Looking back on 2015, it is clear to us that autonomous vehicles of all types are now viewed as a technology whose arrival is imminent. There is a widespread view that AVs are coming and the questions we hear are "when?" and "what will they mean for me and my organization?"
The biggest news probably came right at the end of the year, with California finally producing draft regulations for the operation of AVs, Elon Musk stating that Tesla vehicles will drive themselves in two years and news leaking that Google and Ford will create a joint venture to build AVs. The former announcement was greeted with a considerable degree of dismay as the proposed CA DMV regulations appear to fundamentally limit the technology from being driverless. The latter Google-Ford JV news is still being digested, but we see this as being very significant and likely to precipitate a number of similar announcements as future mobility partnerships between global brands make themselves known and stakeholders declare their intentions.
We at CAVCOE will be very busy in 2016 working on a range of projects for various clients and looking to expand as more and more organizations realize that when AVs arrive it won’t be business as usual. It is certainly an exciting time to be in the AV space.
Our very best wishes to all our readers for a happy holiday season and the New Year.
There are a couple of CAVCOE related items that we would like to bring to your attention.
First, as many of our readers know, AVs will profoundly impact not just transportation and transit, but many different aspects of the Canadian economy and hence most governmental ministries and departments. AVs will also provide many benefits and some challenges. We have prepared a White Paper for the Government of Canada that describes these opportunities and challenges, together with a proposed road-map with 30 recommendations. Many of the observations and recommendations apply to other countries as well. The White Paper is on our website here.
Second, the Conference Board of Canada has announced a conference titled Automated Vehicles: Planning the Next Disruptive Technology to be held on April 19-20, 2016, in Toronto, Canada. CAVCOE is pleased to be a sponsor and advisor to this conference. The theme of the conference is that car manufacturers have indicated that AVs will be on the market by 2020 (or maybe earlier - see below). Today, many jurisdictions simply aren't ready for a future that includes AVs. The conference topics include: AV fundamentals, status and market trends, transportation planning and AV preparedness, AVs and urban form, security and privacy issues, autonomous transit, goods movement, the future of work, and the next steps for planning, policy, and research. More information on the conference is available here.
The Automakers, Tier 1s and AV Developers
GOOGLE / FORD: Right at the end of the year, Yahoo Autos reported that “Google and Ford will create a joint venture to build self-driving vehicles with Google’s technology, a huge step by both companies toward a new business of automated ride sharing. …It’s understood the venture would be legally separate from Ford, in part to shield the automaker from liability concerns. …The deal is understood to be non-exclusive; Google has been talking to several other automakers for some time about using its self-driving systems.”
NISSAN: A recent announcement from Nissan, as reported in Automotive News, is further evidence of the convergence of autonomous and electric vehicle technologies. Nissan, which aims to put autonomous vehicles on the road by 2020, has unveiled its latest prototype, a sensor-laden Leaf electric vehicle that can change lanes, pass cars and merge onto and off of highway by itself. The technology is called Piloted Drive 1.0 and Nissan says it will offer it in Japan by the end of 2016.
FORD: An article in re/code states that CEO Mark Fields sees the potential for fully autonomous cars to be available for use on U.S. streets in four years’ time, i.e. 2019. Fields said that Ford should be able to have vehicles that can be fully autonomous on roads where high-definition maps are available. The key, he said, is making sure that the regulatory and legal issues get worked out.
FORD: Another Ford announcement - this one reported in Automotive IT News -- is that they will begin AV testing in California in 2016. Ford's research lab in Palo Alto supports Ford Smart Mobility, and the plan is to take the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics
VOLVO and MICROSOFT have struck a deal that will see the two companies work together, according to a report on CNBC. The two companies will develop driverless vehicles and give potential car buyers an interactive shopping experience using the U.S. technology giant's HoloLens headset. CNBC also stated that "the two firms announced that the main focus of the partnership will be to develop autonomous cars, the use of data to create meaningful services, machine learning and how to modernize the car buying process."
TESLA: Fortune quotes Elon Musk as saying that 'Tesla vehicles will drive themselves in two ears."
TESLA: Staying with Tesla,a report on a test ride in a Tesla using Autopilot was described as "awesome and creepy and a sign of the future". The article in Jalopnik is well-written and a good read.
BMW: Car manufacturer BMW believes that 5G mobile networks could be vital in providing the mission-critical reliability to allow autonomous cars on city streets. In an article in Computer World UK, Sebastian Zimmermann, BMW’s head of automotive connectivity and security solutions, was quoted as saying that "improvements over current mobile broadband services are needed to enable fully autonomous vehicles, as well as support systems to protect pedestrians. Highly automated driving is a difficult topic because you need ultra-reliable networks, low-latency, and they must work everywhere.” This supports what we have been saying for some time: automated, connected and electric vehicle technologies will converge to produce ACE vehicles.
SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS is the latest company to set up a new business unit to focus on automotive-related technology such as components for driverless cars, CNBC reports. Details about the team are scarce but Samsung said it will focus on infotainment systems and autonomous driving technology.
BLOOMBERG BUSINESS has an interesting article titled "Can Detroit Beat Google to the Self-Driving Car?" The answer is a "maybe" given that GM's Super Cruise system (partial, not full autonomy) will hit the showrooms in 2017, about the time that Google’s fully-autonomous AVs may be available for purchase.
Google has published it's self-driving car report for November 2015. There is a lot of interesting information in this report:
- 23 Lexus RX450h SUVs are currently self-driving on public streets: 18 in Mountain View, CA, 5 in Austin, TX
- 30 prototypes are currently self-driving on public streets; 23 in Mountain View, CA & 7 in Austin, TX
Miles driven since start of project in 2009:
- Autonomous mode*: 1,320,755 miles (about 2.1 million km)
- Manual mode: 955,771 miles (about 1.5 million km)
- Google is currently averaging 10,000-15,000 autonomous miles per week on public streets
* “Autonomous mode” means the software is driving the vehicle, and test drivers are not touching the manual
controls. “Manual mode” means the test drivers are driving the car.
We reported in the last AV Update that the Province of Ontario, Canada was about to publish the details of new regulations that will allow testing of AVs on public roads in Ontario. The AV Pilot Application Guide and the AV Pilot Application Form are both available on-line. . Both documents are only 1 page -- showing that Ontario is a believer in the KISS principle. Once approved, a trial can start as early as January 1, 2016.
California's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has issued its long-awaited Autonomous Vehicles Deployment Regulations. One of the requirements is that "autonomous vehicle operators must be a licensed driver who possesses an autonomous vehicle operator certificate issued by the DMV." Full details are on the DMV web site. Google is reported to be disappointed with the conservative approach taken by DMV.
In response, Texas has reminded Google that self-driving cars are welcome in that state.
The Government of the Netherlands reports that Infrastructure and the Environment Minister Schultz van Haegen is going to put the developments involving self-driving vehicles on the European agenda for the first half of 2016. The Minister seeks to boost collaboration at the European level and focuses, among other things, on amending the Vienna Convention. This European convention still features a clause stipulating that a driver must have his or her hands on the wheel.
Other AV Articles
A blog by Allen Brooks, The OilPro, stated:
"We were recently asked whether we had written or seen anything about the impact of self-driving vehicles on fuel demand. Unfortunately, we hadn’t. The question prompted us to begin researching the issue and what we have found suggests that in a world populated by only self-driving vehicles, the oil industry will have a bleak future. That future would certainly force dramatic change on the petroleum industry."
This echoes what we wrote in the AV White Paper described above about the convergence of electric and autonomous vehicle technologies:
"We believe that electric vehicle (EV) propulsion systems are on a significant deployment growth curve, driven by the objective of sustainable energy and advances in battery and drive train technologies. The forecast acceleration in the adoption of EVs in the 2020s will likely cause a significant decline in the global demand for oil. It is also likely that the current low price for a barrel of oil is not temporary – as many analysts think -- but the beginnings of a systemic effect that will lead to even lower oil prices through the 2020s."
Are Self-Driving Cars Coming Too Soon? asks an article in Consumer Reports:
"The idea of self-driving cars is a tantalizing promise. Get in the car, tell it where to go, and kick back. Already, YouTube videos show people sitting back and letting Google, Mercedes-Benz, and Tesla cars drive themselves. But Volkswagen’s top autonomous-driving executive warns about rolling out the technology too quickly—even as the company hires a self-driving car expert from Apple."
Smart Highways in the UK has reported on research conducted by the Transport Systems Catapult. It suggests that 39 per cent of British people would now consider using a self-driving vehicle if it was available, and the figure rises to 62 per cent amongst young professionals living in cities. The research was conducted with the support of the Department for Transport (DfT), the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and Innovate UK, as part of a “Traveller Needs Study”.
It may not come as a surprise to many of our readers, but as TechCrunch reports “Only about 6 percent of the country’s biggest cities are planning for or thinking about autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars in their long-range transportation plans, according to the National League of Cities.”
And finally, a confession: we could not resist this article: People Are Going to Have a Lot of Sex in Driverless Cars, reports Inverse. They asked Google about it and Google said they have "no official position" on this (it's not clear if the pun was intended or not.). As Inverse reports, if you create a scenario in which two willing people share a space that offers even the illusion of privacy, "they will do sex stuff to each other".
Upcoming AV-related Events
February 25-26, 2016: Automotive Tech.AD Berlin 2016 – The Road Towards Autonomous Driving; Berlin, Germany.
April 19-20, 2016: Automated Vehicles: Planning the Next Disruptive Technology; the Conference Board of Canada. Toronto, Canada. CAVCOE is a sponsor and advisor to this event.
May 1-4, 2016: ITS Canada Annual Conference and General Meeting. Calgary, Canada
June 19-22, 2016: EVS29 Electric Vehicle Symposium & Exhibition, Montreal, Canada
October 10-14, 2016: ITS World Congress, Melbourne, Australia
October 29 - November 2, 2017: ITS World Congress, Montreal, Canada
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: Paul Godsmark
To subscribe, click here. To unsubscribe, click here.
We welcome all comments; please send them here
© Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE)
CAVCOE is dedicated to helping public and private sector stakeholders plan for the arrival of autonomous vehicles.
300 Earl Grey Drive, Suite 222, Ottawa ON K2T 1C1, Canada.