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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

A Roadblock to Self-Driving Cars: Who Owns the Data?

One question that may be holding back progress toward autonomous cars – who will own the data?

As more automakers look toward partnerships with technology companies to develop their cars into self-driving transportation vehicles, one wrench in the wheel appears to be a disagreement over who will own the data garnered from the vehicle.

As some of the earliest self-driving car models come into reality, the data gathered from those early cars–mapping, sensor data, traffic data, efficiency, and much more–is incredibly valuable to many parties.

However, other data collected could be on the drivers themselves–where they eat, where they shop, what movies they like to see and more, explains TheStreet.com, especially as in-car shopping and entertainment systems become more popular.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that the question of the ownership of such data is a very big deal.

In fact, determining that ownership is what several news outlets report put the brakes on partnership talks between General Motors and Google previously, as well as talks between Ford and Google. TheStreet reports the point of contention could also be complicating GM’s recent acquisition of San Francisco-based self-driving car tech firm Cruise Automation.

“Automakers don’t want to relinquish control of data in return for access to computer code; at least, not now,” TheStreet said.

Now, Google has confirmed it will be partnering with Fiat-Chrysler. Google’s technology will be put into 100 Chrysler Pacifica mini-vans for testing on public roads.

Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne recently told Reuters that the question of who will own the data from the prototype vans has yet to be determined, but it seems that talks are going amicably. TheStreet speculated, “More than likely, [Fiat-Chrysler] had to agree to respect Google’s boundaries pertaining to software and intellectual property.”

Marchionne said to Reuters, though, before they get that far, they need to get the vans up and working.

“We need to get to a stage where the car is viable so we can discuss the spoils of that work. We’re not there,” he told Reuters.

Report: Google and Fiat-Chrysler Partnering Up to Develop Self-Driving Mini-Vans

Jennifer van der Kleut

According to Bloomberg News sources this week, Google and Fiat-Chrysler are planning to partner up to develop new self-driving mini-vans based on Fiat’s Pacifica model.

The new driverless mini-van will reportedly combine Fiat-Chrysler equipment with Google self-driving technology, and will function as a plug-in hybrid, Bloomberg reports.

Many industry experts are not surprised by the news. Just last month, Fiat-Chrysler Chairman John Elkann was quoted as saying that in order to keep up with the times, the automaker should work with “new industry participants” like Google and Apple, rather than compete with them.

Tech Insider reports that the first step in this partnership will be for Fiat-Chrysler to provide Google with a fleet of Pacifica mini-vans, which Google will equip with its self-driving technology and then put to the test.

Google has been in talks with various automakers for quite some time, trying to find a partner for the manufacturing of future driverless cars that would be available to consumers. Bloomberg reports that Google previously was in talks with General Motors, but that disagreements over ownership of the technology and data brought those talks to an end.

Tech Insider analysts think the Fiat Chrysler-Google partnership will be very beneficial to both parties.

“It would likely give Fiat Chrysler a jump start on getting Google’s autonomous tech–which already has 1.4 million miles clocked-in–into its cars before anyone else has the chance, and it’d also almost definitely be a ton cheaper for the company than if it was to develop it’s own self-driving tech.”

According to Bloomberg, the partnership will be moving forward very soon this year.