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

Jurisdictions demonstrating an interest in driverless technology

More and more jurisdictions are demonstrating interest in opening up their roads and highways for the testing of driverless vehicle technology.

More and more jurisdictions are demonstrating interest in opening up their roads and highways for the testing of driverless vehicle technology. A change of regulations permitting such testing is often a first step towards attracting R&D investments.

Iowa could soon see the first autonomous vehicle only road in the state that would be used as a real-time transit only movement.

Nevada’s Governor wants “transportation officials to consider adding support for self-driving cars as part of a multimillion dollar highway improvement project in Las Vegas”.

Virginia is opening up over 70 miles for autonomous vehicles to test their real-world skills. The Virginia Automated Corridors (combination of highways, arterial roads, and urban streets) represent a microcosm of the conditions SDCs “will face once broad-scale deployment takes place, tapping into HD maps from HERE and vehicle-to-vehicle communication tech.”

New Zealand Transport Minister has discussed the potential for his country’s roads to be used to test driverless vehicles and according to an article in the New Zealand Herald, “Google’s California staff have expressed an interest in testing driverless cars in New Zealand”.

In China, manufacturers and suppliers are “being told to step up their game in the race towards autonomous vehicles”.

Insurance industry preparedness

A report published this month concludes that insurers are unprepared for autonomous vehicles.

An increasing number of articles and blogs dealing with the implications of driverless vehicle technology on the insurance industry are appearing in newspapers, speciality journals, blogs, etc.

A report published this month concludes that insurers are unprepared for autonomous vehicles. “KPMG found scepticism about the potential transformation autonomous vehicles will bring in the near-term because most insurers believe the changes are 10 years away, or more.”

Despite this scepticism, it is becoming increasingly clear that the combination of new technology, new players and new risks will transform the insurance industry over the course of the next two decades.

Join Catherine Kargas and the Insurance-Canada.ca team at the Executive Forum on August 31st in Toronto as leaders from the regulatory, political and technology spaces join insurance industry executives to assess the implications of autonomous vehicle technology on the industry.

Silicon Valley vs auto OEM autonomous visions

As we have stated time and again, the vision of autonomy of most auto manufacturers is not the same as that adopted by Silicon Valley’s stakeholders.

As we have stated time and again, the vision of autonomy of most auto manufacturers is not the same as that adopted by Silicon Valley’s stakeholders. Google, Uber and others are working on achieving NHTSA Level 4 autonomy while the auto OEMs are generally happy to have semi-autonomous features on vehicles ensuring the current business model is not threatened (As a side note: more studies undertaken in the field conclude that self-driving vehicles could drastically reduce vehicle ownership while others are suggesting that self-driving taxibots could replace 9 out of 10 cars).

Over the last few weeks, we saw increasing evidence of the two visions. Hyundai, for example, will invest US$1.8 Billion in driverless technologies by 2018 and will introduce its semi-autonomous Equus this year. The vehicle will allow owners “to take their hands off the steering wheel and feet off the brakes as they’re traveling down the highway, and let their car do the driving”.  The company plans for fully self-driving vehicles in 2030.

Carlos Ghosn’s (Nissan Renault) perspectives have been discussed in previous newsletters: fully autonomous drive is at least a decade away. The company has re-emphasized its commitment to be ready with what have been described as NHTSA Level 3 autonomous vehicles by 2020.

Rapid cost reductions and performance improvements in battery and electronic technologies are changing the electromobility landscape and potential: a European view

The rapid development we have seen in the last years in the area of electric and autonomous vehicles is strongly linked to the rapid pace of innovations in ICT (in-circuit tests) and electronics.

In the last few years, alternative vehicle technologies have shown an exponential growth in sales and maturity with a significant decrease in cost. This is especially the case for electric vehicles and their components (batteries, fuel cells, range extenders or plug-in hybrids). These trends also apply to the development of autonomous vehicles.

The rapid development we have seen in the last years in the area of electric and autonomous vehicles is strongly linked to the rapid pace of innovations in ICT (in-circuit tests) and electronics. The improvement in (lithium) battery capacity has been an important factor for the emergence of electric vehicles. Autonomous vehicles were hardly on policymakers’ and most other stakeholders’ radar a few years ago but now they seem to offer great possibilities in the medium and even in the short term. This brings incredible opportunities in terms of city development and vehicle use. For example, we could soon have vehicles on demand, autonomous parking and charging, efficient delivery vehicle and car sharing plans just to list a few. Autonomous technology has the potential to drastically reduce the number of car accidents (Volvo has clearly made statements to that effect and 2020 is their target year). This in turn impacts the way we will design, use and safety test vehicles. Electric autonomous cars will be completely different products than the current ICE vehicles (to name the two extremes) with different supply chains and all this will probably occur within the next decade. The European Union needs to be prepared for these scenarios as they will impact consumers, employment, industry and society as a whole (an update of the WP for Transport should include this).

It is often stated that the electric vehicle market is stagnant. In 2014, about 95.000 EVs were sold in the EU-EFTA (European Union and Economic Free Trade Association) region, bringing the total to 200.000 EVs on the road. The growth rate was 50% overall and 70% for the pure electric vehicles. Although the market share for EVs in 2014 was still below 1%, the growth rate is very high. If this growth rate is sustained, by 2025, all passenger cars in the EU-EFTA region would be electric. In Norway, the market penetration at this moment is above 20% and in one region even an incredible 40%. However, electric vehicles are still too expensive and incentives are still needed. Furthermore, more EV car models are required as many segments do not have electric alternatives. It should be realized that the market is in its very early stages and that the current EV buyers are still the early adopters. Several OEMs state that EV customer satisfaction is the highest they have seen for any of their products.Estimates_0f_costs

EV battery costs are projected to go down from € 1,000 per kWh in 2010 to € 200 per kWh in 2020. And even this figure is now being challenged. A recent academic study comparing 80 different cost estimates with actual prices has demonstrated that past projections on battery price reductions have all been too pessimistic and the actual cost reduction is faster than predicted (ref 1). On top of this, due to the light weight and better performances of electric vehicles less kWh per km are needed. For example, Bosch has stated that by 2020 45% less kWh per km will be required than in 2010. The USA EV Everywhere Program has similar projections. The cost of EV technology is being reduced at a much faster rate than projected. At the same time the range of EVs is improving, with several models having a range exceeding 300km coming on the market in the USA in 2016 and 2017 at prices around $35.000 (the GM Bolt, the Tesla model 3 and, possibly, the Nissan LEAF). EVs are already cost competitive with ICE vehicles in many instances and AVERE projects that within the next 5 to 10 years EVs this will be the case most of the time, making EVs the vehicle of choice. To illustrate the silent revolution which has taken place since the conception of the WP for Transport, in 2010 there were about 1,000 EVs on the road in the EU+EFTA region with the Think and the Mitsubishi i-Miev as top sellers. In 2014, the number of EVs on the road has risen to 200.000 with top sellers being the Nissan LEAF (second generation), Tesla Model S and the BMW i3. Electric cars use 1/3 of the energy of ICE vehicles and are a perfect fit for the electric renewable energy sector since this will create a zero emission transport sector. No other technology can beat this today.

China is giving high priority to the development and deployment of electric vehicles and may already have the technological advantage. We have a tendency to downplay technological developments in China until it is too late. AVERE believes that it is important that the EU looks into a scenario whereby China opts massively for the manufacturing and use of EVs and would therefore threaten European car exports. Furthermore, the EU also has to consider the fact that electric buses and light vehicles will probably become competitive within 5 years. The problem is that Europe is doing trials with a few buses while China is already putting thousands of buses on the road (BYD, IDTech).

Special contribution from:
Bert Witkamp
Secretary General, AVERE
European Association for Battery, Hybrid and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles

Ref 1: Rapidly falling costs of battery packs for electric vehicles, Björn Nykvist1* and Måns Nilsson1,2

1 Stockholm Environment Institute, Sweden. 

2 KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.

Will Canada pass on this unique opportunity?

Canadian stakeholders must act soon as global automakers are unlikely to develop autonomous vehicles for our relatively small market given the challenges our climate represents.

Cugnot’s Fardier and the “Jamais Contente” have each made their mark on the history of the automobile industry by becoming respectively the first combustion engine vehicle in 1771 and the first electric vehicle to exceed 100 km/h in 1899.

A new era and a different paradigm: automobile manufacturers having pushed sales using “the driving experience” for several decades, are they now trying to create a demand for the “self-drive” experience?  The driving experience is about to become secondary with the latest technological advancements. Autonomous vehicles (AV) are undeniably among us!

The Google car and the Mercedes-Benz F015, to name a few, are two “autonomous” vehicles authorized to operate on public roads in several American states. Several projects have started or will be started in Europe. CityMobil 2 in which electrical autonomous low speed shuttles are tested in La Rochelle, in France; also, the city of Milton Keynes, in England, will be experimenting with low-speed electric pods. The number sites and projects are multiplying and several countries, states and municipalities wish to become leaders in this field.

In Canada, no project of remotely similar ambition has been concretely defined. With its Nordic climate and its proximity to the United States, Canada is the ideal testing ground for the harshest conditions this technology must be able to face. Several aspects are already being addressed (including regulations and insurance). However, the main challenge for Canadians, is to ensure this technology is as efficient in winter conditions as it is the almost ideal conditions where trials are currently generally conducted. We must act now to ensure that these advanced technology vehicles are technically capable of circulating in Canada in coming years and that this country’s citizens can profit from the benefits of this technology.

In several applications, AVs effectively replace traditional transportation systems such as buses or light rail as they are less expensive to operate and allow greater flexibility. The pods that have been operating on a guided roadway at Heathrow airport since 2011, are an early example of driverless technology. Since then, numerous autonomous electrical low speed shuttles have been introduced including the Navya (Induct) and the EZ 10 (Ligier group). These vehicles have not been used in extreme climatic conditions and, if they are to be used in Canada, they need to be proven.  Canadian businesses need to be involved in testing this technology and the challenges it presents.

Today, we have difficulty establishing a standardized system for electrical vehicle charging (Tesla, CHAdeMo, SAE.). How will we harmonize decisions with respect to driverless vehicles? Are decision-making algorithms infallible? In what conditions should we be using driverless vehicles? What impact will winter climatic conditions have on the navigation system? Only by real-world testing will we have concrete answers to these questions.

Canadian stakeholders must act soon as global automakers are unlikely to develop autonomous vehicles for our relatively small market given the challenges our climate represents.  Canada has a lot to offer: our expertise in robotics, optics and advanced engineering can contribute significantly to the development of this technology.

We need testing grounds or geographic areas where pilot projects can be undertaken, where vehicles can be tested. We need to encourage those involved in the development of this technology globally to undertake their winter and year-round testing here, attracting research and development activity, ensuring knowledge transfer to our engineers and software developers and setting the groundwork for tomorrow. Will Canada pass on this unique opportunity?

Photo : Shutterstock Filipe Frazao

Incentivizing the uptake of autonomy

Could this be the way that penetration will be increased?

Surveys and studies undertaken in recent months have focused on the interest in and potential uptake of autonomous vehicles. At the Institute of Car Fleet Management’s annual conference, that took place at the end of last year, delegates were told that the government “should incentivize the uptake of autonomous vehicle technology in the same way it subsidizes ultra-low emission vehicles”. Given the environmental and safety benefits of this technology, could this be the way that penetration will be increased?