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News Roundup: Waymo Gets Patent For Exterior Airbags On Self-Driving Cars, Ford to Test ‘Cellular-V2X’ Tech in San Diego and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

 

Waymo granted patent for exterior airbags

Google’s self-driving car spinoff company, Waymo, has been granted a patent for an airbag system that would be located on the outside of a car. Since self-driving cars are outfitted with sensors, cameras, radar and lidar on the outside of the car, Waymo engineers argue that the car itself can predict an accident even sooner than a human driver can (or can’t, if he or she is distracted). The concept of exterior airbags could protect passengers in the vehicle from an impact, as well as “reduce the likelihood of severe injuries or damage to objects such as pedestrians, bicyclists, animals, other vehicles, or simply inanimate objects.” Read more from Silicon Beat.

 

Mcity autonomous vehicle testing ground gets big investment from automakers, corporations

Mcity, the University of Michigan’s testing ground for autonomous vehicles, has received a total of $11 million in funding from 11 different companies, both corporations and automakers. Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Honda all contributed about $1 million each, and other corporations like State Farm Insurance, Verizon, LG and others. Mcity is a 32-acre man-made “city” where companies can conduct research and test autonomous vehicles. The hub offers a number of varied conditions for vehicles to test in, such as different road conditions, four-lane highways, high-pedestrian streets featuring fake, mechanical pedestrians, and much more. Read more from HybridCars.com.

 

Ford partnering with AT&T, Qualcomm and Nokia to test ‘cellular-V2X’ technology

Ford Motor Co. announced this week that it has formed a partnership with Qualcomm, AT&T and Nokia to test cellular modems that can connect vehicles to each other and to roadside infrastructure to help better navigate in bad weather or construction zones. “Cellular-V2X” technology, as it is called, aims to connect vehicles with traffic lights, roadside beacons and other vehicles on the road to share real-time information about driving conditions. It’s meant to improve safety, as well as help speed up the deployment of self-driving vehicles. Testing is scheduled to take place in San Diego, California before the end of the year. For testing, Ford vehicles will be outfitted with Qualcomm hardware powered by AT&T’s 4G LTE cellular network and Nokia’s computing technology. Read more from Automotive News.

Image: Rendering of self-driving minivan with exterior airbags by Waymo

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.

Blackberry Royalty Settlement Helps Stock Rise Again, Bringing D20 to a New High

With 10 price gainers and 10 price losers this week, one would expect the Driverless Transportation Weekly Stock Index (D20) to take a week off and end its consecutive gain streak, but the D20 defied convention and rose for the sixth straight week. Led by Blackberry once again, the D20 added 2.83 points, or 1.4 percent, to end the week at 210.16, which is a new high.

The Dow and S&P 500 kept pace with the D20 this week as the S&P 500 rose 1.4 percent and the Dow gained 1.3 percent to close over 21,000 at 21,080.28.

For the second week in a row, Blackberry (BBRY) was the leading percentage price gainer, jumping 7 percent to close at $11.11 a share on news that its settlement from a royalty dispute with Qualcomm was significantly higher than originally expected.

This week, Ford Motor Co. (F) shook up the industry by replacing its CEO with the head of its new mobility division.  By losing more than 20 percent of its value, Ford’s stock has had the worst record of any D20 stock since August of 2015, and may finally be getting serious about changes to the 114-year-old enterprise.

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

Up-and-Comers:

Innoviz, an Israeli start-up, has announced a solid state after-market LiDAR unit aimed at the prototyping and testing market for automakers and Tier-1 auto parts suppliers. The unit, called InnovizPro, is squarely aimed at the market where driverless car companies are spending near $70,000 a unit for Velodyne LiDAR systems for their prototypes and testing units.

News Roundup: Volvo’s Autonomous Garbage Truck, Paris’s Driverless Race Car, and More

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

Volvo shows off its new autonomous garbage truck

This week Volvo debuted a video that shows its new prototype autonomous garbage truck in action. The concept is being hailed as the future of waste management. It will reportedly save money on personnel as it only requires one employee to manage, versus a team of two to three employees currently (one to drive, and at least one to load and unload garbage cans) and it will streamline refuse collection by doing it faster and more efficiently. The way it works is this: one employee walks on foot and follows the garbage truck, which drives itself. With each stop, the employee pushes a button and loads garbage cans into the machine and then takes them out after they have been emptied. The truck features sensors and software that is identical to that in Volvo’s prototype self-driving passenger cars, which Volvo gets from its partner, Uber. Uber’s mapping capabilities allows the route to be pre-programmed into the system so the truck knows exactly where to go. Read more, see photos and videos from Motoring.com.

 

Autonomous race car debuts in Paris

The French city of Paris saw its first autonomous vehicle hits its streets recently when the self-driving Robocar wowed crowds in Formula E’s Paris ePrix. The car completed 14 turns of a 1.9-kilometer track, negotiating completely by itself without a driver. “The team has worked so hard to get us to this point in a short amount of time. The car is alive and it has emotion and its own personality already. Roborace is the only company in the world right now testing driverless technologies on city streets without a human in the car – this is something truly unique,” Robocar CEO Denis Sverdlov told media. Robocar is capable of speeds over 200mph.  The car uses a number of technologies to drive itself including five lidar sensors, two radar sensors, 18 ultrasonic sensors, two optical speed sensors, six A.I. cameras, GNSS positioning, and is powered by NVIDIA’s Drive PX2 brain, which is capable of up to 24 trillion A.I. operations per second, to be programmed by teams’ software engineers. Read more from Gadget.

 

Ford CEO Mark Fields being replaced by director of self-driving car division

Earlier this week the news broke that Ford’s CEO Mark Fields had been ousted, largely due to the fact that the company’s stock has dropped roughly 40 percent in the few years since he took over the company. Today, the New York Times reports that the executive to take Fields’s place as CEO is none other than Jim Hackett. Hackett previously served as the CEO of the office furniture giant Steelcase, and had recently joined Ford as the director of the company’s smart mobility division, which includes the research and development of self-driving cars. Though Ford has been working on self-driving car technology for a few years now, Fields reportedly had been criticized for not advancing the technology quickly enough. Read more from the New York Times.

Image: Still photo from Volvo video

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.