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AV Update - November 2013

From the Editors

We are pleased to announce the launch of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence. CAVCOE (www.cavcoe.com) provides information, analyses, expert advice, recommendations, networking and other support to stakeholders who are involved in the launch of Automated Vehicles (AVs) and/or those who will be impacted by their arrival. 

We believe that there is a need for an organization to help coordinate the discussion, information flow and relationships, as well as provide some good advice, so we created CAVCOE as a non-profit organization to do just that, for you and with your help. The news release can be found here.  Starting with this issue, AV Update is now being published by CAVCOE.

Robo-Trucks coming to the Canadian Oil Sands

Following Rio Tinto’s highly successful foray into the use of Komatsu’s Automated Haulage System in their Australian and Chilean mines from 2008, and at a particularly prudent time interval, Suncor have announced they have started testing a self-driving truck in the Alberta oil-sands.

AV Technology

Velodyne have said that they are developing a prototype of a $10K 16-line sensor that is a quarter of the price of their 32-line sensor and one eighth the price of their 64-line sensor.  Although better value for money than their current offerings, we wonder if companies like Quanergy that are waiting in the wings may be able to offer more.  Nevertheless, the trend is that LiDAR costs are falling rapidly.

Texas Instruments has launched a family of chip processors designed for Advanced Driver Assistance systems (ADAS) which will help "reduce the number of collisions on the road and enable autonomous driving experiences".

Diary Dates for November

Nov 14-15: The first Florida Automated Vehicle Summit is being held in Tampa, FL.  This is an open event and will be “exploring the issues and creating the framework for implementation of automated vehicles in Florida to save lives and enhance mobility.”

Nov 19-21: An Australian company called Zoox have mysteriously announced "An entirely different breed of animal coming soon" which is a concept for a Level 4 (unmanned capability) vehicle.  This will be unveiled at the Connected Car ExpoPopular Mechanics gleaned some inside info but doesn’t know what to make of it.  We were given a sneak peak and were impressed by the combination of some very clever ideas.

Nov 19: The US House of Representatives are holding a Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Hearing – "How Autonomous Vehicles Will Shape the Future of Surface Transportation" (originally scheduled for October).  Still no news on participants, but the title shows that AVs and their implications are being taken seriously.

Google Related News – AVs now ‘…somewhere inevitable…’

Given the recent $258M investment by Google in Uber we are wondering if this example of Uber lobbying on the subject of “Innovation in the transportation marketplace” is in any way related to fully automated shared fleets that might end up using the Google technology.

Anthony Levandowski of the Google Self-Driving Car Team is the headline Keynote Speaker at the American Trucking Association Executive Summit in Irving, TX on 4-6 December.  We can imagine that trucking company owners will be keener to deploy AV technology than the drivers.

Dr Chris Urmson of Google explained at the Robo Business conference on the subject of their self-driving car that “We’re spending less time in collision near-states,” and “Our car is driving more smoothly and safely than our trained professional drivers.”  He also didn’t think that legal or regulatory problems pose a major barrier to completely self-driving cars.

Rumour and Speculation around AVs

A photo of a Google self-driving car outside the Tesla factory possibly caused the biggest stir of any single article on the forums dedicated to AVs.  We conclude that someone from Google may have been visiting Tesla – and that this would make for a great caption competition.

Minor AV speculation on the forums also surrounded the fact that an Apple VP (former Segway Exec) will be joining Tesla to be VP of vehicle programs.  This may, or may not, be connected to Tesla’s Autopilot program. But we do know that Apple have considerable experience with robots and automation, notably with their Foxconn plants, and they not only have staff with automotive backgrounds, but one who has autonomous driving as his primary descriptor.

AV Articles and Sites of Interest

"How AVs could transform the rental market" is interesting, and it's good that the automotive press see this possibility. But we think that it will go much further than this and affect taxi, car share, ride share and P2P models too, as our Paul Godsmark wrote in his blog.

Bloomberg reports that aging population is seen as a strong driver for the uptake of AVs in Japan, and we think that there are numerous other demographic trends that will also find an affinity with AVs.

At the ITS World Congress (ITSWC) the concept of the fully self-driving car seemed to get a reality check from automakers and connected vehicle experts. However, the ITSWC planning committee acknowledges that AVs will be at the forefront in the next annual Congress in Detroit.  There is also a thoughtful article from the MIT Technology Review that explains why AVs are further away than we think; however, this is based mostly on what the automotive sector has to say.  We think that the disruption to the car is coming from outside the traditional automobile sector incumbents, and that is almost certain to be Google. Given the societal implications of the fully self-driving car is it safe to plan for any other eventuality, or any other date than the 2017 indicated by Google?

The International Task Force on Vehicle-Highway Automation (ITFVHA) held their annual meeting and the slides here are a treasure trove of information. What is perplexing is that Google’s aspiration of having NHTSA Level 4 technology in public hands by 2017 is not acknowledged as a significant development in the past year, nor are Google listed within the ‘what is being addressed’ list.

AV legal expert Bryant Walker Smith, Stanford University, had some interesting comments to make on Environmental Impact Statements (EIS).  In the US, and a number of other countries, EIS are a legal requirement to demonstrate that the impacts on the environment have been appropriately taken into account.  At some point soon, planners and designers are going to have to start demonstrating that they have taken automation (such as AVs) into account within EIS.  Our opinion is that automation should already be considered within major transportation infrastructure projects.

A special mention goes to the Eno Center for Transportation which released a paper; "Preparing a Nation for Autonomous Vehicles" as it attracted very considerable media interest and has moved the discussion of AVs forward in the public arena.  However, we don’t entirely agree with how it handled the AV subject, and would have preferred it to have gone into much more depth on how a nation should actually prepare for AVs.

Milestones Magazine, published by the Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) has an article titled "How Automated Vehicles will change Municipalities", written by Paul Godsmark and Barrie Kirk of CAVCOE.  Click on the link and then go to page 25.

Politicians and AVs

Just as we predicted in last month’s AV Update, the French PM was not the last to talk about AVs.  Sure enough, we can report that the Japanese PM Abe has pledged "to help advance auto-piloting technology as part of his economic policy".  He is the first national leader that we know of to be publicly driven by an AV – and not just one, he tried out versions from Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

AV Update is a free, monthly roundup of news and analysis in the world of automated vehicles and their impact on all levels of government and the private sector.

Editors: Barrie Kirk, Paul Godsmark
Photography: Keith Fagan

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© Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence
CAVCOE provides information, analyses, expert advice, recommendations, networking and other support to stakeholders who are involved in the launch of Automated Vehicles and those who will be impacted by their arrival.
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