By on January 11, 2019

Ford Chariot Shuttle

Chariot, Ford’s app-based shuttle service, has announced it will throw in the towel due to the rapidly changing “mobility landscape” of major cities. When the company launched in 2014 with Jim Hackett at the helm, it joined a bundle of “microtransit” firms hoping to undercut brands like Uber while providing a viable alternative to public transportation.

Ford acquired the company in March of 2016 for a reported $65 million, proving that not every mobility firm can be a golden goose. It snagged Hackett and made him Ford CEO roughly a year later, where he continued to oversee Chariot as chairman of the automaker’s Smart Mobility subsidiary. Unfortunately, the service is no longer deemed sustainable.

On the upside of things, this ought to put a few coins in the jar labeled “Restructuring Program” at Ford’s Dearborn headquarters.  (Read More…)

By on July 13, 2018

vision 2.0 NHTSA Autonomous vehicles

Heidi King, deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, claims it’s too soon to begin imposing rules on self-driving vehicles. Thus far, the NHTSA as taken a supremely lax posture on handling autonomous vehicles in the hopes that a softer touch will assist in their swift development.

However, a cluster of fatal incidents involving advanced driving technology created fresh paranoia within the government.

While the argument could be made that those accidents demand a response from federal regulators, it’s also clear the government doesn’t have a firm grasp on the technology. Likewise, there’s little consensus among automakers that have only recently begun discussing how these vehicles should be standardized, and loads of conflicting opinions exist on the matter of safety. In the short term, advanced electronic aids allow motorists to become worse at driving. But, if fully autonomous vehicles function as intended, their long-term safety benefits could be immense.

The NHTSA claims the resulting confusion means it’s too early in the process to make any kind of definitive rulings. (Read More…)

By on May 15, 2018

Audi recently announced pricing for the V6-equipped A8, arriving in dealerships this fall for the rock-bottom price of $83,800. Alright, so that’s not exactly chump change, but Audi promised tech that would embarrass practically everything else on the road — including the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

In some markets, it seems as if the brand will deliver on those promises. The sedan is practically dripping with technology, including the impressive-sounding Traffic Jam Pilot. The system offers a claimed hands-free experience at speeds below 37 mph, as the vehicle can crawl in heavy traffic without the need of a driver. You’ll still need to turn it off and take over in urban environments but, so long as it’s a relatively straight shot, the car will do all the work.

Unfortunately, Audi seemed to have axed its availability for the United States. (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 February 23, 2018

car wash

We’ve been cautiously optimistic about the progress of autonomous driving. The miraculous technology is there, but implementing it effectively is an arduous task of the highest order. A prime example of this is how easy it is to “blind” a self-driving vehicle’s sensors.

TTAC’s staff has had its share of minor misadventures with semi-autonomous driving aids, be it during encounters with thick fog or heavy snow, but truly self-driving cars have even more sensitive equipment on board — and all of it needs to function properly.

That makes even the simple task of washing a self-driving car far more complicated than one might expect, as anything other than meticulous hand washing a big no-no. Automated car washes could potentially dislodge expensive sensors, scratch them up, or leave behind soap residue or water spots that would affect a camera’s ability to see.  (Read More…)

By on January 26, 2018

Ford badge emblem logo

Not to be outdone by General Motors’ excursion into autonomy, Ford Motor Company has announced it will purchase two mobility startups: Autonomic, which makes self-driving software; and TransLoc, which makes transit apps.

While Ford says it made a significant investment into the California-based Autonomic last year, it’s now rolling the company into a new team for developing mobility business models called “Ford X.”

This is familiar territory, as the Blue Oval also promised to put around $1 billion into Argo AI last year. The artificial intelligence startup is supposed to help Detroit automaker develop a “virtual driver system” for future autonomous fleets. But will the company’s strategy of acquiring businesses work as it hopes to reshape itself into a different kind of carmaker? Ford thinks so.  (Read More…)

By on January 25, 2018

us-capitol, public domain

Bipartisan legislation to “promote the safe development of autonomous vehicles” is currently being held up by a trio of Democrats, according to U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune. While much of Congress is hoping to push the AV START Act through, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and two colleagues have blocked unanimous consent — stalling the bill’s swift progress by forcing a floor vote.

Thune, who sponsors Senate Bill 1,885, told reporters he hoped Feinstein and the other Democrats would see the light. “We could save a lot of lives,” Thune said, adding that 94 percent of car crashes are caused by human error. “It is cutting-edge technology, transformational in terms of the economy.”

However, the opposition isn’t convinced autonomous vehicles are at a point where it’s safe to roll them out en masse on public roads. (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 January 2, 2018

Tesla Supercharger

While The Truth About Cars has occasionally been accused for having it in for Tesla, the honest-to-god-truth is that we just possess a severe aversion to unbridled hype. Autonomous cars have made a lot of progress in the last few years, but there’s something about the way manufacturers talk about them that makes us want to say, “Interesting, but we’ll believe it when we see it.”

Automakers love making grandiose claims and Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk may be the prince of hyperbolic statements and lofty promises. He should be commended for delivering on many of them. Still, though there have been many occasions where the other shoe dropped and it was our job to report it. We’re having to do that again, now that Tesla has missed its initial deadline to dazzle the world with an autonomous cross-country road trip(Read More…)

By on December 4, 2017

The internet is a black hole filled with an endless stream of stupid thoughts and bad ideas. While it’s usually best to ignore it, every so often something breaks through the obnoxious drone of social media that is so egregious, you couldn’t possibly turn a blind eye if you wanted to.

We are obligated to present to you a recent tweet from Vahid Kazemi, a software engineer for Google’s self-driving arm Waymo, and describe how it made us feel.  (Read More…)

By on September 26, 2017

us-capitol, public domain

This week, the Coalition for Future Mobility — a recently formed automotive trade group representing major automakers and self-driving advocates — will roll out a bevy of targeted television spots, print ads, and social media posts specifically designed to encourage Congress to adopt legislation assisting the budding industry’s growth.

Earlier in the month, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would expedite the deployment of self-driving cars and prohibit states from blocking autonomous vehicle testing. This was immediately followed by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao publicly outlining the NHTSA’s updated automotive safety guidance — which was less about ensuring the safe development of self-driving cars and more about destroying regulatory red tape.

The Senate is the final piece of the puzzle. Automakers want to make sure it’s seeing things their way before casting their vote on whether or not the industry gets the governmental green light.  (Read More…)

By on September 12, 2017

Tesla AutoPilot cruise control

According to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board, the “operational limitations” of Tesla’s Autopilot system played “major role” in a highly publicized crash in May of 2016 that resulted in the death of a Model S driver.

On Tuesday, the NTSB cited the incident as a perfect storm of driver error and Tesla’s Autopilot design, which led to an over-reliance on the system’s semi-autonomous features. After a meeting lasting nearly three hours, the agency’s board determined probable cause of the accident was a combination of a semi truck driver failing to yield the right-of-way, the Tesla driver’s unwillingness to retake the wheel, and Tesla’s own system — which may have set the framework for the accident.  (Read More…)

By on September 2, 2017

Ford Chariot Shuttle

Earlier this week, we griped about Ford Motor Company’s market research into the validity of self-driving pizza delivery vehicles. Thankfully, that’s not the sole avenue the automaker is exploring. Since abandoning Uber Technologies’ self-driving program in April, Ford’s new vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification, Sherif Marakby, has spent the summer seeking partners that might want to put autonomous vehicles on the road in the near future.

Meanwhile, Ford chief executive Jim Hackett, who took over in May, is conducting a review of the automaker’s overall strategy, including the heavy investments made into electric and self-driving vehicles that took place under former CEO Mark Fields. While it’s unknown how viable he’ll deem every aspect of company’s Fieldsian mobility plan, early assessments hint he’ll leave Marakby plenty to work with.  (Read More…)

By on July 28, 2017

autonomous hardware

Thanks to rhetoric beaten into us by the automotive industry, we know autonomous vehicles are “right around the corner.” Some manufacturers predict self-driving vehicles will be on the commercial market by an ambitiously early target date of 2021. However, those trick new rides are going to come at a premium that’ll keep them out of the hands of most normal people for a while.

LIDAR, the imaging system that allows an autonomous vehicle’s software to make sense of the road, is prohibitively expensive. High-end systems can approach the six-figure threshold while lower quality units rarely fall below 10 grand. Burgeoning technology is never affordable and automakers have traditionally found a way to produce advancements in cost-

effective ways. But the timeline for autonomous cars is too short, meaning any manufacturer wanting to sell one is going to have to have to accept the costs or defer production.  (Read More…)

By on July 16, 2017

elon musk

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has been a longtime proponent of artificial intelligence, saying it has applications that far exceed his autonomous car projects. But he’s also issued numerous warnings, stating that it must be handled safely and responsibly. Now he’s heralding it as a humankind’s great destructor.

Speaking Saturday at the National Governors Association in Rhode Island, Musk told the crowd A.I. is a “fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.” Urging the gathering to implement effective governmental regulation to ensure public safety. “Right now the government doesn’t even have insight,” Musk said. “Once there is awareness people will be extremely afraid, as they should be.”  (Read More…)

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