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News Roundup: Trump Administration Reviews Federal Self-Driving Car Guidelines, Roborace Shows Off New Driverless Race Car, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of headlines to come out of the driverless transportation industry the past week:

Roborace and NVIDIA show off electric driverless race car

Roborace is creating some buzz with previews of its new electric, driverless race car, powered by a “brain” created by NVIDIA. According to Engadget, the car features a 540kW battery and four 300kW motors, which the Roborace team says can push the car up to 320 km per hour, or 199 miles per hour. The car is outfitted by a wealth of sensors, including two radars, five LIDARs, 18 ultrasonic sensors, two optical speed sensors and six AI-driven cameras, all feeding into NVIDIA’s “brain.” The car’s ultra-futuristic styling comes from chief designer Daniel Simon, who has worked on such science-fiction blockbusters as Tron: Legacy and Captain America: The First Avenger. No word yet on when the car will first race on a real racetrack, but the team promises more demonstrations this year. Read more and see photos from Engadget.

 

New Transportation Secretary ‘reviewing’ federal driverless car guidelines released under Obama administration

Brand-new U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told the National Governor’s Association this past weekend that the Trump administration is “reviewing” federal guidelines regarding driverless vehicles, released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) late last year. Automakers, tech companies and transportation officials across the globe have been holding their breath since the new president took office, wondering if President Trump would scrap the progress made during the final months of President’s Obama’s second term, or would embrace it and press ahead. Positively, though, Chao said the new administration wanted to be “a catalyst for safe, efficient technologies, not an impediment.” Read more from The Hill.

 

Renault-Nissan, Transdev partner up to start on-demand driverless car service

Renault-Nissan and Transdev have signed a research contract to develop an on-demand service that connects people to driverless cars to get around. Transdev consults and helps manage public transportation operations in Asia, Europe and North America, and is involved in a number of pilot autonomous vehicle tests in France. The app the two companies plan to build will assist both sides of the business–the consumers that hail the driverless cars for rides, and the operators of the fleet companies. The Renault-Nissan Alliance says it plans to launch cars that can navigate city intersections and heavy urban traffic without driver intervention by 2020. Read more from Fortune.

 

News Roundup: Tesla Launches Improved Autopilot 8.0, Driverless Taxis Hit the Streets of Singapore, and More

A look at some of the most interesting recent headlines across the industry:

 

nuTonomy partners with taxi-hailing app Grab to offer robot taxis

Singapore-based taxi-hailing app Grab announced it is partnering with software startup nuTonomy to test out robot taxis to its customers on a trial basis. As of this past Friday, Sept. 23, “Robo Car” is an option offered to customers using the Grab app to hail a taxi in one area of the city-state. The robot taxi must be hailed in advance, and only one passenger is allowed to ride at a time. The passenger will be joined by a safety driver and a support engineer to ensure the ride is problem-free. There are currently two vehicles operating, which had previously been in testing since April. If all goes well, Grab and nuTonomy said they hope to have a fleet of 12 robot taxis on the road by the end of the year, and as many as 100 operating by 2018. Read more from Mobile World Live.

 

As Tesla releases Autopilot 8.0, Elon Musk says ‘perfect driverless-car safety is impossible’

After a few highly publicized accidents with the previous iteration of Autopilot–one of which killed the car’s driver–Tesla Motors released the new and improved version, Autopilot 8.0, this past Wednesday, Sept. 21. Reports indicate the new version offers better visibility in weather conditions such as fog, improved emergency braking, and auditory alerts that remind drivers to pay attention to the road. In fact, if four warnings within one hour are ignored, the car will reportedly shut down its semi-autonomous features and only allow them to be turned back on if the driver pulls over, parks, shuts off the car and restarts it. Regardless, CEO Elon Musk told media outlets that “perfect driverless car safety is impossible,” and some outlets are saying they agree with that statement. Read more from the Orlando Sentinel.

 

Verizon pushes to be the top provider of self-driving and connected-car fleet management

Telecommunications giant Verizon is working to position itself as a top manager of self-driving and connected-car fleets. Verizon is becoming a strong provider of telematics services, offering a combination of telecommunications, vehicular technologies and real-time wireless data that are central to connected cars and self-driving vehicles. Verizon most recently made moves to acquire Fleetmatics Group PLC for $2.4 billion and Telogis Inc. for an undisclosed amount. Both companies offer services for managing and operating vehicle fleets, which many believe to be the gateway for acceptance of self-driving cars. Once both deals are closed, Verizon will control about 25 percent of the telematics market, making them the largest provider world-wide. “You can’t have autonomous vehicles if they’re not connected to the Internet, which our best-in-class networks enable. That connection becomes ever more important — the reliability of it, stability of it, security of it — as the stakes associated with autonomous vehicles goes up,” commented Andres Irlando, the CEO of Verizon Telematics Inc. Read more about Verizon’s progress on The Detroit News.

Image: Tesla Motors Autopilot

IBM Raises Profile on IoT and Connected Cars

Big Blue is hitting the accelerator on connected car technology.

IBM is sending its executives to appear at conferences a month after releasing a cloud-based service for automakers that is designed to use the Internet of Things (IoT) so cars can communicate with their owners.

IBM’s IoT for Automotive product will gather data from sensors installed in the vehicle, analyze the information, and let the owner know she needs to change the oil, or communicate with a third-party like a garage or a parking lot, IBM announced.

IBM has been working for several years on connected-vehicle communications systems with German-based auto-technology provider Continental.

Next month, IBM will be presenting at the Connected Fleets USA Conference in Atlanta, discussing the Smart City and its impact on fleets.

Calvin Lawrence, CTO of analytic solutions at IBM, will discuss Smarter Cities for Smarter Infrastructure. In a press release Lawrence says, “(A)s citizens themselves continue to be more socially capable and mobile – their expectation is that the cities in which they live will be fit for purpose. This is especially true for the fleet industry which relies on the efficiency of cities to keep logistics running.”

The connected fleets confab is put on by TU-Automotive and runs Nov. 16-17 in the Grand Hyatt.

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