Archive for the ‘self-driving car’ Category

Fiat Chrysler, BMW, and Intel announce plans to build self-driving tech

August 16th, 2017

Enlarge / Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne speaks at an event in Michigan on August 26, 2016. (credit: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images)

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is joining forces with BMW and Intel to develop self-driving car technology, the company announced on Wednesday. FCA is joining an existing alliance between BMW and Intel that also included Mobileye, the self-driving technology company Intel announced it was acquiring in March.

FCA is the smallest of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, and its approach to the self-driving car revolution has been less ambitious than rivals GM and Ford. GM paid $1 billion for self-driving car startup Cruise last year and is hoping to develop its own self-driving car technology. Ford invested $1 billion in the self-driving car startup Argo AI earlier this year and has also opened a technology subsidiary in Silicon Valley.

By contrast, FCA seems content to rely more on partners to supply the self-driving technology it will need to make its vehicles competitive in the coming decade.

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Bosch took us for a ride in its level 3 autonomous car

July 18th, 2017

Bosch provided flights to Frankfurt and three nights’ accommodation for this trip to the Bosch Mobility Experience.

Video edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

BOXBERG, GERMANY—Are autonomous cars like buses? In one way, yes. You wait ages for a ride in one, and then all of a sudden several show up in short succession. In late June, we went for a spin in Jack, Audi’s level 3 autonomous test vehicle. Then, a couple of weeks later in Germany at the Bosch Mobility Experience, we got to sample another such vehicle.

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Samsung joins the self-driving car gold rush

May 2nd, 2017

Enlarge (credit: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

The tech industry has a bad case of four-wheel fever, and it looks like there’s no cure in sight. Before too long, it’s going to be impossible to buy a new car without an embedded LTE modem—ostensibly there for our convenience—with the convenient side-effect of creating a new revenue stream from monetized data. And then there’s the self-driving car gold rush. Anyone who’s anyone in the tech or automotive worlds is working on an autonomous vehicle, a list that now includes Samsung.

The company has been granted permission by the South Korean government to begin testing an autonomous vehicle on public roads, according to The Korea Herald. It’s another sign that Samsung wants a slice of automotive tech—in November last year the company acquired Harman for $8 billion.

Samsung will be the 20th organization given permission to test autonomous vehicles on South Korean roads, using a Hyundai as the base vehicle. However, little else is known Samsung’s plans other than we expect the eventual products to be components, rather than a complete car with Samsung branding.

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Driverless race cars dodge stray dog in Argentina—but one wipes out into a wall

February 20th, 2017


In just its third season, Formula E deserves credit for trying out new ideas in motorsport. Not everything has been a success, but the risk of trying to innovate in broad daylight is that people will see your mistakes as they happen. Take Roborace for example. The idea is to create a series of support races for Formula E where each team uses an identical driverless car, competing to write the best-racing AI. That driverless race car isn’t quite ready yet, but Roborace took a pair of DevBots to Argentina this weekend for a demonstration at the Buenos Aires ePrix.

It may not have been the demonstration that Roborace hoped for. One of the DevBots—the yellow one—ran out of talent and clipped a wall. But that happens to rookie human drivers, too, and at least in this case there was no chance of a rookie seriously hurting themselves. Some argue that this is bad news for Roborace and self-driving cars, but this is racing. If it were easy to get right, it wouldn’t be any fun.

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Ford hits milestone in path to steering-wheel-less, pedal-less autonomous cars

December 28th, 2016

Enlarge / Ford’s next-generation Fusion Hybrid autonomous test vehicle. (credit: Ford)

On Wednesday Ford announced that it would be testing a set of next-generation autonomous vehicles in 2017—a step along a path to building a market-ready, fully autonomous fleet for ride-hailing services by 2021. The automaker will triple the size of its test fleet in 2017, bringing the number of Ford research cars on US roads to 90.

Ford, like many traditional automakers, has been playing catch-up in the autonomous vehicle race after Google’s pioneering of the space and Tesla’s aggressive roll-out of its Advanced Driver Assist software. Where companies like Volvo are helping their customers stick their toes in the self-driving waters with systems that can take over driving on highways, Ford has decided it’s going to skip partial autonomy and go straight to the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) Level Four autonomy (PDF), or “High Automation,” where a driver does not need to intervene. Ford doesn’t intend to sell these cars to retail customers right away; instead it hopes to find customers in ride-hailing companies.

Ford says its next-generation autonomous test cars, all modified Ford Fusion Hybrids, will have two powerful lidar (light detection and ranging) sensors that “see” up to two football fields in any direction (this is down from four or five weaker lidar sensors in previous versions of Ford’s prototype cars). The Fusion Hybrids will also have three cameras on the roof of the car, a camera mounted under the windshield, and short- and long-range radar sensors to detect objects in inclement weather.

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Waymo shows off its new rides, self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans

December 19th, 2016


Last week we learned that Google’s car project is not dead. It just has a new name. Now called Waymo, the company expects to eventually move into the autonomous-mobility ride-sharing market. Today, we got our first look at the new Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans that will complement Waymo’s fleet of Lexus SUVs and other test machines.

Pacificas make sense for Waymo. Although the research vehicles don’t need to be hybrids, the fact that they are drive-by-wire is obviously crucial. And their capacious cargo volume should come in handy for carrying technicians and extra equipment.

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Tesla and Mobileye call it quits; will the car company build its own sensors?

July 27th, 2016

Mobileye Co-founder, CTO and Chairman Amnon Shashua speaks at a Volkswagen press event at CES 2016. (credit: Getty Images | David Becker)

If you’re a carmaker looking to give your vehicles some computer vision, your first port of call is probably the Israeli company Mobileye. As we detailed recently, Mobileye’s EyeQ system-on-a-chip can be found inside most semi-autonomous cars on our roads, Tesla included. In fact, Mobileye CTO Amnon Shashua gave a lengthy technical presentation at CES in January on how Mobileye’s use of deep neural networks enable Tesla’s Autopilot functions. (Here’s a deep dive into the tech over at WCCFTech.) But on Tuesday, Shashua announced during a Q2 financial results conference call that the relationship between the two companies will end.

In a statement to Ars, Mobileye said that its work with Tesla will not extend past the EyeQ3, the current system-on-a-chip found in Autopilot-capable Model S and Model X electric vehicles. Mobileye will continue to support current vehicles, including software fixes for crash avoidance and auto-steering.

“Nevertheless, in our view, moving toward more advanced autonomy is a paradigm shift both in terms of function complexity and the need to ensure an extremely high level of safety,” the company wrote. “There is much at stake here, to Mobileye’s reputation and to the industry at large.  Mobileye believes that achieving this objective requires partnerships that go beyond the typical OEM / supplier relationship, such as our recently announced collaboration with BMW and Intel.  Mobileye will continue to pursue similar such relationships.”

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Germany wants black boxes in self-driving cars

July 18th, 2016

A Google self-driving car. (credit: Google)

As the recent kerfuffle around Tesla’s Autopilot has shown, we still have some way to go before everyone is on board with the idea of people being driven by their cars on public roads. Until we get to a point where fully autonomous (level 4) cars are capable of taking us from A to B with no human intervention beyond telling it the destination, self-driving cars are going to need a (relatively) alert human occupant in the driver’s seat, ready to take control if necessary.

While it is true that many automakers are pushing for self-driving vehicles, they’re not the only ones. Both in the US and elsewhere, governments are also gung-ho for the technology, as it has the potential to make a real dent in the annual death toll on our roads.

Over in Germany, Reuters reports that the country’s transport ministry has issued a proposal that would allow for drivers of autonomous cars to relax their guard somewhat. They will have to remain seated behind the controls—so don’t expect chairs that swivel out of the way just yet—and there will have to be on-board data recorders that log the car’s autonomous behavior.

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Tesla’s no-good rotten couple of weeks see more fingers pointed at Autopilot

July 12th, 2016

It has been a rough couple of weeks for Tesla. Until now, the electric vehicle maker has been a media doyenne, wowing us with EVs that are credible alternatives to the traditional combustion-powered car or SUV—even attractive finally to some drivers for whom not being able to go on a cross-country road trip at a moment’s notice is a deal-breaker.

It all started at the end of June, when Tesla revealed in a blog post that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had begun an investigation into the company’s Autopilot system following a fatal crash in Florida in May. Since then, the Detroit Free Press has reported on another pair of Tesla crashes—a Model X SUV that rolled over on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on July 1, followed by another Model X crash that took place on July 10—calling into doubt the safety of Autopilot. Unlike the May crash, neither of the subsequent incidents involved fatalities.

Tesla has said that it does not have data to support Autopilot being a factor in the July 1 crash, telling the Detroit Free Press in a statement that “We received an automated alert from this vehicle on July 1 indicating air bag deployment, but logs containing detailed information on the state of the vehicle controls at the time of the collision were never received. This is consistent with damage of the severity reported in the press, which can cause the antenna to fail.”

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Musk’s remarks at conference imply Tesla has huge autonomous car advantage

June 2nd, 2016

(credit: Mashable)

On Wednesday night Elon Musk grandly told audiences at the Code 2016 conference that we might be living in a simulated universe. That comment has certainly sparked attention, but he said something else that’s still got us scratching our collective head: when asked about self-driving cars, Musk said that he considers it a “solved problem,” and that “we are probably less than two years away” from safe autonomous driving.

This timeline is consistent with one that he gave Ars in 2015, but the head-scratchy bit is that every other expert we’ve spoken to thinks true self-driving cars (Level 4 autonomy according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) are at least a decade out. NHTSA defines a level 4 autonomous car as one that “is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. Such a design anticipates that the driver will provide destination or navigation input, but is not expected to be available for control at any time during the trip. This includes both occupied and unoccupied vehicles.” Even Google’s experimental self-driving cars are classed as Level 3 by the agency.

Autonomous driving experts we’ve consulted at Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes, and Volvo (all of which have extremely active self-driving research programs) have consistently told us the same thing: it’s comparatively easy to make a car drive itself on a highway where every car is going the same direction and there’s no pedestrian traffic. But a car that can drive itself through a busy urban interchange—think Manhattan or Mumbai at rush hour—is closer to 2030 than 2020. Even sensor OEM Mobileye, which supplies Tesla with some of its autopilot hardware, won’t have its Level 3-ready EyeQ5 system on a chip ready until 2020.

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