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AV Update - April 2014

From the Editors

It seemed to be a relatively subdued month for automated vehicle (AV) developments, until Google made one of their very rare official blog announcements:
“We all dream of a world in which city centers are freed of congestion from cars circling for parking and have fewer intersections made dangerous by distracted drivers. That’s why over the last year we’ve shifted the focus of the Google self-driving car project onto mastering city street driving.”

“Our vehicles have now logged nearly 700,000 autonomous miles, and with every passing mile we’re growing more optimistic that we’re heading toward an achievable goal—a vehicle that operates fully without human intervention."

Since their last announcement in April 2013 when they had done 500,000 autonomous miles on public roads, it seems that Google has transferred their attention to testing in the much more challenging city street environment. This is an important development that suggests they are well on the way to mastering highway driving.

There followed a flurry of articles around this official Google statement, with one article in particular, in The Atlantic Cities, which caught our eye due to its in-depth coverage and interviews with the Google team.

Given Google’s optimism that fully self-driving is an achievable goal, and their previous statements that they aspire to have their technology in public hands by 2017, it seems prudent that we should all be aware of the potential impacts of this technology when we are making plans for the future. It is better to be over-prepared, than to be caught unawares by the transformative impacts of a potentially disruptive technology.

The Automakers

zoox: they may not be manufacturing their vehicles just yet, but our friends at Driverless Transportation managed to be ‘Catching up with zoox’ at an interesting time in their development.

Audi: The ‘Audi Urban Future’ project will put its self-driving cars to work in cities across the world in a competition to see which will provide the greatest benefits.

Honda: Honda believes, Asimo (it’s kid-sized robot) will give the automaker an edge in building the car of the future. To be confirmed…


Comet Robotics under the leadership of Corey Clothier has an interesting business model around demonstrations and pilots for AVs.  We look forward to seeing some of the projects that they get involved with.

QNX (a software company owned by Blackberry and based in Ottawa) and VisLab of Parma University, Italy have teamed up to produce an AV and eventually to produce a system for sale to the automakers.

New algorithm aids in both robot navigation and scene understanding’ - MIT researchers' new algorithm works on 3-D data of the type captured by LiDAR and represents the data as points on a sphere.

Near Infra-Red (NIR) Technology Improves Driver Assistance Systems’ – through the emergence of high dynamic range imaging devices. Essentially a camera that sees in the visible and NIR spectrums and can filter out the unwanted NIR signal to produce enhanced combined images that assist in adverse weather conditions and nighttime driving.

Regulatory / Government

California authorizes the City of Lancaster to research and develop autonomous public buses.

Louisiana considers bills that not only authorize research and testing of AVs, but their operation as well.

Washington D.C. has published some allegedly ‘terrifying’ regulations for AVs. Surely paying $20, being trained and obeying the traffic laws isn’t that terrifying?...

The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators' annual conference has 3 sessions on the subject of AVs.

Thought Development/Research/Academia

Handing Over Control: Opportunities and Risks for Insurance’ from  Lloyds is an attempt to look at autonomous vehicles of all types and their impacts on insurance. But they are having trouble predicting timescales – to which we respectfully suggest they think sooner rather than later.

The Brookings Institution paper ‘Products Liability and Driverless Cars: Issues and Guiding Principles for Legislation’ is also saying it will be many years before fully self-driving AVs are in widespread use.

The Silicon Valley Autonomous Vehicle Enthusiasts have assembled audio-only records of their numerous meetings for anyone that is interested.

Development and application of a network-based shared automated vehicle model in Austin, Texas’ suggests that a single shared AV could replace approximately 8.5 to 10 conventional vehicles.

Some statistics from a free-floating car share pilot program in Seattle show that 39% of car share members have either given up a car or are considering giving up a car. Imagine how much more persuasive a shared AV fleet might be.

For autonomous cars, driving dumb is key’ – all the time that they have to co-exist alongside sub-optimal human drivers that is.  Anyone for an automated vehicle zone where AV benefits can be maximized?

This month’s theme is AVs and Ownership vs. Shared Fleets

Will a World of Driverless Cars Be Heaven or Hell?’ compares scenarios of privately owned AVs with shared fleets of AVs. The shared fleet solution is more sustainable, but will the public go for it?

Apparently ‘Driverless vehicles will force us to rethink car ownership’ – so maybe the public will go for shared fleets?

Chunka Mui, one of the more respected and influential spokespersons on AVs thinks we should consider ‘Could Robotaxis Replace Private Cars And Public Transit?’ – it’s those shared AV fleets again….

Lyft Raises $250 Million From Coatue, Alibaba, And Third Point To Expand Internationally’. It is always interesting to follow developments in the on-demand transportation service sector, but what made this particularly interesting is that to combat the pushback from regulators Lyft have hired the former Google X legal director. Coincidence?...  Maybe there is something about these shared fleets after all?

(Google) Patent Watch

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

Not as off the wall as you might think

Children Born Today Will Never Have To Drive A Car, says Robotics Expert’.


Other AV News

 Rio Tinto who started the truck rolling on commercial AVs announced that 53 of the planned 150 Komatsu Automated Haulage System trucks are now in operation across four mine sites. The trucks have “"significantly enhanced" haul cycle times, extended tyre life, reduced fuel usage and lowered maintenance costs.” We can’t wait for similar improvements to be reported on our public roads.

We’re on the road to a driverless future: Autonomous vehicles will be commonplace in our lifetime, and we need to plan ahead.’ Is an opinion piece from Minneapolis – but the comments could apply to most municipalities in developed countries.

Self-driving cars could keep seniors in the driver's seat: The technology is coming, and it could be a blessing as the number of older Americans soars.’

The truth about Google X: an exclusive look behind the secretive lab's closed doors’ – provides some great background to those unfamiliar with the Google way of developing and realizing their ‘moonshots’.


Upcoming AV-related Events
April 30, 2014 – 2:00pm EDT: ‘Autonomous Vehicles - Liability and Their Effect on Insurance’ a free webinar by Guy Fraker

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: CITE/OTC's "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.

June 1-4, 2014 CARSP CMRSC ‘Safer Roads; Healthier Communities,  Vancouver. Paul Godsmark is a panelist on AVs.

June 30 – July 2, 2014: The Road to Automated Drive 2014, Stuttgart, Germany

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 in San Francisco.

September 7-11, 2014:, ITS World Congress Detroit.  Paul Godsmark is presenting on Automated Vehicle Zones

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 and Paul Godsmark will be speakers that day.

September 28 - October 1, 2014: Transportation Association of Canada's Annual Conference and Exhibition in  Montreal.  Barrie Kirk is speaking on the impact of AVs on the transportation infrastructure.  Paul Godsmark is presenting on Automated Vehicle Zones.

November 17-18, 2014: Automotive Tech.AD: The Future of ADAS.

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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