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KPMG’s latest report on AVs

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are set to revolutionise not only transportation but the way people both live and work.

KPMG’s 2018 Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index (AVRI) provides an in-depth view of what it takes for countries to meet the challenges of self-driving cars and which countries are most prepared for their arrival.

The Index evaluates each country according to four pillars that are integral to a country’s capacity to adopt and integrate AVs. These include: policy & legislation; technology & innovation, infrastructure and consumer acceptance.

Is New Zealand ready for an AV-driven future?

On policy and legislation, New Zealand received a score of 7.92 out of 10, putting them ahead of the Netherlands, in second place. The high score was due to New Zealand’s coherent AV regulation and also having a dedicated department to deal with AV regulation.

New Zealand legislation does not explicitly require a vehicle to have a driver present for the car to be used on the road, which allows the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to provide support to those undertaking AV testing.

New Zealand is also collaborating with Australia to minimise duplication and share knowledge on AVs. The collaboration demonstrates how countries can pool resources to develop and improve autonomous vehicles.  New Zealand is also known for its particularly transparent regulatory framework; the World Economic Forum rated New Zealand highly for law-making and legal efficiency.

“New Zealand is affluent and large enough to support meaningful product trials, but small enough to prevent teething troubles damaging the reputation of a technology or company. Microsoft, Facebook and drone delivery company Flirtey have used it as a development lab. Christchurch has hosted the world’s first fully AV trial at an international airport,” says Jesse Phillips Director, Deal Advisory KPMG in New Zealand.

The country was ranked fifth in terms of consumer acceptance due to good rating from KPMG’ Change Readiness Index, as well as having AV testing in areas of high population density. It also offers a wide range of climatic conditions within a relatively small area.

New Zealand however scores less well on technology and innovation. KPMG’s research found there were no AV company headquarters, patents or major investments in the AV field, even though New Zealand has the third-highest market share of electric cars.

On infrastructure, New Zealand has landed in the bottom five due to low levels of 4G coverage outside of heavily populated areas, few charging stations and middling rating for road quality and road infrastructure.

How well did other countries do?

The Netherlands is the clear leader, it ranked within the top four of each of the four pillars and ranked number one on infrastructure. Netherlands has by far the highest density of electrical vehicle charging points, with 26,789 publicly-available points in 2016, according to the International Energy Agency’s Global EV Outlook.

“The Dutch ecosystem for AVs is ready. The intensively-used Dutch roads are very well developed and maintained and other indicators like telecoms infrastructure are also very strong. In addition, the Dutch government Ministry of Infrastructure has opened the public roads to largescale tests with self-driving passenger cars and lorries,” says Stijn de Groen, Manager, Digital Advisory KPMG in the Netherlands.

Australia was ranked reasonably well on the index. Several cities are hosting AV trials however, improvements to roads and electric charging infrastructure would help with its AV readiness.

Road transport relies on the quality of road infrastructure as well as the regulatory environment that determine access to that infrastructure. Poor showings on infrastructure undermines the ambitions of New Zealand.

The Netherlands leads this index because it performs strongly across all four pillars of research, showing how both its private and public sectors are highly engaged.

 

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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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500 Chrysler minivans join AV trial

Local residents can test the self-driving cars

Google’s self-driving car project, recently renamed Waymo, is set to expand in Phoenix, Arizona, with Fiat Chrysler confirming an extra 500 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans will join the 100 already on American roads fitted out with Waymo’s autonomous technology.

Waymo has also announced that members of the public can use the fleet of self-driving cars for everyday travel, and is taking applications from Phoenix residence who want to use the service.

“The collaboration between FCA and Waymo has been advantageous for both companies as we continue to work together to fully understand the steps needed to bring self-driving vehicles to market,” says Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

“The addition of 500 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans is a further acknowledgement of the hard work put forth by both engineering teams.”

Waymo CEO John Krafcik says the collaboration is “helping both companies learn how to bring self-driving cars to market, and realise the safety and mobility benefits of this technology.”

The Chrysler minivan’s electrical systems, powertrain and chassis has been modified to accommodate Waymo’s hardware, which has racked up nearly 3 million miles on on-road testing.

With self-driving technology shifting from simulation software to the roads, traditional car companies are teaming up with tech firms to ensure their stake in the rapidly growing business.

Uber’s self-driving trial in partnership with Volvo began in December last year, and stole headlines after an SUV crashed while in autonomous mode. The vehicle was found not to be at fault, and the trial quickly resumed two days later.

Ford teamed up with start-up Argo in February, and plans to begin testing AVs in Europe this year. General Motors bought out Cruise automation in 2016 to bolster their self-driving ambitions, and recently partnered with Lyft to launch self-driving Chevrolet Bolts on the road, currently planned for 2018.

Despite some public unease around self-driving cars, experts are confident autonomous technology is a safer option than human drivers – of the 1.2 million deaths that occur on roads every year, 94 per cent are attributed to human error.  

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Uber resumes AV road tests

Uber’s autonomous Volvo XC90 SUV

 

Uber have cleared its self-driving cars and resumed its pilot programme three days after one of its vehicles was involved in a crash in Tempe, Arizona.

An Uber spokeswoman told Reuters the trials will resume in Tempe, San Francisco and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The programme was suspended last Saturday.

The incident occurred after another car – driven by a human – failed to give way to the turning autonomous vehicle. At the time, the Uber car was in self-driving mode, and a driver and engineer were in the front seats.

“The vehicles collided, causing the autonomous vehicle to roll onto its side,” a spokeswoman for the Tempe police department, Josie Montenegro, said in an email to journalists. “There were no serious injuries.”

The Uber Volvo SUV was deemed to be not at fault in the collision. No other such incidents have been reported in Uber’s self-driving pilot programme.

Although some other accidents have been reported in global trials, experts insist that AVs are ultimately safer than human-driven vehicles, and note that the majority of such AV crashes are very minor and down to human error.

 “Driverless cars keep getting better the more they drive, whereas humans have a roughly constant safety record over the years,” Hod Lipson, a professor of mechanical engineering and roboticist at Columbia University, told Reuters.

He estimated there were about 23,000 traffic fatalities per week globally.

So far, one person has been killed driving an AV in autopilot mode – 40-year-old Joshua Brown, when his Tesla Model S crashed into a truck on an American highway last May. Prosecutors decided not to charge Tesla earlier this year.

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Australia set for AV road trial

Australian technology company Cohda Wireless has received a $2.2 million government grant to test its radar system on public roads.

The grant from the South Australian Government’s Future Mobility Lab Fund will enable Cohda to test the technology on the streets of Adelaide by purchasing two autonomous cars to fit out with Cohda’s radar system.

The cars will contain the V2X-Radar developed by Cohda, which will allow them to detect buildings, road signs and older vehicles not equipped with car-to-car communications.

Previously, the V2X-Radar was trialled on a closed road on the outskirts of Adelaide. This test, however, will occur in the CBD and other urban roads, which will remain open.

Cohda’s system is a first in that it can ‘see’ around corners thanks to its radar technology, and is unaffected by rain, fog or snow.

Approval for the trial comes after South Australia became the first state to introduce laws allows for trials of AVs on open public roads.

Cohda CEO Paul Gray said South Australia was an ideal base for its company, as the new law meant the technology could be tested in real-world situations once it was developed.

“The sensor suites in autonomous vehicles today are still not perfect, and there are still some issues,” he said.

“We basically developed a range of applications that improve CAV (Connected Autonomous Vehicles) localisation and CAV sensor fidelity. It also reduces the cost, because it uses existing infrastructure, and we simply put in additional software to create greater accuracy,” he added.

Gray said Cohda’s technology could be programmed into AVs to increase sensor capabilities, potentially reducing the overall cost.

The V2X-Radar uses wireless signals of current V2X systems to share sensor information between vehicles and infrastructure.

These radio signals bounce off walls, road signs and other vehicles as they travel from transmitter to receiver, and the V2X-Radar can use these radio waves to identify objects within that environment, including non-V2X equipped vehicles.

The radar technology, combined with a 3D map, can provide highly accurate positioning and can instantly detect vehicle speeds.

 “Imagine driving down a row of park cars with a pedestrian standing in between two of them, about to head into traffic,” Gray said.

“This scenario is something that cameras, radars and LIDARs have problems picking up. This government fund would help to improve that, branching from technology that turns Wi-Fi into a form of radar.”

Gray hopes the trials would begin in the coming months, pending the official allocation of the grant.

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Intel buys Mobileye for $22 billion

Intel have announced plans to purchase Israeli technology company Mobileye at the cost of $22.09 billion.

Mobileye is a market leader in the field of autonomous vehicle technology, developing vision-based advanced driver assistance systems such as collision detection by reading inputs from cameras, radar and laser sensors.

The Jerusalem-based company has contracts with 27 different car makers and controls about 70 per cent of the market for software that runs autonomous emergency braking and semi-autonomous cruise control systems in passenger vehicles, according to the Associated Press.

 “This acquisition essentially merges the intelligent eyes of the autonomous car with the intelligent brain that actually drives the car,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a statement.

Krzanich added Intel can provide higher levels of internet connectivity and access to bigger data centres.

“If you put all of that together, you really get an end-do-end solution for autonomous driving,” said Mobileye Chairman and co-founder Amnon Shashua, who will continue leading the combined autonomous car unit.

Intel will purchase each share of Mobileye for (US)$63.54, 34 per cent higher than its Friday closing price. Both companies still need to approve of the transaction at board level.

Mobileye’s stock jumped 30 per cent at the news to (US)$61.25. Intel shares, however, fell 2.4 per cent to (US)$35.06.

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US to allow full self-driving trials

 California, the largest car market in the U.S. and a hub of autonomous technology development, has proposed plans to allow testing of self-driving cars on public roads without human back-up drivers by the end of the year.

The Californian Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is seeking public comment on regulations for driverless testing and the public use of vehicles that will no longer require manual controls such as pedals and steering wheels.

“Since the adoption of the current testing regulations, the capabilities of autonomous technology has proceeded to the point where manufacturers have developed systems that are capable of operating without the presence of a driver inside the vehicle,” the department said in their initial statement.

So far, the state has granted 27 companies licences to test driverless vehicles on public roads, including large businesses such as Tesla, BMW and Uber, and small start-ups such as Zoox and AutoX.  

Companies who wish to test AVs without a steering wheel and back-up driver must apply for an exemption from the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration if they do not meet current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Numerous car makers have expressed plans to deploy AVs on U.S roads by 2020.

The Californian DMV has opened the regulations to comments from the public and will hold a hearing on April 25.

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LEAF AV trialled in London

A modified Nissan LEAF AV took to the streets of London in the company’s first public self-driving vehicle test in Europe.

The AV travelled at speeds of up to 80km/h and negotiated roundabouts, multi-lane motorways and local streets with varying levels of traffic.

The autonomous system is activated inside the car with a single button. The Nissan LEAF is fitted with over 20 cameras, radars and lasers to guide the car on the road.

Nissan chose London for the test thanks to Britain’s recent flexibility in regulating AVs on the road. Britain announced changes in insurance law, which means a single policy can cover motorists driving conventionally and autonomously.

“It’s not everywhere in Europe that we can go and drive on the road,” Nissan’s director of research in the US, Maarten Sierhuis, told Reuters.

The trial took place near the ExCel exhibition centre and London City Airport east of the central business district. “You don’t want to go to the most difficult parts of London when you start. The system has to be tested,” Sierhuis said.

A previous driverless trial took place last year in Milton Keynes, but at a much lower speed.

There’s no word yet on when the LEAF AV will be available to the public.

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GM to test AVs

General Motors Co is planning to deploy thousands of self-driving electric cars in test fleets in partnership with ride-sharing company Lyft next year, according to Reuters. It is expected to be the largest test of fully autonomous vehicles undertaken before 2020.

Lyft plans to test the Chevrolet Bolt AVs in several states, and GM has no immediate plans to distribute the Bolt commercially. While GM executives have previously discussed mass-producing AVs and deploying them in ride-sharing fleets, details on the scope and timing of production have been kept secret.

The extensive EV test in partnership with Lyft has not been officially announced by either company, and in response to Reuters, GM said, “we do not provide specific details on potential future products or technology rollout plans. We have said that our AV technology will appear in an on-demand ride sharing network application sooner than you might think.” 

Lyft declined to comment.

GM has recently begun extending its EV and AV capabilities. Last December, CEO Mary Barra announced that GM would begin building a fully autonomous version of the Bolt EV in early 2017. A small test of 40 Bolt AVs is currently underway in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona, and will soon extend to Detroit.

GM purchased a minority stake in Lyft for $700 million last year.

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Autonomous shuttle trial begins

New Zealand’s first on-road trial of a fully autonomous shuttle began at Christchurch Airport this morning. The EV Smart Shuttle will carry 15 people and has no steering wheel.

“Autonomous electric vehicles are part of our future. They are coming, ready or not, and I’d rather be ready,” said Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel in a statement. The trial is in partnership with intelligent transport systems provider HMI Technologies.

Christchurch Airport CEO Malcolm Jones said that airport staff are keen to see how autonomous shuttles will operate at the airport, and how people will interact with the technology. “We want to explore the possibility of deploying autonomous vehicles to assist people moving around our campus efficiently and sustainably,” he added.

Dave Verma, director of Australasian driverless vehicle technologies, emphasised the importance of both getting hands-on public experience with autonomous vehicles and showcasing the technology to both commercial operators and the government. “We want the New Zealand public and students to have the opportunity to participate and provide feedback on the experience,” he said.

The trial will begin in the next few weeks on private roads on the airport campus and is expected to take at least two years.

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