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AV Update - December 2013

From the Editors

The last few weeks have shown some real progress in the AV space in Canada. First, the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE) was launched. Then ITS Canada organized and hosted Canada's first AV Summit. Finally -- and for us, this is an exciting move -- the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) announced a pilot framework to test and evaluate autonomous vehicles in Ontario. More on the last two items below.

To all our readers, we send our best wishes for the Holiday Season; may you all have a happy and prosperous 2014.


ITS Canada Hosts Summit Meeting on Autonomous Vehicles

ITS Canada organized and hosted Canada’s first summit meeting on autonomous vehicles (AVs). In a news release announcing the Summit, Michael De Santis, the Chair of ITS Canada, said “The required planning and preparation for the introduction of AVs at the end of this decade and into the 2020s will be a major challenge for Canadian governments, businesses and industries. The objective of the AV Summit is to take the first steps towards helping these stakeholders prepare and begin to plan for the introduction of AVs.”

Barrie Kirk, the Chair of ITS Canada’s Autonomous Vehicle Task Force added: “It is exciting that representatives from different levels of government, government agencies, industry associations and universities have started to discuss how Canada should prepare for autonomous vehicles.” Paul Godsmark was also very involved in the planning of the Summit and briefed the attendees on AVs.


Ontario Proposes Pilot Framework to Test and Evaluate Autonomous Vehicles

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is proposing a pilot framework to safely test and evaluate autonomous vehicles under prescribed conditions before they become widely available to the public. This framework was developed after researching and reviewing what laws other jurisdictions have put in place. The details of the announcement are on the MTO website; additional details are available by scrolling the MTO web page to the link Autonomous Vehicle Summary of Proposal. This is a public consultation process and the deadline for comments is February 24, 2014.


Best In-Depth Article on AVs to Date?

The New Yorker published an article by Burkhard Bilger which is probably the best article to-date on the subject of AVs. If you read nothing else, please give yourself a few minutes to enjoy ‘Auto Correct’.


AV Pilot Projects - This is Just the Beginning

The two nations with the best road safety records in the world are keen to get to grips with AVs.

In Milton Keynes, UK, there are plans for 20 pods on guideways for 2015, and 100 pods unrestricted by 2017. This will raise the profile in the UK, but doesn’t appear to be cutting-edge when compared with other programs. We have found this video which you may not have seen.

The UK government has also announced its National Infrastructure Plan (375 Billion over 20 years) that includes the objective of ensuring that “the legislative and regulatory framework demonstrates to the world’s car companies that the UK is the right place to develop and test driverless cars. It will also create a 10 million prize for a town or city to develop as a testing ground for driverless cars.”

Meanwhile in Sweden, Volvo is planning to have 100 self-driving (Level 4, capable of unmanned operation? – probably not) cars on the Streets of Gothenburg by 2017.

In the US, a military base is showcasing the Navia Induct electric cart technology. A military base is a closed community and a great place to develop AV tech from low to high speeds.

Not to be outdone, the University of Michigan aims to put a fleet of connected AVs on the road by 2021.

Anyone notice that we don’t have any announcements yet about a larger scale Google pilot project? We have a hunch that we might hear something soon.


What have Robots to do with AVs?

If you think fully-automated vehicles are far fetched, the latest in the series of DARPA challenges is the DARPA Robotic Challenge (DRC) in which robots will drive cars. This could be another form of AV and a great way of keeping existing vehicle stock safely on the roads.

With Amazon, UPS and others talking about drone deliveries for smaller packages, some are arguing that Google is being more realistic by keeping their ‘wheels’ on the ground for deliveries.

To allay any doubts that we might have had about Google’s robotic ambitions, they have now bought eight robotics companies in eight months. But the biggest news is their acquisition of Boston Dynamics – a key player in the DRC.

Also, China has its own challenge that was a pre-cursor to the DRC.


Google Latest

There is an interesting Q&A with Chris Urmson on the Google AV at Robo Business.

This needs verification, but these informal comments indicate that Google may be closing in on 1 million miles of testing on public roads.

Anthony Levandowski of Google giving the Distinguished Innovator Lecture provides some very small glimpses into how Google might bring their technology to market – Level 3.X first, closely followed by full Level 4 with unmanned capability. And then at the ATA meeting.


Various Other News Items

Michigan gives the green light to AV testing despite Google opposition.

Ford reveals automated Fusion Hybrid Research Vehicle and teams up with the University of Michigan and State Farm in the process.

Zoox have their website up and running and we are very impressed by fact the ‘Boz’ Level 4 AV concept is very much a ‘Car 2.0’. It is a bi-directional quadrant design that can be manufactured by additive printing.

We don’t have so many headline grabbing political posts this month, but Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti did say “I would love to find a neighborhood and be the first big city in the world to have a driverless car neighborhood."

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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