By on June 13, 2017

Tim Cook, Image: iphonedigital/flickr

Apple has been perpetually flip-flopping in terms of developing autonomous vehicles. In 2014, the company was rumored to have begun work on an autonomous electric car, codenamed “Project Titan,” with hundreds of employees devoted solely to its development.

Management issues and logistical problems impaired its progress, leading Apple to abandon the project. Since then, Bob Mansfield has fronted a renewed effort to focus on building an autonomous driving system rather than a complete car. At least, that was everyone’s best guess, as the company has been semi-secretive about its mission since day one.

That changed on Tuesday, when CEO Tim Cook confirmed that Apple does indeed have a self-driving development program. The chief executive even went so far as to call it “the mother of all A.I. projects.” That’s quite the claim to make, considering making the tech work on a car is half the battle and Apple has no practical experience building an autonomous vehicle.  (Read More…)

By on June 2, 2017

Waymo Autonomous Test Pacifica, Image: Waymo

Waymo has announced it has begun working on self-driving trucks, possibly to further annoy its chief industry rival, Uber Technologies. On Thursday, the Alphabet-owned development team said it was venturing into autonomous trucking, only two weeks after UberFreight’s official launch.

While the ride-hailing giant has been working on self-driving trucks since its acquisition of Otto last year, the timing of the two more recent announcements are suspiciously close.
(Read More…)

By on May 31, 2017

Anthony Levandowski at MCE 2016, Image: Transport Topics/Flickr

Uber Technologies Inc. has fired Anthony Levandowski, the engineer at the center of the company’s legal battle with Google and Alphabet’s self-driving division Waymo. The company confirmed the departure Tuesday, after weeks of Levandowski remaining silent as the court attempted to make sense of what had taken place between the two companies (as well as Uber’s own internal investigation).

The Waymo’s lawsuit alleges Levandowski stole proprietary information relating to their self-driving vehicles, which he then handed to Uber. In May, U.S. District Judge William Alsup stated that he believed there was evidence to suggest Uber had gained trade secrets belonging to Google and that Levandowski should be removed from his lead engineering role. However, the ride-sharing firm claims he was taken off autonomous development in April.  (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 9, 2017

autonomous testing tesla

While many would argue that piloting your own vehicle is a key part of freedom and enjoyment of life, there are times when we really wish our vehicle could take us home from the bar. Cabs are expensive, Uber is potentially unavailable, and transit, well… it would have to be very good transit.

While vehicles with fully autonomous Level 5 driving modes remain out of reach, automakers are busy trying to wrestle that steering wheel from your hands. Already, most vehicles employ some level of mild self-driving abilities, whether it’s keeping your crossover between the lines, braking automatically to avoid that driver who’s allergic to signalling, or parallel parking itself. It’s nice to have some help sometimes.

However, just because people like protection on the road doesn’t mean they’re not also protective of their wallets. What is your average car buyer willing to pay for these conveniences? (Read More…)

By on May 8, 2017

uber volvo

Uber must be feeling somewhat confident in its legal battle with Waymo over stolen autonomous tech, because it’s assembling a new artificial intelligence team in Canada.

The group will serve as part of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, which has found itself at the core of the lawsuit, and focus on enhancing the company’s autonomous vehicle software. (Read More…)

By on April 28, 2017

self-driving uber advanced tech center autonomous car

Anthony Levandowski, the man at the nucleus of Alphabet Inc.’s intellectual property lawsuit against Uber Technologies, has abandoned his position as the team lead for the firm’s autonomous vehicle development.

Uber explained that Levandowski’s new role is less critical and has no authority over the company’s LIDAR technology, which he is accused of stealing from Alphabet’s Waymo when it was still part of Google. Since the lawsuit, Uber has done everything possible to distance itself from the man without outright firing him.  (Read More…)

By on April 22, 2017

autonomous testing tesla

Poor Generation X. Isolated, ignored and cynical, they brought us great music in the early-to-mid 1990s, but their opinion on self-driving cars and autonomous safety features just isn’t important.

At least, that’s the feeling you get while reading the results of J.D. Power’s U.S. Tech Choice Study. The company polled 8,500 Americans who bought a vehicle during the past five years, asking them how they felt about the emerging technology.

Naturally, large generation gaps appeared, not the least of which was the elimination of Gen Xers in favor of the opinions of Boomers, Generation Y and Z. So, how does the opinions of the largest car-buying cohort compare to that of the newest? (Read More…)

By on April 20, 2017

cruise automation

General Motors’ self-driving startup, Cruise Automation, has trickled out dash cam videos of an autonomous Chevrolet Bolt milling around San Francisco since February. The video quality was poor and it wasn’t anything we hadn’t already seen from a self-driving car. Tesla went so far as to call tech startups like Cruise Automation and Otto “small teams of programmers with little more than demoware” and scolded Ford, GM, and Uber for investing billions of dollars into “unproven” projects.

However, Cruise’s most recent video seems to show that it has made some legitimate progress in the last three months. Set at night, the clip shows the self-driving Bolt navigating a dense urban environment while avoiding collisions with cyclists, pedestrians, and even a raccoon.

We have to take General Motors’ word for there being zero human intervention, since we never get a clear view of the steering wheel, but the company has assured us that is the case. We also noticed the Bolt never makes a single right turn on red, even when it seemed safe to do so, and reached out to GM to ask why. (Read More…)

By on April 4, 2017

autonomous hardware

Ford’s head of research, Ken Washington, suggests that the general public won’t be able to buy a fully autonomous vehicle until sometime between 2026 and 2031. That’s a little later than CEO Mark Fields’ claim of “by 2025.”

We already know that companies are making timeline promises they can’t really keep but, with Ford currently working on an autonomous ride-sharing fleet to be used on public roadways in 2021, the amount of wiggle-room in Washington’s estimate is a little unsettling. If the technology is sufficient to shuttle people around in a taxi, shouldn’t it be equally adept in accomplishing that task regardless of what seat the human is occupying? Exactly who is leading in this race?  (Read More…)

By on March 31, 2017

Fictional Autonomous Ford in Super Bowl Commercial

Don’t look now, but it would appear that SkyNet has finally arrived — in an expert system designed to make certain judgments during autonomous vehicle operation. NetworkWorld’s breathless report states, “Basically the patented IBM system employs onboard sensors and artificial intelligence to determine potential safety concerns and control whether self-driving vehicles are operated autonomously or by surrendering control to a human driver.” We don’t need to worry about preserving John Connor’s life, or even conceiving that life (with your friend’s mom!) quite yet, however.

The definition of “artificial intelligence” that NetworkWorld is using could just as easily apply to your “smart”phone’s various character-recognition systems. But the problem that this so-called AI purports to solve is one that has far-reaching implications for the timeline, and methods, by which autonomous vehicle operation enters the mainstream.

And it leads to a very simple question.

(Read More…)

By on March 27, 2017

autonomous testing tesla

Every time we write an article about autonomous vehicles, our comments section is quickly populated with discourse over how litigation would be handled in the event of a crash. Who do you sue?

You can’t fault the driver, because a truly self-driving car takes them out of the equation. Suing the manufacturer doesn’t work because, assuming the system functions properly, they’re still saving lives and shouldering all of the risk would discourage companies from bothering to pursue the technology.

However, autonomous accidents will happen and someone is inevitably going to appear in a courtroom. The justice system has to decide how that will be handled, but Automotive News’ Katie Burke has an interesting solution. It relates to how the United States deals with legal actions involving vaccinations.

(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

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…)

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