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.


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.

Shared Mobility Cuts Car Ownership, Remakes Transit: Study

Burney Simpson

Car ownership can be reduced if public transit agencies and shared mobility firms expand their partnerships and implement new ways to track their success, according to a new report sponsored by the Transportation Research Board.

The report “Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit” was designed to find if shared mobility forms can help reduce car ownership and increase use of public transit.

The study was conducted by the Shared-Use Mobility Center in Chicago. The research included participation from seven city areas: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC.

Self-driving vehicles are often lumped under the shared mobility platform, with ridesharing firms like Uber and Lyft making strategic plans to buy and operate driverless cars to reduce personnel costs.

carsharing2The report found that travelers that most actively used shared modes of transit were those that used transit frequently, owned fewer cars, and had reduced transportation spending.

These “Supersharers” of such services as bike sharing, carsharing, and ridesourcing report the greatest transportation savings and that they own half as many cars as people who use transit alone.

Supersharers owned 0.72 cars per household compared with the 1.05 cars per household owned by travelers that had used at least one of these sharing modes. Those that had used only public transit as a shared mode reported owning 1.5 cars per household.

The survey was conducted last September-October of more than 4,550 adults in the seven city study markets. Participants used one or more of the shared use modes, including transit.


The report recommended that public transit agencies transform themselves into mobility agencies. This includes “spreading awareness and training people how to use the full mobility menu to reduce the need for personal vehicles.”

In addition, public transit agencies have to change their metrics for measuring success:

“Current metrics that are focused solely on operational measures such as route ridership, unlinked trips, passenger revenue miles, or road capacity and congestion are not sufficient for gauging performance in the expanding mobility ecosystem.

“Improved metrics should take into account the entire mobility picture, including increases in linked, multimodal trips and reductions in solo car trips, vehicle miles traveled, and transportation-related climate impacts.”

The report examines the relationship of public transportation to shared modes, including bike sharing, carsharing, microtransit, and ridesourcing services. Paratransit and demand responsive services are also reviewed.

An earlier version of the study was released in March under the auspices of the American Public Transportation Association.

Study methodology included: In-depth interviews with transportation officials; a survey of shared mobility users; analysis of transit and ridesourcing capacity, demand, and comparative travel times; an assessment of practices and regulations relating to paratransit provision; and a compilation of current business models and public-private partnerships that build on new technologies from the emerging shared mobility sector.

The newly-released study is in pre-publication form and was conducted on behalf of the Transportation Research Board’s Transit Cooperative Research Program.

The TRB is co-hosting this week the Automated Vehicles Symposium 2016 in San Francisco with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

Photos by Uber, goDCgo.

Hype-less AVS 2016 Asks the Right Research Questions

Burney Simpson

Is this the show for autonomous driving nerds? No, that’s not quite fair. The Automated Vehicles Symposium 2016 is for the research types, the folks that dig deep to develop the systems that are going to bring driverless cars to fruition.

If that’s a nerd, wear the name proudly.

The AVS organizers must be doing something right. Last year it drew 870 attendees, a 50 percent rise from 2014. This year it looks to bring more than 1,000 academics, researchers and government staff to the San Francisco Hilton at Union Square on July 19-21, with ancillary meetings on the 18th and 22nd.

The conference is managed by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), and the Transportation Research Board (TRB), a division of the National Research Council.

The Symposium calls itself the “largest gathering in the world of professionals involved with making automated vehicles a reality.”

Jim Misener acknowledges there’s a certain nerd factor to the show, but that’s because it is heavily weighted to engineers, scientists and deep thinkers.

“This show is less about the hype, and more about understanding what the research questions are,” said Misener, a director of technical standards with Qualcomm Technologies, the telecom giant’s chip design and R&D arm.


There are two parts to the AVS, notes Misener.

In the morning there are short speeches on big topics by the likes of U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and reps from Ford and Nissan. Speakers cover ‘important matters’ like ethics, regulations, and autonomous activities around the globe.

After lunch you get the real action with 4-hour multipart breakout sessions that include presentations, Q&As, panels, videos, the ubiquitous PowerPoints, and general discussion. These sessions are designed to encourage frank interaction, and are closed to the media.

Misener helped to organize two of the 22 breakouts.

Enabling Technologies focuses on the foundational technology for driverless vehicles – mapping, algorithms, communications, sensing (sensors), and data.

In brief, the seminar is designed to educate on the strengths and limitations of each of these five technologies in 2016, and how they might work together in successful autonomous vehicle deployments. The discussion can lead to an understanding of technology gaps, and the research needed to close the gaps.

The ultimate goal is to define state of the art driverless technology, and determine how we can advance to that, said Misener.

He also helped organize a workshop on the aftermarket technology for autonomous vehicles.

AUVSI14aThe average car in the US is 11 years old, making aftermarket devices an important way to get autonomous technology into vehicles already on the roads.

“There could be a market for these devices. They could usher in safety and mobility services that get us to automated vehicles,” said Misener.

Other breakouts will address such topics as sustainability, cybersecurity, shared mobility, you get the drill, the usual.

Many attendees will come early for the Monday, July 18 ancillary meeting of the engineering organization SAE On-Road Automated Vehicle Standards Committee. The second ancillary meeting is on Friday, July 22, with the EU-US-Japan Automation in Road Transportation Working Group.

In addition, the AUVSI is holding on July 18 the Startup Connection at the Hilton. It offers demonstrations, presentations and networking for firms in unmanned systems and robotics, and investors looking for new companies.

East Coast DOT’s Get Ready for Connected & Automated Vehicles

East Coast transportation officials gathered this week near Baltimore to catch up with the latest in autonomous activity at the ‘Connected & Automated Vehicles: What States Need to Know’ conference.

The event was organized and led by the I-95 Corridor Coalition, a partnership of state departments of transportation and related agencies in the 16-state region from Maine to Florida. Roads in these states account for 16 percent of the nation’s road miles and 35 percent of vehicle miles traveled.

The conference was designed to explain the importance of connected and automated technology, update officials on activities in the sector nationwide, and help assist states in developing next steps, said Dr. Trish Hendren, executive director of the Coalition.

About 200 registered for the conference at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum, Md.

Much of the conference was devoted to officials from state DOTs and related agencies updating each other on activities within their borders.

Here are some highlights from the first day of the conference –


A number of state DOT officials stressed how connected technology may help save the agency some bucks. Virginia DOT’s Dean Gustafson noted that Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications could mean the elimination of various signs and traffic signals that cost as much as $1 billion to develop, install, maintain.

Joah Sapphire, who has worked on the New York DOT’s connected efforts for Global Dynamic Group, suggested that a DOT could look at individual line items and find savings. For example, information gathered through connected tech could help New York reduce the $417 million it spends annually on salt and sand to treat roads during bad weather.

New York is already testing driverless trucks to be used in work zones that could make the space safer for crews, said Sapphire.

Gustafson said that states have to work together so communication systems work across borders. He acknowledged that states can be very competitive, especially when they seek research dollars or revenues from technology.

“It will be hard to compete with Michigan and the auto industry there. And Silicon Valley and venture capital (in California),” said Gustafson, state operations engineer. 

(However, Virginia is no slouch, busy testing with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, expanding its testbed last year to include parts of Washington Beltway, the Federal Highway Administration working on parts of Virginia’s Connected Corridors, and more ongoing projects.)

Gregory C. Johnson, state highway administrator for Maryland, said that states should look to ways to monetize the V2I technology and the highway land they own. “I’m looking for a state to come up with that magic bullet (of monetization) so I can copy them,” said Johnson.


Gene Donaldson, TMC operations manager with the Delaware DOT, said he has insisted the state install information-gathering technology whenever it lays down highways. And he teased the crowd by saying a certain firm asked Delaware if it could run its autonomous vehicle across the state to Pennsylvania. (The answer was yes as Delaware law doesn’t forbid it, said Donaldson. He wouldn’t name the firm.)

However, he warned that schools aren’t training enough people today in technology already installed, like traffic signals. How do you take advantage of V2I technology if you don’t have staff ready to work with it, asked Donaldson.


Several officials gave reports of strong research they are doing on connected and autonomous technology.

Dr. Gene McHale of the FHWA talked about research conducted in the Washington, D.C. metro area. The FHWA is testing connected vehicle tech with the 5.9 GHz band at nearby air bases and labs, and on I-66 in Virginia. One finding — 22 percent fuel savings when fully automated ‘glide path’ systems are used so vehicles avoid stopping at intersections.

Mark Kopko, manager of advanced vehicle technology with the Pennsylvania DOT, said the state is operating three testbeds with more than 20 intersections equipped with DSRC technology around Pittsburgh. Keystone State’s jewel is Carnegie Mellon, a robotics and autonomous technology leader.

The Pennsylvania legislature could soon consider SB 1268 that will allow NHTSA Level 4 testing, said Kopko. If approved, Pennsylvania will have greater leeway in driverless testing, and it already has plans regarding truck platooning.


Adam Jonas, a transportation analyst with Morgan Stanley, woke up the crowd after lunch with a presentation on the changes coming to the transportation business.

The ‘shared autonomy’ industry will be led by giants like Apple and Google who develop driverless vehicles that offer personalized transportation services akin to what Uber and Lyft are doing today, Jonas predicted.

People worldwide now ride a total of 10 trillion miles annually, said Jonas, and at $1 a mile, the market for transporting people is $10 trillion.

That’s an intriguing figure but the real money comes when the ‘megafleet’ operators sell to advertisers and others the eyeballs of riders sitting in the driverless cars.

Increased safety and reduction in deaths and injuries that connected technology brings will encourage citizens to shift to driverless vehicles and give up some privacy, Jonas argued.

Also, Jonas predicted a public/private partnership between a city and business in 2018 or 2019 will set aside an area exclusive to operating connected and/or automated vehicles. He declined to name the city.


Several speakers suggested the state officials may want to leave comments for the Federal Communications Commission as it considers whether to open up the 5.9 GHz spectrum to Wi-Fi communications.

In brief, the federal government set this section of the spectrum aside in 1999 for transportation safety messages using Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC). Connected vehicle proponents want to keep this space for this use as the technology grows.

Telecommunications firms have asked the FCC to allow them to use at least part of the 5.9 band. These firms say they will use it to offer bandwidth for Wi-Fi as it surges in popularity.

“The wireless community is very vocal,” said Blair Anderson, deputy administrator with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Dr. Gummada Murthy, associate director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, is fighting to keep the band reserved for transportation-related uses.  

“We don’t want to share it unless you can prove that sharing it will not compromise safety,” said Murthy.

He’s holding a webinar on June 30 for state DOT and local officials that will encourage them to send official comments to the FCC on DSRC.


A number of these East Coast speakers attended last week’s ITS America 2016 conference in San Jose. General impression was the technology was impressive, the number of connected and autonomous projects was impressive, the conference was impressive. Etc.


HERE announced it had been selected by the North Carolina Department of Transportation to provide its real-time traffic data for the state’s roadways. North Carolina joins seven other East Coast states in using Here’s Real-time Traffic Services.

North Carolina DOT chose Here through the I-95 Corridor Coalition’s Vehicle Probe Project that is designed so states and others can purchase, validate and share data.


Interesting to see who is spending some money to catch the eye of East Coast transportation officials. Conference sponsors included Ch2m, HNTB, Inrix, Jacobs, National Energy Research Laboratory (NREL), and WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Exhibitors included Cambridge Systematics, CATT Lab from the University of Maryland, Consensus Systems Technologies, HERE, Inrix, Kapsch TrafficCom, Kimley-Horn, NREL, and Southwest Research Institute.

The I-95 Corridor Coalition addresses such major topics as alternative transportation system funding, freight supply chain, MAP-21, FAST Act implementation, tolling issues, and connected and automated vehicles.

States on Front Lines on Driverless Policy: Seminar

Burney Simpson

State legislators will be among the most influential writers of driverless vehicle policy and an upcoming seminar will argue it is essential they are involved as the technology evolves nationwide.

The one-day “Automated Vehicle Policy and Regulation: A State Perspective Workshop” will be held on Wednesday, May 18, at the University of Maryland.

“Most transportation legislation is created at the state and local level. State legislators are on the front lines of the changes we will see with this technology,” said Stanley Young, the conference organizer and advanced transportation and urban scientist with the National Research Energy Laboratory (NREL).

“We need to get state and local officials engaged and aware of the issues as these massive changes occur in society,” said Young.

He notes that driverless transportation has the potential to reduce traffic fatalities and accidents, improve mobility for seniors and people with disabilities, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as vehicle idling and wasted trips

The seminar runs from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Howard Frank Auditorium at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, on the school’s College Park campus, near Washington, D.C.

Most states have yet to address autonomous and connected vehicle technology even though it could impact transportation for years to come. This is despite huge media attention on the topic, and a few states that are actively testing the technology.

Transportation experts will have to add autonomous vehicles to their discussion topics which traditionally have focused on highways and transit, said Young.

The workshop brings together a number of nationally-known experts in the driverless field.

Bryant Walker Smith, developer of the Center for Internet and Society website that tracks state legislative activity on driverless technology, will be on the opening panel framing the issues.

Smith will be joined by Robert Peterson, co-author of A Look at the Legal Framework for Driverless Vehicles (See “Send Lawyers, Guns and Driverless Vehicles”), and Frank Douma, who will discuss Minnesota’s initiative on mobility and people with disabilities.

Another panel features state legislators active in autonomous vehicles. State Sen. Mark Green of Tennessee (See “Tennessee Senate Scheduled to Vote on Proposed Driverless Law SB 1561 This Week”), and Del. Glenn Davis of Virginia will discuss their recently enacted legislation designed to build driverless-oriented business and encourage research on the technology (See “Careful Steps on Driverless Laws for Tennessee, Virginia”).

There will also be discussion on the opportunities for merging energy and transportation issues. The seminar will conclude with remarks from Alain Kornhauser, director of Princeton University’s Transportation Research Program.

The workshop is sponsored by the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology (CATT) at the University of Maryland, the I-95 Corridor Coalition, and NREL, a division of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Photo: FBI Press Conference by Jay Baker, 2014

Fleets Will SAEV Bucks with Driverless Electrics: Study

Burney Simpson

A fleet of driverless electric vehicles could be operated for 42 to 49 cents per mile, very competitive with costs per-mile for car-sharing services, and close to operating costs for private vehicle owners.

Running a fleet of these SAEVs, or Shared Autonomous Electric Vehicles, would be “significantly cheaper than on-demand driver-operated transportation services” like a traditional cab company or Uber.

These conclusions come from “Operations of A Shared, Autonomous Electric Vehicle Fleet: Implications of Vehicle & Charging Infrastructure Decisions,” a study geared to fleet owners seeking to reduce costs.

The study is by Kara M. Kockelman, the E.P. Schoch professor of engineering at the University of Texas at Austin; T. Donna Chen, assistant professor, department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Virginia; and Josiah P. Hanna, at the University of Texas at Austin.

Uber and other on-demand cab firms have made no secret they are looking to reduce their dependence on drivers. Meanwhile, Ford and other auto OEMs are expanding their driverless test research to speed development of the technology.


In their financial analysis, the authors considered such costs as vehicle purchase, maintenance and insurance, charging infrastructure cost, administration, gallon of gasoline vs. electric charge per kilowatt hour, and so on.

The authors then created a model geographic area for their car-sharing service.

They overlaid a 100 mile by 100 mile grid over the Austin metro area, and divided it into four zones – downtown, urban, suburban, and exurban. The grid was further broken down into 160,000 quarter mile by quarter mile cells.

chevrolet-en-v-concept-car-Red2Each zone had its own average trip generation rate, and average peak and off-peak travel times.

The many cost and trip variables led to the 42 to 49 cents per-mile range for operating a SAEV in a car-sharing service.

The authors contend that a SAEV equipped car-sharing service could charge 66 to 74 cents per occupied mile of travel.

That compares favorably to the 70 cents to $1.23 that Car2Go charges in Austin, and the equivalent $1.50 to $3.18 per-mile fee charged by Uber, according to the study.

Indeed, the SAEV cost is competitive with AAA’s 2014 estimate of 40 to 95 cents per-mile that it costs someone to operate their own vehicle.


There are several barriers to a SAEV system. First, fully autonomous cars aren’t available, and second the pushback against electric vehicles by consumers and fleet operators.

Many cite range anxiety, the fear that the vehicle will stop dead when its charge is depleted. Fleets have concerns about building a charging infrastructure, and managing the charge time for vehicles.

In response, the report put together cost comparisons when building such an infrastructure and found that it could be cheaper for a car-sharing fleet to operate driverless electric vehicles than comparable gas-powered cars.

Vehicles with driverless technology will be more expensive to purchase, though the operator will save on the driver’s compensation. No driver also means the vehicle could be in near-continuous operation, except when it is being charged.

A single SAEV with an 80-mile range could replace as many as 3.7 privately owned vehicles, if operators use a Level 2 charge that can take around 3-4 hours. A vehicle with a 200-mile range (think Tesla) could replace 5.5 vehicles when using a Level 2 charge.

HighwaysEngland2It would be even more efficient to use a Level 3 charge, which can give an electric the equivalent of an 80 percent fill up in 30 minutes.

A SAEV with an 80-mile range using a Level 3 charge would replace 5.4 standard vehicles, while a single 200-mile range SAEV would replace 6.8 vehicles.

Managing charging systems for a fleet of SAEVs takes a toll however. This fleet could see an additional 7 to 14 percent more travel miles as the vehicles run empty between charge stations and passenger pick up spots.

It should be no surprise that Level 3 charge systems cost more than the Level 2 systems. But costs have been dropping, and could well be even cheaper when fully autonomous vehicles are widely available.

The authors note that using an inductive, or wireless, charging system could bring costs down further, though a wireless Level 3 is not now commercially available. Google has been testing a wireless-induction system in California, according to reports.

In a previous study, Kockelman found that 41 percent of American consumers would pay an average of $14,600 extra for technology that made their vehicle fully autonomous (See “40% of Consumers Would Pay Extra for Driverless Tech”).

Images by Chevrolet, Highways England.

Canada Plans for the Disruption of Automated Vehicles

Barrie Kirk

Barrie Kirk, co-founder and executive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE), reports from last week’s Toronto conference — Automated Vehicles: Planning the Next Disruptive Technology.

The Automated Vehicles: Planning the Next Disruptive Technology conference was organized by the Conference Board of Canada and attracted a large number of attendees from all levels of government, the private sector and academia.

Highlights included:

  • I had the opportunity to give the keynote address opening the conference. I gave an overview of just what automated vehicles will mean — huge, disruptive changes to our lives, society and the economy. Our cities and our world will look very different in 2030 compared to today. We need this to be actively managed by all levels of government to maximize the benefits to everybody in the 21st century.
  • Antoine Belaieff of Metrolinx, a public transportation agency in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, spoke about the benefits of AVs for greater mobility, safety, lowering costs, and the opportunities to re-invent trucking and goods movement.
  • Stephen Buckley of the City of Toronto described how AVs can be used to build better cities. He asked: “How do we harness AVs to give us the city we want?”
  • John Eddy of ARUP suggested a government policy of no new lane miles.
  • Antonio Gomex-Palacio of DIALOG described the real opportunities for re-designing cities if we can eliminate personal car ownership. For example, condos are now being built in Toronto without parking.
  • A very interesting session addressed data ownership and data privacy. A key battle is between the different stakeholders who all want to own the data generated by AVs. Also, there is no such thing as 100 percent security of data and this will be an ongoing issue. Another area of concern is “function creep” in which data is collected for one purpose and is then used for something else. This is an area where we need government intervention and standards because, clearly, the market is not addressing this.
  • Karlyn Stanley of Rand Corp. discussed the similarities between data from smartphones and that from AVs and connected vehicles. From a data perspective, an AV is a smartphone on wheels. The auto industry lacks a consensus on protecting data generated by cars. This is made worse by consumers’ willingness to trade personal data to obtain benefits, which is the case with Usage Based Insurance (UBI).
  • Sean Rathwell with Dillon Consulting reported on a recent series of discussions with municipalities. The conclusion is that municipalities are not prepared for the arrival of AVs. Similarly, the transit agencies will be reactive and wait for the technology. Sean also said that current traffic modelling tools are not adequate for analyzing traffic in the AV era.
  • Yves Provencher of PIT Group, in a session of goods movement, described platooning trials in the US and Europe and the work being done by Daimler, Peterbilt and others to develop autonomous trucks. One concept that Yves described is a motorized trailer that could join up with other, similar trailers to form a convoy.

Although Canada has, unfortunately, been lagging behind the U.S. in its preparations for automated vehicles, the overall conclusion from the large number of attendees and the level of interest is that the momentum is building at many different levels.

Linked to this, Canada’s new federal government is developing a new, larger innovation agenda that will be announced in the fall, and the recent budget includes funds for Transport Canada to develop a federal regulatory framework for AVs. It is clear that Canada will be far more pro-active in the AV space in the months and years ahead.

Image by ARUP.

New $30 Million Challenge to Cut Future-Car Energy Use

Burney Simpson

Think you have a plan that will reduce the energy consumption of autonomous and connected vehicles? The U.S. Department of Energy may want to invest in your future-car project.

Be prepared to move fast. The deadline for turning in a project concept paper is May 24, 2016.

The DOE announced today it will provide up to $30 million in funding to spur those who are creating new technologies for automated and connected vehicles that will cut their energy consumption by at least 20 percent.

There may be one, multiple, or no awards, according to the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the office that is overseeing the project. “Awards may vary from $250,000 to $10 million,” ARPA-E reports.

This project is called NEXTCAR which stands for Next Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Automated on-Road Vehicles. (I get NGETCARV). ARPA refers to the vehicles as future-car.

Visit this DOE brief for more information. It includes a link to a NEXTCAR FOA Concept Paper pdf that provides project details and application requirements.

“We must continue to invest in programs that encourage the scientific community to think boldly and differently about our nation’s energy future,” ARPA-E Director Dr. Ellen D. Williams said in a press release. “The NEXTCAR program’s focus on exploiting automation to improve energy efficiency in future vehicles and the ROOTS program’s exploration of carbon capture using crops demonstrate ARPA-E’s unique and forward looking approach to energy innovation.”

ARPA is also providing $30 million in funding opportunities for ROOTS, the Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration (That does come out as ROOTs). It has to do with developing crop breeding approaches that help plants store more carbon in the ground, and that should reduce emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas.

(I have enough trouble growing tomatoes.)

ARPA-E advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. Awardees are developing new ways to generate, store, and use energy.

Congress established ARPA after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the agency that helped to create GPS, the stealth fighter, and computer networking.

Bosch — Getting Autonomous Done

Editor’s note: This is another in DT’s series of Q&As with leaders in the automated, connected, and driverless vehicle industry.

Sgambati_Frank2Frank Sgambati is the director of marketing, product planning and innovation management, Chassis Systems Control division of Robert Bosch LLC in Plymouth, Michigan. He is responsible for the division’s strategic marketing and product innovation in North America. Sgambati has been with Bosch since 1998, working in the U.S., Germany, and the United Kingdom.

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 375,000 associates worldwide, and generated sales of nearly $80 billion in 2015. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology.


Bosch is one of the largest Tier 1 suppliers in the world. What is the firm’s view of the shift to autonomous technology — cautious, excited, full-speed ahead?

Bosch is working on the development of automated driving. Our activities are motivated by the vision of increased safety, comfort and mobility of all road users. A forward-thinking vehicle which takes over dedicated driving tasks could make the vision of injury and accident-free driving a reality. Automated driving will allow the vehicle to become a part of the driver’s interconnected home and work life, making time spent on the road more productive and eventful.

Partially-automated functions, such as the traffic jam assist, are already in the market, and are soon to be followed by functions with higher levels of automation. Fully-automated functions on highways could be implemented in the vehicles at the end of the decade. Fully-automated driving in cities will take a bit longer.

What autonomous products are you marketing to U.S. clients?

Bosch focuses on the functional development and derivation of requirements for systems and products of automated driving. We focus on sensors, the vehicle architecture, actuators and their integration into the vehicle. The sensor technology that we are developing includes radar, video, and ultrasonic sensors. We are using prototype vehicles as a tool for the definition of sensor and system requirements. Two highly collaborative teams are developing the technologies for future automated vehicles applying agile development methods.

How does that contrast with Europe? Asia?

We do not see a difference in technology between the regions. Bosch sensor technology is already being tested on public roads. Bosch is testing automated driving on freeways not only in Germany and the United States but now also in Japan.

Share with us Bosch’s Big Picture view of autonomous vehicles 10 years from now. Will the personal transportation market be transformed from today?

CityScapeSmall1At the CES in January, Bosch displayed a glimpse into the car of the future. Bosch showed how a car will experience a new kind of interaction between humans and technology. In the show car, the dashboard and central console are transformed into an electronic display. The information shown on this giant display changes depending on the vehicle’s current surroundings. If a pedestrian approaches from the right, a lighting sequence is triggered to alert the driver. Drivers’ preferences as well as appointments in their diary are also taken into account. For example, if an appointment is cancelled, the car of the future will automatically indicate the route to the next appointment in the diary. Drivers will be able to activate the autopilot to free up even more time and make their journey more relaxed.

But tomorrow’s connected and automated cars will also be capable of much more. With a connection to the smart home, they will enable household functions such as heating or security systems to be operated at any time. For example, should a courier attempt to deliver a package with no one at home, all it will take is the tap of a finger on the vehicle’s display to allow the courier to deposit the package inside the house and confirm receipt. Interaction with technology really will be able to take such varied forms, and offer such safety and convenience.

Connected infotainment will let drivers navigate not just through the traffic but through their whole day. They will be able to use it to access online services and smartphone apps – and they will be able to control it using gestures and speech, just as if they were talking with a passenger. This will turn the car into the driver’s truly personal assistant.

How are you combining autonomous technology with electric vehicles?

With our complete systems solutions, we’re writing new chapters in automotive history. Bosch believes the future of mobility includes solutions for connectivity, automation, and electrification. We are developing mobility solutions for this future in the following way:

Connected: Bosch is making the car an active part of the internet.

Automated: Bosch is making the autopilot ready for the road.

Electrified: Bosch is energizing the powertrain.

Bosch is a believer in haptic communications, or briefly, communicating through touch. For instance, you market a gas pedal that can ‘tell’ the driver to ease off the pedal. Does Bosch favor haptic vs. lights vs. sound communications with the driver?

Bosch works with all forms of Human to Machine Interface (HMI) including haptic, visual, and audible. We support our customer needs to implement HMI solutions that best fit their strategies.

Zoox Recruits from Tesla with Live Tests Coming

Burney Simpson

Driverless car creator Zoox is bringing in staff from Tesla as it celebrates being approved for live testing of its driverless car on California roads by the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Zoox is the 12th firm approved by the regulator.

Zoox seeks to revolutionize the transportation service industry, not invent a new type of automobile, according to an April 2014 interview with co-founder Tim Kentley-Klay by Driverless Transportation (See “Catching Up with Zoox”).

That fits with a current company description posted on a LinkedIn site of new board member Laurie Yoler. She has an extensive history with Tesla and joined the Zoox board in December.

According to Yoler’s write up, Zoox is:

“a robotics company pioneering autonomous mobility. We are developing our own fully autonomous electric vehicle and the supporting ecosystem required to bring the technology to market at scale. … Zoox aims to provide the next generation of mobility-as-a-service in urban environments. The company is venture backed and presently in stealth mode.”

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is growing in the autonomous vehicle space as car-sharing, ride-sharing firms like Uber, Lyft, and Car2Go expand. MaaS could become a combination of publicly- and privately-owned transportation services provided on a subscription basis. Some say MaaS could replace private vehicle ownership for many consumers.

According to press reports Zoox was founded by Kentley-Klay, an Australian film director and designer, and Jesse Levinson, a Stanford University engineer who worked with Sebastian Thrun, the first director of Google’s self-driving car program.


Zoox offers a virtually empty website. Its street address is the same as that of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory that sits on the Stanford University campus. Stanford operates SLAC for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.

zoox4Yoler is a venture capital investor and a founding board member of Tesla, serving in various roles with the electric vehicle OEM from 2003 to 2013.

Zoox appears to be recruiting others from Tesla which last year launched ‘Autopilot’, an over-the-air software update that gave many of its vehicles semi-autonomous capabilities.

Current Zoox staff with a Tesla background include its Head of Talent, the Director of Manufacturing and Supply Chain, and a talent and marketing staffer, according to LinkedIn postings.

Zoox may also have connections with the influential Silicon Valley venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Yoler was with DFJ when it backed Tesla.

By some reports Zoox is backed by DFJ though the VC firm’s website doesn’t list it in its current portfolio of companies.


Zoox’s first public model was a futuristic roadster-style vehicle that predated the driverless car that Mercedes rolled out to massive attention at CES 2015. That Zoox model had no front or back, no windshield, no steering wheel, no brake pedal.

In a 2013 video from Drive the Nation, Kentley-Klay discusses his design concept that offered four independent control systems centered on the wheels, and four seats that faced each other.

At one point, the vehicle was called the L4, a nod to the Level 4 fully autonomous vehicle as defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The goal was a 2020 launch.

Kentley-Klay’s website provides insight on his view towards autonomous vehicles, along with photos of his visiting the Google campus to meet Anthony Levandowski, at one time the leader of Google’s autonomous efforts.


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