By on May 7, 2019

General Motors’ self-driving vehicle unit, Cruise, has attracted new investors and an equity infusion of $1.15 billion as it continues work on its commercial fleet of autonomous taxis. The new investment, which effectively brings the operation’s valuation to $19 billion, is primarily fronted by Baltimore-based asset management company T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. and existing partners like SoftBank’s Vision Fund and Honda Motor Co.

“Developing and deploying self-driving vehicles at massive scale is the engineering challenge of our generation,” said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann. “Having deep resources to draw on as we pursue our mission is a critical competitive advantage.”  (Read More…)

By on February 14, 2019

Back in 2015, it was rumored that Apple was sinking significant resources and manpower into an electric vehicle program that also incorporated autonomous driving. But updates on “Project Titan” have been infrequent. Apple takes pains to keep its self-driving program under wraps.

There are, however, ways to track its progress. Since Apple tests its vehicles in California, it must submit an annual report to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles outlining how many times human safety drivers retake control or interfere with the vehicle’s self-driving systems, as well as a tally of total miles driven.

Based on this metric alone, Waymo appears to be the industry leader, with “disengagements” occuring every 11,000 miles. General Motors’ Cruise came in second with roughly 5,200 miles between periods of human intervention. But what about Apple? Apparently, the firm is facing some rather strong headwinds. The company claims a human had to retake control every 1.1 miles.  (Read More…)

By on January 30, 2019

Argo AI, the Pittsburgh-based firm Ford pumped $1 billion into and handed responsibility for educating its self-driving vehicles, just received a go-ahead for testing in the State of California. The company gained a testing permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday, making its autonomous trials perfectly legal on public roads.

Ford’s current trajectory has its autonomous vehicles entering the commercial market by 2021. That’s two years after General Motors promised to do the same. However, recent events cast doubt over whether GM will be able to meet its self-imposed deadlines (some of which dictate future investments from its partners) and start mass production of computer-controlled cars by the end of this year. It’s not just GM that’s having trouble, either. A critical look into autonomous development shows many companies are struggling with advancing the technology to a point that would make it commercially viable.

The Blue Oval might be better positioned in the autonomous race than initially presumed.

(Read More…)

By on November 19, 2018

autonomous hardware

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak may no longer work for the company in any official capacity, but he has stayed on as a tech advisor and sounding board. When the Woz says something it usually isn’t without merit, which is why it was interesting to learn he thinks self-driving vehicles aren’t going to happen.

Previously, Apple was said to have hundreds of employees working on an electrified, autonomous vehicle as part of Project Titan. Despite having the necessary testing permits, the company shifted toward developing software for self-driving applications in 2016. CEO Tim Cook confirmed that was the firm’s new focus in 2017 but analysts and industry insiders have continued to claim the Apple Car is still quietly in development. Maybe someone should tell that to Wozniak because he seems to think the entire idea is bogus.  (Read More…)

By on November 15, 2018

Ford badge emblem logo

These days, every automaker is in the midst of a metamorphosis, eager to emerge from their chrysalis as a “mobility company.” Even brands that don’t seem bent on completely revolutionizing their business model now use the term in reference to themselves.

Ford, which has positioned itself as a mobility company ever since Mark Fields was steering the ship, is among those pushing the narrative the strongest. Fields may have been fired for having a lofty, tech-focused vision that couldn’t charm investors, but much of it carried over to Jim Hackett’s tenure as CEO. Ford desperately wants to be seen as a cutting-edge nameplate.

However, the assumption among industry experts is that it’s lagging behind General Motors in terms of autonomous driving, electrification, and the ability to tap into alternative revenue streams. We sometimes wonder how accurate those assumptions are.  (Read More…)

By on October 24, 2018

We’ve been critical that self-driving systems are, ahem, “oversold” by automakers and tech firms hoping to boost their stock valuations. That doesn’t mean autonomous vehicles won’t happen, just that the timeline is probably a lot longer than the public has been led to believe. Still, it makes sense to pursue AVs. The first company to achieve legitimate self-driving will blow the hinges off a door leading to an array of new business opportunities.

General Motors, long considered a frontrunner in the autonomous race, is apparently in desperate need of a second wind. Its Cruise self-driving unit is said to be woefully behind in its attempt to bring an autonomous vehicle to the commercial market by 2019. Some GM staffers have confessed that the current system isn’t even capable of identifying whether objects are in motion or not — which seems like an important distinction for a computer-controlled automobile to be able to make.  (Read More…)

By on October 16, 2018

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says a new chip aimed at improving its vehicles’ Autopilot features will be available in about six months.

However, if you’re hoping the automaker is preparing to light some candles and knock its vehicles up with legitimate self-driving technology, you’ll need to keep on wishing. During a string of tweets on Tuesday, Musk explained that the new chip would be a $5,000 extra for customers who did not purchase their cars with the “Full Self-Driving” package — an automotive claim that’s about as valid as Donald Trump’s hair or Elizabeth Warren’s status as a Native American.  (Read More…)

By on February 27, 2018

Ford-Argo Miami

It has begun. Ford is finally ready to launch another batch of its faux-autonomous Domino’s pizza delivery vehicles to assess how people will interact with a self-driving vehicle. False autonomy has become a bit of a gimmick with Ford, but a necessary one. Last year, it disguised a man as a seat to assess how people would respond to a vehicle that only communicated using lights. Now it’s running with a similar strategy in a deal with the famous pizza chain, adding Postmates for good measure.

While the information gleaned from the endeavor is less important, the fact that Ford is already actively working with business partners on autonomous applications is what really matters. It’s laying the groundwork for future business opportunities.

However, if you’re worried that Ford’s pretend self-driving vehicles are a sign that it’s losing the race toward the self-driving car, don’t. In addition to the Domino’s car, the automaker is also launching blue-and-white research vehicles equipped with new self-driving hardware and software technology from Argo AI. (Read More…)

By on January 30, 2018

Waymo, the self-driving division of Google’s parent company Alphabet, just announced it has reached a deal to purchase a buttload of Pacifica minivans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Alright, to be fair, it didn’t actually use the term “buttload.” It said Chrysler would provide “thousands” of units, which will ultimately be outfitted for autonomous driving.

Unfortunately, neither company seems willing to disclose an official count. Waymo currently has around 600 self-driving Pacificas in its fleet, so even an extra thousand vehicles would equate to a multi-million dollar deal and the exponential growth of its autonomous development program.

“With the world’s first fleet of fully self-driving vehicles on the road, we’ve moved from research and development to operations and deployment,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in an official statement. “These additional vehicles will help us scale.” (Read More…)

By on January 22, 2018

Waymo Autonomous Test Pacifica, Image: Waymo

Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, is testing the crap out of its ever-growing fleet of autonomous Chrysler Pacificas. While we know the company has already mapped dozens of North American towns, the majority of its testing takes place around Austin, Detroit, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Seattle, and especially Phoenix.

However, today the company tweeted out that it will add Atlanta, Georgia, to that list. Presently, Arizona is the only region where Waymo routinely operates vehicles without a human behind the wheel. But that’s liable to change as the firm gets more testing under its belt. Atlantans may be leaning out of car windows to snap photos of driverless vans soon enough.  (Read More…)

By on January 4, 2018

TRI Platform_3.0 autonomous Lexus

Wanting to remind the world that it’s not as far behind in the race toward autonomy as some have claimed, the Toyota Research Institute intends to bring a Lexus LS 600hL equipped with its 3.0 autonomous research platform to CES next week. Toyota introduced the platform 2.0 last March — the first autonomous testing platform developed entirely by TRI.

Since then, the automaker has focused heavily on machine vision and machine learning, leaning on all the popular sensing equipment currently synonymous with autonomous technologies. As the system was designed specifically to improve over time, version 3.0 uses a Luminar LIDAR system with a 200-meter sensor range that covers a 360-degree perimeter of the vehicle. The testbed Lexus is also equipped with shorter-range sensors, which are placed low on all four sides of the vehicle and are meant to spot low-level and smaller objects. (Read More…)

By on November 24, 2017

You’ve no doubt heard about net neutrality over the last few years. But, in case you haven’t, net neutrality is the principle that forces Internet service providers to treat all data on the Internet equally. It forbids them from discriminating on subject matter or charging different fees based upon the user, site content, website, platform, application, or method of delivery. Essentially, it makes the internet into a tap where you pay one flat fee for access to all content.

That could soon change. On Tuesday, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission announced plans to repeal the landmark neutrality order from 2015. FCC head Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed by President Donald Trump in January, said last year that he believed net neutrality’s “days were numbered.”

Pai has been criticized for being overly supportive of telecom companies. But a few automakers support his cause, as some of the FCC’s regulations have been at odds with autonomous car development.  (Read More…)

By on November 7, 2017

waymo-pacifica

After spending most of last week showing off its tech to the media, Waymo is launching its driverless pilot program in Arizona. While the rides won’t technically begin for a few months, you can already get a taste of the action via video footage of company’s trio of testbed Chrysler Pacificas.

It’s impressive to see the Pacificas not run down any pedestrians, especially since none of them seemed to notice being approached by a van without a driver.

During a keynote speech at a tech conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Waymo CEO John Krafcik showed video of the firm’s test vehicles operating on public roads without any human supervision. “This wasn’t just a one-time ride or a demo,” Krafcik told the crowd. “What you’re seeing now marks the start of a new phase for Waymo and the history of this technology.” (Read More…)

By on October 31, 2017

waymo-pacifica

Commuting is awful. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have spartanly populated backroads between you and the office, that drive to work can be excruciatingly dull — with the only excitement coming from near misses and whatever terrible jokes drive-time radio offers up during that hour. When you get right down to it, most daily commutes are little more than unpleasant ways to add miles onto the odometer.

Of course, with the promise of autonomous driving, that experience is supposed to transform into a worry-free jaunt. But there’s a problem. Most self-driving systems of the near future will require operators to pay roughly the same amount of attention they do now. After all, if your car miscalculates a situation, you’ll want to be ready to take over the instant something seems awry. If that’s the direction we’re heading with this technology, I’m starting to think it might just be easier to automate all of our jobs instead of the the method we use to get to them.

However, at least one self-driving firm has abandoned the development of features that would require human intervention — leaving the car to make up its own mind in an emergency situation.  (Read More…)

By on September 21, 2017

Trump

Supposedly, everyone eagerly anticipates the day they can own a shiny-new self-driving car, but automakers, regulatory agencies, consumer advocates, Silicon Valley, and the White House are debating how exactly that’s supposed to happen. They haven’t reached a consensus yet — and that’s probably not likely to change anytime soon.

Most autonomous cars rely on array of cameras, LIDAR, GPS, inertial measurement devices, and complex control systems used to interpret sensory information before reacting accordingly. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems (V2V) are regarded by many as essential components to establishing fully automated travel. The theory is that, by allowing cars to communicate directly on a broadband frequency, they can better predict each other’s movements.

However, a recent Bloomberg article accuses the technology of “going nowhere fast,” citing the Trump administration as the chief culprit, and alluding to the direct stifling of technology that would give cars “superpowers” in the next few years.

I probably won’t have the opportunity to say this often — and it feels kind of strange to say it now — but these accusations aren’t entirely fair to the president or his administration.  (Read More…)

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