From the Editors
"Positioning" is the theme of this month’s news. Governments, companies, organizations, sectors, manufacturers, investors etc. all seem to be positioning themselves. There is even an article or two on how the cars literally position themselves!
Billions of dollars are starting to change hands around the automated vehicle (AV) sector – and there is every reason to believe that this is just the beginning.
The spectrum that some of this ‘positioning’ covers is fascinating – because some businesses in the same sector appear to take polar opposite views. Can both be right? Could one side be gambling everything?
Hopefully, readers of AV Update understand that CAVCOE has already positioned itself as an advocate of a technology that we see as inevitable, highly complex and that simply has to be actively planned for as best we can.
But what is your and your company’s position on automated vehicles and their potential impacts? If you are unsure, we urge you to find out more, as it is possible that the health and prosperity of your business or organization may be at risk in the next 5 to 10 years because of AVs.
Finally, we wish all our readers a very happy, successful and prosperous New Year.
It is worth noting that there is increasing crossover between the technology companies and the automotive sector as convergence takes place.
GOOGLE is seeking to position itself with an auto industry partner: In its latest interview with the WSJ, Google has re-iterated its aspiration to have its technology in public hands by 2017-2020. Although its prototype vehicle is now three generations more advanced that the model unveiled in May and capable of road testing, Google is still keen to find auto industry partners to help bring the vehicle to market. ‘The Oatmeal’ was given a sneak peek and a demo ride and stated that they are “…ready for our army of Skynet Marshmallow Bumper Bots…” which is probably better than ‘our robot overlords’ that some predict. Expect to see the latest Google prototype on the streets of Northern California in the New Year – with temporary manual controls.
DAIMLER/MERCEDES BENZ want to position themselves as the leaders in advanced automated vehicle development: This was posted by Ralf Herrtwich, Director Advanced Engineering and Group Research / Driver Assistance and Chassis Systems at Daimler on LinkedIn: "You probably heard by now that we will be showcasing a self-driving research vehicle at CES in January. We had originally planned to only show it at the keynote, but have now decided (shall we say "by popular demand"?) to put it on display at our booth also - but it will only be there for one day on January 6. Make sure to drop by. For some background, you may take a peek at the supposed spy-shots of the vehicle which do not do it justice.
LG and MERCEDES BENZ have partnered to better position themselves for the anticipated explosion in demand for next-generation camera systems that automation brings.
GM wants to position itself at the forefront of the road transportation revolution, and instead of autonomy is betting more on Connected Vehicle (V2V, V2I) technology. If fully automated vehicles do take decades to arrive, this will be a safe bet for GM, but looks like a higher risk if AVs arrive in a shorter time-frame – which Google are indicating that they could well do.
TOYOTA has positioned itself as interested in AVs as long as the driver has ‘sovereignty’, as well as seeing fuel cells as the future. Both of these are ‘big bets’ and many are already voicing their disagreement – Elon Musk famously mis-naming the tech "fool cells". With shared fleets of automated vehicles and the potential to remove most of the crash mitigation systems from the vehicles, ultra-lightweight electric vehicles become a real possibility. It is not clear how Toyota’s thinking takes this possibility into consideration when looking 20 years out.
AUDI appear to be poking fun at a "certain company's" efforts to build "robot taxis." It's clear Google's bubble car doesn't fit into Audi's vision of the future. "We don't want a car to be a device to carry you from A to B; we want you to love it, so we need to do things to make people love it". But in so doing, are Audi aiming at positioning themselves in the high end vehicle niche market that might substantially diminish with the advent of shared automated fleets?
BMW will be demonstrating a fully self-parking i3 at the 2015 CES in early January.
RDM (in Coventry, England) is not traditionally an automaker, but based on this article, an inquiry for 1,000 pods for a city in China could help them become one.
TESLA earned themselves a riposte from the Toyota engineers who claimed that there is no radar on the market that can achieve what is being claimed for the Tesla autopilot, which is possibly due for release in 2015. We note that Wardenclyffe Partners LLC (Tesla founders) are major investors in Quanergy, so knowledge of LiDAR is certainly not far from Tesla’s reach. And we also note that despite their very pro-vision stance that Mercedes have partnered with Quanergy too.
Transit / Transportation
UBER wants to position itself as the world’s premier mobility service provider. At the moment, it is probably the world’s fastest growing company, now valued in excess of $40 billion. Uber is also very much in the media spotlight for all manner of reasons - Brad Templeton looks at their legal battles and an AV future in this article. Another article suggests that Uber prices could drop by as much as 75% if they use AVs.
Baidu (the 5th most trafficked website in the world and the Chinese equivalent of Google) has invested possibly as much as $600 million in Uber. It should be noted that Baidu has previously announced their partnership with BMW to foster research into AVs and are developing a self-driving electric bicycle. We suggest that Baidu are positioning themselves to be a key part of an AV future.
Socio-Economic Impacts of AVs
We told you in last month's issue of AV Update that CAVCOE have teamed up with the Conference Board of Canada and the Van Horne Institute to prepare and distribute a free report on Automated Vehicles: The Coming of the Next Disruptive Technology. The report has been delayed a bit and will now be published in early January. We'll will let you know via AV Update as soon as it is available and how to download your copy.
AVs could sink the case for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. TTIP is an EU-US trade deal in which cars and parts comprise a key part of the agreement.
Government / Regulatory
Several countries are positioning themselves to lead in the development and deployment of AVs:
The UK Government has successfully awarded funding for four UK AV projects – originally for £10 million. But with an additional £9 million from the government and matching funds from the participants, the total projects are worth approximately £40 million. The UK has now emphatically positioned itself as the leading national government in the AV space – although California is further ahead with regulations.
Singapore plans to let anyone test driverless cars in one of its busy neighbourhoods in 2015. Lam Wee Shann, Director of the Futures Division for Singapore’s Ministry of Transport, said during a panel held at MIT last month that the government wants to explore whether autonomous vehicles could reduce congestion and remake the city into one built around walking, bicycling, and public transit.
The US army is positioning itself to take advantage of the benefits of vehicle automation as the technology becomes available.
California’s plans to position itself as the foremost jurisdiction for AV deployment. The original plan was to have regulations for the operation of AVs in place by January 1, 2015. These plans are now slightly delayed as the State considers how the standards for vehicle safety might be set. California DMV is holding a public meeting on January 27, 2015 to further this discussion.
The German government is positioning itself to protect the automotive sector there from the influence of Google by trying to limit Google's access under the hood. By extension, this approach might also reduce the ability of Google to have a monopoly in the AV sector.
The New Jersey Senate has passed a Bill for the development, testing and implementation of AVs in NJ. Interestingly Google and a number of automakers and the insurance sector raised concerns about the wording and definitions within the Bill, which still passed 35-0 (with thanks to Prof Alain Kornhauser for this information).
The US DOT Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program Office have published the US ITS Strategic Plan for 2015-2019. It majors on Connected Vehicles and includes "Advancing Automation" as one of its three key program categories. However it is not clear if the possibility of fully automated vehicles commencing operations in a limited fashion prior to 2019 is envisaged – something that Google has clearly indicated as an aspiration.
Quanergy has raised over $34.5 million in investment funding with a view to positioning itself as a key LiDAR developer and manufacturer in the near future.
5G could be a key technology to unlock the potential and benefits of an efficiently-organized road network. This article provides a great overview of many aspects relevant to the success of 5G. It also, once again, raises the question that we have asked in the past – will 5G arrive in such as way as to obsolete many of the current plans for DSRC?
Denso has now moved from testing on test-tracks to testing on public roads in Japan.
Upcoming AV-related Events
January 6-9, 2015: 2015 CES, Las Vegas, NV
January 27, 2015: California DMV public workshop about AVs and safety certification
May 4-7, 2015: AUVSI's Unmanned Systems Conference and Trade Show; Atlanta, Georgia
May 24-28, 2015: ITS Canada's 2015 Annual Conference and General Meeting; Gatineau QC.
June 16-19, 2015: CCMTA's Annual Meeting; Whitehorse, Yukon.
June 17-18, 2015: Autonomous Vehicle Test & Development Symposium 2015; Stuttgart, Germany.
July 21-23, 2015: AUVSI / TRB Automated Vehicles Symposium 2015, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI, USA.
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: Christine Vanstone, Keith Fagan
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