Drones

Switzerland’s mail service is preparing for a future of drone deliveries of packages

The “first US government-approved drone delivery has successfully transported 4.5 kg of medical supplies to a rural health clinic […] The test is being hailed as proof that drones can be useful in a delivery scenario.”

Meanwhile, drone permits are soaring as FAA develops rules for their usage. Numerous industries, including insurance, agriculture and logistics, are demonstrated an interest for the technology.

Switzerland’s mail service is preparing for a future of drone deliveries of packages.

Government planning

There are jurisdictions making 10, 15, 20 year plans without taking the impact of autonomous vehicle into consideration

Every week, several pieces are written about the impact of autonomous vehicles on government revenues. One of the obvious impacts is the reduction of revenue due to the use of law-abiding driverless vehicles (no infractions for drunk driving, speeding, …). What is surprising to us is that there are jurisdictions making 10, 15, 20 year plans without taking this impact into consideration.  One of the largest road infrastructure investments in North America, the Champlain Bridge / Turcot Interchange project, has never even considered the arrival of driverless vehicles in the coming decade despite the fact that the infrastructure is being built to last over 50 years.  Wise move ?

And then, there are the jurisdictions that set the pace for others to follow. As Helsinki pursues its plans to eliminate the need for personal vehicle ownership by 2020, it considers what it will do with the parking spaces allocated to cars today. We will devote an upcoming newsletter to exploring Helsinki’s plans with one of its key architects: ITS Finland’s Chief Executive, Sampo Hietanen.

Environment

The per-mile greenhouse gas emissions of an electric vehicle deployed as a self-driving, or autonomous taxi in 2030 would be 63 to 82% lower than a projected 2030 hybrid vehicle driven as a privately owned car…

Recent analyses from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concluded that “the per-mile greenhouse gas emissions of an electric vehicle deployed as a self-driving, or autonomous taxi in 2030 would be 63 to 82% lower than a projected 2030 hybrid vehicle driven as a privately owned car and 90% lower than a 2014 gasoline-powered private vehicle. Almost half of the savings are attributable to “right-sizing,” where the size of the taxi deployed is tailored to each trip’s occupancy needs.”  If only 5% of vehicles in US (800,000 units) in 2030, were converted to robo-taxis, it would save 7 million barrels of oil annually and reduce up to 2.4 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year. Imagine what the impact would be if they were EVs.

Insurance

The insurance industry’s perception of and preparation for the arrival of autonomous vehicles.

Over the last few weeks, numerous articles and blogs have been written on the insurance industry’s perception of and preparation for the arrival of autonomous vehicles.

While some insurers may be sleeping at the wheel, others are planning for the new mobility space. USAA, for example, has led the latest round of funding for Automatic Labs, a connected car technology company.

Numerous articles were focused on the recent “hacking” of a Jeep. Automakers from around the world have created the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership Consortium (CAMP) that has already invested 11 years researching and testing security approaches. This underlines the cyber insurance opportunity for insurers in the mobility space.  The cyber insurance market is expected to reach $10 billion by 2020. As a side note, the Canadian government announced $237 million in cybersecurity funding over the next 5 years.

Google’s intentions regarding Google Compare are unclear. While the company’s activities in the insurance space generate revenue, one can only speculate that

these activities are intended to provide insights that will eventually support Google’s driverless vehicle efforts.

According to a new poll from Forbes, almost 8 out of 10 drivers “affiliated with ridesharing companies like Uber or Lyft choose not to disclose their activities to their insurance agent or carrier”.  Could the same statistics apply in Canada?

After offering ridesharing coverage in Georgia, Virginia, Maryland and Texas earlier this year, GEICO is expanding its offering to Pennsylvania.

Munich Re and Comet have engaged in a feasibility study focused on autonomous vehicle data and market developments.

Trucking

There was more discussion over the last month surrounding Suncor’s use of driverless trucks in its Alberta operations. Unions are clearly upset

“Trucks of the future could someday cross the continent from Mexico to Canada along the north-south corridor of U.S. Interstate 83—without the hassles of passports, visas, or even a human hand on the wheel, according to a plan being pushed by the Central North American Trade Corridor Association.”

The proposed route would continue from Manitoba, through Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC to Alaska.

There was more discussion over the last month surrounding Suncor’s use of driverless trucks in its Alberta operations. Unions are clearly upset but it

should be noted that the 800 lost to autonomous trucks are just the beginning.

Car sharing

People are abandoning car ownership in favour of car sharing.

Some interesting statistics were announced over the last month. According to one source, every vehicle that enters the car sharing market full time replaces between 4 and 6 new car sales and delays up to 7 more.

According to BMW’s DriveNow car sharing service, 38% of clients “abandon ownership”. This is consistent with statistics provided by ZipCar: 2 in 5 corporate ZipCar members (people who join a car sharing program through an affiliation with an employer) sell or avoid buying a vehicle after joining ZipCar.

Another recent study undertaken in Germany found that “61% of customers had given up their own privately owned car since signing up for car sharing services. Rather than eroding public transport use, the study also showed that car sharing services fit seamlessly into established transport options.”

“British carmaker Mini has joined the rush to solve the problem of customers abandoning car ownership in favour of car sharing, launching a scheme that effectively offers buyers the chance to offset the purchase price by renting out their vehicles.”

As it redefines itself, Ford is not only piloting car-sharing projects in numerous cities around the world, but is also getting into electric bike sharing and car swapping. In fact, the company announced that its Peer-2-Peer car sharing pilot program for 14,000 Ford Credit customers would run in six US cities. Another 12,000 customers will be participating in an equivalent program in London, UK. Ford has also announced that it is taking its autonomous-driving research efforts to the next stage (from research to advanced engineering). In a recent speech, Jim Holland, Ford vice president-vehicle component and systems engineering, stated that as cities continue to grow “car sharing in the future may not strictly be a voluntary matter”.

Meanwhile, GM’s Opel announced that Opel CarUnity “will allow drivers to rent out their cars – say, to their Facebook friends – via a dedicated Opel app for smartphones and tablet computers”. Dan Ammann, GM’s President, discussed the situation of city dwellers who rarely use cars: “It’s the last thing you should do because you buy this asset, it depreciates fairly rapidly, you use it 3% of the time, and you pay a vast amount of money to park it for the other 97% of the time”. He added that GM was looking to deliver the freedom to travel on a “sharing model”. We’re glad that the auto manufacturers are coming to the same realization as their customers (or former customers).

Vancouver is considered to be the “car sharing capital of the world”. In fact, car2go is doubling its presence in the city to 1250 vehicles, making Vancouver home to the world’s largest car2go fleet. It would be fantastic if the City of Vancouver would invest in on-street charging infrastructure that would facilitate the integration of EVs in the city’s car sharing fleets. Given Vancouver’s “green” efforts and the renewable hydroelectric energy used to power EVs in BC, the installation of charging stations should be encouraged.

In LA, a pilot car-sharing program aims to keep thousands of citizens in “poor neighbourhoods from purchasing cars of their own by providing publicly available hybrid or electric cars instead”.

In the last month, Enterprise Holdings acquired Metavera, a Toronto-based company that provides sustainable transportation technologies to customers in more than a dozen countries. The company “offers a leading car sharing system for independent operators, as well as technology solutions for fleet management and peer-to-peer car sharing”. Note that Entreprise CarShare is available in 40 cities in Canada, the UK and the US.

In a sign that bus operators are feeling the pinch of car sharing competition, Spanish bus operators on calling on a ban of BlaBlaCar, Europe’s leading car sharing platform.

Ridesharing

Ridesharing now represents 11% of ground transportation used on business trips.

A recent study by the Global Business Travel Association revealed that while rental cars and taxis remain the most common forms of ground transportation used on business trips (36% and 24% respectively), ride sharing companies represent 11% of the market, just behind chauffeured transportation (13%).

Google’s Waze is testing a ridesharing service. Dubbed RideWith, the service will allow commuters to carpool and it’s starting the implementation in Israel. Should Uber be worried about the potential entry of what may be a formidable competitor?

In Ontario, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against Uber X, Uber XL on behalf of taxi and limo drivers, owners and brokers. Meanwhile, Alberta’s Superintendent of Insurance and the IBAO have warned Uber drivers to get more insurance.

The Waterloo region is the first one in Ontario to regulate ride sharing. “Under the new bylaw all Uber drivers would be required to have an auxiliary taxi driver licence, issued by the region. To be applicable for the licence, drivers would be required to have a GPS and a closed circuit television system installed in their vehicles, and commercial auto insurance policies for a minimum of $2 million.”

Positioning for competing in the new mobility ecosystem

Big moves in the mapping industry and Apple on the move.

Understanding the importance of maps to autonomous vehicle mobility, Uber acquired Bing Maps technology.

Audi, BMW and Daimler purchased Nokia’s mapping division, Here, for $3.1 billion US. This was a strategic acquisition as the auto manufacturers compete with Google and other tech giants for the mapping technology key to the commercialization of driverless vehicles. The auto manufacturers’ plan is to pool real-time data (example: information on icy roads). They insist Here will be run as an open platform to the benefit of all Here‘s customers.

Other reasons why the purchase of Here was important to the German automakers:

  • The auto OEMs can receive the licensing fees from major companies such as Amazon, Bing, Yahoo, Flickr, SAP, and Oracle that already rely on the Here mapping platform.
  • The deal will allow automakers to take control of user location data and monetize it through local advertising.
  • Mapping is essential to vehicle automation and it makes a whole lot of sense that automotive companies will want to have control of that information.
  • Shutting out Google and other mapping giants.

Delphi announced acquisitions (including automated-driving technology producer Ottomatika and Quanergy Systems, a company that develops light detection and ranging scanners enabling cars to locate objects and generate digital maps) enabling the company to better compete in the autonomous vehicle space.

TomTom and Bosch will be collaborating on the development of highly accurate maps for autonomous vehicles.

Recognizing the value of data and that future mobility will be controlled by data, car manufacturers are limiting the data they share with technology partners like Apple and Google.

In the last few weeks, we have witnessed more signs that Apple might be getting into the auto business. The tech giant has hired two individuals: Doug Betts (formerly Chrysler’s quality chief & SVP) and Paul Furgale (Swiss autonomous vehicle and robotics expert). Apple also hired a senior engineer Jamie Carlson from Tesla Motors, as part of Apple‘s effort to build a team of experts in automated driving. At least six others with experience developing self-driving technology and systems have joined Apple, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Further potential evidence: Apple boosted its R&D budget by $1.5 billion. In addition, Apple representative visit to a BMW factory have fuelled rumours of a possible partnership between the two companies. Further, The Guardian claims to have accessed documents indicating that Apple engineers from the company’s “secretive Special Project group met with officials from GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre former naval base near San Francisco that is being turned into a high-security testing ground for autonomous vehicles”. While no confirmation has been provided by Apple, the signs are indicating that the company is in fact working on the development of an electric, self-driving vehicle.

Microsoft has reportedly agreed to invest in Uber as part of a funding round that values the ride-hailing company at about $US51 billion.

Delphi Automotive bought Ottomatika, a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off that supplied software used to pilot the self-driving Audi across the US earlier this year.

The world’s largest automotive company by revenue is redefining its strategy regarding manufacturing and distribution of automobiles. Toyota believes the future of mobility for urbanites lies in covering distances between transit and destination (home / work). It therefore wants to rebrand itself as a public transport provider, not merely a vehicle manufacturer.

Hoping to grab a piece of the driverless car investment pie, Australia is gearing for autonomous vehicle trials. We learned that Audi could be preparing to test autonomous cars in this country. Meanwhile, in the UK, the government has released rules to get self-driving vehicles onto public roads.

In the US, a variety of stakeholders from numerous industries (including auto manufacturing, insurance and telecommunications) have come together to develop a “fake” city in Michigan for the testing of connected and driverless vehicle technology. Michigan is only one of the states looking to attract automakers and tech companies to undertake testing of driverless vehicles. Virginia, Florida, Nevada, Texas and California are but some of the states all vying for a piece of the R&D pie.

In the last month, it was revealed that Google set up Google Auto in 2011. The company is a licensed auto manufacturer. The company’s self-driving vehicle technology is being tested in Texas. Google sees several benefits to doing this, including testing in a new environment with new challenges, being exposed to viewpoints beyond those of Silicon Valley and a relaxed regulatory environment with no reporting requirements.

The CEO of SNCF, the French railway company that runs the high-speed TGV has stated that he wants the company to offer door-to-door mobility services: “We can’t just provide trains; we have to consider those last few miles people want to travel as well. So we want to offer bikes, electric cars, car sharing, carpooling, light rail systems.”

Also from France, Ségolène Royal, the Minister for Ecology, confirmed driverless vehicles would soon be tested on France’s roads and highways.

Photo: Here