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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

News Roundup: Autonomous Volkswagen Bus Debuts at Detroit Auto Show, Britain Makes Progress Toward Insuring Autonomous Vehicles, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of some of the biggest headlines to come out of the driverless, connected-car industry this week:

 

Volkswagen wows at Detroit Auto Show With ‘I.D. Buzz,’ Its New Autonomous VW Bus

Volkswagen is calling it its most “emotional” car ever, as it spells nostalgia for long-time fans of the old VW bus. The I.D. Buzz is VW’s new autonomous car that is debuting at the Detroit Auto Show this week. The bus can seat up to eight people and has trunks in both the back and the front. When the driver switches to autonomous mode, the steering wheel retracts into the dashboard. VW says the I.D. Buzz should hit the market by 2024. Read more and see a video on Deadline Detroit.

 

Google files patent application for autonomous ride-sharing technology

News outlets are reporting that Google filed a patent application on Dec. 22 titled “Determining Pickup and Destination Locations for Autonomous Vehicles.” The patent is reportedly for a new type of technology that would determine the best location for an autonomous vehicle to pick up or drop off a passenger, and if it determines it is not safe, suggest an alternate location. Google’s application says the technology is necessary because self-driving vehicles may not always be able to operate everywhere a human driver would. Many industry analysts have been speculating for some time that Google will plan to use self-driving cars for ride-sharing, much like Uber, and this appears to lend credence to that speculation. Read more from eWeek.

 

British government makes strides toward insurance for autonomous vehicles
The British government last week said it is making progress toward determining guidelines for insurance for autonomous vehicles. In an announcement on Jan. 6, the Department For Transportation said it plans to implement protections for victims of collisions in which it is determined that autonomous vehicle technology was at fault. The report states that the victim will have a “direct right against the motor insurer, and the insurer in turn will have a right of recovery against the responsible party, to the extent there is a liability under existing laws, including product liability laws.” Britain is making big strides in the path toward determining the best course for insuring autonomous vehicles, even moving ahead of the U.S. For example, in January 2016, a number of Britain’s leading auto insurance companies joined together to form the Automated Driving Insurance Group (ADIG), headed by the Association of British Insurers, to determine guidelines for which party should be responsible in crashes of autonomous vehicles–the drivers, or the vehicle manufacturers. Read more from Road Safety GB (Great Britain).

News Roundup: Atlanta Builds a Smart Corridor, Hitachi Develops App to Park Cars Via Remote Control, and More

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

 

Hitachi and Clarion Co. develop app to park your car via remote smartphone app

Hitachi has partnered up with Clarion Co. to develop a smartphone app that allows you to park your car by remote control from outside the car. It works for parallel or perpendicular parking, or parking in a garage. The companies announced this week that they plan to offer the system to vehicle manufacturers initially, to attain early commercialization. Read more from JapanToday.

 

Atlanta’s North Avenue to become smart corridor, and potentially driverless corridor

A project is underway along Atlanta’s North Avenue to transform it into a smart corridor, complete with smart signals and lighting. Even the pavement will have markings and sensors that can talk to each other and talk with the traffic signals to make vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic move more safely and efficiently. A representative of the City of Atlanta says, once the smart corridor is complete, the city has also received more than a dozen proposals to host a self-driving car demonstration there as well, which could potentially lead to the avenue becoming a driverless car corridor as well. North Avenue is a highly congested corridor, anchored on once side by Georgia Tech and on the other end by Ponce City Market. Read more from Curbed: Atlanta and AJC.com.

 

Chinese company buys stake in Nokia’s Here mapping system

The Chinese technology group Tencent has bought a stake in Nokia’s mapping system arm, Here. Industry analysts speculate that Tencent wants to win market share away from its two biggest competitors in the burgeoning driverless car market, Baidu and Alibaba. Here will compete with Amap, the in-car mapping system Baidu and Alibaba recently purchased from AutoNavi two years ago. Market figures indicate Baidu and Alibaba’s mapping systems each get around 200 million users per month. Tencent’s current mapping system only gets around 8 million users per month. Chinese laws only allow a certain number of licensed providers to create maps of the country due to national security concerns. Read more from Financial Times.

 

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: Tesla’s New Self-Driving Hardware to Debut This Month, Three Groups Get Green Light For Testing Driverless Cars in Ontario, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

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

Elon Musk says Tesla will roll out new self-driving feature before the end of the year

After announcing that all cars made after Oct. 19 would feature all-new self-driving hardware, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said this week that the company would gradually start activating the new capability “in about three weeks.” However, there still appears to be much confusion and speculation over just how “autonomous” the new feature will be, including whether a driver will still be expected to keep eyes on the road, or hands on the steering wheel. Additionally, some Tesla owners are upset that the newer models hae been stripped of so many of their previous features, in favor of the new hardware. Read more from Computer Business Review.

Three groups get licenses to test driverless cars in public in Ontario

Ontario’s Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca pulled up to a press conference recently in the “Autonomoose”–a self-driving Lincoln MKZ hybrid sedan–to announce to reporters that three groups have been granted permission to test their driverless prototypes on public roads in the province. The University of Waterloo’s Centre for Autonomous Research will test the MKZ starting early next year; Erwin Hymer Group is the second, and QNX, a division of Waterloo’s BlackBerry, will develop vehicle software in association with its test of automated features of a 2017 Lincoln. Read more from TheStar.com.

Construction begins on American Center for Mobility in Michigan

Progress on the new American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan is moving quickly. Just months after the sale of the old 330-acre Willow Run test site was finalized, construction on the ACM has already broken ground. A ceremonial first dig by officials including Governor Rick Snyder was conducted last week. ACM will be a site for testing autonomous and connected-car vehicle technology, and is expected to be open for business by this time next year. Read more and see photos on Detroit Free Press.