By on September 14, 2017

ford vtti autonomous research

Ford Motor Company has been funding research at Virginia Tech that takes an interesting approach to autonomous vehicle development. In early August, a reporter for an NBC affiliate in Washington D.C. filmed a video of a Ford Transit being driven by a man dressed up as the front seat of a car. Initially, it seemed like a strange campus prank. But it was later discovered that Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute was doing research on how people would respond to a self-driving vehicle.

Apparently, they’ll approach it with a camera — even if it’s in the middle of the street or flying down the highway.

Ford later released a series of hysterical images featuring the man climbing into the false seat costume, announcing that it was researching reactions to the light bar stretched across van’s windshield. The lights are intended to replace cues like hand waves or head nods between drivers and pedestrians.

Presently, drivers have the ability to motion their hand at pedestrians, indication that it’s safe for them to walk. This author takes things a step further by mouthing easy to understand phrases like, “Fear not, I have decided to spare your life and will not crush you beneath my mighty wheels if you pass” as I ambulate my fingers in a walking motion and nod my head in a slow, deliberate fashion. It usually gets the point across, but it’s nice to know Ford can save me the trouble with a bunch of blinking lights.  (Read More…)

By on May 23, 2017

autonomous hardware

A recent study has discovered most drivers prefer to see traditional automakers developing their autonomous cars, not ride-hailing companies like Uber or Lyft.

In Inrix’s Connected & Autonomous Vehicle Consumer Survey, 5,045 drivers from five countries weighed in on the subject. Roughly 30 percent of the pool indicated they “trusted” established automotive manufacturers to build their self-driving cars, with 20 percent feeling similarly about tech companies like Google’s Waymo. Only 4 percent said they had confidence in ride-hailing providers.

Some of that could be down to Uber’s lackluster performance. The company’s autonomous development efforts has seen it butting heads with regulators, annoying the entire city of Pittsburgh, and weathering high-profile traffic incidents(Read More…)

By on May 22, 2017

uber volvo

Pittsburgh boasts more bridges than any other city its size and Uber seems intent on burning every single one. After the ride-hailing company offered to test its autonomous platform in the city, Pittsburgh welcomed it with open arms. Now it’s starting to seem like it got a raw deal. Uber has become like the city’s drug-addicted teen — permitted to stay, despite very disappointing behavior and repeated broken promises. You get the sense its only one big screw-up away from being thrown out on its ass.

It hasn’t even been a full year and residents and officials are already claiming Uber has already let the city down. You have to place some of the blame on Pittsburgh for enabling Uber’s uncouth behavior, but it didn’t force it to abandon corporate citizenship. In the last nine months, Uber has withdrawn its promised support of Pittsburgh’s bid for a $50 million federal transportation grant and completely failled at creating jobs it promised struggling communities. It has also started charging fares for its driverless taxis, something the city initially assumed would be free in exchange for the company having the privilege of testing there.  (Read More…)

By on April 18, 2017

Uber (freestocks.org/Flickr)

Despite having put in as much testing time as most of the major players, experts have remained skeptical of Uber’s autonomous driving program. This isn’t because it lacks the necessary technology or hardware, but because it lacks a stable corporate environment. There have been no shortage of ugly headlines surrounding the company this year, and it’s beginning to hemorrhage essential staff members. This week, Uber lost its vice president of global vehicle programs, Sherif Marakby, and sustained another blow to its self-driving aspirations and pride.

While the ride-haling service has declined to elaborate on the reasons for Marakby’s exit, he had only been with the company since last April. After twenty-five years with Ford, Uber poached him specifically for his expertise in autonomous development and electronic safety systems.

This loss follows the departure of Uber’s president, vice president of product and growth, senior director of engineering, its head of communications, head of AI labs, and numerous members of its self-driving programs — all within the last few months. (Read More…)

By on December 21, 2016

Uber Volvo Autonomous

Uber’s and its lawyers are going to meet with California’s Department of Motor Vehicles and the state’s Attorney General on Wednesday afternoon. While none of the parties have comment on the meeting’s purpose, odds are that it will include a lengthy chat about Uber’s self-driving SUVs — which have created a ruckus in San Francisco — and the company’s total unwillingness to apply for autonomous testing permits in California.

Last week, Uber Technologies Inc. royally cheesed off Golden State regulators when it deployed a test fleet of autonomous Volvos without the necessary permits from the DMV, telling the department to mind its own business as safety complaints mounted. Since then, California’s DMV has sent the ride-hailing company a letter threatening legal action if it did not swiftly comply.

Meanwhile, the newest complaint is also the oldest, chronologically.   (Read More…)

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