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News Roundup: California DMV’s New Proposed Driverless Car Regulations, How Alexa and Cortana May Soon Take Over Your Car, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of some of the biggest headlines to come out of the driverless and connected-car industries over the past week:

Many applaud California DMV’s newly proposed regulations for testing driverless cars

This past Friday, March 10, the California Department of Motor Vehicles released new proposed regulations for the testing of driverless cars in public, which look remarkably like laws recently passed in Michigan. Many are applauding all the changes made since releasing a significantly stricter version back in September. DMV reps say they listened closely to a wealth of feedback from stakeholders after the September draft and implemented many of them. In particular, the new regulations reverse their previous requirements that driverless test cars must have a human driver in the car while testing in public, and that prototype vehicles must include a steering wheel and pedals (which reportedly made Google/Waymo executives very happy). However, if the vehicle does not include those conventional features, the manufacturer must show the DMV they have approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A mandatory 45-day comment period is currently in effect, ending April 24, after which a public hearing will take place. DMV representatives said they hope the regulations will officially go into effect by the end of the year. Read more from Bloomberg Technology.

 

Automakers turn to personal assistance tech like Cortana, Alexa to develop better connected-car voice commands

While systems like Ford’s Sync are already appearing in cars on the market today, many industry analysts say the technology still contains many flaws, with limited available commands and continuous voice recognition difficulties. As connected-car technology becomes more and more in demand, automakers like Ford, Volkswagen and Nissan are turning to personal assistant apps like Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana to improve in-car voice command systems. VW announced they are trying to combine Alexa with their Car-Net system and apps so that, while driving, you can ask Alexa to do things like add items to your ongoing shopping list that is synced between your car and your personal device. Reps say you’ll even be able to ask Alexa through your Amazon Echo at home to tell you how much gas your car has in it. Ford said it is integrating Alexa into its current Sync system, with some paired features debuting this summer. Nissan said they are partnering with Microsoft, but have not announced a launch date yet. Read more from CAR magazine.

 

Whoa! Intel buys Mobileye for more than $15 billion

In the biggest acquisition of an Israeli tech company to date, Intel announced this week that is acquiring Mobileye for an astounding $15.3 billion, after partnering with them since late last year. Mobileye is known for its computer vision systems for autonomous cars, including sensor fusion, mapping and front- and rear-facing camera technology. They are also working on crowdsourcing data for high-definition maps, as well as getting involved in policies and regulations surrounding autonomous driving. Intel has been getting involved with driverless technology as of late, most recently partnering with Mobileye and BMW and pledging $250 million to invest in the technology, particularly how much data autonomous cars can generate. The sale of Mobileye to Intel is expected to take about nine months to close. Read more from TechCrunch.

News Roundup: Apple Admits It’s ‘Heavily Invested’ in Automated Driving, Nissan Uses Driverless Leafs to Tow Cars At Its Plants, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A look at some of the biggest headlines to come out of the driverless and connected-car industries in the past week:

Apple ‘investing heavily’ in driverless car software

In a recent letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration written by Apple’s director of product integrity, Steve Jenner begged U.S. regulators to embrace “fair competition” among companies working on driverless vehicle systems. Excitingly for followers of the industry’s progress, media outlets that wrote to Jenner asking about the company’s motives behind the letter got a statement in reply in which Jenner said he wrote it because “Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and automated systems.” Read more from Fox News.

 

Nissan using self-driving vehicles to tow cars around its plants

Nissan is testing the waters of driverless vehicles by using some to tow cars around its manufacturing plants in Japan. At a recent demonstration, Nissan employees hooked up a driverless Leaf to a full trailer and let the car tow the trailer around with no one at the wheel. Nissan executives say they are excited about the technology and think it will help reduce costs and improve efficiency. They said they may decide to roll the test out overseas as well. Nissan hopes to release an autonomous car by 2020. Read more from the Daily Mail.

 

 

BMW aims to out-cool Uber, starts testing driverless cars in Germany

BMW admitted last week that it will soon begin testing of driverless vehicles in Munich, Germany. The automaker’s biggest focus for the initiative is its goal of becoming the “coolest” ride-hailing firm on the market, competing with big rivals such as Uber. BMW executives said the test will consist of 40 vehicles operating within the inner parts of the city of Munich and plans to eventually roll out testing in other cities as well. Read more from The Daily Mail.

Nvidia Powers D20 Index Gain

Leading Graphics Processing Unit provider Nvidia (NVDA) almost single-handedly powers the D20 to a slight gain despite losers outnumbering gainers almost two to one.

The Driverless Transportation (D20) Stock Index eked out a gain of 0.3 percent last week, closing Friday at 143.80. Nvidia soared on a whopping 16 percent price increase, finishing up $5.65 to $40.98. The dramatic jump happened after Nvidia announced quarterly revenue and earnings results that beat expectations due to Tesla’s (TSLA) growing demand for Nvidia’s chips. Nvidia’s stock price has risen 88 percent since September 4, 2015, making it the leading price gainer for the D20.

The Dow dropped 1.2 percent to close at 17535.32 and the S&P 500 lost 0.5 percent to end the week at 2046.61, marking one of the rare weeks this year when the D20 went in an opposite direction from the Dow and S&P. Mobileye (MBLY) was up 4.4 percent on rumors that it had inked two more deals to help a major automaker create driverless cars. Nissan (NSANY) was up 4 percent on news that it plans to acquire 34 percent of troubled Mitsubishi.

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

D20 in a Slump With Japanese Firms

Like the Dow and the S&P 500, the Driverless Transportation (D20) Stock Index slumped last week. With 17 losers and three gainers, the D20 lost 1.4 percent of its value to close the week at 148.16. The Dow and S&P 500 both shed 1.3 percent of their value.

The only bright spots for the D20 were Volkswagen (VLKPY), Valeo (VLEEY), and the Chinese electric vehicle company BYD Co. (BYDDY). BYD’s ADR stock price rose 3.5 percent while Volkswagen’s jumped 3.8 percent. Valeo’s stock price soared 6.2 percent as it announced a joint venture with Siemens to manufacture electrical propulsion components for vehicles.

Driving the D20 down were Nissan (NSANY) and the Japanese auto parts supplier Denso (DNZOY). Nissan’s ADR stock price fell nearly 8 percent to $17.78 as the automaker’s prospects were downgraded by industry analysts. Denso’s ADR price drop was more dramatic as it lost 8.2 percent to finish the week at $18.86.

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

Nissan, Savari Conduct Live V2X Test in Sunnyvale

Burney Simpson

Nissan North America and Savari have joined to operate a 4.6 square mile, real-world Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) communications testbed with three intersections in Sunnyvale, Calif.

The testbed is using the Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) 5.8 GHz band for transmitting data between moving vehicles and fixed wireless infrastructure. The Federal Communications Commission set aside 75 MHz of the band for intelligent transportation systems.

Savari’s StreetWave road-side-units are deployed on Sunnyvale traffic poles and other infrastructure, while its MobiWave line of on-board-units are installed in vehicles.

The V2X technology is integrated with traffic controllers, allowing for communication between traffic signals and moving vehicles. The messaging is designed to tell drivers about upcoming congestion, traffic conditions, weather-related issues, and other roadway events.

The test began last August and is ongoing.

Savari and Nissan, which operates its Silicon Valley Research Center in Sunnyvale, are working on the project with the city and the University of California Berkeley Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology (PATH).

PATH deployed the StreetWave technology and coordinated the project with Sunnyvale and Nissan.

Nissan Research Director Dr. Maarten Sierhuis said the auto OEM is studying “how V2X technology can be used as additional sensor data by the autonomous system.”

Nissan is also reviewing how a “connected infrastructure and (artificial intelligence) can be used to optimize both route planning for an autonomous vehicle and traffic flow along the way,” Sierhuis said in a release.

Sunnyvale seeks to find if V2X communications can reduce congestion, cut fuel use, and improve safety. Its transportation department is using data from the test to prepare its traffic light intersections for fully autonomous vehicles.

Savari’s V2X deployments cover more than 130 public square miles of roadways, and its on-board-units have traveled nearly 1.5 million miles.

Nissan’s Silicon Valley Research Center focuses on vehicle intelligence technologies in autonomous and connected cars.

Sensata, Quanergy Partner to Sell LiDAR Worldwide

Burney Simpson

Auto parts supplier Sensata Technologies has partnered with leading LiDAR developer Quanergy Systems to expand sales of Quanergy’s sensor products.

The two announced in a joint press release that, “Together, Sensata and Quanergy will leverage Quanergy’s substantial intellectual property and current and future technology development to deliver LiDAR sensors that have substantially lower costs, higher reliability, improved capability, and lower power consumption when compared to traditional mechanical LiDAR sensors.”

Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors are used extensively in autonomous vehicles, and for 3D mobile mapping, and vehicle safety systems. The sensors are commonly seen as the bulb-like devices sticking out from autonomous vehicles.

Quanergy’s LiDAR systems are marketed to auto OEMs and parts suppliers for use in consumer and fleet vehicles, and for digital mapping. Quanergy has partnerships with Mercedes, Hyundai, and Renault-Nissan.

It says its sensors have a 360 degree field of view, a several-hundred meter range, accuracy down to the centimeter, and a 30 Hertz scanning frequency.

Quanergy CEO Dr. Louay Eldada said in the release his firm will “benefit from Sensata’s new product launch and manufacturing expertise, deep customer relationships and global presence as the leading independent sensor supplier.”

The two reached a “strategic partnership and investment agreements” but no dollar value of an investment was released. Sensata will have a seat on Quanergy’s board following the deal.

CONSIDERABLY LARGER

Publicly-held Sensata (ST) is considerably larger than Quanergy.

Sensata is a Netherlands-based holding company and manufacturer and marketer of auto parts, HVAC systems, and other technology. Net revenues totaled $2.9 billion last year, up from $2.4 billion in 2014. Nearly 70 percent of revenues came from auto products in its fiscal 2015 year.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Quanergy is privately held.

It has raised $34.5 million through several invest rounds. A Series A funding round in November 2014 garnered $30 million from Rising Tide Fund, Wicklow Capital, Motus Ventures, Wardenclyffe Partners, and others.

Morgan Hill, Calif.-based Velodyne LiDAR is another major supplier of sensors. It introduced its smaller, lighter Puck Lite sensor last month.

Nissan Video: Fossil Fuel is for Fossils

Burney Simpson

Nissan believes our auto future is an all electric, autonomous, and sustainable-powered vehicle – no fossil fuel here –  that generates enough energy to power its owner’s home, according to this new video from the auto OEM.

The vehicles will garner their power from solar/wind/what-have-you sustainable sources.

They will communicate with each other to schedule alternating visits to the Vehicle-to-Infrastructure wireless recharging stations that have been implanted in the streets.

The car will be emission free, so it can drive INTO your office, then take itself to the closest recharging station. That’s apparently right down the hall from the kitchen so you can watch Nessy get a charge up while you get your coffee.

The video makes it look effortless. I expected to see butterflies floating through the model city here that has replaced its parking lots with parks. (By the by, what happens to all the lovely gas stations we enjoy today?)

It’s fascinating that a major auto OEM — revenues of $104 billion in fiscal 2014 —  is working to end the use of fossil fuels to power vehicles. (At least that’s what they say).

And it let’s potential buyers know of one of the major side-benefits of electric vehicles. That is, buy a Nissan Leaf  and get both an economical car and a power source for when the lights go out.

The video by Nissan Europe and Foster + Partners was released at the Geneva Motor Show.

However, the video doesn’t address some of the other radical changes that driverless technology may bring to firms like Nissan.

For instance, by 2030 Mary Consumer will opt for a car-share service instead of buying a car. That means GM’s $500 million investment in Lyft will prove to be farsighted when it evolves into Transport MegaCorp X, and supplies Metropolis Y with 500,00 vehicles that its 10 million residents share.

So it’s possible that Nissan will stop selling cars to consumers. Perhaps by 2030 it will have morphed into an energy company that markets its batteries. Naah, I don’t see that either. But it could become Transport MegaCorp N.

Anyway, check out the ‘Fuel Station of the Future’ video. It’s well made and offers much to think about.

 

D20 Doubles Up the Dow, Again

With 15 gainers and only five losers, the Driverless Transportation (D20) Stock Index last week continued its rebound by moving up 4.2 points, or 3.2 percent, to 136.02. In comparison, the Dow Industrials were up 1.5 percent to end the week at 16639.97, while the S&P 500 added 1.6 percent to close at 1948.05. It was the second consecutive week where the D20’s percentage increase doubled that of the Dow and the S&P 500.

The largest gainer for the D20 last week was Tesla (TSLA), which rose 14.3 percent to close at $190.34. Tesla’s stock price has been dogged by market concerns of a delay in the production of its Model “X”, the SUV model announced in September last year. Although well off its 52-week high of $286.65, this was the second week in a row that the electric car maker’s stock gained more than 10 percent.

Other notable gainers were auto parts supplier Magna International (MGA), which added $4.01, or nearly 12 percent, to finish at $38.23, and Nissan (NSANY), enjoying a 9.4 percent increase to close Friday at $18.48. The big loser this week was Continental (CTTAY), falling more than 5 percent to close at $39.70.

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

NVIDIA Leads D20 Rebound

With 19 gainers and only one loser, the Driverless Transportation (D20) Stock Index rebounded strongly last week, moving up nearly 9 points, or 6.9 percent, to finish at 131.86. The Dow and S&P recovered nicely as well. The Dow increased 418.15 points, or 2.6 percent, while the S&P moved up to 1917.78 by adding 2.8 percent.

Five of the 19 gainers rose more than 10 percent last week. NVIDIA (NVDA) led the list with an 18.3 percent rise, followed by Valeo (VLEEY) at 17.1 percent, Mobileye (MBLY) at 14.7 percent, BYD Company (BYDDY) at 13.4 percent, and Tesla (TSLA) at 10.3 percent.

The D20’s lone loser this week was Nissan (NSANY), with a drop of 1 percent to $16.90.

The D20 was adjusted last week to account for the lack of trading in VOLVO AB’s ADR (VOLVY). VOLVY was replaced by an equal value of Volvo AB’s B-series Common (STO:VOLV-B) stock that is traded in Swedish Kroner on the Stockholm exchange. This swap will allow the D20 to continue to have the Swedish truck maker represented in the index with a liquid stock.

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

Nissan Brings Us Self-Driving……Chairs?

Jennifer van der Kleut

Japan may not have self-driving cars loose on public roads yet–but they at least have self-driving chairs.

Yes, we said chairs! In a new video uploaded to YouTube, Nissan shows off its latest creation–office chairs that reset themselves to their original position, tucked into a table or desk, at just the clap of your hands.

Nissan’s fancy, autonomous “smart chairs” can reset themselves either with or without a human sitting in them.

In a press release, Nissan explains the new technology behind the chairs, which they say was inspired by self-parking technology they are already working on in cars.

The system appears to function with sensors on each chair that pair up with wireless cameras placed on the room’s ceiling.

“The ‘Intelligent Parking Chair’ is a unique chair that automatically moves to a set position,” Nissan’s press release states. “The chair includes a roller to automatically move 360 degrees, paired with a system that indicates the target position. Four cameras placed on the room’s ceiling generate a bird’s-eye view to wirelessly transmit the chair’s position and its route to destination.”

When the chairs are empty, someone can clap their hands and all the chairs in the room will automatically guide themselves back into position at the table, as Nissan’s video illustrates.

When someone is in the chair, he or she appears to be able to use controls, similar to those on an electric wheelchair, to guide themself back into position at the table.

Though they call the self-parking chairs a “novelty,” Tech Times said, “It’s proof that autonomous vehicle technology has implications far beyond the automotive field.”

Tech Times points out that the smart chair technology could prove particularly valuable for large rooms like auditoriums and cafeterias.

See Toyota’s self-parking smart chairs in action in their YouTube video: