as well.  Valeo’s ADR rose 3.5 percent to close at $37.20 and Renesas, which is listed on the Tokyo exchange, jumped 3.8 percent to end the week at ¥1101.

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

 

Up-and-Comers:

The Campbell, California startup, Renovo has taken money from Verizon among others in a $10-million venture round.  Renovo is taking that money to become a driverless operating system provider to automakers and fleet operators. Verizon’s investment is an attempt to insert itself into the driverless space, where its network and services will play a huge role.

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.

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

Bobatoo.co.uk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By The Numbers:

A total of 2,109 UK residents were surveyed.

Gender:

Male – 53%

Female – 47%

Age:

17-24 – 12%

25-35 – 28%

35-45 – 21%

45-55 – 27%

55-65 – 8%

65+ – 4%

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

Yes – 72%

No – 28%

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

Yes – 76%

No – 24%

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

Excited – 34%

Concerned – 28%

Not bothered – 38%

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

Yes – 37%

No – 45%

Don’t know – 18%

 

Image: Rendering of Google driverless car / Credit: Google

News Roundup: Daimler to Build Driverless Cars for Uber, France Gets More Autonomous Metro Lines, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A look at some of the most interesting headlines to come out of the driverless and connected-vehicle industries this week:

Daimler to manufacture self-driving cars for Uber

This week, German auto manufacturer Daimler and ride-hailing giant Uber announced a new partnership in which Daimler will manufacture a self-driving car for Uber. Uber spokespersons said they expect their new driverless cars to be added to their ride-hailing fleets in the next few years. The partnership is not exclusive, however–Uber remains free to work with other auto manufacturers, and Daimler reportedly remains free to build self-driving cars for other companies as well. Read more from the New York Times.

 

French transport authority signs contract to make two metro lines driverless

The city of Lyon, France is ready to embrace driverless technology. Lyon transport authority Sytral has awarded the firm Alstom a contract worth 91 million Euros to upgrade signalling for driverless operation on two lines of the Lyon metro. At the same time, Sytral will also equip the already driverless Line D with the new signalling, which is due to go live in 2023. The upgrade is part of Sytral’s Future Metro 2020 program, which aims to increase rider capacity on metro lines A, B and D in response to a predicted 30-percent increase in ridership. Read more from Metro-Report International.

 

EasyMile EZ10 shuttle bus takes mayor, passengers for test ride in New Orleans

On the second stop of its U.S. tour, after wowing passengers in Atlanta, the EasyMile EZ10 driverless shuttle took the mayor of New Orleans along with a number of members of the public for a ride down Convention Center Boulevard. The shuttle bus can transport up to 12 passengers at a time and can go at speeds of up to 40 km per hour. The free rides were presented by Easy Mile, the startup company that engineered the shuttles, and Transdev, the private company that runs the operations of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority. Read more and see a video from The New Orleans Advocate.

 

Photo: Autonomous metro trains in Lyon, France/Credit: Wikipedia

News Roundup: Mass. State Senator Introduces Bill to Allow Zero-Emission Driverless Cars, Skipping Driverless Cars and Going Straight to Passenger Drones, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of headlines to come out of the driverless, connected-car industry in the past week:

Massachusetts Introduces Bill to Self-Driving Cars on Public Streets — As Long As They’re Electric

A new bill has been introduced at the state level in Massachusetts that would provide regulations for autonomous cars on public streets–as long as they’re electric. Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) is preparing to file the bill with the State Senate, and says mandating that self-driving cars be zero-emission will help encourage automakers to be more environmentally friendly, which is line with Massachusetts’s priorities. Lewis said the bill would come with a tax of 2.5 cents per mile, to help offset lost state revenue from gas taxes. He said he welcomes ideas and suggestions and hopes the bill’s introduction will prompt “robust debate.” Read more from The Valley Dispatch.

 

Op-Ed: Forget Driverless Cars — The Future is Driverless Passenger Drones

Check out this opinion piece from Adam Singola. Singola argues almost suggests that simply making cars driverless is a waste of time, when we can take it one step further and make them flying, too. Singola said the future of transportation is flying passenger drones. He points out that one thing that makes human-driven cars so dangerous is the fact that they have to share the road with passengers, cyclists, unexpected objects and poor road quality, not to mention other cars. Therefore, he says driverless passenger drones will be safer, and will render things like parking problems, traffic congestion, and road construction obsolete. He also describes a ride he recently took in an actual passenger drone. Read more on TechCrunch.

 

U.S. Department of Transportation Identifies 10 ‘Proving Grounds’ for Testing Autonomous Vehicle Technology

In a move that many say will help the U.S. keep up with its Asian and European rivals, the U.S. Department of Transportation this week officially designated 10 sites across the country that officials say will act as “official sites for validating the technology,” as run by top organizations working on the technology. Automakers will be able to share the facilities to test their autonomous prototypes, and officials said they hope working in “close proximity” to others working on the same technology will allow them to share best practices and data. The 10 sites are run by the following organizations across the country: Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute; the Texas AV Proving Grounds Partnership; Maryland’s U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center; California’s Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) and GoMentum Station in Concord, California; the San Diego Association of Governments in California; Michigan’s American Center for Mobility (ACM) at Willow Run; the Iowa City Area Development Group; the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Central Florida Automated Vehicle Partners; and the North Carolina Turnpike Authority. Read more from Bloomberg Technology.

Photo: Acura driverless car being tested at GoMentum Station in Concord, California.

News Roundup: Group Wants a 50-Year Ban on Driverless Cars, Las Vegas Gets a Driverless Shuttle Downtown, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of recent headlines from the driverless and connected-car industries:

Groups advocate for ban on driverless cars due to projected job losses

A number of transportation labor groups are starting to pop up across the U.S., advocating for a ban on driverless cars due to the number of jobs they expect the technology to eliminate. In particular, New York’s Upstate Transportation Agency is seeking a 50-year-ban on the technology, stating they expect 4 million jobs to be lost, or 3 percent of America’s workforce. In addition, the Independent Drivers Group is advocating for keeping the law that requires at least one hand on a car’s steering wheel at all times, which they believe will effectively ban driverless cars as well. Read more from The Daily Dot.

 

China signs off on plans for world’s largest autonomous driving test zone

Officials in Zhangzhou, China have signed off on plans to designate a 56km-wide zone of the city to act as the world’s largest autonomous drive test area. Chinese news outlets describe the plans as consisting of a “city-level lab road network with complete traffic signs.” The designated zone will also include a 600,000-square-meter closed testing ground and a two-million-square-meter open experimental field. Michigan’s similar testing area, known as Mcity, will reportedly help with Zhangzhou’s plans. Officials said they hope the zone will debut by the end of the year. Read more from China Daily.

 

Driverless shuttle debuts on Las Vegas streets

Canadian transport operator Keolis has partnered with Navya Technologies to run a driverless shuttle along the streets of Las Vegas. The city of Las Vegas recently designated an “Innovation District” for the testing of cutting-edge technology. Keolis recently purchased four Navya shuttles to test out driverless technology in select areas across Europe, and the two companies ran a trial in Lyon, France in September. The new shuttle, called Arma, is transporting passengers along east Fremont Street between Las Vegas Boulevard and Eighth Street, alongside regular street traffic, and can carry up to 12 passengers. The two-week trial will last from Jan. 11 to 20. The shuttle reportedly travels at a speed of around 15km per hour. Read more from the Las Vegas Sun.

Photo: Arma shuttle by Navya and Keolis drives through Las Vegas. Credit: Navya