self driving

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World first winter testing facility


The world’s first winter-testing facility for self-driving cars is to be built in New Zealand.

Steve Gould,  manager at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground, told Wheels Mag earlier in December that planning is well ahead for the facility and has hinted that several companies have already approached them about instigating winter testing for their cars.

Gould says the reason for the facility already gathering attention comes down to car maker’s being nervous about their car’s cameras having to read lane markings and road signs in white out winter conditions.

“Autonomous cars rely on GPS as well, of course, but they check what the radar is reading against that GPS reading, so once the radars are gone, what does the car do then?”

“Meanwhile the cameras are looking for a line down the side of the road and one in the middle, but they’re both covered in snow and ice. It’s going to be a challenge,” said Gould to Wheels Mag.

However, the people at Ford claim they are already having success with autonomous technology tackling winter conditions. Ford uses high-resolution 3D maps of roads, which include detail about where curbs, lane lines, trees and signs are, so the car knows where it is, even if it can’t ‘see’ them.

Despite those claims, Gould believes what we’ll probably see first are some autonomous vehicles being signed off to work in clear conditions, and the next stage will be teaching them to drive in winter’s worst.

“We might see a situation where you can only use the autopilot when the weather is right. When the car knows the temperature has dropped below zero or it’s snowing, it will tell you to take over control,” he adds.

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Self-driving cars by 2020

Consumer car brands are hinting they could be bringing in electrically powered self-driving cars as early as 2020. With cities around the world becoming more environmentally aware, it’s no surprise that the once far-fetched technology is closer than ever before. 

This year’s Tokyo Road Show revolves around the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which includes the ability for cars to drive themselves as well as assist the driver.

It also showcased that hybrid petrol/electric, fully electric (EV) and Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV) are going to be a driving force for a cleaner environment and more cost-effective motoring.

The word ‘concept’ in the automotive industry has always been associated as a far-fetched idea manufactured in a way that showcases current design prowess. But this time the term ‘concept’ couldn’t be anymore real and not as crazy as one might think. 

Toyota Concept-i Series

Toyota’s Concept-I incorporates AI and connected technologies designed to help your car better understand people and therefore providing a safer driving experience. 

The car’s emotion recognition and “alertness level estimation” feature can tell the driver’s mood by analysing facial expressions and body language.
The Lexus LS+ concept also adopts AI technology, called ‘Urban Teammate’, that allows for fully automated, hands-free driving on regular roads, as well as ‘Highway Teammate’ for automated driving on fast expressways. 

Both of these technologies are due to come online for selected Toyota and Lexus models by 2020 and will provide automated steering along with automatic lane merging, lane changing and diverging as well as constantly keeping a safe distance to the car in front.

Like the Toyota Concept-i, the LS+ Concept both learns and ‘grows’ with its driver’s habits and styles over time.

Lexus LS+ Concept





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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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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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Nissan trials self-drive LEAF

Nissan will conduct its first European real-world trials of self-driving cars in London.

The company has chosen England as the country, to trial its self-driving vehicles, despite concerns over Brexit.

A modified version of Nissan’s LEAF electric vehicle (EV), with autonomous driving technology will be tested in London next month.

“With future models secured and cutting-edge innovation being developed right here in the UK, we’re looking forward to a strong future of designing, engineering and manufacturing in the country for customers right across the world,” said Nissan Europe Chairman Paul Willcox.

These will be the first demonstrations of Nissan’s autonomous drive technology on public roads in Europe, representing the next step in Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility blueprint for transforming how cars are driven, powered, and integrated into wider society.

It follows recent announcements that both the refreshed Qashqai and the new LEAF, both coming soon, will be equipped with autonomous drive technology to enable single lane autonomous driving on motorways.

The announcement was made following a visit to the Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE) in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, by the Rt Hon Greg Clark, the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

NTCE, the European R&D hub for Nissan, is developing autonomous drive technologies as well as new advanced fuel, energy and efficiency technologies, in collaboration with the Nissan Technical Centre and Advanced Technical Centre in Japan.

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Driverless vehicle demo

Volvo showcased its XC90 electric vehicle on a 10 kilometre stretch of road in Tauranga on Friday.


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