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News Roundup: Mass. State Senator Introduces Bill to Allow Zero-Emission Driverless Cars, Skipping Driverless Cars and Going Straight to Passenger Drones, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of headlines to come out of the driverless, connected-car industry in the past week:

Massachusetts Introduces Bill to Self-Driving Cars on Public Streets — As Long As They’re Electric

A new bill has been introduced at the state level in Massachusetts that would provide regulations for autonomous cars on public streets–as long as they’re electric. Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) is preparing to file the bill with the State Senate, and says mandating that self-driving cars be zero-emission will help encourage automakers to be more environmentally friendly, which is line with Massachusetts’s priorities. Lewis said the bill would come with a tax of 2.5 cents per mile, to help offset lost state revenue from gas taxes. He said he welcomes ideas and suggestions and hopes the bill’s introduction will prompt “robust debate.” Read more from The Valley Dispatch.

 

Op-Ed: Forget Driverless Cars — The Future is Driverless Passenger Drones

Check out this opinion piece from Adam Singola. Singola argues almost suggests that simply making cars driverless is a waste of time, when we can take it one step further and make them flying, too. Singola said the future of transportation is flying passenger drones. He points out that one thing that makes human-driven cars so dangerous is the fact that they have to share the road with passengers, cyclists, unexpected objects and poor road quality, not to mention other cars. Therefore, he says driverless passenger drones will be safer, and will render things like parking problems, traffic congestion, and road construction obsolete. He also describes a ride he recently took in an actual passenger drone. Read more on TechCrunch.

 

U.S. Department of Transportation Identifies 10 ‘Proving Grounds’ for Testing Autonomous Vehicle Technology

In a move that many say will help the U.S. keep up with its Asian and European rivals, the U.S. Department of Transportation this week officially designated 10 sites across the country that officials say will act as “official sites for validating the technology,” as run by top organizations working on the technology. Automakers will be able to share the facilities to test their autonomous prototypes, and officials said they hope working in “close proximity” to others working on the same technology will allow them to share best practices and data. The 10 sites are run by the following organizations across the country: Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute; the Texas AV Proving Grounds Partnership; Maryland’s U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center; California’s Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) and GoMentum Station in Concord, California; the San Diego Association of Governments in California; Michigan’s American Center for Mobility (ACM) at Willow Run; the Iowa City Area Development Group; the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Central Florida Automated Vehicle Partners; and the North Carolina Turnpike Authority. Read more from Bloomberg Technology.

Photo: Acura driverless car being tested at GoMentum Station in Concord, California.

Renesas, eTrans Systems Partner Up to Debut Connected Parking App at CES 2017

eTrans Systems

FAIRFAX, Va. — eTrans Systems, a leading developer of software solutions for connected and automated vehicles, today announced their collaboration with semiconductor solutions provider Renesas Electronics America Inc. by delivering a parking availability solution using dedicated short range communications (DSRC) to help enable both autonomous and driver-based vehicles to easily find open parking spots.

This technology will be showcased on Renesas’ automotive fleet of vehicles during CES 2017 (Consumer Electronics Show).  This collaboration brings together the expertise of the world’s leading automotive semiconductor provider along with an innovative startup company specifically focused on Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) technology solutions.

Why is this technology important?

In cities throughout the world, parking is a major issue.  It has been estimated that upwards of 30 percent of urban drivers are at any one time looking for available parking. This is a tremendous waste of both time and fuel.  eTrans’ new DSRC Parking Solution can help to eliminate this waste.

How does the DSRC Parking Solution app work?

Sensors in the parking lot can detect the availability of open spaces. When spots are available, the sensors notify the DSRC Road Side Unit (RSU), which in turn broadcasts out availability.  On-Board Units (OBUs) in the car receive the messages and then notify either the driver or the vehicle’s autonomous driving system.

“Renesas is very excited about this application, “ said Amrit Vivekanand, vice president, of Renesas Electronics America’s automotive business unit. ” We see this as an interesting use of our automobile technology in the Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) market, which is a market that Renesas is looking to further expand into.”

eTrans representatives said they look forward to try and solve the world’s parking woes together with Renesas.

“At eTrans, we see the DSRC Parking Solution as the next major piece in our Vehicle to Infrastructure application suite,” said John Estrada, CEO of eTrans Systems. “It provides an additional benefit from Connected Vehicle technology and is the foundation for solving a major urban problem.”

eTrans and Renesas plan to unveil this solution at CES 2017. For more details on the demonstration, contact John Estrada at jestrada@eTransSystems.com.

About eTrans Systems

eTrans Systems specializes in the development and deployment of autonomous and connected vehicle systems.  eTrans solutions include safety applications, mobility applications and vehicle management applications. eTrans clients include automobile OEMs, tier-1 auto suppliers and state and local governments.

Latest GM Recall Leads the D20 Down

Investor concerns that the U.S. federal reserve may raise interest rates forced a major stock sell-off last week,  knocking 2.2 percent off the Dow and dropping the S&P 500 by 2.4 percent last week.

The Driverless Transportation Stock Index (D20) fared slightly better, sliding 1.4 percent.  Fifteen losers and only five gainers locked in the D20’s loss, down 2.3 points at 158.06.

General Motors (GM) led the way by losing 5.2 percent per share after it announced a safety recall affecting 4.3 million vehicles.  The recall will correct software that in some instances prevents the proper deployment of safety devices such as airbags or seat belts.  GM’s stock closed at $30.48, down $1.68.

Volvo AB (VOLV-B) was one of the few bright spots for the D20.  Rumors that a Chinese firm is interested in acquiring its Bus and Construction Equipment units drove Volvo AB’s stock up. Volvo AB’s stock, which is traded on the Stockholm Exchange, closed at SEK 96.65, up SEK 3.05 or 3.3 percent.

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

 

Up-and-Comers:

SpotHero, the on-demand parking application which raised $2.5 million in 2012 and $20 million in Series B funding in 2015, is turning its attention to autonomous vehicles. Its current system, www.spothero.com, caters to reserving paid parking spots for manually driven cars.  SpotHero’s team is beginning to plan for the day where autonomous vehicles will need to have available spots to drive to and park while they wait for their next assignment.

Volvo Car Group, owned by Chinese Automotive manufacturer Geely, and Autoliv, vehicle safety system manufacturer, have formed a joint venture to create autonomous driving systems.  The new company will have start out with around 200 employees and will be based in Gothenburg, Sweden.  They will focus their attention on creating advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous drive (AD) systems for Volvo as well as other vehicle manufacturers.

 

FotoNation Preps Camera Systems for Autonomous Vehicles

Burney Simpson

FotoNation has partnered with Japanese automotive camera supplier Kyocera to develop and supply surround-view and rear-view camera systems that auto OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers can install in autonomous vehicles.

San Jose, Calif.-based FotoNation is a provider of computational imaging vision systems like Park Assist and 360 surround view for automated vehicles.

Japan-based Kyocera is an international supplier of electronic components, semiconductor packages, mobile phones, and other products. It reported net sales of $12.7 billion in its fiscal year ending in March.

Kyocera’s rear-view camera modules are widely used by auto OEMs.

“This (partnership) will jump start making these cameras more intelligent,” said Sumat Mehra, FotoNation’s senior vice president of marketing and business development.

Surround-view, or e-mirror, systems garnered publicity at this year’s CES show when BMW displayed a prototype vehicle with the technology (See “CES 16-Ford’s Plucky LiDAR, BMW’s Mirror, GENIVI’s New Member”).

The systems eliminate the need for side-view mirrors, and reduce the aerodynamic drag they cause. However, current federal rules require the mirrors.

The coming of driverless vehicles is building the demand for the camera systems the two partners plan to market. Tessera, FotoNation’s parent, told analysts in January that the total market for driver monitoring and rear/surround view technology could reach $1.3 billion.

FotoNation’s Driver Monitoring Systems (DMS) use driver identification and biometric technology to detect human faces, eyes, irises, smiles, blinks and head/eye movements.

It has already compiled a library of about 20 million images, said Mehra.

Autonomous vehicles will need this combination of image technology and image library to both monitor driver behavior and to watch the road, he said.

“This makes sense from an insurance perspective,” said Mehra. “Is the driver attentive, is he looking at his phone? … These are all things we will be required to know in the future.”

Mehra says products from the partnership could be launched in the 2019-2020 timeframe. That is a bit behind the May 2018 deadline for all new vehicles in the U.S. under 10,000 pounds to have rear-view cameras.

Time for Driverless and a Guide for Governments

Burney Simpson

It’s Time for driverless vehicles. And government types just got a helping hand on understanding what’s coming down the pike.

Time magazine this week has a two-part cover story on the promise of driverless vehicles, and it is very positive, “The Increasingly Compelling Case for Why You Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Drive”.

This may be the article you share with friends and family when they ask what the heck it is you work on. But, as of today, the stories were not free online.

The article’s view in a nutshell is, “They’re going to change everything. The economic and safety benefits will be staggering. … Safer, smarter, faster, more comfortable. Why not?”

Much of the material has already been covered but the writing is breezy, informative, and pretty thorough.

There’s the promised benefits of greater safety, reduced deaths and accidents, cuts in congestion, and improved productivity.

On the challenge side there’s licensing questions, the ethical choice of hitting the kid or a wall, the possible end of auto insurance, cybersecurity threats, and data privacy issues.

The second part gets into technology like AndroidAuto and CarPlay and how this is already transforming driving. There’s a graphic on sensors and cameras, a snapshot of Virginia Tech’s testing grounds, and a mention of Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) technology.

PRIMER FOR POLITICOS

Parsons Brinckerhoff has released “Driving Towards Driverless: A Guide for Government Agencies” (this links to an intro page with a link to a document pdf).

The guide is brief and free.

It offers a handy, readable introduction to and overview of the industry for public officials. The timing is right considering somewhere around 30 states are looking at the technology in their current legislative sessions (See “Careful Steps on Driverless Laws for Tennessee, Virginia”).

The approach is a big picture view of planning issues that transportation departments and 20-year urban plan writer-types are thinking about.

It is written for government officials, from local to federal, including legislators and staff with DOTs, planning organizations, police, insurance, and so on; in other words all those offices that will be impacted by this coming technology.

Transportation consultants, auto OEMs, suppliers and others on the business side that interact with government could find it helpful as well.

The guide doesn’t get into the latest autonomous technology, connected vehicles, or specific issues like cybersecurity.

PB is a long-time consultant on transportation issues. The author is Lauren Isaac, a PB manager of sustainable transportation based in the firm’s San Francisco office.

Ford and IBM Team Up on Vehicular Data Platform To Solve Rider Problems Like Traffic Jams, Finding Parking Spots, and Even Planning Trips

Jennifer van der Kleut

A new vehicular data project could soon help drivers navigate all manner of mobility problems, from traffic jams on freeways to finding parking spots in crowded garages.

Ford Motor Co. tapped computer giant IBM to partner with on the data project, TechRepublic reports, and as of this week, it appears the system is ready to go.

The system, dubbed Ford’s Smart Mobility Experimentation Platform (SMEP), reportedly “uses small chunks (10-15 seconds) of data, and the patterns it sees in that data, to help drivers find a parking spot in a crowded lot or avoid a traffic jam on their drive home from work.”

For example, with Ford’s Dynamic Shuttle program–currently being tested on a Ford campus in Dearborn, Michigan–if there is a problem with one of the shuttles, the system can automatically call for a backup shuttle and re-route employees waiting for a ride.

“Should one of the Transit vans experience a malfunction that triggers a warning light, the platform will be able to start routing requests away from that vehicle to other Transits in service – allowing another shuttle to redeploy to keep all riders on schedule,” the company explains in a TechCrunch article.

The SMEP platform also helps run Ford’s “GoPark Painless Parking” program. The data the platform collects helps seek out open parking spots nearby.

Eventually, TechCrunch reports Ford and IBM want to debut a comprehensive mobility app entitled “FordPass.” TechCrunch calls the app “OnHub on steroids.” Even non-Ford drivers will be able to use it for all kinds of tasks such as consulting an all-knowing “Ford Guide” to figure out the best way to get somewhere, and even pre-booking and paying for parking spots in busy cities.

Sounds like a lucrative partnership.

 

 

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