Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ford Bets $1B on Startup Founded by former CMU Robotics Alumni

The big bet announced Friday comes just a few months after the Pittsburgh startup, Argo AI, was created by two alumni of Carnegie Mellon University's robotics program, Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander.

"This is likely a realization that Ford is behind relative to companies like GM, Audi, Volvo, Waymo and Uber, and is trying to catch up," said Raj Rajkumar, a Carnegie Mellon computer engineering professor who leads the school's autonomous vehicle research.

CMU spin-off RoadBotics is infrastructure-focused

RoadBotics Chief Scientist Christoph Mertz spent several years at CMU developing prototype road inventory management collection technology. Mertz and RoadBotics’ other founders, DeSantis, Courtney Ehrlichman and Benjamin Schmidt, licensed the technology from CMU’s Robotics Institute and began engineering and product development towards commercialization of a service.

March 8th: Transportation Data User Group Meeting: Western PA Regional Data Center

We’re hosting an open conversation about transportation data. This is one in a series of “Data User Group” conversations organized by the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center. User groups are open meetings designed to build community among data users, identify data publishing priorities, and allow participants to share expertise and build collaboration around the use of data. If you use transportation data, or are interested in using it, please join us.

To kick off the meeting, Adams Carroll, Director of Operations with Healthy Ride will dig into how their system captures data on ridership, and how the organization uses it to enhance bike share services in the City.

Congress Could Make Self-Driving Cars Happen—or Ruin Everything

If Congress lacks the desire to study the issue carefully and tackle it with a comprehensive law, it can go at things piecemeal and still nudge automation along. It could start by revising the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to reflect autonomous technology. For example, the rules require things like foot-activated brakes. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration can amend the regulations, but it requires several rounds of draft rules and public comments. That takes years. Congress can make the same change quickly with a law, or even a clause tucked into, say, an infrastructure omnibus.

FedEx commits to self-driving future

One of the biggest names in global deliveries, FedEx, has stated that automated technology and self-driving vans will play a major part in its future. According to FedEx Chief Information Officer, Rob Carter, automated technology and artificial intelligence will completely transform the delivery business. Carter is responsible for setting the technology agenda across FedEx’s various companies, which operate in 220 countries.

FedEx is already working with US technology company Peloton, whose semi-autonomous systems electronically link trucks into platoons. The software, which uses wireless vehicle-to-vehicle communication to enable the driver of a lead truck to control the acceleration and braking of a truck following behind, is designed to reduce wind resistance and save fuel. The technology is considered a significant step toward fully autonomous trucks, and Peloton has said it will release it in late 2017.

2016 traffic deaths jump to highest level in nearly a decade

Traffic fatalities rose 6 percent in 2016, reaching an estimated 40,200 deaths compared to 37,757 deaths the previous year, according the National Safety Council. The group gets its data from states. The last time there were more than 40,000 fatalities in a single year was in 2007, just before the economy tanked.

Watch this self-driving car successfully navigate a rainy road at night

An impressive video demonstration was just released by showing the progress of its self-driving vehicle technology. In the video,'s autonomous car handles realistic hazards faced by everyday commuters like four-way stops, nighttime traffic, and rainy roads. The test was run in Mountain View, Calif. and utilized the company's deep learning algorithms to overcome common pitfalls of automated driving - primarily confusing reflections and glare from incoming traffic during wet or dark conditions.

GM, Toyota says US rules limiting self-driving cars need to be eased

"Without changes to those regulations, it may be years before the promise of today’s technology can be realised and thousands of preventable deaths that could have been avoided will happen," said Mike Abelson, vice president of global strategy at GM, in written testimony released Feb 13. "It is imperative that manufacturers have the ability to test these vehicles in greater numbers."
Under current law, the US Transportation Department can exempt up to 2,500 vehicles in a 12-month period from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) vehicle rules.

Volkswagen Joins Mobileye's Efforts to Crowdsource Mapping Data

The partnership between Mobileye and Volkswagen also sets an industry-wide standard that can be used by other automobile manufacturers to share and benefit from crowdsourced map data, according to Volkswagen.

“The Volkswagen agreement is a turning point. It not only utilizes crowd-sourcing technology to automatically generate high-definition maps and scale them cost-effectively. A much more important aspect is that the agreement provides a framework for industry-wide cooperation between automobile manufacturers to jointly produce the map contents that are needed for autonomous driving," Professor Amnon Shashua, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Mobileye, said in a news release.

Omnitracs Partners with Peloton Technology to Optimize Inter-Fleet Freight Platooning

“We are excited to be part of the first partnership of a commercial platooning system supplier with a leading fleet management provider,” said Joshua Switkes, founder and CEO of Peloton Technology. “We will offer expanded opportunities for platooning across the broad customer base that Omnitracs has attracted by focusing on cost advantages for fleets.”

A key operational benefit of the partnership for fleet customers will be optimized matching opportunities for inter-fleet platooning, leveraging Omnitracs’ routing and dynamic dispatch applications to provide navigation assistance and clear savings calculations for scheduled and ad-hoc platoons of trucks from different fleets.

Tata Motors to tie up with Microsoft to drive into the future

Tata Motors is looking at the future: In a bid to make cars for the future, the company is poised to get into a tie-up with global technology major Microsoft. The largest automobile maker in the country has reported a 96 per cent drop in its consolidated profit for the October to December quarter for financial year 2016-17, mainly because of a steep decline in gains from overseas unit Jaguar Land Rover. According to sources, Tata Motors and Microsoft would be working together to make solutions such as inter-connectivity in cars and autonomous vehicles.

As Vehicles Become Modern, Infrastructure Must be Ready

The future of infrastructure development won't be about building more roads, but using existing roads more effectively, said Stephen Ezell, the foundation's vice president for global innovation policy.
Studies have shown that investing in smart infrastructure has a 60 percent greater impact than investing in roads alone, Ezell said. Automated vehicles can increase the capacity of roads without building new ones because sensors let vehicles travel much closer together than cars driven by humans, said Christopher Leinberger, the chairman of the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at George Washington University.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lawmakers Want NHTSA To Study Connected Car Security

According to a report, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) co-sponsored the bill, dubbed The Security and Privacy in Your Car Study Act. The goal of the bill is to create a safety standard for connected cars, which are expected to be on the roads in large number by 2020. The report noted the bill calls on the NHTSA to work with the Defense Department, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center, SAE International, academics and automotive manufacturers. Combined, the different agencies and the private sector would look at how to isolate in-car software to develop a system that can detect and prevent cyberhacks. The group would also come up with best practices for the industry when it comes to the storage of data and create a timeline for when these standards would be implemented, noted the report.

Google’s Unusual Compensation May Have Stunted Its Self-Driving Car Project

The explanation put forward in the recent Bloomberg article seems to do a good job of explaining the situation, though — Google simply put too much money on the table, and utilized a compensation system that was (seemingly) not well thought out.

Here are some of the most interesting parts of the article:

“Early staffers had an unusual compensation system that awarded supersized payouts based on the project’s value. By late 2015, the numbers were so big that several veteran members didn’t need the job security anymore, making them more open to other opportunities, according to people familiar with the situation. Two people called it ‘F-you money.’ …

Ohio State researchers study distribution of electric car power system

A basic problem facing electric car buyers is that traditional gas stations outnumber charging stations. But Ohio State researchers are aiming to solve that problem, studying the best location for building electric-vehicle charging stations to help reduce the current shortage in Columbus. Ramteen Sioshansi, an associate professor of integrated systems engineering, is researching the efficiency of and optimal locations for electric-vehicle charging stations as part of Smart Columbus — the Smart City program partly funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation that aims to improve the city’s transportation options. “It’s sort of a chicken and egg problem,” Sioshansi said. “People are going to be reluctant to buy electric vehicles before there is charging infrastructure in place, but on the flip side, people aren’t going to want to build charging stations unless there are vehicles that are actually going to use them.”

Vattenfall To Switch Its Entire 3,500 Vehicle Fleet To Electric Vehicles

Vattenfall is one of the largest utility companies in Europe, with operations in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Swedish government. Not surprisingly, it has a lot of vehicles in its fleet, including 3,500 cars and light trucks. The company has just announced it plans to switch all of those vehicles to electric cars and trucks within the next 5 years.

TomTom launches traffic data sharing tool for cities and mobility stakeholders

TomTom today announces the launch of a new traffic cooperation tool to exchange traffic data with cities, road authorities and other mobility stakeholders. Designed with ease-of-use in mind, the Road Event Reporter tool will allow selected customers and partners to share traffic data such as accidents, roadworks or road hazards with millions of connected road users. The information is shared in real time, directly onto in-car navigation systems, GPS navigation devices or mobile applications.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Dubai to launch driverless flying cars by this summer

Flying, driverless cars are expected to become a reality in Dubai by the summer after an initial test run of an autonomous aerial vehicle was launched Monday by the Roads and Transport Authority and Chinese firm Ehang. The vehicle – called Ehang 184 – should be able to transport people automatically and is scheduled to start services in the near future.
"The RTA is making every effort to start the operation of the AAV in July 2017," Al Tayer, the chairman and director general of the Roads and Transport Authority, said.

Uber gives subscriptions a test drive in the Philly region

Offering subscriptions echoes a public transportation payment model, where monthly fare packages are common. It also bears similarity to services like Netflix, said Erick Guerra, a University of Pennsylvania assistant professor of urban planning, in which subscribers pay different rates for different levels of service.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Tesla acquires a German automation company to accelerate vehicle production

Tesla has agreed to acquire Grohmann Engineering, a German firm that specializes in automated manufacturing. Founder Klaus Grohmann will also be joining Tesla and will head a new division within the automaker called Tesla Advanced Automation Germany.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Ride-hailing services Lyft, CabbyGo receive permanent okay to operate in Pa.

According to the PUC, the licenses require the companies to "maintain consumer protections, driver integrity and vehicle safety requirements, and insurance requirements" per the state's utility code and Act 164, which was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf last year.
It also requires them to be in "continuous compliance" with rules and regulations developed by PennDOT. Uber has been working to develop a fleet of autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh.

It also requires them to be in "continuous compliance" with rules and regulations developed by PennDOT. Uber has been working to develop a fleet of autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh.

ITSA Releases The Road Ahead: The Next Generation of Mobility Public Policy Roadmap

“Advancements in robotics, artificial intelligence, wireless communications and more make this a pivotal moment for U.S. leadership in the intelligent transportation arena,” said ITS America President and CEO Regina Hopper. “This roadmap provides Federal, State, and Local policymakers with the tools to capitalize on this innovation—from automated vehicles to highways and traffic lights that communicate in real time with drivers on the road. Now is the time to jumpstart the economy and save thousands of lives per year.”

Pittsburgh Requests a Two-Way Street with Uber

“We’ve held up our end [of] the bargain,” Mayor Peduto said, referring to the city’s cooperation with the company, “but we haven’t seen much from Uber. This is a two-way street, not a one-way. I need to see more interest from them in our communities, both locally and internationally.”

CMU: Car-Sharing Won't Kill the Auto Industry

A team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh is working on a model to measure the impact of car sharing for automakers and consumers. Their early findings are surprising. It turns out that peer-to-peer car sharing can actually help automakers sell more cars. For the car company, Abhishek says, “it doesn’t have to produce as many goods as it did earlier, but people are willing to spend a lot more money.”

Watch Cruise’s self-driving Bolt EV navigate smoothly in CA

This Cruise demo video shows real-world capabilities, in unpredictable circumstances. Of course, GM still gets to choose what videos it release, but that’s still impressive if you’ve ever spent any time as a passenger in any self-driving vehicles. At one point the Cruise vehicle manages navigating around a stopped moving truck that’s blocking a full lane, for instance, and it also deals with multiple pedestrians and at least one bike rider with seeming ease.

Capgemini Unveils Automotive Cybersecurity for Connected Cars

Kai Grambow, Global Head of Automotive at Capgemini, said: “Everyone working for a car company has now realized how important cybersecurity is, from those on the shop floor right the way to the CEO. Failure to prevent an attack could mean mass recalls, lost revenue, regulatory fines and even risks to customer safety. Much of the focus to date has been on safeguarding IT systems, which is difficult enough, but as automotive brands are increasingly working with connected ‘things’ like factory robots and millions of connected car parts the complexity of staying secure is mind-boggling.”

Google Maps engineer who pioneered Street View is now working for Lyft

People think Lyft’s mission is to just be a more efficient taxi company,” Vincent told The Verge. “But it’s really about rethinking transportation, rethinking how we move people and interact with the environment of the car. I think they can perceive the problems, they’re going very fast, they’re going after a giant market, and they can really make a difference in the world. So that’s why I decided to make a move.”

Germany, France agree on transnational self-driving test zone

"Manufacturers will be able to test the connectivity of their systems, for example when lanes or speed limits change at the border," German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said in a statement following a meeting with his French counterpart Alain Vidalies. "We want to set worldwide standards for this key technology through cooperation between Europe's two biggest car-producing countries," he added. The route will allow testing of 5G wireless communications between cars and infrastructure, automated maneuvers such as overtaking and braking, and emergency warning and call systems, among others.

Udacity open sources its self-driving car simulator for anyone to use

Open sourcing its self-driving car simulator is an extension of this existing open approach, but one that provides even more base-level tools to the community working on this big, complex problem. Other simulation tools, including Grand Theft Auto V, have proven worthwhile virtual environments for dry runs of autonomous software, but more tools in the mix is always welcome, especially when this one comes from the company founded by former Google self-driving car project lead Sebastian Thrun.

Watchdog group wants Uber's self-driving trucks off the road

Now a southern California non-profit that has long raised concerns about the safety of autonomous vehicles has asked the DMV to look closer at the operations of Otto, a self-driving truck company that Uber bought last year for $670 million. Consumer Watchdog's John Simpson charged in a letter to DMV director Jean Shiomoto that in fact Otto's testing here did violate the law by operating in autonomous mode, offering proof in the form of documentation Otto submitted to Colorado officials that described a process where the driver hit a button and let the truck do the work.

"There is no more explicit description of how self-driving testing is performed," wrote Simpson. "Otto is simply doing this in violation of the law."

Waze Expands Carpool Service Throughout California Bay Area

At the moment, Waze aims to roll out Carpool at a slower pace. Drivers can apply for Carpool by providing basic information that includes a LinkedIn profile and vehicle registration details. Riders also pay drivers only 54 cents per mile — the current IRS reimbursement rate for business traveling — and drivers can take up to two rides per day. Waze eventually expects to expand the program to other larger cities, though the company did not specify specific markets.

LogistiCare And Lyft Announce Nationwide Partnership

LogistiCare, the nation's largest non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) manager, and Lyft, announce a three-year nationwide partnership to improve transportation solutions for private, commercial and government assisted riders seeking healthcare appointments and social programs.
The partnership enables collaboration in 31 of LogistiCare's states and the District of Columbia, and represents Lyft's most significant NEMT partnership.

Tesla explosion, fire were factors in crash deaths

The fire that engulfed a Tesla electric car after a crash was a factor in the death of its drunk driver and passenger last November, police investigators say.  The vehicle caught fire and burned quickly. Firefighters arrive to find a 150-yard debris field and battery cells exploding like Roman candles.

Most pressing AV safety challenge for states will be preparing human drivers

Dr James Hedlund, a former senior official with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), authored the report and commented, “The research and media attention given to autonomous vehicles often overlook the safety implications that a mix of driver-operated and autonomous vehicles will bring. Unfortunately, ignoring the driver side of the equation may negate many of the expected safety benefits.”

How South Korea Plans To Put Driverless Cars On The Road By 2020

South Korea has been in the slow lane, but thanks to some government moves and a push by local carmaker Hyundai, the country is quickly picking up the pace. Korea hopes to one-up Japan's 2020 Olympic dream of a site fully serviced by driverless cars by parading its self-driving technology at its own Olympic Games in Pyeongchang next year, with a pilot version due this December.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

VW Subsidiary Invests $2 Billion to Promote Electric Cars

Volkswagen AG has formed a new subsidiary to manage the $2 billion it is required to spend over the next decade in support of zero-emission vehicles in the U.S. The company, Electrify America LLC, will invest in the construction and maintenance of electric vehicle charging stations, including a "high-speed, cross-country" network of more than 200 fast-charging stations for electric cars. It will also install more than 300 chargers in 15 U.S. metropolitan areas and fund "brand-neutral" advertising campaigns to promote awareness about electric cars, among other activities, the company announced Tuesday.

Honda, Hitachi Automotive to Develop, Make Electric Vehicles

Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co. has signed a deal with Hitachi Automotive Systems to jointly develop, make and sell motors for electric vehicles, as the industry adapts to concerns over global warming and the environment. The deal, signed last week, is part of a big push by Honda into electric cars. The joint venture, which has yet to be named, will be 51 percent owned by Hitachi and will have manufacturing and sales operations in the U.S. and China, the companies said.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

10 Cities Chosen for Autonomous Vehicle Project

Sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Aspen Institute, the initiative will bring together mayors and other officials from Tel Aviv as well as Austin (Texas), Buenos Aires, Helsinki, London, Los Angeles, Nashville, Paris, São Paulo, and Washington DC with industry and policy experts to brainstorm how driverless technology could impact urban quality-of-life issues such as pollution, traffic, mobility, inequality, land use, economic growth and community development.

Tech firms, automakers split over going fast or slow on driverless cars

Tech companies, automakers and suppliers agree on the potential benefits of self-driving cars, but they diverge on how to make and deploy them. While many in Silicon Valley rush to get autonomous vehicles on the road, traditional automakers in Detroit and elsewhere are taking a more deliberate approach. Which approach will carry the day is still in question. “It’s fascinating to watch,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book.

Uber hires NASA aircraft engineer to help develop flying cars at Uber Elevate

Uber is making moves to expand the scope of its flying car experiment – the company just hired NASA engineer Mark Moore, who worked at the federal agency as an advanced aircraft engineer and basically kickstarted the current interest in vertical take-off and landing craft for short-haul urban flight with a 2010 paper on the feasibility of the helicopter-like vehicles. Moore will act as Director of Engineering at Uber Elevate, which is what the ride-hailing company calls its exploration of airborne on-demand drives.

New York City Says Uber Must Share Ride Data

City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission Thursday approved regulations requiring companies like Uber to report detailed data on rides in the city. Similar rules, intended to prevent driver overwork and fatigue, had previously covered licensed taxis, but will now encompass all for-hire vehicles.
Uber has mounted a campaign against the rule, mainly citing privacy concerns. The legislation would not collect information on passengers’ identity, though such data can often be reverse-engineered for user information such as gender and race. New York’s Public Advocate has also opposed the rule.

Two San Diego Women Launch National Ridesharing Service For The Elderly

Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft can help fill the gap, but there is a problem: they only work on smartphones, which many older people do not have. Last month, two native San Diegans launched a company called Arrive, which aims at a solution. Its users call the company's operators on the phone, who then dispatch an Uber or Lyft to pick them up. Amy Stice, one of the co-founders and a Patrick Henry High School graduate, said she started the company with her 89-year-old grandmother in mind. "My grandmother talks to a friendly person on the phone, and a ride can pick her up from home in under 10 minutes," Stice said. "Like a lot of her friends, she carries a flip phone, so it is simple for her to call us again to get picked up from her destination."

Naver Set To Begin Testing Self-Driving Cars On Public Roads In South Korea

Testing of the self-driving vehicle tech on public roads in South Korea could begin as soon as next month, according to some news outlets in the country.

To provide some background here, Naver is a large web portal operator in South Korea that also owns the biggest mapping platform in the country, making the transition to self-driving vehicle tech a fairly sensible one. The company’s self-driving tech efforts are part of a broader focus on artificial intelligence that’s emerged at the company in recent years.

Take a drive in Google’s newest self-driving car

And now there’s a new entry in the self-driving arms race, rolled out at the end of January. It’s a collaboration between Chrysler and Waymo, a spinoff of Google X, the search giant’s highly secretive special projects lab. “Well, [the car is] not exactly grandma-level. It’s assertive, but it’s very safe. It remembers all the steps, every time,” said Nathaniel Fairfield, a roboticist from Carnegie Mellon University and the principal engineer for Waymo.

Tesla hints at testing self-driving car prototypes outside of California

The company has now confirmed to Electrek that they are also testing the fully self-driving system “in a number of locations” other than California’s public roads:

"We also conduct testing in a number of locations that are not public roads in California."

Now that can mean private roads in California and public or private roads anywhere else. Several other states have introduced rules to allow testing of level 4 and 5 autonomous driving system. Nevada and Michigan have been the most popular ones after California. Tesla refused to elaborate further, but it clearly hints at more actual road testing of its fully self-driving technology beyond using the data from its Autopilot fleet.

Electric vehicles now account for record 4.2% share of new vehicle registrations in the UK

SMMT attributes the growth in part to electric vehicles. They say that EVs had their best month ever in the UK with 4.2% market share up from last high of 3.6% in November last year. As we previously reported, the UK saw an important growth of its electric vehicle market last year led by good deliveries of Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Nissan LEAF, BMW i3, and Tesla Model S. Tesla has been roughly doubling deliveries of its Model S in the UK every year since the introduction of its right-hand drive version in 2014.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Elaine Chao has been approved to serve as the next secretary of Transportation

During her Jan. 11 confirmation hearing with the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Chao said that the DOT has, “a unique opportunity to address the exciting new technologies transforming travel and commerce,” which no doubt includes autonomous vehicles and hooking up roads with sensors to enable smarter transportation infrastructure.

Uber expects to see more growth in Pittsburgh

 Richter again reiterated Uber’s biggest motive for its aggressive expansion in Pittsburgh, the talent in robotics and other tech disciplines coming out of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

“I think what’s great about Pittsburgh frankly is that talent base,” said Richter, ranking it among four or five best cities in the world with the capabilities in robotics and artificial intelligence. “That’s number one with a bullet.” But he also added it’s also become a more desirable destination to visit and recruit employees, noting that Uber “now has San Francisco-based employees who are opting to move to Pittsburgh.”

New in ecomobility: long-distance ride sharing is caring

A youthful French company, BlaBlaCar, is expanding rapidly in Europe, Asia and South America on the back of a niche opportunity in the global trend towards ecomobility. Apart from other benefits, cutting down on the number of cars on the roads is good for the environment. By bringing travellers together in this way, BlaBlaCar estimates it has saved about 1t of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles over the past 12 months, while making travel faster and more affordable than services provided by buses, trains and airplanes.

Infrastructure upgrades needed for self-driving cars

Most wouldn’t argue, it would be nice to sit back and let your car do the driving. Matt Smith with the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation Systems says it’s not as far off as some may think.

“We’re leveraging a lot of communications technology. We already have the same communications technology that allows us to get these camera images back from the roadway back to this traffic operations center,” Smith said.Smith says a chunk of what’s needed for autonomous driving is already in place. It’s just a matter of upgrading the current technology and infrastructure.

Self-driving car prototypes need less human help, data show

Waymo reported that its fleet drove itself more than 635,000 miles with 124 safety-related "disengagements," which must be reported when the technology fails or the backup driver takes control out of concern the car is malfunctioning. The Google project's disengagement rate was the equivalent of two incidents every 10,000 miles, a notable decrease over the prior year, when there were eight disengagements per 10,000 miles.

"This four-fold improvement reflects the significant work we've been doing to make our software and hardware more capable and mature," Dmitri Dolgov, Waymo's head of self-driving technology,Dmitri Dolgov, Waymo's head of self-driving technology wrote in a blog post.

With eye on self-driving cars, Samsung and NVIDIA invest $75 million in Soundhound to battle Alexa, Siri

SoundHound announced a gargantuan $75 million funding round Tuesday led by Samsung Catalyst Fund and NVIDIA with an eye on spending to better develop a rival to Google Assistan, Siri, and Alexa. If recent moves by the corporate titans are any indication, the move will have dramatic implications on the autonomous vehicle race.

SoundHound will use the funds to invest in what it calls “Collective A.I.,” which the company defines as “a powerful architecture giving users of the platform the power to bring voice-enabled AI to everyone, everywhere.” In other words, it could be a stepping stone to more fluidly allow different search and automation algorithms to work in sync.

Breaking Down the Financial Impact of Self-Driving Cars

Let’s start with Morgan Stanley. Its new report, Autonomous Vehicles & Municipal Bonds, puts the net positive impact on municipal budgets in excess of half a trillion dollars. That number takes into account more efficient roadway use and a dramatic reduction in parking garages and parking spaces. With parking facilities no longer needed, those properties can be turned into higher-level development, which would provide municipalities with a boost in property taxes. Offsetting those gains, Morgan Stanley foresees losses of roughly $1.3 billion from such revenue sources as fuel taxes, license fees, parking fees, speeding tickets and personal property taxes.

This Map of NYC Taxi Pickups Explains Why Uber is So Successful

Ridesharing apps like Uber have exploded in popularity over the past few years, and it’s not just because they’re simple to use — as this stunning map of taxi trips across New York City shows, some parts of the city just can’t get a cab. An MIT study that last month revealed Uber could replace every single New York City taxi with just a fraction of cars, and Todd W. Schneider’s incredible taxi mapmight help explain how that would work.

Proposed NHTSA rule would mandate, standardize 'V2V' vehicle-speak

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a proposed rule this morning looking to require and standardize V2V communications for new light vehicles. The agency says it sees great promise in V2V technology, but believes that unless there's a single format and programming environment established and mandated now for vehicles to "talk" to each other, the technology will be developed piecemeal from various, proprietary directions. If that's allowed to happen, V2V tech essentially could end up a tangled mess or fail to catch on, and a beneficial V2V-enabled roadway future may never emerge.

"Without a mandate to require and standardize V2V communications, the agency believes that manufacturers will not be able to move forward in an efficient way and that a critical mass of equipped vehicles would take many years to develop, if ever," NHTSA states in the proposed rule.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

UK: Law on driverless car insurance coming ‘soon’ – transport secretary

Britain will soon have legislation that tackles insurance issues involving self-driving cars, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has revealed. The Birmingham Mail reported that the government is set to introduce a measure that deals with liability concerns and insurance claims in driverless car accidents.
“We will soon have a bill that will do things like addressing the insurance issue for driverless cars,” Grayling told the publication, in an apparent reference to the Modern Transport Bill announced in the Queen’s speech in May 2016. The transport secretary told the Birmingham Mail in January that the legislation would be proposed “in the next month or so.”

Shell says it will start installing electric vehicle chargers at its gas stations this year

Shell’s business director John Abbott revealed the new business plan to Financial Times: “We have a number of countries where we’re looking at having battery charging facilities. If you are sitting charging your vehicle, you will want to have a coffee or something to eat.”

They didn’t reveal what kind of chargers they plan to use, but Abbott said that most electric cars will be able to charge up to 80% in 30 minutes – meaning that we are talking about level 3 DC fast-chargers.

PGH Controller says city officials should have access to Uber's data

Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb amplified local pressure Tuesday on Uber, saying the ride-share company should grant city officials ready access to information that its self-driving vehicles collect here...

...Peduto spokesman Timothy McNulty said Pittsburgh has no data-sharing arrangements with Uber. The company confirmed that but reported creating “hundreds of high-tech jobs in Pittsburgh and [investing] hundreds of millions of dollars into the city’s economy.”

Why using a mobile phone while driving is so dangerous ... even when you're hands-free

One of my favourite studies in this area was undertaken by Marcel Just at Carnegie Mellon University. Participants drove along a winding road in a rudimentary simulator, controlled via a mouse, while lying in an fMRI scanner to record brain activity. In one condition, participants had to engage in a sentence comprehension task while driving, similar to engaging in a mobile phone conversation. Compared to a control trial, steering behaviour in this “dual-task” condition was much worse, with more frequent collisions with the road edges.

Uber Partners With Daimler in a Step Toward a Driverless Future

The agreement is not exclusive, and Daimler may produce autonomous cars for Uber’s competitors, while Uber can also bring other automakers onto what it calls its “open platform” for ride hailing. The two companies said they expected Daimler’s self-driving vehicles to reach Uber’s network “in the coming years.”
“Auto manufacturers like Daimler are crucial to our strategy because Uber has no experience making cars — and in fact, making cars is really hard,” Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, said in a statement. “We can combine Uber’s global ride-sharing network with the world-class vehicles of companies like Daimler, so that Uber riders can have a great experience getting around their cities.”

Ohio, OSU to Invest $45 Million in Autonomous Vehicle Testing Expansion

The state of Ohio and Ohio State University are joining forces to fund the first phase of a $45 million autonomous vehicle research and testing center, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich announced on Thursday.
The 540-acre SMART (Smart Mobility Advanced Research and Test) Center will be built on 4,500 acres of the Transportation Research Center (TRC), an area billed as the “nation's largest independent automotive proving grounds.” The center will test new technologies and highly automated vehicles in a closed real world environment, before the vehicles are deployed on public roads and highways.