From the Editors
Here are a couple of (free) resources that will help to keep you up to speed on the subject of CAVs.
The IEEE Vehicular Technology Society (VTS) -- Chicago Chapter, has asked Barrie Kirk to present a (free) webinar on the evening of April 15. The subject of the 60 minute webinar is Canada's Activities in the Connected and Automated Vehicles Ecosystem. The organizers have kindly opened the registration to readers of AV Update. The webinar details and the registration page are here.How Connected and Automated Vehicles will Disrupt the Financial Services Industry is a recently-published CAVCOE briefing paper. The briefing note also describes how the industry can prepare for the CAV era. You can download it here -- it's 4 pages and a 4 minute read.
Canadian AV News
The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board which oversees the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Magna International are among a group of investors pumping US$2.2 billion into Google’s self-driving car division Waymo. This is the first time Waymo has received funding from external investors. Other investors are Silver Lake Partners, Mubadala Investment Company (the sovereign wealth fund of Abu Dhabi), Andreessen Horowitz and AutoNation. More information is at this link and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board’s own site at this link.
Here is an update to a proposed new ISO standard we reported on in the February 2020 edition of AV Update. The project to create a standard titled Sidewalk and Kerb Behaviour for Automated Vehicles: Arriving, Stopping, Parking, Waiting, and Loading has been launched. This standard will address numerous activities and operations related to a typical curb and/or sidewalk and will cover many angles related to future uses of sidewalks and curbs as they are gradually subjected to vehicle and device automation. The project lead for this work is the Canadian author and researcher Bern Grush. Detailed information is at this link.Linked to this, Bern has scheduled a (free) webinar that describes the launch of the new ISO project. The scope is sidewalk and curb/kerb operations for automated vehicles: arriving, stopping, parking, waiting and loading. The presentation will summarize the purpose of the standard as well as its timeliness, importance, properties, and stakeholders. The webinar will be on Tuesday April 7 at 9:00am EDT. Additional information and the registration page are here.
The Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) has created a new group of municipalities under the brand of Municipal Alliance for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles in Ontario (MACAVO). This volunteer-based group consists of municipal leaders across Ontario willing to actively collaborate and learn from one another for CAV preparedness. To this end, MACAVO intends to create the world’s longest CAV corridor. MACAVO’s most recent project is called the Windsor-Ottawa Preferred Corridor. 33 municipalities participated and collectively identified over 5,000 kilometres of municipal roads - the longest known network of municipal roads in the world today. This was recently described in the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s report. This 32-page report can be viewed/downloaded at this link.
Raven Autonomy, based in Sioux Falls SD, has announced a majority investment in Regina-based DOT Technology Corp. Raven also announced its acquisition of SmartAg.
DOT is the designer and manufacturer of a unique U-shaped diesel-powered platform designed to autonomously handle a large variety of agriculture implements. Through its accurate path planning technology, the platform is able to complete tasks autonomously. In turn, agriculture professionals can make better use of their time and overall operations. The DOT platform already uses Raven AV technology. More information is here.
(Disclosure: CAVCOE is pleased to have provided consulting advice to DOT.)
The 2020 IEEE 92nd Vehicular Technology Conference (VTC2020-Fall) will be held in Victoria BC on October 4-7. This semi-annual flagship conference of the IEEE Vehicular Technology Society will bring together individuals from academia, government, and industry to discuss and exchange ideas in the fields of wireless, mobile, and vehicular technology.
The deadline for papers for this conference has now been extended to April 6; this is the final deadline. More information is here.
The University of Waterloo has been active in advanced automotive research for many years. The latest chapter is the establishment of Autonomous Vehicle Research & Intelligence Laboratory (AVRIL). This new $4.5 million facility will conduct R&D on autonomous passenger vehicles, driverless shuttles, warehouse and industrial robots, autonomous field platforms, commercial trucks, vehicle connectivity and advanced driver assistance systems. AVRIL is also equipped with a driving simulator with a 210-degree immersive screen, and level two chargers for electric vehicles. More information is at this link.
The CBC recently featured a Toronto-based technology company called X-Matik. This company makes kits that can enable any car up to 20 years old to have limited self-driving capabilities. The mechanical kits attach to the steering wheel and the brake pedal to control these functions. A camera, speed control mechanism and X-Matik’s software complete the system. The kit is priced at $4,000 and is intended for professional drivers rather than the general public. The City of Toronto tried X-Matik’s system in 2018 and currently has 10 of its vehicles fitted with its system called LandCruise. The CBC report and a short video can be viewed at this link. Also, see a similar product by the U.S. firm comma.ai in the International AV News section below.
This year's CASPI Student Automated Snow Plow Competition has two parts: a paper design and then the competition. All the student teams have submitted their technical reports describing their designs. The judges will review these during April. For the actual competition at Ottawa L5, we have unfortunately postponed it because of the COVID-19 crisis. We are currently investigating options to reschedule it in the 2020-2021 academic year.
As reported in an earlier issue of CAV Update, the overall vision for CASPI is to be an association for all stakeholders in the automated snow plow ecosystem. The deliverables include the competition, research reports and a conference in Toronto.
International AV News
A product called openpilot by comma.ai is on the market for US$999. Based on a camera system attached to the inside of the windshield, a vehicle-specific wiring harness and the software developed by comma.ai, the openpilot gives self-driving capability to a select number of vehicles (list here) by overriding that vehicle’s Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS). The latest version of this system known as comma two went on sale on January 20, 2020 through comma.ai’s own website (this link). An article on caranddriver.com details a compares the performance of openpilot with Tesla’s autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise. comma.ai states that its system has been used in 14,000,000 miles (over 22 million kilometres) of driving so far. The article can be viewed at this link.
Outrider is another startup in the automated truck business. Unlike other automated truck companies such as Kodiak Robotics, Embark, Waymo, TuSimple and others who are focused on automated freight transport along highways, Outrider specializes on automated trucks designed for freight yards, rail yards, warehouses, distribution centres, etc. These Logistics Yards offer a well-defined environment and a set of discrete, repetitive tasks that make them an ideal use case for autonomous technology. Outrider recently attracted US$53 million in venture funding. More information is at this link.
Toyota has made significant external investments in autonomous vehicle technology. The latest is a US$462 million investment in the Chinese technology startup pony.ai. Toyota’s intent goes beyond co-developing autonomous driving technology. Mobility Services such as robotaxis seem to be in Toyota’s long-term game plan. pony.ai is working on developing robotaxis and has experimental vehicles deployed in China and California. More information at this link.
On February 24, 2020, the Governor of the State of Michigan announced plans to establish a new state agency to coordinate all initiatives related to self-driving and connected cars in Michigan. Officially called the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, the new agency will be within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. In her announcement, the Governor identified six trends in the auto industry and mobility sector: autonomous driving, vehicle connectivity, powertrain electrification, shared mobility, intelligent automation and the global supply chain. More information is at this link.
Roadway surface markings are used by many self-driving and ADAS systems for positioning/centering a vehicle in a travel lane. In this context, the uniformity, quality, and maintenance of pavement markings is important for future self-driving and driverless vehicles. To this end, the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) has recently approved a technical report addressing the uniformity issue of pavement markings. This work was performed as part of the response to Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Request for Information for Automated Driving Systems (ADS). The 11-page report can be viewed or downloaded at this link.
Advocates of autonomous vehicles often cite children as one of the beneficiaries of the technology. The non-profit organization Safe Kids Worldwide has prepared a 10-page report on how children’s safety and needs must be addressed in this fast-evolving area. The organization calls on developers of AVs to ensure that AVs are engineered, deployed and marketed to protect the unique needs of child passengers. These include babies, toddlers, elementary school and middle school children. More information at this link. The report can be viewed or downloaded at this link.
Waymo and its predecessor companies have been working steadily on advancing self-driving and driverless technologies for over a decade. The latest generation is dubbed 5th generation Waymo Driver. On top of improved software, it has boosted the power and performance of its main sensor suite – the LiDAR, camera and radar. All of the enhancements are described in a recent Waymo’s blog post at this link. As an aside, Waymo has numerous job opportunities posted on its website. You can view the postings at this link.
On March 15, 2020, CBS 60 Minutes had an upbeat report on the advances made to make 18-wheeler trucks driverless. A lot of money has been invested in this sub-branch of CAVs. Some of the big players think it will be ready for show time in 2021. Some already carry goods for Amazon, UPS and other big companies on a trial basis. Not surprisingly, truck drivers are not happy about technology putting them out of their jobs. They also have concerns about safety and regulations. The report is 13 minutes long and can be watched at this link.
Ironically, on March 20, 2020, it was reported that one of the better known automated trucking startups called Starsky Robotics was shutting down after 5 years. The co-founder of the company cites the technical challenges with edge cases and the fact that it will take billions of dollars more and plenty of time to get a machine to be at least as good as a human. VC firms are getting wise to this fact. Starsky’s latest attempt to raise more funding in November 2019 failed and quickened the demise of this once promising startup. More information at this link. And a lengthier explanation can be viewed on a blog-post by the company at this link.
Many jurisdictions have deployed electric autonomous shuttles either as a pilot project or as a commercial service. One of these deployed in Columbus, Ohio had a mishap where a passenger riding the shuttle was injured due to an emergency stop by the vehicle. This resulted in an intervention by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) who banned the shuttle operator from carrying anymore passengers pending an investigation. The shuttle in question was an EasyMile and operating with permission from Smart Columbus - the citywide transportation project that hired EasyMile. More information is at this link.
One of the challenges in autonomous vehicle technology is how to handle unpredictable events or behaviours. The Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has made an advance in this important area. SwRI’s R&D has resulted in a better system for detecting pedestrians and take into account their unpredictable behaviour. For example, if a pedestrian is crossing a road in a westerly direction and then suddenly turns south, the SwRI’s system is able to recognize this in milliseconds and take appropriate action. More information at this link.
Profitable future robotaxi services are often cited as reasons why so much money is being poured into AV research & development by companies like Uber, Lyft, Waymo, Tesla, Aptiv, Argo and others. In an economic analysis by ARK Invest, it is concluded that in the long term, the dominant companies in the robotaxi business can make substantial profits by lowering the cost per mile of travel to as low as 25 cents per mile. At present, the cost of travel by personal vehicle is about 70 cents per mile and that of conventional taxis about $3.50 per mile. ARK Invest is an investment manager focused solely on disruptive technologies. More information is at this link.
Over 60 companies have been granted permits by California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to test their autonomous vehicles on California’s public roads. One of the conditions attached to these permits is reporting requirements for disengagements, i.e. the number of times a vehicle’s automated driving software disengages and hands control back to its human overseer. Generally, the lower the number of disengagements, the better. The latest disengagement data was published by California DMV on February 26, 2020. It covers the period December 1, 2018 till November 30, 2019. More information at this link. DMV’s data can be viewed or downloaded at this link.
And finally, an outfit called Auto Insurance Centre has conducted a survey of 2,000 drivers worldwide to find out what they would do in an autonomous vehicle if it was available today. Check out all 7 survey questions and results at this link.
CAVCOE Speakers' Bureau
CAVCOE provides speakers for many different types of events across Canada, the US and overseas. This keeps us busy because everybody understands that CAVs will have an impact on almost everything. On the one hand, our presentations have core messaging on the status of CAVs, their deployment scenarios, and the impact on business plans, government policy, regulations and society as a whole. On the other hand, each presentation is customized for the audience and the time available. To enquire about a speaker for your event, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Upcoming AV-Related Events
Apr 2-7, 2020: Transportation Association of Canada, Spring Technical TelemeetingsApril 21-22, 2020: 4th International VDI Autonomous Trucks Conference, Munich, GermanyJun 14-17, 2020: ITS Canada 2020 Conference. Edmonton AB
August 18-20, 2020: 2020 TU-Automotive Detroit, Novi MIOct 4-7, 2020: IEEE 92nd Vehicular Technology Conference, Vicoria BC Oct 4-8, 2020: ITS World Congress, Los Angeles CA
Nov 3-5, 2020: Unmanned Systems Canada's annual conference, Calgary ABTBA, 2020: CAV Canada 2020 conference, Ottawa ONJan 6-9, 2021 Consumer Electronic Shows (CES), Las Vegas NVTBA, 2021: Canadian Automated Snow Plow Conference, Toronto ONApr 2021: ADAS Sensors 2021, Detroit MI
AV Update is a free, monthly roundup of news and analysis in the world of automated vehicles and their impact on the private sector, government and society.
Chief Editor: Ahmad Radmanesh
Contributor to this issue: Barrie Kirk
To subscribe, click here. To unsubscribe, click here.
We welcome all comments; please send them here©
CAVCOE (formerly the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence) provides advice to public and private sector organizations to help plan for the arrival of self-driving vehicles.