From the Editors
One way to measure the ever-increasing momentum of AVs is the number of conferences and media pieces that feature AVs. CAVCOE is increasingly being invited to provide analyses and comments to all media -- and there has been a substantial increase in the number of invitations we receive to speak at conferences. Recently, CAVCOE members have contributed to national TV news items, an hour-long phone-in radio show, and we have been interviewed by other media. In April, we are speaking at a record six conferences in one month.
Any skeptics of AVs and the hype around the timeline may be interested in this interview by re/code in which US Transportation Secretary Foxx thinks that we will have market availability of AVs within 5 years.
Canadian AV Conference
The Conference Board of Canada has announced more details of its conference Automated Vehicles: Planning the Next Disruptive Technology to be held on April 19-20, 2016, in Toronto. Sessions include:
Automated Vehicles: Transport and Mobility in the 21st CenturyMore information on the conference is available here. Because CAVCOE is a sponsor, advisor and speaker at this conference, all readers of AV Update can save $400 on their conference fee by using Rebate Code SPKRF when registering.
The Automakers, Tier 1s and AV Developers
The Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas has become the traditional start of the year for AV news. This year’s show built on this trend with about 25% of the floor space given over to the automotive sector, with AVs possibly creating the biggest buzz. The rumored announcement of a partnership between Google and Ford did not materialize. However, major OEM announcements around investment in mobility services indicate that this sector is preparing for some fundamental changes in business and operational models. An excellent review of CES and AVs by Brad Templeton can be found here.
An interesting analysis in The Economist says that the OEMs are recognizing the double threat posed by technology as car-sharing takes off and driverless vehicles come closer. First, some people who might hitherto have wanted to own a car may no longer do so, cancelling out the growth the motor industry might otherwise have expected from the rising middle classes in developing countries. Second, technology firms may be better placed than the existing OEMs to develop and profit from the software that will underpin both automated driving and vehicle-sharing. Some of these firms may even manufacture cars of their own. In a report ahead of the Las Vegas and Detroit shows that was reported in The Economist, Morgan Stanley said the auto industry was being disrupted “far sooner, faster and more powerfully than one might expect.”
In another article, this time in BloombergBusiness, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said that automakers such as Ford and Toyota should consider the arrival of technology companies like Google in their industry as a lethal threat rather than a growth opportunity, “You’re talking about the end of human driving, the end of private ownership, the end of the internal-combustion engine and the end of car dealerships,” Jonas said at an Automotive News conference Wednesday in Detroit. “Other than that, it’s business as usual.”
General Motors and Lyft have announced an alliance to develop an on-demand network of autonomous vehicles, plus a $500-million investment by the auto maker as part of a $1-billion fund-raising round by the ride-sharing service. The two companies said the partnership, which involves one of GM’s largest investments in another company, stemmed from their shared view that autonomous vehicles will first reach consumers as part of a ride-sharing service, rather than vehicles owned by drivers. CAVCOE agrees that driverless taxis will become a key part of the transportation landscape, ramping up in the 2020s.
General Motors has also created a team a team to focus on autonomous vehicles, reports USA Today. The dedicated team is being formed under Doug Parks who will become the vice president of autonomous technology and vehicle execution.
Ford has announced that it is tripling its fleet of Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicles this year, as well as accelerating on-road testing of sensors and software. The new vehicles will use Velodyne’s new advanced Solid-State Hybrid Ultra PUCK™ Auto sensor, which provides the precision required for mapping and creating accurate, real-time 3D models of the surrounding environment. Velodyne has set target pricing at less than $500 per unit in automotive mass production quantities. This project is part of Ford Smart Mobility, a plan to take Ford to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience, and data and analytics.
Staying with Ford, CEO Mark Fields was quoted in Business Insider as saying that unlike most other OEMs, Ford's entry into AVs will not be a high-end model. Instead, said that Ford will have a fully driverless car on the road by the end of the decade -- but added that it will be a mass-market product. "It will not be just for those folks who can buy luxury vehicles," Fields said. "It will be designed to serve millions of users."
Volvo Cars has announced it is looking ahead to when its drivers can sit back and enjoy free time in their car on the daily commute. Volvo is actively working on future solutions to deliver the best user experience in fully autonomous mode. As Volvo says: "Imagine a highway full of autonomous cars with their occupants sitting back watching their favourite TV shows in high definition. This new way of commuting will demand new technology and a much broader bandwidth to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience” said Anders Tylman General Manager Volvo Monitoring & Concept Center at Volvo Car Group. To CAVCOE, this is another example of the convergence of autonomous and connected vehicle technologies.
Tesla is reported to be working on a fully-autonomous car that could be ready within 3 years. According to a report in electrotek, Elon Musk said that Tesla was working on new sensors, but it will be some time before a new car with the new hardware enters production. This new hardware suite is required for Tesla to introduce a fully autonomous system, which Musk believes could be ready in 2-3 years. The new vehicle will be able to drive on virtually all roads at a safety level significantly better than humans.”
Google has announced that it has chosen Kirkland WA as the next location of their self-driving car (SDC) testing program -- probably one of the four locations in which the company has sought FCC permission. Google is also hiring 36 people for its SDC program, and is possibly looking for high-tech R&D space around Detroit.
YAHOO! Finance reports that NVIDIA has launched the world's most powerful engine for in-vehicle artificial intelligence. NVIDIA DRIVE PX 2 allows the automotive industry to use artificial intelligence to tackle the complexities inherent in autonomous driving. It utilizes deep learning on NVIDIA's most advanced GPUs for 360-degree situational awareness around the car, to determine precisely where the car is and to compute a safe, comfortable trajectory.
QNX, a subsidiary of Blackberry, has announced new software platforms for assisted driving. The platform can scale across a wide range of automated driving systems and will enable automotive companies to build a full range of automated driving systems, from informational ADAS modules that provide a 360°surround view of the vehicle, to sensor fusion systems that combine data from multiple sources such as cameras and radar, to high-performance processors that make control decisions in fully autonomous vehicles. The platform also provides access to an ecosystem of ADAS technology suppliers that offer complementary hardware and software solutions, enabling faster time-to-market.
The well-known issues of AVs operating in snow are being address by Ford, according to The Detroit News. Ford is working to solve that problem by testing a fleet of driverless Fusion Hybrids in snowy conditions at MCity, a 32-acre closed-course testing facility in Ann Arbor MI. To achieve this, 3-D maps are being used to help the cars safely travel across snow-covered roads. “It’s one thing for a car to drive itself in perfect weather,” said Jim McBride, Ford technical leader for autonomous vehicles, “It’s quite another to do so when the car’s sensors can’t see the road because it’s covered in snow.”
GPS Business News reports that Garmin has acquired PulsedLight, Inc, a privately-held company founded in 2012 and designing optical distance measurement technology (LiDAR) located in Bend, Oregon. PulsedLight’s product, LiDAR-lite, offers up to 40-meter range capability with 1cm resolution and operates at measurement speeds of up to 500 readings per second. It currently sells for around US$115 online.
Apple is rumoured to be about to open a 22,100 sq. ft research and development facility in Kanata, Ontario. The new location is very close to the QNX facility in Kanata. There are rumours about Apple developing software for AVs in this lab, but these are just rumours at this time.
Driverless Transportation have written an interesting article on new research by the University of California at Riverside that opens the way for simpler access to centimetre-accuracy GPS. Although not viable as a safety critical method of AV localization, such a system could play a very important role in the future of mobility – we look forward to the possibilities that this research opens up.
A WePod electric shuttle (see the photo above) became the world’s first AV without a steering wheel or pedals to receive licence plates and operate on public roads in Netherlands -- as reported by The Guardian.
There is an interesting report from BGR about a trial of a driverless taxi in Seoul, South Korea. The car has been driving students around a campus for six months with no accidents. The car, called Snuber (yes...that's "Uber" with an "sn" in front) has been navigating the campus with help of a cab-hailing app created by Seoul National University. Because it is a trial, the Snuber has a human behind the wheel at all times to assume manual control in case of emergency. Also, the car can only drive at speeds below 30km/h due to campus regulations.
The USDOT Smart City Challenge has generated considerable awareness of this possibility as witnessed by 77 submissions from small and medium sized cities across the US. Ten cities have been identified and have revealed various levels of detail about their submissions; three of these specifically mentioned AVs. CAVCOE was pleased to participate with one city that has not yet publicly revealed details. As you might guess, AVs were definitely included in that one.
Google have been involved in discussions with London, England and the Isle of Man about possible AV trials.
In a major announcement reported in The Verge that impacts the US AV industry, the US National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said that a computer inside a self-driving car can be considered the "driver" of the vehicle. This has the potential to pave the way for an AV with no steering wheel or pedals. The announcement largely interprets the regulations to apply to "whatever is doing the driving" as opposed to "whomever is doing the driving". However, the ruling is very preliminary. It came about as part of a request from Google to NHTSA to interpret how a number of provisions in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards apply to Google's self-driving cars. The full text of the long, detailed letter from NHTSA to Google is here.
The US Department of Transportation has announced that it is planning to include $4 billion in the 2017 budget for a 10-year plan to support and accelerate vehicle automation projects. US DOT Secretary Foxx said: “We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and transform mobility for the American people.” More importantly, the US DOT is also committing to setting a blanket national policy that states can follow. To date, self-driving car rules are set by states, leaving the car makers and tech companies experimenting with smart cars to deal with multiple (and sometimes unpredictable) statehouses.
The USDOT announcement also commits NHTSA to provide, within 6 months, greater guidance around AVs to stakeholders, as well as model state policy on AVs. Possibly linked to the NHTSA comments around the AV being considered the driver (above), USDOT will exercise exemption authority for up to 2,500 vehicles to ease development of safety features. CAVCOE’s tentative interpretation is that this may open the door for AVs without a steering wheel or pedals to apply for this exemption, and to be tested on public roads. An article by Reuters expands on this.
In Canada, Federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau has asked for Senate advice on the future rules for AVs.
Gizmag reports that Nevada, which has been a trailblazer in issuing licences for testing autonomous cars on public roads, has now awarded its first licenses for autonomous standard production vehicles. Three new Mercedes E-Class vehicles have been approved to drive themselves. A representative from Mercedes' parent company Daimler told the magazine that they believe it is the first such license to have been awarded anywhere in the world.
Other AV Articles
The City of Vancouver will be considering a motion by a Councillor regarding preparing Vancouver for AVs. However, the British Columbia Provincial Transportation Minister has warned that cities don’t have free reign to test AVs.
Lyft company president John Zimmer was quoted in re/code as saying that he and fellow co-founder/CEO Logan Green see autonomous vehicles as a vital part of Lyft’s future, coming on the heels of a $500 million investment from GM (see above). “Car ownership as we know it will change,” Zimmer said. “The promise of car ownership of the past, the freedom of open roads … the reality has been more of a burden.”
Google has been awarded a patent for a design of a self-driving delivery truck. Google’s patent, as described in Quartz, outlines an “autonomous delivery platform” for delivery trucks. The trucks would be fitted with a series of lockers that could be unlocked with a PIN code sent to the person waiting for the delivery before the truck arrives at their location. The patent also suggests that the locker could be unlocked by a customer’s credit card or an NFC reader. After the package is dropped off, the truck will continue to its next delivery point or return to the depot to pick up more packages.
Upcoming AV-related Events
February 25-26, 2016: Automotive Tech.AD Berlin 2016 – The Road Towards Autonomous Driving; Berlin, Germany.
March 3, 2016: Success Without Borders - The Centre for Global Enterprise at the Schulich School of Business' second RBC - Schulich Enterprise Forum; Toronto, Canada.
April 19-20, 2016: Automated Vehicles: Planning the Next Disruptive Technology; the Conference Board of Canada; Toronto, Canada. CAVCOE is a sponsor, advisor and speaker.
April 24-27, 2016: Ontario Transportation Expo 2016: Toronto, Canada
April 28-29, 2016: TU-Auto's Insurance Telematics Canada 2016; Toronto, Canada. Quote "CAVCOE200" for a CAD$200 discount on your registration.
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
November 1-3, 2016: Unmanned Canada 2016; Edmonton, Canada.
October 29 - November 2, 2017: ITS World Congress, Montreal, Canada
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