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Ford is Week’s Biggest D20 Loser Due to More Quarterly Sales Declines

With 11 price losers, led by Ford Motor Co., and nine gainers, led once again by Renesas, the Driverless Transportation Weekly Stock Index (D20) slipped 0.5 percent to end the week at 190.35.

Both the Dow Jones Industrials and S&P 500 stepped back this week as well.  The Dow lost 1.5 percent to close at 20596.72 while the S&P 500 closed at 2343.98, down 1.4 percent.

The fourth quarterly sales decline in the last six quarters pushed Ford (F) to a 6.9-percent loss last week making it the largest price percentage loser for the D20. Ford closed the week at $11.62 a share.

Up 22 percent during the last four weeks, Renesas Electronics (TYO:6723) was the leading price percentage gainer again last week, moving up 3.5 percent to close at ¥1140. Renesas continues to benefit from good reviews of its recently completed acquisition of Intersil, as well as corporate restructuring.

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

Up-and-Comers: 

Uber continues its string of bad news with an announcement that one of its driverless vehicles was involved in a high-speed accident in Arizona.  Although the vehicle had no backseat passengers at the time of the accident, Uber has suspended all autonomous driving in the U.S. as it investigates the incident.

DeepScale, based in Mountain View, California, raised $3 million in seed funding to help driverless automakers use standard low-wattage processors to build more perceptive autonomous systems. DeepScale was founded by UC-Berkeley alumni, Forrest Iandola. His goal is to reduce both the cost of the processors required and the time it takes to “train” to neural nets that run on those processors to get affordable and safe driverless vehicles to market quickly.

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News Roundup: A New ‘Language’ for Driverless Cars That Recognizes Hand Signals, Autonomous Buses Help Paris Address Smog, Traffic Problems, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A look at some of the biggest headlines to come out of the driverless car industry recently:

New ‘language’ for driverless cars helps them recognize pedestrian hand signals

A team of four researchers from Imperial College London and Royal College of Art in the U.K. have developed a new “language” for self-driving cars called “Blink.” They say the language will teach self-driving cars how to recognize pedestrian hand signals. This will make it possible for pedestrians to wave at driverless cars to signal that they want to cross the street in front of the cars, which will trigger the car to stop and display a “green light” on the windshield letting the pedestrian know it’s safe to go. Or, conversely, they can wave the car off, letting the car know it’s safe to keep going. The developers say they hope the technology helps increase humans’ comfort level in interacting with driverless car technology. Read more from Deloitte.

 

Driverless buses arrive in Paris

Two autonomous shuttle buses began transporting passengers between two train stations in Paris in the last few weeks. The buses, built by renowned autonomous bus company EasyMile, can transport 12 passengers each and are completely autonomous, as well as electric. City officials say they are not only excited to try out the EZ10 buses because of their interest in driverless technology, but also because Paris is struggling with problems of smog and traffic congestion, and they are confident this new innovation can help offer solutions to both problems. Read more and see photos from DigitalTrends.com.

 

Ford invests $1 billion in self-driving car company

Ford Motor Co. announced this week that it will invest $1 billion over the next five years in Argo AI, a company that will provide driverless technology for a self-driving car Ford plans to introduce in 2021. Argo AI representative said the company is now looking for a Pittsburgh headquarters, and will hire about 200 people here and in other cities. Ford said the amount of top talent found at Argo AI and in the Pittsburgh auto industry helped solidify the decision for them. Read more from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Photo: An EasyMile EZ10 autonomous shuttle bus / Credit: EasyMile

TomTom’s Drop Brings the D20 Stock Index Down After 5 Weeks of Gains

After five weeks of consecutive gains, a drop by TomTom led the Driverless Transportation Weekly Stock Index (D20) to take a slight step back this week, losing 0.18 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 185.64.

With an evenly divided 10 stock price gainers and 10 stock price losers, this time the D20 was no match for the Dow, which rose 1 percent, or the S&P 500, which added 0.8 percent.

Tesla Motors (TLSA) was the D20 price-percentage gainer, adding 7.1 percent to close at $269.23.  Tesla’s jump in price was likely caused by a combination of CEO Elon Musk’s access to President Trump and the NHTSA’s decision to close the investigation into a fatal accident that involved a Tesla with its Autopilot engaged.

After posting a Q4 loss with revenue down 6 percent, TomTom (TOM2) was the D20’s price-percentage loser.  TomTom lost 9.6 percent last week, closing at €7.79. Without TomTom’s loss the D20 would have been easily in the black this week.

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

 

Up-and-Comers:

Ford, looking to add muscle to its driverless car program, invests in Argo AI.  Ford is committing to spend $1 billion on the start-up and operate it as an independent subsidiary. Argo AI was founded by the former head of Google’s car division, Waymo, and a former top engineer for Uber’s self-driving division. It appears Ford, like many of the other automotive manufacturers, felt the need to buy technology as opposed to developing it in house with the race to deliver driverless cars heating up.

Otto won Hot New Startup at the Chrunchies.  The Chrunchies Awards are an annual event in its tenth year, sponsored by TechCrunch and devoted to celebrating start-up technology companies.  Otto has plans to develop technology for self-driving trucks. Otto demonstrated its technology in October with an Otto-powered truck delivering 50,000 Budweiser cans to Colorado Springs from Fort Collins, Colorado.

News Roundup: Ford Introduces ‘SmartLink’ Connected-Car Plug-In For Older Vehicles, U.S. Lawmakers Consider Car Cybersecurity Bill, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of interesting headlines from the driverless and connected-car worlds over the past week:

Ford designs new device to turn older cars into connected cars

Ford Motor Co. has created a new device called SmartLink that can plug into older cars through the OBD link II and turn them into fully connected cars. The SmartLink includes a 4G LTE modem on board, letting it act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 8 devices in the vehicle. It also enables remote start, lock and unlock functions, and can send alerts to a car owner via a companion web and mobile app to let them check the car’s diagnostic health, and get alerts related to security and service requirements. SmartLink was designed to work with Ford and Lincoln cars built between 2010 and 2016. Read more from TechCrunch.

 

Driverless bus debuts in Atlanta before embarking on U.S. tour

The Alliance for Transportation Authority offered rides in an autonomous, 12-passenger bus in Atlanta on Thursday to kick off a U.S. tour. The tour, which will take the bus to other major cities in states such as Texas and California. Representatives of the Alliance hope the tour, and free rides on the shuttle, will improve public perception of self-driving cars, which they see as one of the biggest barriers to the implementation of the technology. Read more from the Albuquerque Journal.

 

U.S. lawmakers introduce bill to study cybersecurity in connected cars

With at least 90 percent of cars on U.S. roads expected to have connected-car features by 2020, U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a bipartisan bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to study cybersecurity in vehicles. Named “The Security and Privacy in Your Car Act,” the bill requires the NHTSA to work with the Defense Department, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center, SAE International, and academics and manufacturers in the automotive industry to set a standard for safety in all connected cars. Together, the group will study how to isolate software systems in vehicles, create a system to prevent and detect hacks, determine best practices for storing data and create a timeline for how to implement these standards. Read more from GeekWire.

Photo: Ford SmartLink plug-in / Credit: Ford Motor Co.

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

News Roundup: Dubai Residents Get Free Rides on Driverless Shuttle, Blackberry Expands Partnership with Ford Motor Co., and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A look at some of the most interesting headlines to come out of the driverless, connected-car world this week:

 

Mercedes exec aims to clarify statement made on whether it would prioritize safety of car occupants over pedestrians in driverless car accidents

It’s an ethics dilemma that has caused controversy for years when it comes to talk of a driverless future–if a driverless car is faced with the choice of plowing ahead into a pedestrian, or veering to avoid the pedestrian but potentially crashing the car into a median and risking the lives of the car’s occupants (or any number of similar no-win traffic situations), which is the right choice? Well, it appeared at a recent public appearance by Christoph von Hugo, Mercedes manager of assistance systems, active safety and ratings, that Mercedes planned to always prioritize the safety of a car’s occupants over a pedestrian when he said, essentially, “save the life you know you can save.” However, Mercedes now appears to be backing away from those comments after backlash from outlets who surveyed consumers and found that many people would be uncomfortable riding in a driverless car programmed to sacrifice the life of the imagined pedestrian. Read more on Mercedes’ position (or lack thereof) from BT.com.

 

Dubai residents treated to sneak-peek rides on driverless shuttle

Dubai pedestrians were treated to a surprise glimpse into the future recently when Road and Transport Authority officials offered them rides in their new driverless shuttle. The vehicle was part of a public transport trial by the emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). The automated, 12-passenger shuttle bus carried passengers down a 700-metre stretch of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, between a stop opposite Dubai Opera and the Vida Downtown Dubai hotel. After their ride, officials asked passengers to fill out a survey assessing their confidence in the technology, and whether they thought it was a passing fad. Read more from The National.

 

Blackberry expanding partnership with Ford, Ford will replace Microsoft’s Sync with Blackberry’s QNX platform

Since acquiring the QNX platform in 2010, Blackberry is reportedly focusing on a lucrative partnership with Ford and hoping it will pull them in a profitable new direction since abandoning their smartphone business. As part of a new agreement between Ford and Blackberry, reported by Blackberry recently, Blackberry will dedicate a team of engineers to work with Ford on replacing Ford’s current Sync by Microsoft infotainment system with QNX. Industry analysts say this bodes very well for Blackberry’s future as they transition from a hardware to a software company. Read more about the Ford-Blackberry partnership from TechRepublic.

News Roundup: Tesla Improving Autopilot System, Ford Planning ‘Affordable’ Autonomous Car for the Masses, and More

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

 

Ford announces plan to start selling affordable self-driving cars by 2025

In a speech by CEO Mark Fields on Monday, Ford Motor Co. announced it will begin selling driverless cars within the next five years. The company will start by selling robot taxis to ride-hailing companies by 2021, and then “affordable” models to the masses by 2025. Fields said the company is committed to making autonomous cars affordable for everyone, not just those who like luxury cars. Read more about Ford’s plans from Bloomberg News.

Volvo to begin driverless car testing in Sweden

Sweden-based auto manufacturer Volvo is almost ready to kick off its public driverless car testing program in Gothenburg. The program, called Drive Me, will feature the company’s first autonomous car, the Volvo XC90 SUV, which the company has been working on in its Torslanda facilities. Once final testing of its hands-off and feet-off capabilities is complete, the cars will be handed over to customers who have signed up to participate in the Drive Me program. Read more about the XC90 and the Drive Me program in Economic Times-Auto.

Tesla announces plans to upgrade its Autopilot systems

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk on Monday announced plans to update its Autopilot system, after a number of accidents that included one death. Analysts have responded positively to Tesla’s announcement, and express hope that the updates will not only improve the company’s outlook, but also consumer confidence in self-driving technology as a whole. Musk said the updates will include more of a reliance on radar instead of just cameras to scan the environment for obstacles that create a risk for collisions. The recent fatal crash involving Autopilot is still being investigated by federal transportation authorities. Read more about Tesla’s plans from the Los Angeles Times.

News Roundup: Russia Developing Autonomous Mini-Bus, Velodyne’s Lidar System Takes Off, and Google Car Team Gets a New Director

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of some of the most recent headlines from the driverless transportation industry.

Russia teams up to develop electric autonomous mini-bus

Yandex–otherwise known as the Google of Russia–announced it is working on its own autonomous vehicle, a 12-passenger mini-bus. The company said it is teaming up with Daimler, the government-backed NAMI automotive research facility, and truck manufacturer Kamaz. Yandex is expected to contribute its knowledge in computer vision, artificial intelligence and speech recognition to the project. NAMI has said the minibus could begin testing as early as 2017. The electric mini-bus will be designed to be able to travel up to 200 km, or 124 miles, before it needs recharging. Read more about Russia’s autonomous minibus on Futurism.

Google’s self-driving car team poaches new director from Airbnb

Following the departure of former CTO Chris Urmson, Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving car team announced a new director this week. The team appears to have poached Airbnb’s head, Shaun Stewart, who will be resigning his post as Airbnb’s global head of vacation rentals to take up his new director position at Google. Analysts are speculating that Google plans to speed up its driverless car timeline under Stewart’s leadership–and that, potentially, it could also mean the self-driving car team could spin out and become it’s own company, rather than a division of Alphabet Inc. Read more about Google’s new hiring announcement on Yahoo! Finance.

Velodyne trades out high-end audio systems for Lidar, autonomous vehicles

Velodyne, a California-based company most widely known for its high-end audio systems, is now getting into the autonomous vehicle business. With $150 million in financial backing from both Ford Motors and Chinese search engine giant Baidu, Velodyne is moving full speed ahead with its Lidar systems. With a presence on three continents, Velodyne is  now regularly mentioned in research reports that cite leading companies in the niche field of Lidar. In addition to cars, the systems also have growing potential for agricultural equipment, mining vehicles and military vehicles. Read more about Velodyne’s new partnerships on USA Today.

Image: Autonomous mini-bus under development in Russia, courtesy of NAMI.

How Do You Buy a Million Cars When You Can’t Make a Dime?

Burney Simpson

The summer of 2016 is proving a topsy-turvy time for driverless industry as headwinds buffet ridesharing technology firms Uber and Lyft and auto OEMs foresee fully autonomous vehicles in a few years.

Isn’t this supposed to be a quiet time for business? Take a breather, sit by the water, and eat some Michigan cherry burgers.

Not in transportation technology.

For instance, Ford announced it was working to launch fully autonomous automobiles by 2021. BMW, Intel and Mobileye joined to say they will have vehicles in production for the same target date. Ridesharing titan Uber says it will launch this month driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh, though some employees will be in the car to ensure safety.

Forget the 10 years down the road baloney. We’ll be Level 4 Autonomous in three to five years.

Yet for all the excitement there’s been some downer news.

A number of outlets reported that Lyft was seeking a buyer, despite the $500 million that GM pumped into it earlier this year. (Lyft later denied the buyer story, blaming it on archrival Uber). Earlier this year Lyft pledged to its investors to keep its U.S. losses under $50 million a month.

And Bloomberg reported that Uber told its investors it lost $520 million in the first quarter, and more than $750 million in the second. This after losing about $2 billion in 2015. That must have played a part in Uber’s decision to sell its China operations to competitor Didi Chuxing.

SHAKY FOUNDATIONS

It’s valuable to keep in mind the shaky foundations of Uber and Lyft because the two have been touted as an important foundation for the growth of autonomous vehicles.

Supposedly car owners are going to shift to ridesharing to get around, abandon their cars, and start trying out all kinds of shared transportation options. That means mass transit, bike share, car share, semi-customized bus lines, even walking for crying out loud.

No more Single Occupancy Vehicles. American commuters unite. You have nothing to lose but your fat guts and bubbly butts.

The theory is that Uber, Lyft and other transportation providers will buy hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of autonomous vehicles from BMW, GM, Ford, etc.

They’ll phase out their human drivers, the most expensive part of their operations, and offer driverless vehicles that get you to work. For the ride home you’ll be allowed to drink and not drive. Just in time for legal marijuana baby!

Moovel2But if these guys can’t make money now, how do they buy/lease a million high-tech autonomous cars? Does Uber go back to investors like Goldman Sachs and Benchmark Capital for another $16 billion? It sounds like investors have told Lyft to stop the losses, despite whatever it denies.

Look, there’s been some great news for the ride sharers too. Lyft provided nearly 14 million rides in July, while Uber churned out 62 million.

Lyft President John Zimmer told Business Insider his company is on its way to providing $2 billion worth of rides. Uber, valued at $69 billion, will use the $1 billion it received from Didi to get out of China to grow in Southeast Asia or battle Lyft in the U.S.

But consider this – investors can be fickle, as proven by several tech bubbles already this century; Lehman Brothers is just the latest giant to have a huge valuation before it crumbled; and the stock market is hitting record levels.

Transportation technology offers an intriguing mix of glamour and grease that the VC geniuses love. For the rest of us it’s vital to see through the glamourous front so we don’t slip on the grease.

Graphics from Ford, Car2Go.

D20 Quiet Despite Ford Flop, TomTom Rise

Summer market doldrums and a lack of blockbuster driverless news combined for a quiet week for the D20. With no one D20 stock gaining or losing more than 4.5 percent, 10 gainers balanced by 10 losers moved the index up an insignificant 0.01 points.

Bad news continues to follow Ford (F). A week after its 2Q earnings miss sent the stock down by 8.5 percent, the auto OEM announced July vehicle sales slid nearly 3 percent year over year.  Ford was the D20’s second largest price loser for the week, shedding 3.7 percent of its value to close at $12.19. Only the Swedish truck manufacturer, Volvo AB’s (VOLV-B) price dropped more percentage-wise, losing 3.8 percent and closing the week at 87.75SEK.

TomTom (TOM2) continued a four week string of consecutive price increases last week and recorded the D20’s biggest percentage price increase. Short interest decreased as TomTom’s price moved up from €7.64 to €7.98, a 4.4 percent rise.

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

Up and Comers:

Didi Chuxing and SoftBank Group are leading a massive $600 million fundraising round for Grab, a Southeast Asian ride-hailing service, says Bloomberg. Grab operates in 30 cities in six countries. The deal comes the week after ride-hailing Didi bought out Uber’s China operations in return for $1 billion and a ~18 percent stake in the combined firms. The first deal made one-time rivals Didi and Uber partners in China while the second makes Didi a competitor with Uber through Grab in Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.

The jockeying for market leadership comes as GM’s VP of Urban Mobility Julia Steyn predicts that ridesharing and car sharing services will grow 95 percent in the next two years, according to Automotive News.