autonomous cars

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GM to launch autonomous ride-share vehicles

General Motors, GM has announced they are set to launch commercial autonomous ride-share vehicles at scale within two years.

This is all down to GM wanting to reduce the costs of self-driving technologies and move into service-based operations such as ride sharing.

The automaker expects to deploy the fleets in “dense urban areas” by 2019, GM President Dan Ammann said during an investor event Thursday in San Francisco.

Revenue from the fleets, he said, is forecast to be in the billions soon after launch.

The comments during the investor event are the first public confirmations that GM plans to enter ride-sharing against Uber and Lyft, which the automaker invested $500 million in last year.

GM did not specify where the fleets will launch.

The company is currently testing a third-generation of self-driving vehicles in several states in the United States and has plans to begin testing in New York City next year.

Ammann said GM expects to the cost-per-mile of its autonomous ride-sharing vehicles under $1 by 2025 — a key, he said, to achieving profitable scale. 

“We see a pretty clear path on how we can do that,” he told investors, citing GM’s plans for “Rideshare 2.0” with autonomous vehicles that don’t require paying drivers a majority of their revenue.


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Volvo to supply autonomous vehicles to Uber

Volvo Cars and Uber join forces to develop autonomous driving cars

Volvo has signed a non-exclusive agreement with Uber to sell tens of thousands of vehicles with autonomous driving capabilities.

“We’re thrilled to expand our partnership with Volvo,” said Jeff Miller, Uber’s head of auto alliances.

“This new agreement puts us on a path towards mass produced self-driving vehicles at scale.”

The vehicles are developed with Volvo’s fully modular, in-house developed Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). SPA is one of the most advanced car architectures in the world. It is currently being used on Volvo’s 90 series cars and the new XC60 midsized SUV.

The agreement enables a strategic partnership between both parties and marks a chapter in the merging of Silicon Valley-based technology companies and international car makers.

“The automotive industry is being disrupted by technology and Volvo chooses to be an active part of that disruption,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive.

“Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for AD ride-sharing service providers globally. Today’s agreement with Uber is a primary example of that strategic direction.”

By working together Volvo and Uber’s engineering teams have developed the XC90 SUV, which incorporated all necessary safety, redundancy and core autonomous driving technologies.

The autonomous cars are to be sold between 2019 and 2021.

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On-road tests next step for self-driving car

Jaguar Land Rover is taking part in the UK’s first road tests for autonomous and connected vehicles, bringing an intelligent vehicle one step closer to reality.

The NZ$38 million UK Autodrive project entails testing a range of technologies that will allow for communication between cars as well as roadside infrastructure.

The trials will demonstrate how connected and autonomous vehicles can replicate human behaviour and reactions when driving.

The company’s overall vision is to make the self-driving car viable in the widest range of real-life, on and off-road driving environments and weather.

Nick Rogers, Executive Director of Product Engineering at Jaguar Land Rover, commented, “Testing this self-driving project on public roads is so exciting, as the complexity of the environment allows us to find robust ways to increase road safety in the future. By using inputs from multiple sensors, and finding intelligent ways to process this data, we are gaining accurate technical insight to pioneer the automotive application of these technologies.”

There are currently 12 other cities, apart from Conventry that are conducting tests on public roads globally.

UK Autodrive is the largest of the three associations launched in order to support the introduction of autonomous vehicles into the UK. The consortium has already proven these research technologies in a closed track environment and the start of real-world testing is the next step to turning the research into reality.

The trials will carry on into 2018.


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GM challenges Tesla

General Motors Co plans to launch a series of electric vehicles in 2021 that will cost less to develop and build, and will furthermore, make a profit for the U.S. No. 1 automaker, Chief Executive Mary Barra told investors earlier this week.

Mary Barra at the 2017 GM Annual Stockholders Meeting

Her plans demonstrate an aggressive electrification strategy and direct challenge to electric vehicle specialist Tesla Inc, which is struggling to get its more affordable Model 3 launched.

“We are committed to a future electric vehicle portfolio that will be profitable,” Barra said at the Barclays Global Automotive Conference in New York.

Electric and autonomous vehicles will underpin the future of transport; however, Tesla and other manufacturers are still trying to understand how to gain a profit from them.

GM is looking to break through this by creating an all-new electric vehicle family that will accommodate multiple sizes and variations, to be sold by different GM brands in the United States and China, Barra said.

GM’s cost reduction efforts on electric vehicles revolve around the creation of a cheaper new battery system.

By 2021 the company aims to make its lithium-ion batteries less than $100 per kilowatt-hour, instead of the current $145 per kilowatt-hour battery. This would bring the overall cost of electric vehicles closer to gasoline-engine equivalents.

GM announced that the batteries would be able to hold more energy and charge quicker. With the aim to boost the kilometre range to more than 483 km with the new batteries.

GM’s new electric vehicle platform will act as a base for at least nine derivatives, ranging from a compact crossover to a large seven-passenger luxury sports utility vehicle and a large commercial van.

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Fiat-Chrysler, BMW and Intel collaboration announced

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, BMW Group and the Intel Corporation have reached an agreement to work together to develop self-driving vehicle technology.

In July of 2016, BMW Group and Intel announced they were partnering to develop self-driving technologies, and yesterday the group announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding to collaborate with Fiat Chrysler.

“In order to advance autonomous driving technology, it is vital to form partnerships among automakers, technology providers and suppliers,” said Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. “Joining this cooperation will enable [Fiat Chrysler] to directly benefit from the synergies and economies of scale that are possible when companies come together with a common vision and objective.”

The group hopes to bring new technologies that enable highly automated and fully automated driving by 2021. In a statement released yesterday, the group announced that they are on-track to deploy 40 autonomous test vehicles on the road by the end of 2017.

Waymo’s pilot vehicle, based on Fiat’s Pacifica minivan.

Professor Amnon Shashua, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer of Mobileye, an Intel Company says that the combination of Intel’s vision sensing and mapping technologies with the industry knowledge of BMW and Fiat Chrysler will bring cost efficient safety and versatility, across varied settings.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles also signed a separate agreement with Google’s parent company Alphabet last year, and the two companies have launched a trial under the Waymo brand in the United States. Waymo has developed a self-driving car based on Fiat’s Pacifica minivan. The passenger vehicle is a likely attempt to produce a self-driving ride hailing service, the market for which could be worth $2 trillion by 2030, Reuters reports.

Fiat Chrysler New Zealand is a relatively new player in the NZ vehicle market. Established in May 2013 and owned by local distribution company Ateco Automotive, who also distributes vehicles in Australia and South Africa.

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Tesla driver says Autopilot didn’t cause crash

The driver of a Tesla vehicle involved in a crash in the US over the weekend said it was not due to the Autopilot system, according to an email released by Tesla on Monday.

A local Minnesota Sheriff’s Department said on Sunday that the driver of the 2016 Tesla told authorities when he engaged the Autopilot system, it caused the vehicle to suddenly accelerate and roll over, which resulted in minor injuries for himself and four passengers.

Shares in the car maker fell on Monday at the news, but the driver wrote in an email he believed he had disengaged the Autopilot system at the time of the crash.

“I did not intend to put the blame Tesla or the auto pilot system as I am aware that I need to be in control of the vehicle regardless if the auto pilot system is engaged or not,” Clark wrote.

In a statement, Tesla said the company had no reason to suspect the system was at fault.

“Every time a driver engages Autopilot, they are reminded of their responsibility to remain engaged and to be prepared to take immediate action at all times, and drivers must acknowledge their responsibility to do so before Autopilot is enabled,” the car maker added.

It’s not the first time Tesla’s Autopilot function has been involved in an on-road incident. Last year, Joshua Brown was killed in Florida when his Model S collided with a truck while engaged in Autopilot mode.

In January, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it found no evidence of defects with the Autopilot system.

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Apple confirms plans for self-driving cars

An artist impression of an Apple AV

Apple is developing a self-driving car system, CEO Tim Cook has confirmed.

Cook told Bloomberg the technology corporation was concentrating its efforts on self-driving technology, and said “it’s a core technology that we view as very important.”

“We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects,” he added. “It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects to actually work on.”

Cook wouldn’t be drawn on whether the company was also considering manufacturing its own self-driving car

“We’re not saying from a product point of view where it will take us, but we are being straightforward that it’s a core technology that we view as very important,” he said.

In October 2016, Blooomberg reported that Apple scaled back its ambitious plans to create a driverless vehicle, cutting hundreds of jobs, and chose instead to focus on developing an autonomous driving system.

At the time, executives were given until late 2017 to prove that it was feasible to continue pursuing autonomous technology.

Apple first received a permit from the California state government to trial self-driving cars in March this year and is one of a growing number of car makers and tech companies working towards launching autonomous vehicles in the near future.

Ford, Honda, Google, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Uber, Volvo, Jaguar-Land Rover, BMW, Nissan, GM, Audi, Hyundai, Bosch, and the PSA Group have all began developing self-driving cars, or have committed to putting fully autonomous vehicles on the road in the next five to 15 years.

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NVIDIA and Toyota unite

The future of self-driving cars could be even closer after a recent announcement by technology manufacturer NVIDIA, that it is collaborating with Toyota to deliver autonomous vehicles as soon as possible.

Toyota will use the NVIDIA DRIVE™ PX AI car computer platform to power advanced autonomous driving systems planned for market introduction.

Engineering teams from the two companies are already developing sophisticated software on NVIDIA’s high-performance AI platform that will enhance the capabilities of Toyota vehicles, enabling them to better understand the massive volume of data generated by sensors on the car, and to handle the broad spectrum of autonomous driving situations.

“Toyota has worked on autonomous driving technologies for over 20 years with the aim of reducing traffic fatalities to zero as an ultimate goal, achieving smoother traffic, and providing mobility for all,” said Ken Koibuchi, executive general manager at Toyota.

“Through this collaboration, we intend to accelerate the development of autonomous driving systems that are even more safe and capable.”

“We envision a future society where autonomous vehicles whisk people safely and comfortably around beautiful cities,” said Jensen Huang, chief executive officer and founder of NVIDIA. “The development of a self-driving car is one of the greatest technical challenges that’s ever been tackled. “We’re combining breakthroughs in AI and high performance computing to build NVIDIA DRIVE PX, the brain of the autonomous car.

Today’s announcement with Toyota is the strongest indication that this autonomous future will soon become a reality,” he said. AI, and specifically deep learning, has become an important tool for the development of self-driving vehicles, particularly because of its ability to recognize and handle the nearly infinite number of scenarios encountered on the road.

Autonomous vehicles require an onboard supercomputer to process and interpret the data from all the sensors on the car.

While many prototype vehicles contain a trunk full of computers to handle this complex task, the NVIDIA DRIVE PX platform equipped with the next-generation Xavier processor will fit in your hand and deliver 30 trillion deep learning operations per second.

The DRIVE PX platform fuses data from cameras, lidar, radar and other sensors. The system can then use AI to understand the 360-degree environment surrounding the car, localize itself on an HD map and anticipate potential hazards while driving.

With technology racing to keep up with the future demand, industry insiders say autonomous vehicles should be on the road by 2020.  Minister of Transport, Simon Bridges is very positive about the future. 

“Autonomous vehicles will be a big part of the future of transport and offer potential safety, efficiency and environmental benefits. It is exciting to see international recognition that New Zealand is at the forefront of enabling this technology,” Bridges said in a statement last year. 

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