Positioning for future mobility

What’s up with Apple, Nissan, GM, Honda, Tesla, Google and more

In this last month, Apple hired an artificial intelligence expert from Nvidia. Nvidia is a chipmaker that is best known for its graphics products used for computer games, but has recently been pushing into the world of autonomous vehicles. The new hire, Jonathan Cohen, was the director of deep learning for Nvidia. Moreover, in a recent interview, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, talked about “massive change” coming to the auto industry. While Apple is still not divulging anything about its interest in vehicular space, the news are increasingly indicating that Apple is interested in a driverless electric mobility solution.

Nissan will be debuting its self-driving electric vehicle concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show.

While Google’s representatives have publicly stated that their fully driverless vehicles will be ready in 2020, Larry Burns, former GM Chief Technology Officer now consulting on Google’s driverless car project, said that the technology could be ready as a early as 2018.

Tesla’s Elon Musk has is also talking about full autonomy within three years. The timelines appear to be shortening. Tesla has launched its Autopilot using a software update. The State of California categorizes Tesla’s new tools as NHTSA Level 2 technology, which according to a DMV spokesperson means “helping drivers make better decisions”.  To discourage drivers from relying too heavily on its technology, “Tesla’s Autopilot is supposed to beep after about 10 seconds of hands-free driving to nudge drivers to grab the wheel again, and after being ignored it can sound louder warnings and turn the radio off”.  However, as has been witnessed by several videos posted on YouTube, not all Tesla drivers are heeding the advice of being in control of their vehicle.  And, therein, lies much of the problem with some of the autonomous upgrades to be released over the next few years. These systems due in the next few years are designed to take the grind out of the daily commute. But safety experts are concerned it will tempt some drivers to be distracted or check their phones. Insurers beware!

Delphi and Quanergy are teaming up to develop a low-cost (less than $1,000 US) LIDAR.

GM is declaring itself a leader in the autonomous vehicle technology space. Cadillac’s Super Cruise, the feature that launches next year, will allow drivers to remove their hands from the steering wheel and their feet from the pedals. CEO Barra disclosed that the company is working on a “creative” method for keeping the driver engaged in what the car’s doing in autonomous mode. No details provided.

Honda has announced it will put a “self-drive car on the road by 2020”. However, given the position of most automakers, it is likely that this vehicle will not be fully autonomous. In fact, Honda and General Motors are reportedly working together to develop driverless vehicle technology.

Also this last month, a task force, Securing American’s Future Energy (SAFE), was created to advocate for autonomous vehicles.  Members of the new task force include Larry Burns, advisor to Google, and Lynn Liddle, Executive Vice President at Domino’s Pizza.

Peugeot Citroen has begun trials of their driverless vehicle technology.

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

Google’s omnipresence

This month, Google announced the creation of Sidewalk Labs.

This month, Google announced the creation of Sidewalk Labs, a company that will focus on improving city living by “developing new technologies to deal with urban issues like cost of living, transportation, and energy usage”. The company will be headed by Dan Doctoroff, former NY Deputy Mayor of Economic Development and Bloomberg CEO. The combination of the self-driving vehicle, Google maps, the company’s involvement in insurance and the individual online data that Google possesses makes us wonder how Sidewalk Labs will position itself in the urban mobility arena.
Photo : turtix / Shutterstock.com

The Google | Uber “rift”?

Also over the last few weeks, much discussion focused on what was described as a “rift” between Google and Uber.

Also over the last few weeks, much discussion focused on what was described as a “rift” between Google and Uber. The latter’s decision to invest in driverless technology by investing in robotics research at Carnegie Mellon University and the former’s launch of a ride sharing app for its employees may have resulted in a “crack” of what appeared to be a great relationship with Google being an important investor in Uber and Uber looking to driverless technology to power the mobility service of tomorrow.

Photo :MAHATHIR MOHD YASIN / Shutterstock.com

Which auto OEM will partner with Google?

Google has begun discussions with most of the top auto manufacturers

Last year, Google’s Chris Urmson indicated that the Silicon Valley giant was seeking auto industry partners “to bring its vision of a self-driving car to market within the next five years”. And now, we read that Google has begun discussions with most of the top auto manufacturers (including GM, Ford, Toyota, Daimler and Volkswagen) for such an “alliance”. In fact, just a few days ago, GM’s Chief Technology Officer was quoted as saying “we’d certainly be open to having a discussion with them”. Such a “partnership” would have numerous benefits for both Google and the auto OEM but control over the technology is just one of the big issues that will need to be ironed out. Another is the vision of autonomy. While Google’s objective is to deliver a fully driverless (Level 4 autonomy) vehicle to consumers, many of the auto manufacturers (for obvious and self-serving reasons) would prefer to keep the driver in the loop (Level 3 autonomy). If a deal is struck, it could certainly help in meeting the 2020 driverless vehicle commercialization objective that many players have been referring to.

Speaking at the Detroit auto show, Chris Urmson stated that he does not believe that NHTSA will stand in Google’s way and that the company’s outlook for fielding a fully driverless car on public roads is probably 5 years – but that’s the forecast for sunny California. When can we expect to see these vehicles in Canada and other nordic climates?

Google & auto insurance

Google, which already offers auto insurance online the the UK, could soon be selling auto insurance in the US.

Google, which already offers auto insurance online the the UK, could soon be selling auto insurance in the US. Rumours have spread about the company purchasing CoverHound Insurance. If this foray into US auto insurance materializes, will Google limit itself to auto insurance or expand into home and …?

The drones are coming!

The commercial use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles is going to literally take off.

The commercial use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles is going to literally take off. The US FAA has allocated over $60 Billion to modernize the country’s air traffic control systems and expand airspace to accommodate the commercial use of these aircraft. Congress has mandated the FAA to come up with regulations in 2015. From Amazon and Google to Dominos Pizza, the interest in this technology is huge (decrease delivery speed and decrease costs: how do you compete with that?). In fact, it is estimated that drones will produce approximately $90 Billion in economic activity between 2015 and 2025, creating about 100,000 jobs. To expedite the process of commercial introduction of these vehicles and shape the commercial regulatory environment, Amazon, Google and others formed a UAV coalition to lobby Washington.

The insurance industry is likely to be a user of such technology – both for claims adjusting and underwriting of certain risks. In fact, USAA, one of the largest insurance companies in the US, petitioned the FAA on October 2nd for permission to use drone aircraft as a way to speed up claim processing. In addition, insurance coverage of drones represents another revenue source for insurers.