Windmill Developments and CAVCOE have teamed up to conduct a feasibility study for a demonstration, trial and deployment of fully-automated, electric shuttle-buses on Zibi, a new development on formerly industrial land linking Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec. Zibi will become one of Canada’s top thriving neighbourhoods. This waterfront community will be inclusive of shopping, dining, recreation and entertainment in support of a vibrant and healthy social life.
The concept being studied for transportation on Zibi is to use fully-automated, electric mini shuttle buses to transport people both between locations on Zibi and between Zibi and transit stations in Ottawa and Gatineau. Jonathan Westeinde, Chief Executive Officer of Windmill Developments, said “We are very excited about exploring the options for automated vehicles and shuttles on the Zibi site to help reduce car traffic count and assist us in achieving our goal of being one of the most sustainable communities in the world”. CAVCOE's Barrie Kirk added “We at CAVCOE are pleased and proud to manage this project in association with Windmill. If successful, this trial which is the first of its kind in Canada, will give Canada and many Canadian stakeholders an opportunity to learn first-hand the details of deploying and operating automated vehicles.”
The Automakers, Tier 1s and AV Developers
The Guardian reports that Google has set up its own car company. The tech giant has flirted with major car firms as it explores driverless cars but has also quietly set up its own auto company. Google Auto LLC is headed by Chris Urmson, project lead for Google’s self-driving cars. Urmson has been on a charm offensive with the world’s biggest automobile manufacturers. At the North American International Auto Show in January, Urmson announced talks with General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Daimler and Volkswagen. In March, he told USA Today: “Making cars is really hard, and the car companies are quite good at it. So, in my mind, the solution is to find a partnership.”
Apple: Another article in The Guardian 'confirms that Apple is building a self-driving car' in Silicon Valley, and is scouting for secure locations in the San Francisco Bay area to test it. Documents obtained by The Guardian show the oft-rumoured Apple car project appears to be further along than many suspected. Earlier this year, engineers from Apple’s secretive Special Project group met with officials from GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre former naval base near San Francisco that is being turned into a high-security testing ground for autonomous vehicles. In correspondence obtained by The Guardian, Apple engineer Frank Fearon wrote: “We would ... like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it].” In light of mounting circumstantial evidence, we believe it is highly probable that Apple is developing some form of AV. However, all we definitely know from this correspondence is that Apple is considering testing an AV/CV related project.
Apple: Another Apple-related story, this time from Reuters Canada, is that 'Apple has hired a senior engineer from electric car maker Tesla as part of Apple's effort to build a team of experts in automated driving'. A LinkedIn profile for Jamie Carlson shows that he has left Tesla and moved to Apple. At least six others with experience developing self-driving technology and systems have joined Apple, according to their LinkedIn profiles.
BMW, Daimler, Audi & Here: Over at The Wall Street Journal, there is a recent report on how Germany’s biggest auto makers, BMW, Daimler and Audi have clinched a deal to buy Nokia Corp.’s Here digital mapping business, beating out rival bidders for some of the vital technology for self-driving cars in a €2.8 billion (Cdn$4.16 billion) acquisition.
Tesla: According to electrek, Tesla’s new firmware update, version 7.0, which is currently being tested and should be released later this year, will include auto-steering, lane change activated by the turn signal, auto-parking (in parallel spaces) and an updated user interface.
Uber is setting up a new self-driving car project at the University of Arizona, according to The Verge. The new project will focus on self-driving car technology, particularly the mapping and optics challenges involved in developing a fully autonomous vehicle. An official statement from Uber confirmed the news, saying, "We’ll work with some of the world’s leading experts in lens design at the University to improve the imagery we capture and use to build out mapping and safety features." The project comes just months after a major hiring push for Uber's Pittsburgh center, which many complained had hired so many experts away from the local robotics lab that they had effectively gutted competing projects. According to a statement from Arizona's governor, the partnership will focus on the optics systems necessary for mapping and safety, and will result in a number of Uber's test vehicles taking up permanent residence in Arizona. Uber will donate $25,000 to the university's College of Optical Sciences. Further details are still being worked out, but the partnership seems designed to position Tucson as a new hub for much of Uber's ongoing research into autonomous vehicles.
GOOGLE: The Silicon Hills News reports that ‘Google’s Prototype Self-Driving Cars Coming to Austin for Testing’ and 'Austin has six self-driving cars so far and three of the prototype vehicles on the way in the next few weeks.' These figures would appear to demonstrate that Google is going to make itself just as much at home in Texas as it already has in California.
UBER: A Wired article states ‘Uber Hires the Hackers Who Wirelessly Hijacked a Jeep’. This highlights how seriously Uber are taking security in the development of their AV technology.
Transit / Transportation
The following article could have been located above in the automakers section or here under transit. Our uncertainty is because of the convergence of car sharing and transit. THE AWL has an item on 'Why Uber (and Lyft) continue to look more and more like mass transit'. The article explains that, 'rather than hailing an Uber directly to your door, UberPool’s map shows a green line overlaid on a major artery street nearby. If you’re willing to set your pickup location anywhere along these Smart Routes, Uber will compensate you with a discount of $1 or more off the normal UberPool price'. In some cases that means walking a few blocks to your pickup spot. A little less convenient, a little cheaper, and a bit more like transit. Several weeks earlier, Uber began testing what it calls 'Suggested Pickup Points': When dragging the pickup pin, the feature explains that passengers can 'save time at these locations', and shows places nearby where it would be quicker for the driver to pick them up. Users can drop their pin on these green dots, see the address, and then walk there to shorten their wait time. Uber suggests people head to one of the corners outside, rather than in the middle of the block where traffic rushes and there’s nowhere to pull over. We think this sounds a lot like the service that conventional transit will eventually evolve into – but being delivered much more rapidly by the private sector.
The Canberra Times reports that ‘Self-driving cars cheaper and better than light rail: expert’. They refer to work by data expert Kent Fitch: 'His extensive research found, based on conservative forecasts, a fleet of 23,000 cars could service 750,000 daily trips in Canberra at an cost of $3.80 for each average 13km peak hour journey'. Mr Fitch said the system could generate an annual surplus of about $75 million after capital financing and operational costs. More than 98 per cent of on-demand trips would begin within one minute of a request. A $3.80 cost per trip cost compares with $13.33 for a private car, based on NRMA's estimated cost of car use and half the cost of daily parking in the parliamentary triangle. "Alternatives including ACTION bus travel cost $10.35 while the full commercial cost for a single tram journey is $22, based on projections from the Capital Metro business case", Mr Fitch said. "Cities the size of Canberra or larger could expect a 'transport revolution' within five years, leaving some infrastructure like the tram line out of date.”
Traffic Technology reports that Australia will start autonomous vehicle trials in November. Australia’s national independent road research agency, ARRB Group, has announced that 'driverless cars will be tested on the country’s roads for the first time in November 2015'. Supported and hosted by the South Australian government, the first trials of automated vehicles will coincide with a Driverless Vehicle Conference to be hosted by the state from November 5-6. Through its Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative, ARRB is bringing together local and international experts from industry and academia, including the program’s partners: the Government of South Australia, Volvo, Bosch, Telstra, RAA Adelaide Airport, Flinders University, Carnegie Mellon University and Cohda Wireless. Volvo Car Australia will be providing an all-new XC90 that will be specially programmed to allow its IntelliSafe Assist system, which includes adaptive cruise control, pilot assist, lane-keeping aid, distance alert, and speed-limiter functions, to be operated hands-free within a controlled environment. The trials will take place on Adelaide’s Southern Expressway, with multiple vehicles conducting maneuvers such as overtaking, lane changing, emergency braking and using on- and off-ramps.
Auro Robotics is 'currently testing their driverless shuttle system at several universities and is beginning to deploy shuttles on the campus of Santa Clara University', according to an article in TechCrunch. The company is also planning to expand to other markets like amusement parks, retirement communities and small islands, with some projects in those spaces already set to take off. Auro has chosen to focus on these small, contained environments largely because they are controlled by private corporations, and thus are not subject to the heavy government regulation that Google and other companies are stuck behind with their driverless cars. “The unique advantage this strategy gives us is that we are able to mobilize the shuttles now instead of waiting for the next five or ten years for laws to get through,” Auro Robotics CEO Nalin Gupta said.
In another example of AVs being used for real-life situations, Florida's DOT will test autonomous truck mounted attenuators in work zones later this year. (In this context, an attenuator is a safety feature which mounts on the rear of a truck and cushions the impact in the event of a vehicle crashing into it.) Better Roads reports that 'two companies have teamed up to develop a vehicle that combines driverless capability with a truck designed to improved safety in highway work zones'. Pennsylvania-based Royal Truck & Equipment and Florida-based Micro Systems have created an Autonomous Truck Mounted Attenuator (ATMA) vehicle. It makes use of Royal Truck’s attenuator safety feature, which mounts on the rear of a truck and cushions impact in the event of a vehicle crash there, and Micro Systems’ autonomous operation technology. In addition to remote driving, the new truck uses what’s described as “leader-follower” technology, which allows it to follow another vehicle, mimicking the speed and turns of the lead vehicle.
Other AV Articles
Automotive News has a very interesting interview with Bob Lutz, a real visionary in the auto and transportation business. His predictions include:
- "The end state is going to be the fully autonomous, fully electric module with no capability for the driver to steer it or exercise any sort of command. You will call it up, it will arrive at the domicile, you'll get in, input the destination and go to the freeway.
- "On the freeway, it will merge seamlessly into a stream of other standardized modules that are traveling at 120, 150 miles an hour. It doesn't matter. You have a blending of rail-type transportation with individual transportation.
- "Then, as you approach your exit, your module with split off and go into deceleration lanes, take the exit, [and] go to your final destination. You will be billed for the transportation. You key in your credit card number or your thumbprint or whatever it will be then. The module takes off and goes to its collection point, ready for the next person to call it up.
- "On the freeway, [the vehicle will] be on inductive rails, not using its own battery. Of course, the batteries will be much more capable".
The Western Producer has an article on how a farmer in Manitoba, Canada uses a robot tractor for harvesting. The farmer built and installed the robotics system himself. The operator-less tractor and grain cart crosses a Manitoba field, pulls in beside the rolling combine, and farmer Matt Reimer unloads his grain on the go. Reimer touches the screen on a laptop application he created; the tractor then pulls to the left and stops, waiting to be called again. “This will save us about $5,000 in labour this fall,” said the producer from Killarney, Manitoba who operates a 2,500 acre grain farm.
CAVCOE's Barrie Kirk is an avid cyclist and this story in Robotics Trends caught his attention. A Google car and a cyclist approach an intersection. The Google car arrives first -- by a fraction of a second -- and therefore has the right of way. The cyclist stops but being an experienced cyclist, does not unclip and put his feet down. Instead, he balances while waiting for the car to move. The Google car starts to move, but the cyclist wobbles a bit which causes the Google car to think the cyclist is moving, so the Google car stops abruptly. This dance is performed three times. Finally, the Google car makes it through the intersection, as did the cyclist. The two Google staffers in the car presumably made a note to teach Google cars how to deal with this situation. The cyclist, who posted a blog about this incident, said "it was an interesting experience and I noticed that I actually felt safer dealing with a robotically-operated vehicle than one with a human driver.” This story illustrates one of the many real-life situations that nobody had thought about but which was uncovered in the testing program.
AutonomouStuff has introduced the world's first automotive mass production laser scanner. The Wide Angle Scanning Laser (ScaLa) Sensor has multi-plane long range and embedded object tracking and classification. Details are here.
Upcoming AV-related Events
September 6-9, 2015: IEEE Vehicular Technology Conference; Boston, USA
September 17, 2015: The Future of the Car: From Ownership to Sharing and Automation; Transport Futures, Toronto, Canada.
October 5-9, 2015: ITS World Congress, Bordeaux, France
November 2-3, 2015: TU-Automotive Europe 2015 Conference and Exhibition; Stuttgart, Germany.
November 3-5, 2015: Unmanned Systems Canada 2015 Conference; Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
November 11-13, 2015: Autonomous Trucks 2015; Detroit, USA.
February 25-26, 2016: Automotive Tech.AD Berlin 2016 – The Road Towards Autonomous Driving; Berlin, Germany.
June 19-22, 2016: EVS29 Electric Vehicle Symposium & Exhibition, Montreal, Canada
October 29 - November 2, 2017: ITS World Congress, Montreal, Canada
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