Posts

Will Driverless Cars Usher in a Real Estate Building Boom?

Jennifer van der Kleut

The Center for Real Estate Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) released a report this week that has industry analysts and media outlets buzzing. Will a shift toward autonomous vehicles over the next decade or two spur a real estate boom, as garages are leveled to make way for more housing and office buildings, and sidewalks are widened to encourage more walking?

The report, entitled “Real Estate Trends: The Future of Real Estate in the United States,” which was sponsored by Capital One Bank, features research on a number of trends relevant to the advent of the technology and its potential impact on real estate across the nation, including housing affordability and inventory, fluctuations in home values, demographics and more, as well as the current boom taking place in the Internet of Things (IoT) industry.

As industry analysts predict that the advent of autonomous cars will bring about a decline in personal car ownership and a subsequent rise in fleet companies that offer ride-hailing services in driverless cars (which a number of companies are currently working on, including General Motors, Uber and others), they predict it will dramatically change the shape of both urban and suburban landscapes.

With less of a need for parking garages–as, presumably, autonomous fleets will pretty much run rides 24/7–the report predicts many inner-city parking garages will become obsolete, and perhaps actually be demolished to make way for much-needed additional housing.

They also predict sidewalks will be widened; with less of a need for on-street parking, designated “drop-off zones” for autonomous fleet cars will be created instead. Widened sidewalks will encourage more walking by pedestrians who can now live in the increased downtown housing and walk to work or to shopping and restaurants.

“Developers are already starting to target parking structures, gas stations and auto dealerships, betting that they’ll be able to redevelop the sites as car ownership becomes obsolete, said Rick Palacios, director of research at John Burns Real Estate Consulting,” reporters at Bloomberg News quoted this week, in response to the report.

Suburbs won’t go away, though–if they don’t have to fight traffic driving into the city themselves anymore, the MIT report predicts that people will still enjoy living in quieter residential neighborhoods and enjoying a relaxing commute to work every day in an autonomous car, when they can nap, get a jump-start on work or watch TV while their robot taxi keeps an eye on the road.

Rick Palacios authored an article in September that expanded on some of the predictions about how autonomous cars will reshape cities and affect real estate.

He pointed out that increased availability of autonomous ride-hailing would also allow senior citizens and the disabled to age at home longer, which would slow home sales to a certain point, but would then be off-set by the building boom of new housing he mentioned to Bloomberg. In addition, he predicts industries like general contracting and home remodeling may get a boost as people retrofit homes to accommodate seniors and disabled persons living at home longer.

Palacios even suggests that home contracting prices may go down, as transportation costs for shipping materials are reduced. He predicts humans will also enjoy lower personal transportation costs, as hailing robot taxis will cost much less than the regular maintenance and up-keep of owning a car, paying for the insurance on it and filling it with gas (especially if a shift toward autonomous cars also means a shift toward electric cars).

Read the entire report from MIT’s Center for Real Estate Research here.

Image: Pixabay

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

NVIDIA Loss Leads to D20 Drop

Even though price gainers outnumbered price losers 11 to nine, a 4-percent drop by NVIDIA (NVDA) led to an overall drop for the Driverless Transportation Weekly Stock Index (D20) this week.

The D20 stepped back from an all-time high after three consecutive weeks of gains by losing 0.2 percent of its value, closing at 226.18. The Dow and S&P 500 followed suit by losing ground as well. The Dow lost 0.9 percent and the S&P 500 gave back 0.6 percent to close at 2461.43.

NVIDIA’s 4-percent share price drop was the primary reason the D20 lost ground this week.  Now at 23.7 percent of the D20’s total value due to its 560-percent rise over the past 18 months, NVIDIA lost $6.77 per share and closed at $163.69 this week.  Even small movements in NVIDIA’s share price seem to move the D20 value considerably.

Daimler AG (DDAIF), the parent of Mercedes-Benz, was the D20’s price percentage gain leader this week. Its share price jumped 6.1 percent as rumors swirled that it is considering a structural organization change that would separate its truck and bus unit.

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

Up-and-Comers:

LiDAR maker Innoviz has secured a $65-million Series B investment, led by D20 components Delphi Automotive (DLPH) and Magna International (MGA). The money will reportedly be used to prepare for large-scale production planned for 2019.  Innoviz’s LiDAR designs use solid-state components and no moving parts, which should make their systems less costly and more reliable than current systems on the market from companies like Velodyne.

Lyft and Drive.ai have teamed up for a pilot of self-driving cars in San Francisco. Founded in 2015, Drive.ai is a Bay Area-based developer of artificial intelligence software for driverless vehicles that uses deep learning algorithms.

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.

News Roundup: India Says ‘No’ to Self-Driving Cars, Two Companies Plan Cross-Border Road Test for Driverless Cars, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

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

India says No to driverless cars over fear of job losses

India’s transport minister, Nitin Gadkari, told news outlets this past week that driverless cars will not be allowed in India anytime soon, due to the number of job losses it could lead to. Gadkari said India’s unemployment rate is still too high to risk losing jobs to automated vehicles. As it is currently, he said the country is in need of at least 100,000 more commercial drivers and he looks forward to being able to provide the Indian people with so many available jobs. In addition, India officials estimate that the amount of infrastructure changes that would be needed to prepare India for self-driving cars would be far too expensive given the nation’s current economy. Gadkari did say he would not rule out the technology altogether in the future if India’s situation improves. Read more from BBC News.

 

Manhattan proposal wants to transform cross-island highways into roads exclusively for driverless vehicles

Manhattan-based architecture firm Edg has proposed a bold project that they say would reduce urban pollution and congestion in Manhattan and make some major roadways on the island exclusive to driverless cars. The proposal, called “Loop NYC,” wants to take major roadways that cut across the island–namely, 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th, 86th and 110th streets–and turn them into roads that are exclusive to driverless cars. Edg says this could cut down traffic time from the current 40 minutes it takes to drive a loop from Grand Central Station to Lower Manhattan and back down to just 11 minutes, with traffic flowing more smoothly thanks to self-driving vehicles. In addition, Loop NYC wants to create enormous green spaces and pedestrian bridges that would cross over the driverless roadways and would be exclusive to pedestrians and bicyclists, improving beauty while reducing pollution, as well as increasing the city’s walkability. As expected, the proposal is still “largely speculative” in nature, particularly given the fact that the federal government still has not approved a nationwide set of laws and regulations for driverless cars. Read more about Loop NYC on ArchDaily.

 

Two companies plan road test for driverless cars across the border from the U.S. into Canada

Two major companies working on driverless vehicle technology, Continental and Magna, are teaming up for a whopper of a road test. The two companies plan to send self-driving cars across the border from Michigan into Sarnia, in Toronto, Canada. The cars will reportedly cross the border at two locations–through the tunnel from Detroit into Windsor, and crossing the Blue Water Bridge into Sarnia. Reps say the cars’ “driverless mode” will be enabled whenever possible but will likely include a few instances when the driver will take over control. They add, crossing an international border makes for incredibly unique driving conditions, which will allow Continental and Magna to collect a lot of valuable data from the cars’ cameras, LiDAR and radar. In addition, the test will reveal future hurdles when it comes to crossing the borders of two different countries with two different sets of laws and regulations. Read more from TechCrunch.

Image: Loop NYC rendering by Edg

Despite Big Jump by Denso, D20 Takes a Small Dip

Despite a big jump for Japanese auto parts maker Denso, the Driverless Transportation Weekly Stock Index (D20) took a small dip this past week, after enjoying three straight weeks of gains, rising 12 out of the past 14 weeks.

The D20 lost 2.85 points, or 1.3 percent, losing ground against the Dow, which gained 1.2 percent, and the S&P 500, which remained virtually unchanged.

The only D20 stock that moved significantly this week was Denso (DNZOY), which jumped 7.6 percent to close at $23.18 on rumors that when it reports quarterly earnings on Aug. 4, they will be above expectations.

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

Up-and-Comers:

Here, the mapping company jointly owned  by Daimler, Audi, and BMW, is launching a real-time traffic service that pulls data from its joint owners’ vehicles. Here, which started as a division of phone maker Nokia, was spun out and sold to a joint venture of the three German automakers. 

Momenta, a Chinese-based new entrant to the driverless car software market, recently raised $46 million in a series B venture funding. One of the funders was Daimler, which seems to have accelerated its driverless efforts recently.

News Roundup: Much Ado About Tesla Motors, Elon Musk

Jennifer van der Kleut

It’s been a week of big news surrounding Tesla Motors Inc. — both the cars themselves, as well as the company’s famous inventor and CEO, Elon Musk.

First, last week, Musk tweeted what he called an exciting announcement, claiming that had received “verbal government approval” for his company, The Boring Company, to design and build an underground train and network of tunnels that would carry vehicles at high speeds between New York City and Washington, D.C. in an unbelievable 29 minutes, with stops possible in other locations like Philadelphia and Boston.

The reports have been disputed, though some government officials have said “positive conversations” did take place.

This week, Musk showed off early testing of the concept of the tunnel. He explained that it begins with a car being loaded onto an “elevator” at a “collection point,” which is then lowered into the tunnel on a type of “sled on wheels,” capable of transporting the cars through a network of tunnels at high speeds.

In other Tesla news, it was announced today that the forthcoming Model 3 has once again landed itself the top spot as Consumer Reports magazine’s top-rated luxury sedan. This came about after Tesla promised that automatic emergency braking would be standard in all cars, and would work at highway speeds as well as lower speeds.

Deliveries of the Model 3 will reportedly begin rolling out this week to customers who pre-ordered the car. Priced competitively at $35,000, buyers in California will again be able to take advantage of federal tax credits and rebates that could bring the price down to around $25,000.

Of course, Musk reports that the company is still fervently working on self-driving cars as well.

Image of Model 3 by Tesla Motors

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.