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Blackberry Wins $815 Million in Court, Prompting Stock Price Surge

Jennifer van der Kleut

Blackberry’s (BBRY) 10.6-percent stock price surge this week prevented the Driverless Transportation Weekly Stock Index (D20) from losing more than the Dow or S&P 500.

With 13 price losers and only seven price gainers, the D20 lost 0.8 percent, or 1.43 points, to close at 184.48. It was slightly better than the Dow, which lost 1 percent and the S&P 500, which lost 1.1 percent.

Blackberry was awarded $815 million in a royalty payments dispute with chip maker Qualcomm, which should help build Blackberry’s war chest as it make its transition from a mobile handset-focused hardware company to a software company.

On March 31, Blackberry announced earnings that beat industry analyst’s predictions, and many are beginning to believe that the company’s transition to software will be successful.

Blackberry’s stock price advanced $0.83 this week to close at $8.64, its highest level since December of 2015.

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

Up-and-Comers:

Luminar Technologies, Inc. announced that they raised $36 million in seed funding as they debuted their built-from-scratch LiDAR sensor package. The Portola Valley, California company has focused its efforts on building a LiDAR system that is higher-performing than the competition. By using their own designed chips, lasers and receivers they predict they will be able to “see” further and with more detail than competitors’ systems.

Peloton Technology announced that it raised $60 million in Series B funding. Peloton creates hardware and software systems that allow commercial-sized trucks to safely platoon while driving, increasing the fuel economy for all the trucks involved.

NVIDIA Falls Back, Leading D20 Stock Index to Small Loss

Powered down by NVIDIA (NVDA), the Driverless Transportation Weekly Stock Index (D20) slipped 0.1 percent and closed the week at 185.49, down 0.15 points. NVIDIA was the D20’s largest percentage loser this week, dropping $6.39, or 5.6 percent, to close at $107.23.

NVIDIA’s setback this week is somewhat understandable. Its stock has been on a tear over the last year. On Feb. 19, 2016 it opened at $29.88. It has closed as high as $119.13 in recent weeks, so a little profit-taking is to be expected.

Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 Index outperformed the D20 this week.  The Dow gained 1.7 percent while the S&P rose 1.5 percent to close at 2351.16.

Two D20 constituents have announced a partnership. Volkswagen (VLKPY) and Mobileye (MBLY) have agreed to have Mobileye’s Road Experience Management (REM) mapping services integrated in VW-branded vehicles beginning in 2018. The announcement seems to have helped Mobileye’s stock, which jumped 5.38 percent last week to close at $45.65, its highest point since Sept. 9, 2016.

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

 

Up-and-Comers:

Peloton Technology has announced that it will begin to accept and fill orders for its Class 8 truck platooning system during 2017. These platoons will consist of two trucks only, and will be based on V2V communications and radar, enabling the lead truck to see about a 4.5-percent fuel savings, and the following truck to save about 10 percent. Both drivers will need to be fully engaged in driving while platooning, though, as the system works much like hyper-sensitive adaptive cruise control.

Mobileye, Peloton, Savari Named Top Young Innovators

Burney Simpson

Influential driverless firms Mobileye, Peloton and Savari have been chosen as three of the 60 young firms worldwide that are leading technology innovation.

The list of 60 Young and Reinvented Companies Set to Transform the Technology Marketplace was released recently by ABI Research, an international business research and analysis firm that covers technology.

Firms chosen were not “mega companies driving core markets” but instead were those “smaller–harder to see–young and reinvented companies that are enabling real, sustainable change from the margins of industry,” according to ABI.

Savari was chosen due to its mix of technology in the Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure communications arena (V2I), said James Hodgson, industry analyst, autonomous driving and location tech, with ABI.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Savari provides onboard units for vehicles along with the street-infrastructure devices needed for V2I communication to work, said Hodgson.

And Savari has some bottom-line business connections that give it an advantage, he said.

It is on the preferred vendor list of the U.S. Department of Transportation as connected tests rollout. Plus its contract with Cadillac times well as the auto OEM prepares to release the 2017 CTS with V2V communication technology.

Mobileye bends the concept of the 60 list a bit, acknowledges Hodgson, as it is a publicly-traded firm that’s comparably larger than some of the other 60 firms.

He likes what he calls Mobileye’s realistic approach to creating a map of the world by using cameras on vehicles. Mobileye announced at the CES 2016 in January its plan to partner with GM, Volkswagen, and other auto OEMs to create maps for autonomous vehicles.

That lays the groundwork for images that can support semi-autonomous vehicles in the 2025-2030 timeframe.

In comparison, competitors like HERE seek to use LiDAR and other sensors to build maps.

“We’re not ready for that, there aren’t enough vehicles on the road with LiDAR,” argues Hodgson.

The work of Peloton also fits the realistic approach to implementing autonomous and connected technology, said Hodgson.

Peloton’s Truck Platooning System electronically couples pairs of freight-hauling trucks by using V2V communications, radar-based braking systems, and proprietary vehicle control algorithms.

Tests have shown paired trucks save on fuel due to better aerodynamics, and the monitoring of the vehicles means safer driving.

“This technology makes for a safer, more efficient way of moving goods around,” said Hodgson. “This is not 20-30 years from now. It’s achievable in the short term. It can transform its industry.”

Truck Platooning Barreling Ahead

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

RBishopWhen it comes to connected and automated vehicles, Richard Bishop’s job is to, as he puts it, “know what’s going on, who’s doing it, and identify significant and emerging trends.” He specializes in the domain of intelligent, connected, and automated vehicles and how these interact with the roadway and transportation system, plus larger societal forces. He provides global trends analysis and research strategy development to a wide range of vehicle manufacturers, technology developers, and government agencies around the world.

He currently supports USDOT’s involvement in the Tri-Lateral Working Group on Road Vehicle Automation and also serves as chair of the American Trucking Association’s Task Force on Automated Driving and Platooning. Prior to establishing Bishop Consulting in 1997, Mr. Bishop was program manager for Vehicle-Highway Automation at the USDOT Federal Highway Administration.

You are in the thick of tests and research being conducted on truck platooning. Could you give us an overview of this?

Live tests have occurred in Texas and Nevada because they have favorable regulatory environments for truck platooning. Many other states do as well, and regulations are being adjusted in several other states as we speak. Florida just enacted new legislation calling for a truck platooning study and pilot test.

Testing has occurred in Germany with three truck platoons and Level 3 automation. In early April, several truck platoons converged on Rotterdam as part of the EU Platooning Challenge, meant to galvanize national regulators into clearing the way for platooning to gain efficiency and sustainability benefits. I expect the USA will see commercial availability of platooning as soon as next year.

Is Europe ahead of the US in platooning?

Europe is coming from a different angle. It can’t be said they’re ahead or behind. Europe-based OEMs are very advanced in platooning and they serve global markets. Regulators are coming along in terms of adjusting road rules from a prior era. I’d say the regulatory environment in the U.S. is better at this point, and the market need in the U.S. is stronger given the extremely long hauls. The EU Platooning Challenge has gained the attention of regulators in the U.S. as well. All these activities mutually support each other.

You are the chairman of the Automated Driving and Platooning Task Force of the American Trucking Associations (ATA). What are its major goals?

The objectives of the Task Force are pasted below this Q&A. The group has developed initial documents to educate users and guide technology developers, with emphasis on truck platooning since it is near-term. Visit here for more detail: TMC IR 2015-2, Automated Driving & Platooning: Issues & Opportunities; and here for a pdf on recommendations going forward: TMC Future Truck Position Paper 2015-03: Recommendations Regarding Automated Driving and Platooning Systems.

To my knowledge these are the only documents published to date that provide the “voice of the user” in truck automation. We see these as living documents which will be updated. Our current focus is to develop “Guiding Principles” for truck automation, which will be a concise set of statements as to key points.

You have also taken part in Auburn University’s test looking at the commercial feasibility of platooning. What did the school find?

The Federal Highway Administration, under its Exploratory Advanced Research program, funded this project to prototype, evaluate, and test Driver Assistive Truck Platooning (DATP), due to its potential to have significant positive safety and fuel savings benefits for heavy truck operations in long haul freight movement. The project is led by Auburn; other partners are Peloton Technology, Peterbilt Trucks, Meritor WABCO, and the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), a research organization within the American Trucking Associations Federation.

“I expect the USA will see commercial availability of platooning as soon as next year.”

We have addressed traffic impacts, platoon formation, and conducted formal fuel economy testing. Stakeholder outreach has played a vital role, working with the ATA Technology and Maintenance Council Task Force on Automated Driving and Platooning. Visit this link to see the results of Phase I of the Auburn work.

Phase II will be completed this year.

There’s been some pushback on platooning. First, some truck drivers are concerned its adoption will mean fewer drivers are needed. What do you think?

There is a misconception that platooning leaves no role for the driver. This is completely wrong. First generation platooning, in terms of driver role, is the same as current Adaptive Cruise Control — brakes/throttle are automated, and the driver steers. I recently wrote a letter to the editor of Transport Topics that explains this in detail.

mercedesplatoon2Second, some consumers are wary that big rigs will bunch up, block entrance/exit lanes, and take over the roads. Are those fears legitimate?

No. Initial platooning systems will be two or three trucks. I don’t see two-truck platooning impeding anything and probably won’t even be noticed by car drivers. Three trucks might create a problem, but I see two-truck platoons being deployed first and we’ll learn from that. Remember, we are talking gaps between vehicles of 50-100 feet. This is close but not head-turning close.

Further, the gaps are dynamic and will adjust based on conditions. This could include opening up the gaps in urban areas where there are frequent entry/exits. The prime application scenario for platooning is long runs with few interchanges. In the early years we may see trucks de-couple completely when entering dense urban freeway areas and re-coupling when leaving.

Do you think driverless applications will become adopted in the commercial sector before the consumer sector?

No, it’s already happening in the consumer sector, via Tesla, the Mercedes E Class, etc. Plus, the “robo-taxi” scene is heating up fast; this is where true “driverless” will occur. The market forces are different for trucks but the applications coming on cars will eventually appear on trucks.

You are helping to plan the AUVSI/TRB Automated Vehicles Symposium in San Francisco this year. Why should someone attend the conference?

The Automated Vehicles Symposium is the largest and most significant conference worldwide focused specifically on automated vehicles. AVS uniquely brings together government, industry, and academia in a setting which includes both plenary presentations and break-out sessions, so that the larger AV community can meet and hear from one another. We are expecting over 1000 attendees this year.

Could you talk a little about the Workshop on Automated Vehicles Policy and Regulations: A State Perspective (ADD LINK) at the University of Maryland in May. Why?  

Addressing AV policy and regulation is key to the deployment of AV’s, whether it be passenger cars, trucks, and/or robo-taxi’s. I’m very involved in all three areas and am happy to offer my perspective and share knowledge, joining my colleagues in advancing the dialogue in these domains. The issues in some cases are quite different for each of these areas.

Thanks Richard.

Objectives of the ATA’s Automated Driving and Platooning Task Force

The Automated Driving and Platooning Task Force is within the Future Truck Program of the American Truck Association’s Technology and Maintenance Council. The objectives of this task force are:

  1. create  awareness within TMC of all relevant activities to develop partially automated and fully automated driving systems for heavy trucks, including industry and publicly sponsored R&D, as well as relevant regulatory activity at the state and Federal levels
  2. create an operational understanding of how partially and fully automated driving would be applied to heavy truck operations, considering drivers, maintenance, safety managers, fleet managers, regulators
  3. define key terms relevant to automated driving so as to create mutual understanding and avoid confusion
  4. identify the opportunities, new applications, key requirements, and areas of concern in the evolution of automated driving technologies.  Identify technology demonstrations the carriers would like to
  5. develop a white paper, to include recommended actions that might be taken by industry and regulators
  6. liaise as needed to other TMC task forces, such as the S.12 DSRC Task Force
  7. develop technical policy guidance for the Technical Advisory Group, ATA Engineering department and ATA Technology and Engineering Policy committee.

 

Autonomous Cars = Lower Oil Imports

Burney Simpson

Want to stop buying foreign oil? Get an electric-powered autonomous car.

That’s the bottom line approach of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), a Washington, D.C.-based interest group that seeks to wean America from foreign oil.

SAFE last month announced at the National Press Club in Washington that it was creating an Autonomous Vehicle Task Force to speed the deployment of the technology.

“Autonomy will accelerate the deployment and use of electric vehicles and stimulate the mobile sharing economy, breaking oil’s monopoly over the transportation sector and shielding the country from an increasingly volatile and unpredictable global oil market,” SAFE President and CEO Robbie Diamond said at the event.

SAFE is a non-partisan not-for-profit launched in 2005 by leaders from businesses heavily reliant on oil, along with a number of retired U.S. military officers and intelligence community executives.

Members of SAFE’s Energy Security Leadership Council  include Gen. James Conway and Gen. P.X. Kelly of the U.S. Marine Corps, Former Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman, and top executives from Federal Express, Coca-Cola, Domino’s Pizza, Southwest Airlines, Royal Caribbean Intl., and Waste Management are on the SAFE.

Past board members include former CIA Director James Woolsey and White House National Security Advisor Bud McFarlane

SAFE argues the U.S. would cut its use of foreign oil if the transport sector shifted to light and medium duty electric vehicles, and increased the use of natural gas to power medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The organization also seeks to improve vehicle efficiency and accelerate tech research into ‘advanced vehicles’.

ENERGY SECURITY PRIZE

This summer SAFE sponsored the 2015 Energy Security Prize designed to award companies with technologies that reduce American reliance on foreign oil. The four semifinalists were – FreeWire Technologies for its Mobi electric vehicle charger; Momentum Dynamics for its high-speed electric wireless electric vehicle charger; Peloton Technology’s platooning vehicle system for heavy-duty truck fleets; and SeaChange Group’s biodiesel fuel for maritime vessels and off-road equipment.

Grand winner Momentum received $125,000. FreeWire was named first runner up, earning it $35,000, and Pelton was second runner up, good for $15,000.

The Autonomous Vehicle Task Force includes Rutt Bridges, author of Driverless Car Revolution; Larry Burns, a former General Motors VP for R&D and now an advisor to Google; Mike Granoff, principal at Maniv Mobility; Chunka Mui, author of The New Killer Apps: How Large Companies Can Out-Innovate Start-Ups; Mark Platshon, managing director, Icebreaker Ventures; Peter Shannon, managing director, Firelake Capital Management; Evangelos Simoudis, senior managing director, Trident Capital; and Levi Tillemann-Dick, author of The Great Race: The Global Quest for the Car of the Future.

Connected Fleet Experts to Converge on Atlanta

The rise of connected technology for fleets is the theme of this year’s TU-Automotive Connected Fleets USA//The Future of Fleets conference November 16-17, at the Grand Hyatt in Atlanta.

There will be speakers from such trucking industry firms as Navistar, Hertz, Continental, Peloton, Donlen, Ricardo, and Cummins.

The conference will attract over 300 attendees with many having the authority to make purchasing decisions. At the 2014 Connected Fleets, more than 75 percent were presidents, managers or directors, while another 9 percent were at the C-level at their firms.

Categorized by firm, 21 percent of attendees last year were with transportation service providers, 17 percent fleet service/operators, 16 percent Tier 1 suppliers, 13 percent OEMs, and 10 percent were hardware manufacturers.

This year’s seminars will focus on topics that the industry is talking about as it moves to the connected world.

Data will be the focus of two important seminars, one on techniques for turning data into revenue, and the second on the promise of a single data standard for fleets.

Cybersecurity is rising to the fore for fleets as they collect all this data. In general, connectivity is proving to be a strong positive for fleets but the issue becomes ensuring how to protect yourself from hackers.

Another major issue every year is staff, especially drivers. Driver-facing cameras has seen some pushback, so Leaseplan will address this conflict in a presentation with ideas on getting driver buy-in for the technology. There will also be a seminar on driver training that improves safety and lowers accidents.

And there will be some forward looking seminars that look at the next steps in fleet connectivity. One panel will consider whether the Uber model can be transferred to the trucking industry, while another will look at drones and their ability to monitor weather and road conditions, and track trucks.

To review the list of seminars and speakers click here.

Peloton Takes the Lead in Truck Platooning

Burney Simpson

You know who’s hot? Peloton.

Consider this – in April, the firm was the beneficiary of a $16 million investment led by Japanese auto-parts supplier Denso and Intel Capital, with participation by Castrol innoVentures, Magna International, UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund, Volvo Venture Capital Group, and several Silicon Valley-based venture investors.

Gӧran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North America, said in a statement that Peloton’s platooning “will improve safety and fuel efficiency” and lead to lower costs.

Trucks use platooning technology like radar and wireless vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and wireless vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) communication to travel closely with each other, and take advantage of aerodynamics to save on fuel.

The communications systems allow the rear truck to automatically accelerate or brake with the lead truck, improving safety and allowing for closer travel. Studies of platooning trucks have found that fuel costs can be reduced between 7 and 12 percent for the following truck and nearly 5 percent for the lead truck.

In addition, evolving technology could mean the second or third truck in a pack would be operated by the lead truck, and would not need a driver, further cutting costs. However, platooning proponents insist that at this time the following trucks all have drivers, and that these drivers could take control of their vehicle if a situation warrants it.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Peloton is developing a cloud-based operations center that monitors the trucks in its system, and warns them when weather or road conditions might impact their driving.

There was more good news for Peloton when the Utah legislature enacted a bill allowing the testing of connected vehicles in the state (See “Three States Approve Autonomous Vehicle Legislation”). Peloton has demonstrated its technology in the state with truck firm C.R. England.

Peloton is part of the truck-platooning study in Utah conducted by American Transportation Research Institute and Auburn University that also includes Peterbilt Trucks and Meritor Wabco.

ITS Freight Conference Focuses on Fleets

John Estrada

Last week ITS America held the first of three symposiums it will host this year on transportation technology.  This one was held aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach Harbor, a very appropriate location for a symposium on freight.  Together with the adjacent Los Angeles Harbor this is the largest harbor in the U.S.

Much of the discussion was by California government officials and system providers on the needs of the fleet community. The focus was on upcoming technologies, and the role of government and the industry in implementing these technologies.

The most interesting speaker was Randy Mullett, vice president of government relations and public affairs for Con-way, Inc., the $5.8 billion freight transportation and logistics services firm.  Mr. Mullet assured the audience that leaders in the industry weren’t dummies and that they were already taking many measures to optimize costs. He went through a number of practical items that make for real challenges in the industry.

From a driverless technology perspective, the most interesting panel was the one focused on how technology will shape the next generation of transportation systems.  Dr. Steven Shladover from the University of California PATH program, reiterated his belief that full driverless technology won’t be available in our lifetimes (can’t say we agree with him on that).  Much of the discussion was on the benefits that platooning will provide.  The panel, including Peloton founder and CIO Dave Lyons, agreed that this would happen soon but in phases. In the near term, all vehicles will have drivers and those drivers will do the steering.

All in all it was a good show and we’re looking forward to the ITS America Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh at the end of May.

Photo by Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy; Port of Long Beach, Calif.

Fleet Platooning is a Trucking Game Changer

Enock Mtoi

Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology offers significant advantages in safety, highway capacity, and fuel consumption, and driverless vehicles using V2V may be close to practical deployment in the trucking industry.

Truck fleet platooning may be the real game changer for V2V technology. In the context of driverless technology, platooning means to strategically control vehicles at an optimum following distance through the use of radar and wireless communication, so one vehicle follows another at a calculated safe distance. The photo from Scania that illustrates this article demonstrates platooning.

One leader in fleet platooning is Peloton Technology, the Mountain View, Calif.-based firm that calls itself an automated vehicle technology company. Peloton combines radar-based collision mitigation equipment and V2V communication technology with sophisticated vehicle control algorithms, to enable the platooning of heavy trucks.

REDUCE DRAG

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted a fleet test with Peloton demonstration systems and reported that it saw potential for significant fuel savings by applying semi-automated truck platooning of line-haul sleeper cabs with modern aerodynamics. By platooning the trucks and using electronic coupling systems that allowed multiple vehicles to accelerate or brake simultaneously, the fleet saw a dramatic reduction in aerodynamic drag, leading to fuel cost savings. By many accounts, fuel accounts for as much as 40 percent of operating expenses for long-haul fleets.

NREL found fuel savings of up to 5.3 percent for the lead truck, and up to 9.7 percent for the trailing truck. These savings metrics are consistent with those reported by the fleet firm CR England. It verified that Peloton’s platooning technology saved it more than 7 percent when the two trucks were going 65 miles per hour, with 10 percent in fuel savings for the rear truck and 4.5 percent for the lead truck.

DRIVERLESS TRUCKS

This platooning technology is receiving acceptance in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) has teamed with industrial, national lab, and academic experts to conduct tests on both small and large trucks, operating them at 50 mph in a single file while maintaining a safe distance of 13 feet between vehicles. This video demonstrates a NEDO driverless truck live on a highway, while this 2013 paper reports benefits in both fuel savings and pollution reduction.

In Europe, Volvo was recently involved in a project called Safe Road Trains for the Environment (Sartre), where there was simulated platoon testing of both cars and trucks.

There are still road blocks to the live use of platooning systems on U.S. roads. Highway infrastructure need to be updated to cope with the operations of this technology, accident liability issues have to be re-defined, and there are some technical unknowns remaining. Perhaps the biggest challenge will be to win over consumers who have to accept the idea of sharing the road with a truck that doesn’t have a driver, at least not in the traditional sense.

FYI – Peloton is scheduled to conduct a webinar on platooning trucks with research house Frost & Sullivan on Wednesday, March 18. Learn more.

Enock Mtoi is a research associate with the Laboratory for Adaptive Traffic Operations and Management (LATOM) at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla. He holds a PhD in civil engineering with a focus on transportation systems from Florida State University,  Tallahassee.