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AV Update - March 2014

From the Editors

Automated vehicles will have a major impact on many businesses, challenging existing business models, whilst creating a host of completely new ones. For example:
• The auto-insurance industry will need to move away from setting premiums based on a driver's record, which also means that Usage Based Insurance (UBI) could fade away in the 2020s. New insurance products will be required.
• Low-cost automated taxis will provide strong competition to traditional taxis, car rentals, car share, ride share, P2P and transit. In fact, they may all buy AVs to remain competitive and their business models will be similar.
• Transit companies will need to decide whether to embrace automated taxis for off-peak, low density routes and trips to transit stations -- or leave this to the private sector.
• AVs will generate and use unprecedented volumes of data. There are significant opportunities for IT companies to apply Big Data and analytics concepts to cars.
• Companies with truck fleets will have the opportunity to move to automated trucks for local and long-distance shipping. This will address the forecast shortage of 30,000 truck drivers in Canada by 2020.
• An 80-90% drop in vehicle collisions will seriously affect the car repair industry.
• There will be new business opportunities for companies that have not been traditional suppliers to the auto industry. These opportunities include software, sensors, infotainment services to the car occupants, etc.
• The wireless industry will see growth based on the synergies between automated vehicles and connected vehicles. 5G, especially, should do well during the 2020s.
• Infrastructure design consultants and their clients need to decide at what point they acknowledge the potential impacts of AVs and allocate risk.
• And there are many more industries that will be impacted: energy generation and distribution, health care, parking, housing, etc.

Our advice to any company whose planning horizon extends into the 2020s is to assess the impact of AVs as part of those plans.

The Automakers

Renault (& Nissan?) "Auto-Valet" the electric car parks itself and returns on demand.

Nissan boss Andy Palmer has pledged that Nissan will have a production-ready vehicle capable of autonomous driving by 2020.

General Motors' President sees self-driving cars by 2020: "I'd be quite surprised if it hadn't happened by then," Ammann said during an investor conference. A caveat: Ammann was speaking about the technical ability to create an autonomous car, and not necessarily about the prospects of timing for commercial availability. We see lots of commercial reasons why AVs will be pushed through potential barriers.

In an interview with Forbes, Bill Ford, CEO of Ford: “Self-driving cars are coming", said Ford. "But the technology will arrive before society figures out how to make it work. There's a whole element that needs to be worked out". We like to think that we at CAVCOE and our readers are doing something towards working it all out.


Continental to launch production of short-range radar sensors in the USA". These are seen as a key development on the path to fully automated vehicles.

Nvidia has launched the Tegra K1 Development Board, the Jetson TK1, which packs in an incredible amount of computing power and may assist with artificial intelligence development.

Mobileye -- which markets collision-avoidance technology -- is reported to be planning an initial public offering (IPO) on NASDAQ this year and is aiming to raise about $500 million.

AutonomouStuff (a very interesting outfit with a great business model) has "teamed up with VisLab to support and distribute their innovative 3DV Stereo System" (a tool for world reconstruction through artificial vision). There is a webinar on it on April 2 – we are registered.

Princeton professor and AV expert Alain Kornhauser has a new start-up for plug-and-play crash avoidance technologies: Soterea.

Regulatory / Government

The California DMV held a public workshop on March 11 covering the development of regulations for the commercial operation of AVs. With DMV backing, we crowd-sourced over seven hundred comments through the SelfDrivingCars sub-reddit.

Our Paul Godsmark presented to the Standing Committee on Alberta's Economic Future investigating high speed rail in Alberta. Councillor Luan said "It makes me feel like our committee should really consider investigating this piece [self driving cars]".

"Seattle Deals A Blow To Uber And Lyft By Limiting The Number Of Ride-Sharing Drivers On The Road". The battle lines around car sharing are being set now, but AVs will not be limited by them in our opinion.


Our Paul Godsmark discussed Automated Vehicle Zones in this "Quality Streets" article. Why wait decades to capture the full benefits of AVs in our cities when we can make a plan in 5 years time to restrict human drivers and greatly improve quality of life, attracting people, businesses and investment. Any city that implements this moves up the highly-regarded city ranking indices; which attracts people, businesses and investment. Singapore and Los Angeles have shown interest.

"Automated Cars: A smooth ride ahead?" - great perspective from UK academics

"Governments, The Law and Robocars" This essay by Brad Templeton has lots of common sense advice for governments.

"Why [almost] Self-Driving Cars Will Be Unacceptably Lethal" - we agree with this logic, although it could be developed further. This Toronto Star article is good.

"Experts See Autonomous-Car Revolution as Evolution", whereas we see evolution from the automakers, until someone like Google intervenes with the revolutionary step several years before the automakers are ready to make that leap.

MIT's Senseable Lab have modelled 150 million New York taxi rides from 2011 and found that 80% of the trips could have been shared if passengers had been willing to travel 3 minutes out of their way. This could have resulted in 40% fewer trips overall.

Last month, we talked about the Morgan Stanley estimate of $1.3 to $2.2 trillion/year savings from AVs in the US. Now Emilio Frazzoli of MIT has weighed in with an estimate of around $3 trillion /year. We think the higher figure has more merit, but the key point is that we are almost certainly dealing in trillions.

The Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) has launched a $1-million program aimed at developing autonomous and connected vehicle technologies.

The American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHTO) is commissioning research into a Connected/Automated Vehicle Research Roadmap.

Bran Ferren presented at TED on "To create for the ages, let's combine art and engineering" - and he surprised many with his focus on autonomous vehicles as the next big thing (see 13min 30secs onwards). Some of his comments are here.

"University of Michigan approves design for $6.5M test track for autonomous vehicles". Construction is to be completed in the fall of 2014.

In the UK, the Transport Systems Catapult held a well-attended meeting to discuss "Shaping a Driverless Car Pilot", a competitive project for £10M in funding.

Google Patent Watch

A Google patent on sign recognition - but with a reference to the use of connected vehicle technology, because of the complexity and variablity of construction zones.

Another Google patent: "User interface for displaying object-based indications in an autonomous driving system".

"Google applied for a patent detecting road weather conditions for autonomous driving vehicle".

"User interface for displaying internal state of autonomous driving system" - a patent from, you guessed it, Google.

In a TED Talk video: Larry Page, Google Co-Founder asks: "Where's Google going next?" A great discussion that includes Page saying he is "super-excited" about self-driving cars and that they are coming "very, very soon". He also explained: "The main thing that has caused companies to fail, in my view, is that they missed the future."

Not as off the wall as you might think

pCell - a transformative wireless data tech that could also transfer energy to moving electric AVs over relatively long distances? - almost no batteries required? Now that would be transformational. Self-driving ultra-ultra-lightweight electric AVs anyone?:

Modular autonomous vehicle design by Jungu Lee and Yanko Design – there are some great concepts here worthy of a closer look.

"Lyft assembles massive funding round to take on Uber" - yes, we think this could be very relevant to AVs when we look back in a couple of years time.

The Central North American Trade Corridor Association "wants to create a pathway for unmanned vehicles through the central U.S., from Canada to Mexico." We think that there is a lot of merit to this proposal and if planning starts soon, it will be ready in 6 years or so, when we might have driverless trucks travelling up and down the continent.

The Google Shopping Express has been running in San Francisco since last year, is doing a limited trial in Los Angeles, and may be considering New York. The margins seem unsustainable to us - unless you somehow remove the cost of the driver. Anyone for self-driving car deliveries?

Arts Corner

Could this be the first ever AV song? We certainly don't think that it will be the last.

Upcoming AV-related Events

May 25-28, 2014: The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) will hold their Annual Meeting in Toronto. CAVCOE's Barrie Kirk will be on a panel discussing autonomous vehicles.

May 28-29, 2014: Telematics Update's:Insurance Telematics Canada 2014 in Toronto. Barrie Kirk will be a panelist discussing how autonomous vehicles and connected vehicles will change auto insurance.

June 1-4, 2014: "Transportationfest" conference in Waterloo, Ontario. Barrie Kirk will present a paper on autonomous vehicles.

June 1-4, 2014: ITS Canada's 2014 Annual Conference and General Meeting in Victoria BC. CAVCOE is speaking at this conference.

July 14-18, 2014: there is the joining of the previous two best AV events of the last couple of years into the one AUVSI / TRB AV Symposium, also in San Francisco.

September 14-17, 2014: IEEE 80th Vehicular Technology Conference in Vancouver. Barrie Kirk is the Co-Chair of a full day on autonomous vehicles and connected vehicles. Both Barrie Kirk and Paul Godsmark will be speakers that day.

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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