A good article in the MIT Technology Review discusses the issues faced by carmakers struggling to make regular cars secure against hacks and how self-driving technology will be accompanied by new problems.
According to recent reports, trucking companies are preparing to invest in driverless technology which could cut costs by nearly half and improve safety. The trucking company Toll Group has already kitted out many of its 3,000 vehicles with semi-autonomous gadgetry like lane-change sensors and cruise control. Toll and other trucking firms are flying to the Netherlands in April to watch a driverless truck trial. The country wants autonomous road trains sending cargo from Rotterdam, Europe’s biggest port, throughout the continent by 2019. Early efforts in the field are focused on ‘platooning’, where trucks cut wind resistance and lower fuel costs by travelling in close procession. A manned front vehicle controls gas and brakes for the others using radio signals. Other benefits can also be attained from going fully driverless. Removing driver compartments will allow for more cargo space and the elimination of air conditioning units. There will also be no need for rest stops, meaning trucks can continue driving until they reach their destinations. The cuts in wage and fuel bills could be very significant. The US road freight business alone was worth $700bn (£489bn) in 2014, according to the American Trucking Associations.
Amazon.com is now eyeing the high seas in its pursuit to handle more of the logistics of package delivery. The move speaks to the company’s broader ambitions to take the reins of shipping and delivery from traditional players. It is rolling out its own branded semi-trucks, considering leasing cargo planes, and experimenting with drones to get packages to customers quickly and inexpensively.
Today, a hodge-podge of companies are duking it out for the highly fragmented $160 billion business of arranging cargo shipments, meaning Amazon could potentially pick up market share quickly. As a result, a host of startups are also trying to modernize freight forwarding, and have picked up Silicon Valley venture-capital backing. Those startups include Flexport, which in August landed a $20 million funding round.
11 major insurers have formed a group in the UK to discuss the industry response to the onset of autonomous driving and represent the industry. Aviva, Axa, LV, Zurich Direct Line and Admiral are among the 11 insurers.
In Canada, Aviva announced that it will be offering ride-sharing car insurance, starting with the Ontario market. Product highlights:
- Coverage available for drivers spending up to 20 hours a week participating in ride-sharing
- Cost for coverage will be calculated by driving record, time spent ride-sharing
- Inexpensive – it will amount to a fraction of the income drivers earn through ride-sharing
- Maximum of 8 passengers
- Driver is licensed a minimum of 6 years
- No other commercial usage
News coming out of the UK reveal that the first driverless cars that will be tested on the streets of London will resemble the electric passenger shuttles currently being used at Heathrow Airport. The vehicles will be the result of three British organizations coming together: Westfield Sportscar, Heathrow Enterprise and Oxbotica.
Driverless electric shuttle buses will begin testing in The Netherlands in the coming days. These low-speed buses (without a steering wheel) will be used in mixed traffic.
For all those jurisdictions soliciting Google for a piece of the driverless testing pie, some news over the last few days. It appears as though, in addition to testing in Silicon Valley and Austin, TX, Google has selected four more sites for testing in the US. It seems likely that Ann Arbor, MI will be one of these four sites. In addition, it looks like Google is looking at testing its vehicles in the Nordic climate conditions of Austria. Autocluster AC Styria has apparently signed a letter of intent with Google.
Also testing in snowy winter conditions is Ford. The company is reportedly testing its driverless technology in Michigan.
Nevada has granted Kia and Hyundai permission to gest driverless vehicles on the state’s roads.
In an industry first, Tesla Motors announced that it has equipped many of its cars with the ability to park themselves — as the driver stands outside. To move down the driverless path, Tesla will reportedly hire 4,500 employees for its autonomous driving work. Elon Musk is confident that Tesla will have fully autonomous vehicles by 2017.
Driverless delivery vehicles will be trialled in London as soon as 2017.
The Tennessee General Assembly has introduced a bill creating a per mile tax structure for autonomous vehicles. That’s already further ahead than most jurisdictions.
And in the Canadian landscape, the Mayor of Saskatoon, Don Atchison, stresses the need for his city to plan for autonomous vehicles. Nice thinking Mr. Atchison!
Planning will be required to minimize the potential negative impacts associated with fully autonomous vehicles, including increased vehicle km travelled.
After the Government of Ontario introduced regulations allowing for the testing of driverless vehicles on the province’s roads and highways, cities like Windsor and Stratford are rightly demonstrating an interest in becoming host sites. These municipalities understand the economic benefits that accompany such testing.
In addition to M-City, the State of Michigan is developing a 330-Acre autonomous vehicle test site.
And the big news of the last few weeks came from US Transportation Secretary Foxx who announced that the Obama administration is proposing to spend nearly $4 billion in a decade to accelerate the acceptance of driverless cars on U.S. roads. Some highlights:
- 10-year, $4 billion push to spark the development of self-driving cars
- unified national regulations on self-driving cars
- work with state governments and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators within six months to develop cohesive state regulations for autonomous vehicles.
The announcement by Transportation Secretary Foxx was well received by developers of driverless technology, particularly after the draft deployment regulations released on December 16th, 2015 by the California DMV. The Department is currently holding consultations before it finalizes these regulations.
The city of Los Angeles and Xerox announced a new pilot project that roles public and private transportation options into one custom mobile app for the city, Go LA. Users of the free app will be able first to select what kind of transportation options they’re interested in (Motorcycles? The ridesharing company du jour? Whatever’s around?), then sort the results by what’s fastest, cheapest or greenest. Xerox, which is footing the bill for the initial pilot, also hopes to roll out payment and scheduling capabilities.
GM announced the creation of product team for autonomous vehicles and technology.
A new report reveals that a driverless taxi program is already underway in Seoul, South Korea, and has been driving students in a campus for six months with absolutely no accidents.
Ford announced that it is tripling its fleet of autonomous vehicles in 2016, upping its total to 30 test vehicles on the road. It is also announcing a novel integration with Amazon: Ford’s in-car software will soon connect with connected-home devices, especially its Amazon Echo.
More collaborations have been announced. Here are some:
- Volvo Cars and Ericsson are developing intelligent media streaming for self-driving cars.
- Samsung is reportedly teaming up with BMW to develop the brains of the self-driving vehicle. In December 2015, Samsung announced that it set up a new team to target the car market. The company has been eyeing the fast-growing market for automotive components, software and services, estimated to be worth about $500 billion.
- The Chinese company Baidu is reportedly ramping up efforts to develop its autonomous vehicle unit in a bid to compete with other tech giants. As part of its efforts, it is partnering with BYD, the Chinese vehicle manufacturer.
- Ford announced a collaboration with QNX, hoping to create an industry standard for integrating smartphone apps into cars. The two companies will work together to help drivers stay connected while keeping their eyes on the road. Hmmm …doesn’t sound to safe to us. Despite the fact that Blackberry (through QNX) has been in the autonomous vehicle space for a number of years, it appears that this technology will become a greater focus of the company’s efforts.
- And, by the way, the much-rumoured driverless partnership between Google and Ford never came to fruition.
In India, Tata plans to launch the country’s first indigenous driverless vehicle.
And with news that was to be expected, Google will reportedly be making its self-driving car unit an Alphabet Company in 2016.
Given new vehicular technologies’ potential to have important environmental impacts, the US Environmental Protection Agency is pondering post-2025 regulations. The Agency is considering incorporating additional factors such as electricity sources, autonomous technologies, connectivity, car-sharing and mobility services and other emerging transportation trends into its thinking.
When Stuttgart asks commuters to leave their cars at home, you know something’s changing. In an effort to decrease pollution levels, Germany’s “car city” (headquarters of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche), residents are being encouraged to use public transport and take part in car-sharing initiatives. The current ban is voluntary, but city officials have said that there may be a fine for non-compliance in the future if air pollution is not reduced.
If you are in the medical transportation field, look out! The partnership between Lyft and medical company MedTrans has the potential to be a huge industry for ridesharing organizations. In the US alone, it is a $3 billion per year business.