By on November 25, 2019

autonomous hardware

While the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) job isn’t to establish new regulations, it is obligated to enforce the country’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards while conducting crash investigations and making recommendations to other agencies on ways to improve vehicular safety.

Lately, that job involves telling the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an agency that does write those rules, to step up its game on autonomous vehicles.

Last week, the NTSB held a board meeting in Washington D.C. to determine the probable cause of a fatal collision between a self-driving Uber prototype and a pedestrian in March of 2018. While Uber took plenty of heat, the NHTSA also came under fire for prioritizing the advancement of advanced driving technologies over public safety. (Read More…)

By on November 15, 2019

autonomous hardware

The terminology surrounding self-driving technologies and advanced driving aids has started to earn quite a bit of criticism in the wake of publicized crashes and growing outcry from consumer advocacy groups. For years, the industry has treated all assistance technologies as equal — placing everything on a sliding scale developed by SAE International.

It’s actually a good metric if you’re familiar with SAE’s autonomous ranking system. But to a layperson the differences between SAE Level 2 and 5 don’t mean a whole lot, despite offering completely different experiences. Automakers also have terms of their own, some of which could easily lead customers to believe their products are far more capable than reality allows.

Automotive News recently published an op-ed calling for clarity, and it was so good, we felt inclined to share.  (Read More…)

By on November 8, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has disclosed Uber’s autonomous test fleet was involved in 37 crashes over the 18-month period leading up to last year’s fatal accident in Tempe, AZ. Having collected more data than ever, the board plans to meet on November 19th to determine the probable cause and address ongoing safety concerns regarding self-driving vehicles.

Reuters reports that the NTSB plans to issue comprehensive safety recommendations to the industry, as well demand oversight from governmental regulators, in the near future.

Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding the fatal incident in Arizona are as unique as they are complicated — ditto for most other crashes involving AVs. While Uber’s test mule failed to identify the pedestrian in time, leading to her death, she was also walking her bicycle on a particularly awkward stretch of road. “The system design did not include a consideration for jaywalking pedestrians,” the NTSB said. (Read More…)

By on November 6, 2019

With the realities of autonomous driving growing increasingly apparent, the Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE) decided to conduct a survey to gauge public sentiment surrounding the technology. We’ve seen these studies before, noticing a lack of consistency. While several high-profile accidents relating to autonomous (or semi-autonomous) systems have clearly shaken people’s confidence over the last two years, we’re still seeing conflicting reports — and we don’t mean minor discrepancies, either.

The SAE survey, published on Tuesday, stated that 76 percent of respondents “think a self-driving car experience is similar or superior to a human-driven experience.” However, the American Automobile Association (AAA) released a study in March claiming 71 percent of survey respondents still had serious concerns with the technology, with only 19 percent claiming they’d even consider putting a loved one in a self-driving vehicle.

That’s a complete turn-around in just over six months. Perhaps we should look at how these surveys are being conducted and the type of questions being asked, because taking the SAE Demo Days Survey at face value makes it seem as though automated driving has finally gained public acceptance.  (Read More…)

By on October 29, 2019

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has officially given up on autonomous vehicles, despite previously being a major proponent of their advancement. “I stepped way back [on] this idea of Level 5. I’ve really given up,” Wozniak at last week’s J.D. Power Auto Revolution conference in Las Vegas. “I don’t even know if that will happen in my lifetime.”

Automotive News reported the quote on Monday, noting that Steve’s tune has changed dramatically from the days where he optimistically saw Apple blazing the trail for advanced driving technologies — something that requires one to venture several years into the past. He’s been harder on the systems more recently, openly expressing his growing doubts since 2017.

“What we’ve done is we’ve misled the public into thinking this car is going to be like a human brain to be able to really figure out new things and say, ‘Here’s something I hadn’t seen before, but I know what’s going on here, and here’s how I should handle it,'” Wozniak explained. “A human can do that.”

(Read More…)

By on September 30, 2019

Jaguar Land Rover is reportedly working a system for the new Defender that would allow for low-speed maneuvers with all occupants outside the car. While it sounds like a good way to guarantee the safety of friends and family when traversing a cliff face that might be a bit too narrow, recent hiccups with Tesla’s new summoning tech has proven it’s best to exercise caution.

Fortunately, Land Rover says it wants to utilize the Defender’s 3-D Scout system to map the area surrounding the vehicle and allow drivers to control the Defender remotely from the outside in off-road environments (minimizing collision risks). This will likely require the addition of some level of vehicular autonomy, as JLR stipulates drivers will be controlling the model via the automaker’s wearable “Activity Key.” Present incarnations of the device are basically proximity sensors without the necessary controls to accomplish any meaningful level of remote control.  (Read More…)

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…)

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