By on March 17, 2017

autonomous hardware

President Donald Trump received a tour of the American Center for Mobility this week. He did not, however, discuss the federal funding of the Michigan-based autonomous testing and development facility. Instead, the site was used as a location for the president to discuss regulatory policies and meet with automotive executives. Little was said on the subject of self-driving cars.

Still, automakers routinely remind us that autonomous vehicles are right around the corner. Ford says it can have autonomous cars rolling out by 2021, Audi and Nissan have said 2020, and Volkswagen has claimed it’ll be ready for self-driving models in 2019. Tesla — which has been pioneering the technology longer than most — has stated it has the hardware necessary in its current production vehicles and would have a bulletproof system installed in 2018, anticipating regulatory approval in 2021. However, suppliers are predicting much less optimistic timelines for self-driving cars — and the dates given vary wildly.  Read More >

By on March 13, 2017

central processing unit computer parts

After collaborating with Mobileye to help BMW put a fleet of roughly 40 self-driving test units on the road before the end of this year, Intel has decided that it would rather just buy the cow. The acquisition of autonomous driving technology leader Mobileye is going to cost the computing giant a colossal $15.3 billion.

More specifically, an Intel subsidiary will offer $63.54 per share for all issued and outstanding shares, which carries an equity value of $15.3 billion and an enterprise value of $14.7 billion. No matter how you slice it, it’s the world’s largest purchase of a company solely focused on the autonomous driving sector. The motivation is clear. Mobileye accounts for around 70 percent of the global market for modern driving aides, anti-collision systems, and advanced autonomous safety.  Read More >

By on March 8, 2017

autonomous testing tesla

There is something uncanny about a car that can drive itself. If you transplanted the world’s first motorists into a modern autonomous vehicle and let it lose on a track, they’d probably surmise witchcraft as the only plausible explanation and jump out in terror. Humans are innately distrustful of anything unfamiliar — it’s an important part of our survival strategy as a species. With that in mind, it isn’t surprising to hear that many Americans are a little wary of self-driving cars.

However, a recent study from the American Automobile Association suggests it might be more serious than that. The vast majority of surveyed Americans admitted to being “afraid” of riding in an autonomous vehicle while over half said they felt less safe at the prospect of sharing the road with driverless technology. This isn’t likely to be welcome news for automakers, considering that every major manufacturer is currently investing heavily into the computer and industrial sciences required to make autonomous tech possible. Read More >

By on March 6, 2017

volkswagen sedric

Unable to get excited about the vehicle pictured above? Maybe that’s because this Volkswagen concept embodies everything people who don’t want to read about self-driving cars hate.

See, it has a name — Sedric. Which is apparently a combination of three words — “self,” “driving,” and, you guessed it, “car.” It’s just so appallingly cute. Which, like the existential threat to personal freedom that surrounds the technology, is another thing that turns off gearheads when vehicles resembling shapeless computer mouses or refrigerators crop up.

While VW’s concept, which is more of a pod than a car, is meant to herald the company’s autonomous future and serve as the patriarch of the company’s anticipated self-driving offerings, it’s really just a testbed for VW engineers to tinker with. Designed for Level 5 (or “full”) autonomy, Sedric is just the beginning, VW claims. To many, that might sound like a threat. Read More >

By on March 3, 2017

Project Black S Q60

Distinction is something Infiniti has aimed to achieve for a while now. It’s even attempting to do it under its own label by implementing cutting-edge technologies that can help to take the driver out of the equation or put him in the front of the pack, depending on what you’re into.

Nissan’s luxury division is heading to the Geneva Motor Show with two very different vehicles: the popular Q50 sedan, laden with the best driver assistance technology available, and a Q60 Project Black S performance coupe sporting a sport hybrid system borrowed from Formula One. The former is a sure thing, destined to be on sale for the 2018 model year, while the latter represents an entry in a hypothetical performance line as Infiniti investigates what level of insanity the general public is willing to accept. Read More >

By on February 28, 2017

Honda ASIMO

Honda wants to up its software game and encourage creative uses for ones and zeros at its new research and development center. With ASIMO — the company’s adorable robot mascot — almost old enough to smoke, Honda hasn’t developed a super-high-profile gizmo in nearly 17 years.

Recently, the company took a distinctive back-to-basics approach to address slipping quality, though CEO Takahiro Hachigo confessed that rekindling the R&D “spirit” would be the other half of building a better Honda Motor Co.

With those goals in mind, Tokyo’s Honda Innovation Lab opened its doors to the press on Tuesday as the company announced it will be forming a specific unit to focus on the development of software-laden technology for its next generation of vehicles. Read More >

By on February 27, 2017

Volvo Autonomous Drive, Image: Volvo Cars

Last September, the Obama administration released a list of 15 guidelines to all automakers looking to develop and market a self-driving vehicle. Companies were asked to voluntarily follow the rules and report back to the federal government with useful information. It was a somewhat confusing exercise and raised a flurry of questions and concerns.

At the time, Obama wrote that the rules would provide “guidance that the manufacturers developing self-driving cars should follow to keep us safe.” Not only would the totally voluntary rules show the government that certain vehicles were safe for public roads, but it would show every interested citizen “how they’re doing it.”

That list is now in the hands of newly minted Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. While the two administrations differ in many areas, Chao seems to be of a similar mind as Obama on the issue of self-driving cars. That doesn’t mean the guidelines won’t change. Read More >

By on February 24, 2017

waymo

Waymo is suing over claims that a former employee stole the design for one of its LIDAR systems and brought it to a competitor. The alleged theft of Waymo’s intellectual property came to light after the company was accidentally privy to an email chain that described an Uber design for a LIDAR circuit board that looked very familiar.

So familiar, in fact, that the Google-backed Waymo filed a lawsuit on Thursday in a California federal court. The suit accuses former Google employee Anthony Levandowski of stealing its tech for the LIDAR sensor used by the Otto autonomous startup company. Unfortunately for Waymo, Uber paid $680 million for Otto last August and is currently using the potentially stolen designs.  Read More >

By on February 24, 2017

GM: Barra at 2016 GM Annual Stockholders Meeting

For now, legislation restricting the use of those pesky self-driving cars is mainly up to individual states. Because no one wants an experimental, untested car piloting their local roadways, states have erected legislative safety barriers that, for the most part, restrict pilot projects in certain areas, or on certain roads.

As everyone waits for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make up its mind and put blanket regulations in place, an angry chorus of complaints from Silicon Valley startups is growing louder, accusing state lawmakers of favoring the old guard when it comes to fostering automotive technology.

Only naturally, concerns about corporate money influencing government decisions arose. One automaker’s political action fund seems more active than others Read More >

By on February 17, 2017

Autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid Fr

Apparently, it’s not just Uber drivers who enjoy extended naps behind the wheel.

Ford engineers, tapped to put the company’s self-driving technology on the fast track to production, are taking the off-ramp to Slumberville so often that the company has had to get other engineers to devise ways of keeping them awake.

It turns out that riding in the driver’s seat of a self-driving car is as conducive to glassy-eyed lethargy as reading about “mobility solutions.” Read More >

By on February 14, 2017

Money (Frankleleon/Flickr)

Take the money and run, Steve Miller once said, and boy, did employees at Google’s self-driving car project take that advice to heart.

According to a Bloomberg report, the financial incentive to leave the project and hit the bricks was so great, many realized they couldn’t afford not to quit. And, in the grand tradition of pulling up employment stakes, many enjoyed the fact that their departure cost the company big, big bucks.

In many cases, those employees used the money to become Google competitors. Read More >

By on February 10, 2017

ford Argo AI

Ford Motor Company intends to invest $1 billion into tech startup Argo AI over the next five years, giving the Blue Oval a majority stake in the company as it continues to reach for the goal of producing a fully autonomous vehicle by 2021.

The Pittsburgh-based Argo will help the Detroit automaker develop a “virtual driver system” for its proposed commercial ride-sharing fleets before moving on to retail vehicles. Ford even went so far as to suggest that the software it develops with Argo could be licensed to other companies.

While still officially an automaker, the Blue Oval really is going all in on its new identity as a mobility company and it isn’t afraid to remind everyone of all of the important work it feels that it is doing. Read More >

By on February 2, 2017

FCA waymo pacifica

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles and its autonomous vehicle disengagement report, self-driving cars are in need of less and less human intervention.

Waymo, Google’s autonomous driving project, is leading the pack in this regard. The report shows that the number of times test drivers had to take over in Waymo’s vehicles dropped significantly from .80 disengagements per 1,000 miles in 2015 to .20 disengagements per 1,000 miles.

Read More >

By on January 19, 2017

Tesla AutoPilot cruise control

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has closed the book on a six-month investigation into the death of a Tesla owner — and enthusiast — who died in a car piloted by the company’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system. What did the federal investigation uncover? Not enough to warrant a recall or further probing into the technology.

In fact, the NHTSA’s report clears Tesla’s Autopilot system of any responsibility in the incident. Read More >

By on January 16, 2017

traffic gridlock

A great philosopher once said that you can’t start a fire without a spark, followed by something about rhythmic movements in unlit spaces.

Well, if there’s a war brewing against autonomous technology and self-driving vehicles, the flashpoint might have occurred in New York — City and State — last week. A large trade group and labor union joined forces in denouncing the driverless scourge headed their way, with one of the groups angling for a 50-year-ban on the automotive heathens. Read More >

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