By on June 20, 2019

Many consumers continue to misunderstand the driver-assistance technologies being placed in modern vehicles, according to the latest survey released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But we don’t need the IIHS to tell us that. We’ve been documenting the avoidable accidents created whenever motorists overestimate what their high-tech cars are capable of for years now.

However, the insurance institute and numerous consumer advocacy groups have suggested that big part of the problem stems from the names manufacturers are using to describe their semi-autonomous hardware. Titles like “Autopilot” or “Driving Assistant Plus” can be confusing to somebody who didn’t bother to read the manual, especially when the associated marketing materials are often helping to steer them further in the wrong direction.  (Read More…)

By on January 22, 2019

waymo-michigan

Alphabet’s self-driving arm, Waymo, announced plans for a Michigan expansion on Tuesday. The company is currently seeking a location in the southeast section of the state and intends to hire up to 400 employees over the next five years.

According to a corporate blog post, the new new hires will be tasked with installing autonomous driving systems on vehicles built by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Jaguar Land Rover ahead of those vehicles entering the firm’s growing fleet.

“We’ll be looking for engineers, operations experts, and fleet coordinators to join our team and help assemble and deploy our self-driving cars,” the blog explains. “This will be the world’s first factory [100-percent] dedicated to the mass production of [Level 4] autonomous vehicles.”  (Read More…)

By on December 21, 2018

us-capitol, public domain

Frustrated with House Democrats’ inability to push through legislation on autonomous vehicle development and testing, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) believes the new Congress needs to reassess the situation and rally together behind a tweaked proposal Senate Republicans are still willing to back.

Dingell claimed Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who will chair the Energy & Commerce Committee when Democrats take control of the House, and Rep. Bob Latta, (R-OH), who currently heads the digital commerce subcommittee, have agreed the smartest plan is to build consensus in the Senate so both chambers can deliberate on the same bill — potentially getting something done in the process.  (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 October 31, 2018

It looks like Congress’ new self-driving bill might have to wait until a new batch of unmentionables plant their collective rear ends in the seats populating Capitol Hill. Already passed in the House, the SELF DRIVE Act has managed to garner bipartisan support — a true miracle in these troubled times.

However, it’ll have to spread wings if it wants to be signed into law before year’s end. The midterm elections could stymie everything and force Congress to start all over again. A likely prospect, considering the Senate is still going over the bill.

“This entire process has been an incredible feat of bipartisanship,” Greg Rogers, director of government affairs at Securing America’s Future Energy, told Bloomberg. “Attempting to recreate a bill that’s this ambitious and this significant would be like trying to catch lightning in a bottle all over again.”  (Read More…)

By on October 19, 2018

Tesla Supercharger

Tesla Motors is abandoning the “fully self-driving” purchasing option on all of its vehicles. The option debuted in 2016 as a way to ensure your new car would be future-proofed and able to incorporate autonomous features. But those upgrades never really came — leaving customers who spent $8,000 angry enough to file a class-action lawsuit against the company for failing to deliver on its promises. At least they still got those EV tax credits and free access to the company’s fancy new Autopilot chip (which is also a bit of a mystery item).

The option appears to have been removed from Tesla’s website this week — prompting customers to ask CEO Elon Musk what was up after he announced a rejiggering of the Model 3 lineup. According to a tweet from Musk, the self-driving option was removed because it “was causing too much confusion.”

Well, whose fucking fault was that?  (Read More…)

By on September 14, 2018

vision 2.0 NHTSA Autonomous vehicles

Volkswagen Group is interested in teaming up with other automakers to establish a new industry standard for self-driving technology. While the move would likely help streamline development, VW’s primary concern seems to be legal protection in the event an autonomous vehicle makes a mistake.

The idea of an automaker preparing itself to better cope with the legal ramifications of accidentally killing one of its customers isn’t particularly encouraging, but it’s at least understandable. (Read More…)

By on April 11, 2018

Bob Lutz 2008 Pontiac G8 In Chicago

Longtime auto executive Bob Lutz has always been an incredibly outspoken individual. His years of hard work have given him an insight into the industry that few possess, and he’s only become more willing to share that information as he ages. Like the industrious caterpillar, his ceaseless labor has allowed him to metamorphose into what is arguably his perfect form near the end of his lifecycle — a candid automotive butterfly.

We love hearing anything has to say, as his insight borders on the surreal, but with more than enough truth to come to pass. Last year, he divined a future where the car as we know it is destroyed by governmental regulation and advanced technologies. The dystopian plot seemed impossible upon a cursory glance, but the deeper you drive, the more plausible it begins to seem.

Lutz refocused this week at the SAE International WCX World Congress Experience in Detroit, saying the traditional dealer model will be among the first things to go in the brave new world of mobility. He called car dealerships an “endangered species,” suggesting to the crowd that it had “another 20 to 25 years before it’s all over.”  (Read More…)

By on April 3, 2018

tesla model x, Image: Tesla Motors

While the investigation into Tesla’s most recent Autopilot-rated fatality continues, Waymo chimed in to remind everyone that the company’s self-driving system isn’t actually self-driving at all. That almost makes it sound like the Google offshoot is coming to the defense of Tesla Motors. However, the truth of the matter is this was a golden opportunity for Waymo to sneak in another humblebrag that its autonomous technology is the genuine article and that most of its competitors are playing catch-up.

It’s a valid point. We shouldn’t forget that Tesla’s Autopilot is not representative of true autonomy and the burden of safety still falls squarely on the driver. But the manufacturer didn’t always market it that way, and only updated the system to require hands on the wheel after the first fatality. This incident is different from the recent Uber crash in Tempe, Arizona. But just how different is debatable and largely dependent on what qualifies as “self-driving” to the average person.

“Tesla has driver-assist technology and that’s very different from our approach,” explained Waymo CEO John Krafcik last week, before Tesla revealed that Autopilot was engaged during the Model X crash. “If there’s an accident in a Tesla, the human in the driver’s seat is ultimately responsible for paying attention. We don’t know what happened here, but there was no self-driving.” (Read More…)

By on February 28, 2018

You probably remember the old Jerry Seinfeld routine about ridiculous car names.

“Integrity? No, Inte-grah.”

In a just world, Volkswagen’s naming policy for its electric concept cars would see the company hauled before the courts on charges of crimes against the English language. However, it’s mainly a free world, and we’ll just have to grin and bear the fact that VW’s latest concept calls itself the I.D. Vizzion — surely the worst name in a line of upcoming cars that started with the I.D. and moved on to the I.D. Crozz and I.D. Buzz.

Occupants of the Vision Vizzion, should it one day become reality, won’t ever use their hands for steering, but they’ll certainly use them to talk to the car. (Read More…)

By on November 5, 2017

vision 2.0 NHTSA Autonomous vehicles

Although semi-retired from the automotive industry, Bob Lutz still has his fingers in a lot of pies and continues to provide insight into the vehicular world as he sees it through veteran eyes. I never miss an opportunity to read what he’s got to say about the industry because he provides unusually frank insight paired with borderline ludicrous sensationalism that’s too juicy to ignore.

That doesn’t mean he’s wrong, especially since one of his more recent claims about the financial inviability of Tesla Motors has started to seem particularly astute. But a lot of his premonitions haven’t had the time necessary to come to pass, leaving us to speculate if he’s an automotive sage or just an old crank. He routinely weighs in on the industry to offer entertaining doomsday scenarios — and his newest one is the bleakest yet.  (Read More…)

By on October 23, 2017

GM Cruise self-driving Testing

“Mobility” is easily the most overused term in today’s automotive vernacular. Despite being incredibly nonspecific, executives can’t help but make it the bookend of most speeches involving long-term goals and production stratagems. But why?

The term itself pertains more to the industry itself than the specific products it’s developing. While “mobility” can be applied to any conveyance with a technological bent, the word also represents a company’s ability to move into other areas of business. And that’s what gets the investors and market analysts tugging at their collective collar, damp across the brow, so red hot they can’t help but raise the stock valuation of any company that seems poised to make a big move.

Tesla’s entry as novel manufacturer with a unique product was enough to send its share price through the roof, and established automakers took notice. Despite Mark Fields’ best attempt to rebrand Ford as a tech company, he couldn’t bottle that same lightning and paid the ultimate price — getting fired. However, General Motors may be succeeding where Ford initially failed. The proof of the pudding is how high its share prices continue to climb.  (Read More…)

By on August 28, 2017

cadillac super cruise

Setbacks notwithstanding, we’ve been eagerly anticipating Cadillac’s entry into the world of semi-autonomous driving with its Super Cruise system, developed to help reinforce the automaker’s position as top-tier luxury brand. After all, vehicular opulence is now deeply embedded with technological achievement and few things shout “I’ve arrived” like a car that can chauffeur you around.

However, Cadillac is changing its implementation strategy, making Super Cruise standard on the highest trimmed CT6 — instead of leaving it as a pricy optional extra. It’s also launching an advertising campaign to whet the public’s appetite, with the first of its “Let Go” TV spots appearing on MTV’s Video Music Awards over the weekend.  (Read More…)

By on March 28, 2017

press02-model-x-front-three-quarter

A Tesla Model X driving in semi-autonomous Autopilot mode rear-ended a police motorcycle last week, according to The Arizona Republic.

The incident happened on March 21, when both vehicles stopped at a traffic light after exiting a freeway in Phoenix. The Tesla stopped “briefly” before it began to move forward again. The officer managed to bail before the Tesla bumped the bike.

No damage was reported on either vehicle, since the officer estimated the Model X was only going three miles per hour.  (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…)

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