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

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

Volvo shows off its new autonomous garbage truck

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

 

Autonomous race car debuts in Paris

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

 

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

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

Image: Still photo from Volvo video

News Roundup: Driverless Truck Delivers Beer 120 Miles Away, London Decides Not to Mark Self-Driving Cars for Fear of Bullying, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of some of the most interesting headlines to come out of the industry this week:

London to test unmarked driverless cars for fear of ‘bullying’

Volvo is getting ready to kick off a test of around 100 cars in the UK capital of London in 2018–but many people may not even realize. That’s because British lawmakers fear that if motorists realize they are driving next to a self-driving car, they may decide to “bully” it by cutting it off, overtaking it with speed or other similar acts–at least, that’s what a recent research study suggested. Therefore, Volvo has decided not to mark the 4x4s they will be “loaning” to participants in any way, so they are indistinguishable from regular human-driven cars. London’s trial will be one of the world’s first to use public volunteers to test the self-driving cars. Read more from the Telegraph Observer.

 

Otto driverless truck makes 120-mile trip–to deliver beer

The Uber-owned driverless truck company Otto made history recently when it made a 120-mile journey from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs with its “driver” barely needing to touch the wheel at all. The truck delivered 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer, and the driver was only needed to take the controls for on-ramps and freeway exits. The rest of the time? He was relaxing, monitoring the trip from a comfortable sleeper berth in the back of the truck. Otto representatives are calling the trip a big success. Read more from Automotive News.

 

Toyota makes big investment in car-sharing service

Toyota has invested $10 million in the on-demand car-sharing company Getaround, based in San Francisco. Getaround operates much like the “Airbnb of cars,” allowing car owners to rent out their cars on an on-demand basis for an hourly or daily rate. The service boasts around 200,000 members and has been operating in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington D.C. and a few other U.S. cities since 2013. Getaround promises up to $1 million of insurance coverage to every renter and owner, and says car owners can make up to an extra $10,000 of annual income by offering up their cars when they’re not using them. Read more about Toyota’s investment in Getaround from Reuters.

Courtesy Image: Otto self-driving truck

News Roundup: Michigan Senate Passes Law Allowing Driverless Cars to Operate Without Humans, French City Debuts World’s First Driverless Bus Service, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of recent headlines in the driverless and connected-car industries.

Michigan State Senate Unanimously Passes Bill That Would No Longer Require a Human to Be in A Driverless Car

Driverless cars are moving full speed ahead in Michigan, where the state Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would no longer require a human to be in an autonomous car being tested on public roads. Backers touted the bill as “necessary” to keep Michigan ahead of the curve on rapidly advancing technology. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder reportedly supports the bill as well, which is on track to have full legislative approval by the end of the year. Other provisions in the bill include: allowing for public operation of driverless vehicles when they hit the consumer market; easing the “platooning” of autonomous commercial trucks traveling closely together at electronically coordinated speeds; help creating a facility to test autonomous and wirelessly connected cars at highway speeds at the site of a defunct General Motors plant; and allowing auto manufacturers to run networks of on-demand self-driving vehicles. Read more from the Associated Press and CBS Detroit.

 

Lyon, France Debuts World’s First Public Driverless Bus With Daily Service

Lyon, France launched this past weekend what is being called the world’s first driverless bus in its downtown Confluence area. The bus, which uses LiDAR radar technology and motion sensors to help it avoid accidents, can seat up to 15 passengers, and is now serving rides to the public, daily. Two shuttles run a 10-minute route with five stops. The shuttle was designed by French company Navya, and the design is set to undergo trials in Dubai soon as well. Read more about the new Navya shuttle buses from Travel+Leisure Magazine.

 

Volvo Teams Up With Autoliv to Develop Autonomous Car Software

Volvo Car Group and Autoliv, an automotive safety group, announced this week that they are forming a jointly-owned company to develop advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous driving systems. Volvo will bring to the table its know-how of decision-making software that determines how an autonomous car will react in different situations. Autoliv will bring expertise in sensor technology and computer vision systems. The two companies say they are committed to creating “a completely open, transparent environment for collaboration.” In a news conference, representatives said the new company, which has yet to be named, will initially have around 200 employees, and could grow to around 600 within two years. The company is set to begin work as early as next year. Read more about the collaboration from Associated Press and Crain’s Detroit Business.

Fatality Fails to Dent Tesla Stock

The first fatality in a Tesla (TSLA) while in Autopilot mode doesn’t seem to have affected the market’s appetite for the company’s stock.

While the Dow and S&P 500 rebounded nicely with 3.2 percent gains last week, the D20 managed to only recover some of its Brexit loses by rising about 1 percent and closing Friday at 141.83. Gainers outnumbered losers 11 to nine as the index ended four consecutive weekly losses.

For the third week in a row, Mobileye (MBLY) was the D20’s leading price gainer. Positive vibes from its latest deal with Intel and BWM continue to propel the stock to levels not seen since October. Last week, Mobileye’s stock increased 13 percent to close at $47.11.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation into a fatal crash in May involving a Tesla Model S that occurred while its Autopilot feature was engaged. Despite that, Tesla’s stock was up $23.35 percent last week, gaining 12 percent and closing at $216.50.

Also, last week Volvo AB (STO:VOLV-B) increased its provision against a possible EU antitrust fine. The market reacted swiftly, knocking 8.60 SEK off its stock price and reducing it 9.3 percent to 84.3 SEK.

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

Up and Comers:

Lyft looking for investors – hires Qatalyst Partners. Qatalyst recently played a part in Microsoft’s planned $26 billion purchase of LinkedIn. Lyft is a rideshare firm perhaps best known for the $1 billion stake made in January by GM, Didi Chuxing, a Saudi prince, and others. It was reported that investment series valued Lyft at $5.5 billion.

China rideshare firm Didi Chuxing made more news with a $400 million investment from Poly Group, a Chinese government real estate and trading firm. In May, Apple invested $1 billion in Didi which operates in more than 400 cities in China. It claims over 85 percent of China’s ride-hailing market and completes as many as 14 million rides per day.

TomTom on a TearTear

Burney Simpson

TomTom has been on a TearTear, announcing an important deal with Volvo, expanding its HD mapping coverage, and launching an app for truckers.

The Amsterdam-based navigation and mapping firm announced it would provide location and navigation content and services to Volvo Cars starting in 2019. Regions include Europe, North America, China, Japan, Korea, Latin America and Africa.

Volvo Cars will use such TomTom products as automotive-grade digital NDS Maps, including incremental real-time map updates; the navigation software NavKit; and traffic and travel-related services.

At the TU-Automotive conference in Novi, Mich., last week TomTom announced it had expanded its mapping of the US to cover interstates in 20 states.

Its HD Map and RoadDNA are now available in:

  • Interstates in Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont;
  • Interstates and highways in California, Michigan, and Nevada;
  • Autobahn network in Germany.

In total, the HD Map and Road DNA programs now cover nearly 76,000 miles of roadways, up from the 43,000 miles announced in March.

Also in Novi, TomTom combined its HD Map and RoadDNA technology to create the Localization Demonstrator to showcase how its technology can keep a vehicle centered in its lane. (See the video below).

The Demonstrator uses Velodyne LiDAR and other autonomous-driving equipment.

Also in June but prior to TU-Automotive, TomTom released the MyDrive Route Planning program for professional drivers.

The drivers can use it to plan a multi-stop route for their truck’s specific size, weight, cargo and speed. They can also add in the fuel, rest spots, diners, and other points of interest.

Corinne Vigreux, a TomTom managing director, said in a release that MyDrive combines “truck-specific routing, with insanely accurate TomTom Traffic information” to save the driver time.

Another June announcement concerned the Welcome to Priority Driving campaign, which appears to be a PR campaign for the European market.

The firm expects to spend multi-million Euros on the campaign that will begin June 20 and run until the end of the year. It will include radio, digital treatments, YouTube offerings, a website, in-store, PR, and social campaigns.

And its not even the Ides of June yet.

This video shows the Lane Localization technology.

 

 

Video: NHTSA Driverless Guidelines Coming in July – Rosekind

Federal regulators will release deployment guidance and state model policy on autonomous driving technology in July, Mark Rosekind, administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told Autoline Network at the TU-Automotive Detroit 2016 show on Thursday. (See the interview below).

The state guidelines are designed to give some uniform structure to autonomous regulations across the nation, said Rosekind.

At the same time, NHTSA must be nimble and flexible in its regulatory approach to driverless vehicles so the rules can evolve as the technology changes, he said.

In addition, we have to make sure the federal role and the state role are clearly identified, Rosekind tells Autoline. Broadly, the feds have oversight of the vehicle while states have oversight of the driver.

For instance, the leader of Volvo complained to US DOT recently that Europe’s patchwork regulatory approach to autonomous driving technology is a hindrance to the technology there, said Rosekind.

“We have a chance in the United States to create a platform that would accelerate (driverless technology) rather than be a barrier,” Rosekind said. “I’m hoping in July when we announce we create a new framework that people around the world will (review). They might say, ‘That’s an approach that works’”, said Rosekind.

NHTSA is working with the American Association Motor of Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) on the guidelines to ensure that the states are on board with the policy, said Rosekind. The AAMVA is the organization for leaders of state departments of motor vehicles.

NHTSA also will probably ask Congress in July for greater leeway in its oversight of the testing of new vehicles, and for “new kinds of approval process” to speed deployment, said Rosekind.

He noted that NHTSA now has exemption authority over tests of vehicles and equipment, giving it the power to allow a test of a maximum of 2,500 vehicles over two years.

NHTSA might ask Congress for the authority to allow the testing of larger fleets over a longer time frame. That would give it the ability to gather a larger sample of data to be analyzed.

 

Live Demos Key to ITS America’s San Jose Conference

Burney Simpson

Hands-on, close-up demos of connected and autonomous vehicle technology will be a key part of the upcoming ITS America 2016 San Jose conference June 12-16 in the city’s McEnery Convention Center.

The conference “Integrated Mobility. Transportation Redefined.” will offer the “#THISisITS Exhibits and Demonstrations,” June 13-15.

The demonstrations include:

Lear Corporation: Intelligent Transportation Navigating Traffic

Visitors can ride in a vehicle and experience vehicle to vehicle (V2V), vehicle to infrastructure (V2I), and cellular communications. There will be examples of warnings, situational awareness, and vehicle tracking information. Cellular communication will be used to demonstrate a variety of remote vehicle commands and tracking technologies. Sign up in Lear Corp. booth 423, event is on Viola Street.

Wave Mobile Solutions Cameras, Data, and Safety Using Light Rail

GRIDSMART and Wave Mobile Solutions will conduct an integrated demonstration of the Gridsmart Technologies’ bell shaped 360-degree camera along with a Wave Mobile Solutions FiberWire 8011 DSRC RSU. The camera and the RSU will be installed at the corner of San Carlos and Market in front of the Marriott. The San Jose VTA Lightrail will be used for a demonstration where the RSU will send out DSRC basic safety messages alerting the light rail and DSRC-equipped vehicles of vehicles, pedestrians or bicycles in the cross walk. Sign-Up at Wave Mobile’s booth 938, and the demo will be in the plaza in front of the McEnery Center.

Heavy Truck Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control Demonstration Ride – PATH

Visitors can ride in a heavy truck on the SR-87 freeway in San Jose as part of a string of three trucks with the followers’ speed under cooperative adaptive cruise control (CACC). Visitors will experience the use of DSRC vehicle-to-vehicle communication to coordinate the speeds of the trucks. They will also experience the responses of the following trucks when a car cuts in between the trucks.

The demonstration was developed by the University of California PATH Program and Volvo Group under the sponsorship of the FHWA Exploratory Advanced Research Program and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Sign-Up at USDOT booth 407; visitors will be picked up on S. Almaden Street.

Savari Vehicle Predictive Safety

This live in-vehicle demonstration will showcase Savari’s suite of V2V safety applications that include Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Change Assist, and Intersection Movement Assist. Sign-Up in Savari booth 916; the demo will be on Viola Street.

San Jose Valley Transit Authority (VTA) Transit Safety

The VTA will conduct three demonstrations – a Smart Bus Stop, a Transit Vehicle Collision Avoidance System, and an On-Board Passenger Information Monitor.

Smart Bus Stop – VTA, Renesas, and eTrans Systems are collaborating to demonstrate a system that uses DSRC technology to notify bus operators of passengers waiting at bus stops. With this system, when a passenger arrives at a bus stop, the passenger identifies what bus they want, and when the bus approaches, messages are exchanged and the bus knows if it has a valid passenger and must stop.

Collision Avoidance – VTA and Rosco Systems will demonstrate a multi-vision sensor system that provides visual and audible alerts to transit vehicle drivers if a pedestrian or bicyclist are in a danger zone when the bus is moving.

On Board Mobile PIM’s (Passenger Information Monitors) – VTA and Allied Telesis will demonstrate an advanced passenger information monitor that makes graphical geo-coded transit information available to passengers while on board buses and trains. The system will also be interactive with the customer smartphone.

Sign-Up for any of the demos at eTrans Systems’ booth 436; the demos will be conducted in the parking lot.

Renesas Riding Along With Advanced ADAS and Data

Visitors will take a ride in the Renesas Advanced ADAS vehicle to see a series of V2V and V2I applications, including collision warnings, red-light warnings, and road constructions warnings. Advanced camera analytics will generate additional information for passenger safety, and visitors will see the advanced ADAS capabilities built into the Renesas vehicle. Sign Up in eTrans Systems’ booth 436 for the demonstration on nearby Convention Center streets.

The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) is an advocate for today’s leading industries marrying tech and transportation to advance safety, efficiency and sustainability and putting “transportation” at the center of the Internet of Things.

Volvo: Our Driverless Car Will Be Out in 4 Years, and It Will Be Way More Advanced Than Anyone Else’s

Jennifer van der Kleut

Volvo is moving full-speed ahead toward debuting its own self-driving car, claiming it will be released in the next four years–and, quite confidently, stating it will be “way more advanced” than any other company’s vehicle.

Tech Insider reports, Volvo spokespersons say they are marketing their forthcoming driverless car as one in which people will be mere passengers, not drivers, who will be able to do other activities like read, work, eat or sleep rather than pay attention to what the car is doing.

“We are really trying to deploy the technology in reality. And when I say that, I mean self-driving cars that allow drivers to do something else behind the steering wheel,” Erik Coelingh, Senior Technical Leader for Safety and Driver Support Technologies, told Tech Insider.

One of the ways Volvo plans to accomplish this is through the DriveMe testing pilot, which they are touting as “the largest and most ambitious autonomous driving pilot yet.”

DriveMe will allow ordinary citizens to lease autonomous cars for public testing on pre-mapped streets and routes, and will collect data on the cars’ performance. With the valuable data gathered from the tests, Volvo says it will be able to perfect their autonomous drive systems in time for a 2020 mass debut.

The first few DriveMe locations will reportedly be London, China, and Volvo’s home nation of Sweden.

In tandem with Volvo’s claim that they will have autonomous cars out by 2020, the company has also famously promised that their cars will be completely “fatality-free” by then as well.

Volvo spokespersons say their cars will combine advanced safety features with autonomous drive technology to create the alleged casualty-proof cars.

Some experts say, Volvo is already close to achieving its goal of having no one die in one of its cars. According to Tech Insider, the company tracks how many people in Sweden die in its cars each year; and in the previous generation of its XC90, only one person died. Furthermore, according to the Institute for Highway Safety latest safety data, no one in the U.S. died in an XC90 between 2009 to 2012.

As it works toward its fully autonomous car, Volvo plans to release a partially autonomous car, reportedly similar to Tesla’s Autopilot, by 2017, Digital Trends reports.

Volvo CEO and President Håkan Samuelson told Digital Trends, “Autonomous driving represents a leap forward in car safety. The sooner [self-driving] cars are on the roads, the sooner lives will start being saved.”

Commoners May Soon Ride Driverless in London

Burney Simpson

In London even commoners will be riding in a driverless car.

That is, if you make the cut.

Folks who live in the United Kingdom can apply to take a ride in a driverless vehicle in London as part of the Greenwich Automated Transport Environment, or GATEway, Project.

The electric-powered, shuttle vehicles will be tested in the Greenwich neighborhood in London. Following the test riders will be asked to provide their views on the experience.

The Gateway Project didn’t announce when the ride-alongs would begin. The public can volunteer to take part in driverless technology workshops in Greenwich from June to August.

Those seeking to take a ride or participate in a workshop should visit the Gateway Project.

(To be precise the ride-alongs will take place in the ‘Royal Borough of Greenwich’, a section of London that may exist somewhere near Downton Abbey. Who knows, if you get selected you may share a ride with the Dowager Countess).

Gateway is part of an $11.5 million project led by Innovate UK, a government agency, and the business community. The Transportation Research Laboratory is managing Gateway.

“Testing these vehicles in a living environment, like the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab, takes the concept from fiction to reality,” Nick Reed, director at TRL and technical lead of Gateway, said in a release.

“It gives the public a chance to experience what it’s like to ride in an automated vehicle and to make their own mind up as to how much they like it, trust it and could accept it as a service in the city.”

The UK is running three driverless projects – Gateway, UK Autodrive in Coventry and Milton Keynes, and Venturer in Bristol.

Volvo recently announced that the UK public could ride in fully autonomous vehicles in 2017 in its Drive Me London program. (See “Volvo Announces ‘Drive Me London’, the ‘Largest and Most Ambitious Autonomous Driving Trial Yet’”).

Volvo Announces ‘Drive Me London,’ the ‘Largest and Most Ambitious Autonomous Driving Trial Yet’

Jennifer van der Kleut

In an announcement on the automaker’s website, Volvo says it is prepping to launch “the largest and most ambitious autonomous driving trial yet.”

The trial, which they say will take place in the United Kingdom, is called “Drive Me London,” and aims to “speed up the introduction of a technology that promises to massively reduce car accidents, as well as free up congested roads and save drivers valuable time.”

The unprecedented trial will allow Londoners to lease autonomous cars for public testing on pre-mapped streets and routes, and will collect data on the cars’ performance.

Interestingly, the cars will be fully autonomous. Volvo says there will never be any need for the driver’s to take back control of the car, in any situation, and reps say the passengers will be able to “fully disengage”–meaning, they can surf the Web, watch TV or even sleep.

“Spend time reading a book or watching a video. The car will be able to drive itself and handle any situation that might arise on the roadway,” Volvo representatives told The Verge.

Similar trials will take place in Volvo’s home nation of Sweden and in China.

Volvo says it has been hard at work reducing fatal and injury accidents since the 1950s, reminding consumers that it revolutionized auto safety when it introduced the three-point seatbelt in 1959.

Volvo said its work on the development of autonomous drive technology is all part of the company’s commitment to “zero-fatality” cars by the year 2020.

While the idea may sound lofty, it’s not that far-fetched. Volvo has long tracked the number of injuries and deaths that happen in its cars. For example, with the previous generation of its model XC90, only one person died. In the car’s current generation, data from the Institute for Highway Safety indicate zero deaths between 2009 to 2012.

Volvo says, between its work on car safety enhancements and its progress toward fully autonomous cars, “No one will be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo by the year 2020.”

Volvo’s announcement says Drive Me London will begin in 2017.

This isn’t the first time Volvo’s name appeared in headlines this week. The automaker’s senior technical lead for crash avoidance, Trent Victor, caused quite a stir when he called competitor Tesla Motor Company’s Autopilot system “an unsupervised wannabe.

Victor reportedly criticized Tesla’s Autopilot system because even when it is turned on, Tesla encourages the person in the driver’s seat to keep their hands on the wheel and stay alert, ready to take control back from the car when needed.

Victor says such a system is pointless and irresponsible, since any notion of autonomous mode makes people want to do other things such as nap or check emails. He said Volvo is close to perfecting Level 4 autonomy that is capable of responding to any type of situation with no involvement from the driver or passenger at all.

“We take responsibility,” Victor said in an interview with The Verge.