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automatic driving technology

GM Debuts Automatic Driving Technology This Fall

Coming in the fall of this year, GM will launch its Super Cruise advanced highway automatic driving technology, debuting first in the new Cadillac CT6. Super Cruise has been in the works for a few years now, and the semi-autonomous drive mode is almost ready for its debut, after its release date was pushed from 2016 to 2017 to give engineers more time to focus on designing the safest system possible.

Super Cruise offers features similar to Tesla’s Autopilot, which can take over control of driving in highway settings, maintaining lane position and adapting speed based on surrounding traffic. The feature will be available on a limited basis, with access narrowed to “divided, limited-access highways” with “defined ‘on’ and ‘off’ ramps” according to The Verge. The system will also track driver head position using infrared cameras built into the steering wheel that will make sure they pay attention while the feature is engaged, and will alert them via a steering-wheel mounted light notification system, and audio alerts, if they stop.
automatic driving technology

GM has also incorporate a fail-safe measure that will stop the vehicle safely if a driver ends up not being able to respond to the alerts, a feature which Tesla also implements in its Autopilot software. Super Cruise can also be updated over-the-air, another similarity between it and Tesla’s offering.

However, unlike Autopilot, GM’s semi-autonomous highway driving features incorporate LiDAR data. Tesla has refrained from equipping its vehicles with the high-resolution laser detection tech, and GM isn’t putting LiDAR on consumer cars either. Cost of components and the aesthetics likely make this an unappealing way to go, but GM has an interesting workaround to both use LiDAR data and keep it off production vehicles: It’s deploying a fleet of LiDAR mapping cars that will image highways where Super Cruise is used and make that information available to the system over-the-air.

The option is a paid add-on, with a $2,500 upgrade price and a $3,100 additional requirement if you get a trim-model that doesn’t include a driver assist suite lumped into the existing price. Super Cruise finally getting on the road is definitely exciting, but this is also the year Elon Musk has said he’s aiming to field a first coast-to-coast test of Tesla’s full self-driving technology. In other words, we’re off to the autonomous races.

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Andy Whydell switches into self-driving mode upon approaching heavy traffic on Interstate 696 in Detroit. The black Opel Insignia he is driving is going 70 mph on its own; reacting smoothly when the traffic slows to stop-and-go mode.

As per Whydell; director of ZF-TRW’s electronics product planning, the Insignia is a showcase for the cameras, radar and software that ZF-TRW will supply to PSA Peugeot Citroen for a self-driving vehicle to be launched in 2018.

However, this represents more than meets the eye.

ZF-TRW along with a number of other major global suppliers are proposing to take automakers into automatic driving; not only by supplying customers with individual components of technology, but by getting the job done for them.

“We want to offer the full menu — or any piece of it — to our customers,” Whydell said. “Some will want to buy individual components, while others will want a complete system.”

A role for mega-suppliers

Mega-suppliers such as ZF-TRW, Continental AG and Delphi Automotive are advertising their services as one-stop shops considering that automakers are now planning to launch cars that can accelerate, brake and steer on their own.

As per Brian Loh, ZF-TRW’s vice president of active safety; smaller automakers and EV startups might let a mega-supplier lead them to the road of automatic driving, but big automakers such as Volkswagen, General Motors and Toyota have the money to develop and integrate the technologies themselves.

“As the investment [in self-driving vehicles] goes up,” Loh said, “it will be increasingly challenging for every customer to duplicate that investment on their own.”

Big suppliers don’t even produce everything for themselves. For example, ZF-TRW makes its own cameras and radar; its own software that controls acceleration, steering and braking, but the company uses Mobileye’s object recognition software. They have also formed a partnership with Ibeo Automotive Systems GmbH of Hamburg, Germany, to market a solid-state lidar by 2020 or 2021.

Room for startups

As per Jeremy Carlson, a senior analyst for consulting firm IHS Markit; this does not necessarily mean that mega-suppliers will dominate the market. Carlson states that even though large suppliers that can put together a vehicle’s sensors and software, may be attractive to automakers with less experience or resources of their own; that does not mean they will have the best technology.

“There is still ample opportunity for new business and promising new suppliers,” he said.

Carlson predicts more mergers and acquisitions as big suppliers fill gaps in their product portfolios. “Promising new technology that can’t be easily replicated will always attract suitors,” Carlson said.

That’s almost obvious considering ZF acquired TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. for $12.9 billion in 2015 mainly because of TRW’s portfolio of cameras, radar and collision-avoidance software.

More deals ahead?

In addition, ZF-TRW also took a 40 percent stake in Ibeo in order to obtain its lidar technology. A senior ZF executive also told Automotive News Europe in June that they might make more acquisitions. ZF-TRW can most definitely claim credibility as a one-stop shop for automatic vehicles.

Other than the PSA contract, ZF-TRW also makes anti-collision radar, cameras and software for MAN SE, the German maker of heavy trucks.

There may be more deals in the works, but Loh would not mention potential customers.

“It’s too early to discuss that right now,” he said. “To sum up, it’s the smaller automakers that you expect will get more benefit from it.”

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Where companies like Tesla, Google, and even Uber are racing at break neck speeds to be a leader in self driving automobiles, Ford is taking a slower pace. According to reports, the long standing US automotive companies could see its first self driving car in 10 years, versus 10 months but for good reason. Last month Ford CEO Mark Fields said that the company will put self driving vehicles into mass production in 2021 but only for “ride hailing duty”. Normal consumers will have to wait longer in order to be able to self park one of these new rides in their garages.

Why will it take so long? Mostly, this hesitation has a lot to do with the safety issues this new technology faces. There was already a reported death from the malfunctioning of Tesla’s new self driving electric car. With this comes many more questions regarding the fail-safes that should and hopefully will be put in place by automakers. Basically the greater level of automation implemented, the more time it will take for the human driver to get reengaged in actually driving the vehicle when the system needs that “human touch.”

The results may show Ford becoming a laggard in the marketplace of self driving cars but then again it allows the company to sit back and watch companies like Tesla become to test subjects for the formal roll-out of the eventual Ford Self-Driving Auto. For investors of Ford, they’re just going to have to sit back and wait, which may actually work out for the better considering the missteps already going on within the market via some of the other “early birds”.

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Google is not the first company to create autonomous vehicles. Tesla recently released their self driving vehicles, while Uber is testing ford vehicles in Pittsburgh. However Google is taking their cars one step forward, by giving the car the ability to honk. This tool will be useful during the transition period, when it is sharing the road with other human drivers. The cars already have sensors all over the vehicle which are designed to detect anything within two football fields distance no matter what direction.

This includes pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles. It could even include shopping bags or birds, anything moving. The software then processes the data to help the car safety drive throughout the roads without getting tired or distracted. However in the company’s latest May report, Google showed that it has been training cars to honk at absent minded or distracted humans that are driving around them. The cars will also honk differently depending on the situation.

“We’ve even taught our vehicles to use different types of honks depending on the situation,” the report reads. “If another vehicle is slowly reversing towards us, we might sound two short, quieter pips as a friendly heads up to let the driver know we’re behind. However, if there’s a situation that requires more urgency, we’ll use one loud sustained honk.”

However users cant simply flip a switch to allow the autonomous vehicle to start honking at people. Google reports that the car first simply honked the horn inside the cabin, so that test drivers could observe the situation in which it honked, and note whether the honk was appropriate to the discrepancy or not. Ironically, real drivers mostly honk at inappropriate times, such as when they’re angry. A polite, considerable beep from a nice autonomous vehicle will definitely be a good improvement to sound polluted cities such as New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago.

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More and more gadgets, from smart dash cams to head-up displays to Bluetooth-enabled diagnostics devices, are looking to tap your car’s built-in diagnostic (or OBD-II) port for power and data. The problem; this port really wasn’t built to be used like that. Primarily designed to be tapped occasionally to better explain that vague “Check Engine” light, it certainly wasn’t built to be connected to an always-attached device blasting out all sorts of different wireless protocols whenever the vehicle is on.

Example A: Researchers at Argus Security have found a flaw in a commercially available Bluetooth-enabled diagnostics device that let them turn off the vehicle’s engine while the car was moving, as long as they were within Bluetooth range. The device in question is the Bosch Drivelog Connect, a device meant to shed insight on your driving behaviors and send diagnostic information to a companion smartphone app via Bluetooth. To Bosch’s credit, the company began addressing the issue within a day of being alerted, and publicly acknowledged and outlined their fix for the issue here.

You might think, “Who cares? I’ve never even heard of that device.” It’s a fair stance, but one that assumes that this is the only device that has this sort of flaw. Similar flaws have been found in other devices. Meanwhile, more gadgets are tapping the OBD-II port than ever. It’s probably safe to assume that all the workings behind the scenes aren’t exactly flawless.

So do you need to go rip that shiny new dash cam or smart display out of your car? Probably not; but be mindful of the attack vector you’re introducing to the 4,000-pound metal box you’re cruising around in. It’s the owner’s responsibility to stay up to date on reports regarding the device’s security, and to keep the device itself up to date (a lot of these things are easy to set up and then completely forget).

More crucially, it’s up to the device makers to test their devices, hire external firms to try to crack them and patch bugs as quickly as they responsibly can. Consider building a “red alert” notice/mandatory update into apps for the worst stuff. If you’re interested in the specifics of the research on the aforementioned dongle, Argus has a deep breakdown of their methodology here, from disassembling the companion app, to poking holes in the device’s security, to actually shutting down one of their own vehicles while it was in motion.

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On Demand Driver Technology? Lincoln Chauffeur Service Will Make You Feel Like A VIP

Automobile company, Lincoln, is testing a new service for owners of its vehicles that supply a driver on demand technology. The service is like an upscale version of Uber’s technology, in which you supply the car, and Lincoln supplies a professional driver. This driver is actually a Lincoln employee, not a spot contractor, and will drive you around and return your car to your home, basically make you feel like a VIP.


The service will launch first in Miami and will let Lincoln owners order up a chauffeur via a smartphone app. The chauffeur will not only be able to drive you around, but will also return your car to your home in case others in the household need to use it, will fill it up if so required, and can even run light errands like picking up some groceries. Costs, as you might expect, are not cheap. During the pilot program, Lincoln Chauffeur will run around $30 per hour, which is actually not terrible compared to Uber until you remember you have to supply the car as well. On the plus side for Lincoln owners, they will get eight hours free of Chauffeur service included in the purchase price of their vehicle.

This is only a limited test at the moment, but Lincoln reported that it would like to expand the service to San Diego next, and then additional markets after that. It is likely a decent challenge to scale, since Lincoln’s actually employing the drivers it is using. Lincoln Chauffeur may be a bit of a departure from other mobility service offerings automakers are exploring, which include on-demand vehicle rentals and even white glove delivery of said cars to a renter’s door, but it still sounds like an interesting way to add value while driving new revenue sources in the luxury segment.

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technology robot

New Technology: Robot Pizza Delivery?

The pizza company joked about driverless delivery robot technology back in 2015. The food delivery robots are coming! Remember the “Domi-No-Driver” campaign? Domino’s has joined hands with Starship Technologies to begin using its “personal delivery devices” this summer in Hamburg, Germany. If all goes well there, Domino’s and Starship intend to bring robot pizza delivery to the Netherlands as well.

technology robot

Starship’s devices have the look of a self-driving food cart, rather than some science fiction humanoid. They travel on six wheels at an average speed of 4 miles per hour, and can carry just over 40 pounds. In Hamburg, the robots will deliver pizzas within a one-mile radius.

Starship is facing significant competition in the prospering market for “professional service robotics.” Competitors range from fellow startups like Marble to established players like Boston Dynamics. The International Federation for Robotics (IFR) forecasts that between 2016 and 2019, logistics businesses will have begun using at least 175,000 robots to provide their services. That compares to UPS’ global fleet of around 100,000 trucks today.

Launched by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis in 2014, Starship Technologies also recently inked food delivery partnerships with DoorDash and Postmates in the US. But Domino’s has yet to offer pizza delivery by robot here. Many retailers and restaurants are waiting to see how robot delivery tech shapes up, but also how the rules for using these devices are set in the US market. Virginia, and as of this week Idaho, allow delivery by robot today. Other states and federal US laws are still to be determined..

Domestically, Domino’s has offered other tech-enabled and entertaining ways to buy a pie, including by Tweeting a pizza emoji to @dominos, or requesting delivery from drivers of the Domino’s DXP “ultimate pizza delivery vehicle,” a modified Chevy Spark. In New Zealand, Domino’s has also begun delivery by drones in a partnership with Flirtey.

Indeed, tech has become an international marketing gimmick for Domino’s. But learning what works, and doesn’t, in the next wave of logistics tech could spell serious cost savings, and not just near-term buzz, for any major restaurant chain that delivers. After all, robots may need maintenance, but they don’t call in sick unexpectedly or hop between employers like the people they could displace.

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How Will Autonomous Vehicle Sharing Technology Affect Cities?

New research from Arcadis, HR&A Advisors and Sam Schwartz Consulting offers advice for city planners who are considering a future that includes autonomous vehicle technology, or AVs. McKinsey (who was not part of this particular study) says that by 2030, autonomous vehicles will account for 15% of auto sales worldwide. The study released recently, “Driverless Future: A Policy Roadmap for City Leaders,” estimates that nearly 8 million people in its three sample cities will choose an AV over a traditional vehicle in the next 15 to 20 years. Those three sample cities were Los Angeles, Dallas, and New York and were selected for the extent of their of density, walkability, and usage of public transportation.

technology ride sharing

The research compared the cost of car ownership to speculated AV ridesharing and AV ridesourcing, and determined when people in those cities were likely to make the move from commuting in their own car to hailing a self-driving car. However, the study’s authors also point out that in order for AV to work, it has to work for everyone. They suggest things like using open data and universal apps so riders can compare prices, travel times, and environmental impact across modes of transportation, and pay using one app. To that extent, the authors also remind cities to keep in mind that not everyone has equal access to technology. People who do not have cell phones or bank accounts need to be able to access the transportation network, including autonomous rideshare or ridesource vehicles, through Dial-a-Ride and smartcard payment options.

It is also worth taking in mind now, as this kind of technology and service is growing worldwide, how to fund accessible services. For example, the study notes that in New York City, there is a 30-cent fee per taxi ride that supports the city’s expansion of wheelchair-accessible transportation options. Ridesourcing services like Uber and Lyft don’t pay that fee. There are potential drawbacks to having fleets of AVs wandering city streets, and the study is aware of these concerns. Mass adoption of AVs could encourage sprawl and increase the number of miles cars travel, and the system could develop in a way that leaves behind anyone without a cell phone and a checking account. AVs also could decrease public transit revenues, which could affect public transportation.

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Technology For Automobile Cybersecurity Getting Beefed Up

A Technology focused on auto’s has been reintroduced by Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts called the Security and Privacy in Your Car (SPY Car) Act of 2017. The proposal was first introduced during the last session. The SPY Car Act places the responsibility for automotive cybersecurity and privacy standards on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The regulation would require critical software systems to be isolated from noncritical systems. And then those isolated systems should be tested for security.


It also addresses securing personal information, including all data “collected by the electronic systems that are built into motor vehicles,” against unauthorized access. If there is a hacking attempt, the SPY Car Act calls for all cars to be equipped with the ability to detect the breach, report it and stop it from taking over the vehicle or collecting driving data. If a manufacturer doesn’t include this capability, under the law it would be fined $5,000 per car that didn’t have security technology built in.

So far, the SPY Car Act seems like something we would expect to see. However, Senators Markey and Blumenthal take another step in requiring a “cyber dashboard.” This would tell the driver how far above and beyond the basic requirements a car company has gone to secure the onboard electronic systems via an “easy-to-understand, standardized graphic.” So some kind of scorecard would be placed where anyone could see it.

The SPY Car Act also requires that every vehicle give “clear and conspicuous notice” to the driver about what driving information is being collected, if it is being transmitted or saved, and how it’s being used. Once you know this, the law would require that manufacturers give you the right to opt out of data collection without interfering with your ability to use navigation tools. And that data can only be used for marketing to you if you choose to opt in. The SPY Car Act does exempt black-box-type data collection. That basic information is still useful in the event of a crash, or to check the emissions history of a vehicle.

Vehicle tracking specialists Satrak Plant Security polled 2,000 people in the U.K. recently and found that 40% of respondents said hacking was a “fairly serious” problem, which echoes other polls of consumers’ attitudes toward automotive cybersecurity. Now that NHTSA has created guidelines for autonomous vehicles, maybe it can build on its best practices guidelines if the SPY Car Act is passed.

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autonomous technology trucking

Will Semi-Truck Autonomous Technology Soon Take Over The Roads?

Autonomous trucking startup Embark is unveiling its technology for the first time, showing off a competitor for Uber’s Otto that uses neural networks and deep learning to teach trucks how to drive on their own through their own processes of trial and error and practice. Embark’s trucks are approved to test on Nevada roads. The company’s technology is capable of handling potential obstacles like a slow car occupying the lane in front, and pass on undivided highways. According to Embark co-founder and CEO Alex Rodrigues, it can handle fog, darkness, and glare having learned to do so on its own.
For the time being, the technology Embark has created is not designed to replace human drivers altogether.

autonomous technology trucking

Rather, its intentions are to take over control on long stretches of relatively boring and straightforward driving, while also passing control to human drivers when it enters complex driving scenarios like those found in cities. The company’s foundation was based on the fact that there’s presently a truck driver shortage, and its technology can help add to the number of routes a human driver can handle by decreasing their actual time spent actively driving. Even though driving is, across categories, a huge employment category in the country, it is also true that most overland freight providers are also looking to add to their organization of capable drivers.

Rodrigues’ team at Embark includes SpaceX alumni, as well as people from Audi’s autonomous team. The startup also has funding from Maven Ventures, which also backed Cruise, the self-driving company GM acquired for $1 billion to help jump-start its own autonomous vehicle development efforts. There’s no specific schedule of deployment of the autonomous truck, but the company is ramping its engineering hiring aggressively and hopes also to build out its group of testing vehicles for its Nevada trials. With Uber’s Otto facing strong legal challenges from Alphabet’s Waymo, now might be exactly the right time for a new self-drive trucking startup to roll out.

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