Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Testing the Autonomous Cars of 2020 Tomorrow's cars are being developed in the same way as yesterday's: by clocking up thousands of arduous test miles. But as well as engines, brakes and suspension, testing must now also perfect the sensors, software and assistance systems rapidly becoming expected on even modest family cars.

Tomorrow's cars are being developed in the same way as yesterday's: by clocking up thousands of arduous test miles. But as well as engines, brakes and suspension, testing must now also perfect the sensors, software and assistance systems rapidly becoming expected on even modest family cars.
Enter the boffins at PSA. The owners of Peugeot, Citroën, DS and now Vauxhall-Opel too have been working on their route to autonomous driving. It's not about sci-fi futurescapes out of Blade Runner 2049 - it's about putting in the hard yards on the road, planning for the worst, and not assuming that the highways authorities are in any hurry to enter the digital age.
We spent a day experiencing some of PSA's prototypes. But first a quick spin through the Paris suburbs in a current production car, a Citroën C4 Picasso with a pretty familiar set of 2017-spec assistance kit: active cruise control (you set the speed and the distance, or ask it to aim for the legal limit), lane keeping assistance (which can easily be over-ridden if it's foxed by peculiar road markings), active safety braking (spotting pedestrians and other potential hazards, and stopping the car if you don't). So it's mostly about helping the driver to stay out of trouble. Simple, intuitive, unintrusive.
And then we got into a Peugeot 3008 development mule, testing some of the technology that's just a couple of years away from being fitted to PSA production cars.

Tomorrow's tech today

Aside from an extra screen, a couple of stickers and some gaffer-taped wires there's nothing unusual on the inside. Outside, it's a regular 3008 but with a lot more scanners, sensors and cameras; most of the really clever stuff can't be seen.
It has built-in mapping so that it always knows where autonomous driving is allowed (that's mapping which works even if the GPS signal is weak). Because it can anticipate when autonomous mode will have to end, it flashes up a visual signal, and there's a gentle audible tone to tell the driver it's time to take over.
It can park itself. It checks you're awake. It can spot pedestrians and wildlife 100 metres ahead at night. You press the Highway Chauffeur button and it will drive itself, in some circumstances. For instance, it can perform flawless overtakes: the driver indicates, but then the car makes a judgement about the timing and speed of the manoeuvre. (Yes, just like on the latest Mercedes S-Class, already in production, but at five times the price of a 3008.)
It's remarkable how natural all this seems. It's just a normal car that in some circumstances can drive more economically and more safely than a human driver.

Real people on board

Currently 20 prototypes are being run by PSA and its partners. The testing combines lab simulation with expert testers on road and track but also - since March 2017 - regular folk too. More than 1000 non-professional drivers have been out in autonomous prototypes on public roads. As well as finding out what aspects of the new technology need tweaking, and which sensor locations are best for avoiding dirt and damage, the tests are also providing valuable information about how the typical driver interacts with potentially intimidating self-driving features.
Carla Gohin, PSA's head of innovation and research, is keen to stress the positives: 'Some oppose autonomous functions to the pleasure of driving. But in fact, it's an incredible opportunity: choose to drive or be driven; choose to have new on-board experiences; get more time for other activities; enjoy a new living space.'
She also highlights the gradual, incremental nature of the PSA approach, in contrast to the incoming tech companies - Apple, Google etc - who want to bypass the intermediate stages and go straight to full Level 5 autonomy.

When will this reach the showroom?

From 2020, most PSA cars will have the group's new electronic architecture. This involves 20 sensors (12 ultrasonic sensors, six cameras, five radar scanners, one laser scanner), giving the car a 360º picture of its surroundings, and a view of 200 metres ahead; plus embedded HD mapping; vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connective capability; a big bucket of algorithms enabling the car to make the right decisions based on all this information; and an interface enabling unambiguous communication with the driver.

He anticipates that it will be 2020 at the earliest before drivers are allowed to do something else while the car drives itself. Insurance, training and licensing all need updating. 'Who would trust an autonomous vehicle if you thought you'd face the legal and financial repercussions of your car crashing?'
Insurers, Huerre says, expect there to be fewer repairs required in the future, but the average repair to cost more, because of the need to replace expensive sensors.

The Martians have landed

Wind River has announced that it's going big on real-world testing. What's Wind River? It's an Intel-owned company specialising in software for the Internet of Things, and it's been involved in Mars Rovers, as well as working on the software in many military projects, trains, planes and the infotainment systems on millions of cars. They don't use the phrase 'mission critical software' lightly.
Wind River has teamed up with the Transportation Research Center (the largest proving ground in the USA), the Center for Automotive Research at Ohio State University (the second largest university in the US, with a 9000-student College of Engineering) and the local authorities in Central Ohio for a programme of developing and testing connected and autonomous vehicles.
One of the attractions of Ohio is the presence of the Smart Mobility Corridor, which involves a cluster of tech companies focused on a 35-mile stretch of Route 33 between Dublin and East Liberty. It's wired up with high-capacity fibre optic cable, linking researchers to data from sensors along the road, with more on the way. Government and some private industry fleet vehicles are wired up to provide data, too. The corridor could eventually extend much further - from New York to Chicago - as the US moves to position itself for the hotly contested title of world leader in the field.

Old meets new

Wind River's general manager of connected vehicle solutions Marques McCammon understands better than most the crucial importance of putting in the miles. Unusually for a tech player, he's from an old-school car industry background, having been at Chrysler when they launched the SRT division and with Saleen for the creation of the S7.
'When you're working in commercial aircraft, the Mars Rover, trains, robots in assembly plants… those systems really can't afford to fail. We've been in automotive since 2005 in earnest. We've touched more than 100 million vehicles.
'We have to find a meeting place between old and new. We have to find a way of getting 100-plus years of validating automobiles and bringing it into this area of AI, tech, software,' he says.
'Developing and testing new vehicles is an arduous process, in all weathers, all surfaces, over many miles. In Central Ohio we found this confluence of greatness. It's an environment where testing is a lot more practical.'
Wind River and its partners aim to create autonomous and connected 'rolling lab' test vehicles. The bulk of the testing will be away from the public, at the vast Transportation Research Center facility, which includes 4500 acres of road courses and a 7.5-mile high-speed bowl.
The TRC is in the process of creating the industry's largest high-speed intersection, and detailed mock-ups of urban and rural roads. The use of Route 33 brings into play that extra element of reality: it has up to 50,000 vehicle movements a day.

Only thinking for the digital age

Many future-mobility ideas aren't from people with an automotive background, McCammon notes. This can mean they're refreshingly free of baggage, but can also mean they're far from practical.
'If we can bring our experience - being around since the '80s makes us a really mature tech company - together with car guys and academics, I think we can make something that consumers will benefit from. The connected vehicle is the closest thing to a moonshot the automotive industry has seen in five decades. It's moving fast, and there's a lot of money being invested.'

And what about the driving enthusiast? 'Consumers are putting a lot of value on in-car apps, connected capability, autonomous driving ability, over-the-air updates, rather than all the places where automakers have historically invested: steering wheel, gas pedal, brakes.
But not every person who interacts with a vehicle thinks in the same way. Maybe automated functions can make sense on a 911 in traffic, but then you take back control on another part of the journey. There are reasons for excitement as well as caution.'

article by: Colin Overland
article first appeared:

Friday, 24 November 2017

Volvo to Supply Uber with up to 24,000 Self Driving Cars For the first time, Uber would own and operate a fleet.

For the first time, Uber would own and operate a fleet.

STOCKHOLM/SAN FRANCISCO - Uber plans to buy up to 24,000 self-driving cars from Volvo, marking the transition of the U.S. firm from an app used to summon a taxi to the owner and operator of a fleet of cars.

The non-binding framework deal combines Volvo's cars with Uber's self-driving system and builds on their nearly three-year relationship. It comes as Uber's autonomous driving unit has been hit by a lawsuit over trade secrets and the departure of top talent. Automakers, ride-hailing firms and tech startups have been forging loose alliances in an effort to advance self-driving technology and claim a piece of what is expected to be a multi-billion-dollar business.

Geely-owned Volvo said in a statement on Monday it would provide Uber with its flagship XC90 SUVs equipped with autonomous technology as part of a non-exclusive deal from 2019 to 2021. A Volvo spokesman said it covered up to 24,000 cars.
The self-driving system that would be used in the Volvo cars - which have yet to be built - is under development by Uber's Advanced Technologies Group.

Should Uber buy all 24,000 cars, it would be Volvo's largest order by far and the biggest sale in the autonomous vehicle industry, giving Uber, which is losing more than $600 million a quarter, its first commercial fleet of cars.
A new Volvo XC90 typically retails from a starting price of around $50,000.
Uber has been testing prototype Volvo cars for more than a year, with safety drivers in the front seat to intervene if the self-driving system fails, in Tempe, Arizona and Pittsburgh.

"Our goal was from day one to make investments into a vehicle that could be manufactured at scale," Jeff Miller, Uber's head of automotive alliances, said.
The cars, in theory, would be available through the Uber app to pick up passengers without a driver.
"It only becomes a commercial business when you can remove that vehicle operator from the equation," Miller said.

No financial details were disclosed for the purchase, which would be a massive new investment for

Uber and mark a change from Uber's long-standing business model where contractor drivers buy or lease and maintain their own cars.

Miller said a small number of cars would be purchased using equity and others would be bought using debt financing.

The deal builds on a $300 million alliance Volvo announced with Uber last year focused on collaborating on the design and financing of cars with self-driving systems, which require different steering and braking features and sensors.

"We get support developing this car," Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson said in an interview. "It's also a big commercial deal."

Lyft rivalry

No financial details were disclosed for the purchase, which would be a massive new investment for Uber and mark a change from Uber's long-standing business model where contractor drivers buy or lease and maintain their own cars.

Miller said a small number of cars would be purchased using equity and others would be bought using debt financing.

The deal builds on a $300 million alliance Volvo announced with Uber last year focused on collaborating on the design and financing of cars with self-driving systems, which require different steering and braking features and sensors.

"We get support developing this car," Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson said in an interview. "It's also a big commercial deal."

Volvo, which has been under Chinese ownership since it was bought by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group from Ford in 2010, plans to make the SUVs at its Torslanda plant in western Sweden, and Samuelsson said they would be sold at roughly the same profit margin as Volvo sells through dealers.
Uber's rival Lyft has this year struck a research partnership with Alphabet Inc's unit Waymo and secured deals with Ford and startups Nutonomy and to incorporate self-driving cars into its fleet.
Volvo's agreement with Uber and Ford's with Lyft show the pressure on automakers to avoid becoming obsolete in a world of increased automation, and on ride-services companies to start automating to cut driver costs and turn profits.
Volvo is one of Sweden's biggest manufacturers by revenue, and has forecast a fourth straight year of record sales in 2017.

Reporting by Niklas Pollard and Johannes Hellstrom in Stockholm and Heather Somerville in San Francisco
Article from: Reuters

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Walmart and Loblaw’s Set to Order Tesla Semi Following earlier news that the US-based trucking firm JB Hunt would be reserving and ordering a number of Tesla's new semi trucks, Walmart and the Canada-based grocery chain Loblaw have both revealed that they will be doing the same.

 Following earlier news that the US-based trucking firm JB Hunt would be reserving and ordering a number of Tesla's new semi trucks, Walmart and the Canada-based grocery chain Loblaw have both revealed that they will be doing the same.

Walmart has revealed that it will be reserving and ordering 15 of the new Tesla semi trucks - with 5 slated for use in the US and 10 in Canada. And the Canada-based grocery chain Loblaw has revealed that it will be reserving and ordering a total of 25 of the new all-electric Tesla heavy-duty trucks. Loblaw is currently working towards a goal of possessing an all-electric corporate fleet by 2030.

As a reminder here, reservation deposits for the Tesla semi trucks total $5,000 a piece.
While the order of 15 trucks from Walmart is notable, it clearly just amounts to the firm putting its foot in the water, so to speak, as the company's US truck fleet is now comprised of around 6,000 units.
Reuters provides more: "The early orders reflected the uncertainty about how the market for electric commercial vehicles will develop. About 260,000 Class-8 trucks are produced in North America annually, and that market has a value of about $28.6 billion, said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles at FTR, an industry economics research firm.

"The 500-mile (800 km) range between charges that Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk promised on Thursday for the Tesla Semi is about half the range between fill-ups of a diesel Class 8 truck. Heavy batteries cut payload and add cost, potential deal killers for fleet buyers focused on operating cost per mile."
So, clearly, there are notable limits to Tesla's semi trucks as of now, but obviously major benefits as well - greatly reduced emissions being an important one. On that note, it'll be interesting to see if Tesla can garner interest for the semi trucks in China, despite being an outsider, as there's expected to be a rapid shift away from diesel and petrol/gasoline powered trucks there over the coming decade or two. But maybe BYD and other Chinese players have that market locked.

article from:

Friday, 17 November 2017

Prepping Self-Driving Cars for the World's Most Chaotic Cities SELF-DRIVING CARS ARE no longer confined to controlled test tracks or even to placid suburban streets-they're tackling real traffic in US cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh.

SELF-DRIVING CARS ARE no longer confined to controlled test tracks or even to placid suburban streets-they're tackling real traffic in US cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh. They're honing their skills amidst humans in Europe, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan. They're preparing for the day they can purify our chaotic streets with their robotic perfection.
Learning how to drive in places like unruly Boston, a land of creative left turns and seemingly optional yields, comes with its challenges. But the aggressive driving and the complexity of the city's twisting streets pale in comparison to the developing world. Even Patriots fans look like goody two-shoes compared to drivers who have little to zero respect for lanes, traffic signals, warning signs, and speed limits.
On wide roads without lanes and huge, anarchic intersections all over the world, human interaction dictates traffic flows, with each driver adjusting to others' maneuvers on the spot, regardless of what the rule book says.
These informal systems work for the most part, but they come at a high cost. Of the 50 countries with the deadliest roads, 44 are in Africa or the Middle East, according to 2013 figures from the World Health Organization (the most recent data available). Together these nations accounted for nearly 250,000 deaths in 2013-a fifth of the world's total.
Yet the factors that make these places the most likely to benefit from autonomous cars also make them the least likely to get the technology anytime soon.
"Many of the things that we're doing in self-driving at the moment probably wouldn't work if we were trying to do it in a third-world country," says Ram Vasudevan, codirector of the University of Michigan's Ford Center for Autonomous Vehicles.

Unstructured Driving

Autonomous driving requires understanding the intent and trajectory of everyone and everything on the road: vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, construction workers, playing children, pets, an errant dart from a Nerf gun. In driving environments governed by a set of rules that people actually follow, the law limits the sorts of behaviors an autonomous vehicle should expect in the world around it.
The fewer formal rules in place, the more the ability to predict intent matters. Around wild humans, cars can't rely on shared guidelines to dictate behavior. Basic driver assists that keep cars inside painted lanes, for example, are only useful if everyone else on the road respects lane markings. Otherwise they're useless, or even dangerous.
Compared to suburban and even urban America, driving environments in many Middle Eastern and African countries have all the structure of a jellyfish. In Lebanon, where I live, it's common to see cars driving the wrong way, running red lights, and zigzagging across wide roads without the slightest regard to lane markings, among other shenanigans.
"There are no rules here. Everything is possible," said Daniel Asmar, a computer-vision expert and engineering professor at the American University of Beirut. "Humans can deal quite well with that, even if they get frustrated and honk at each other." For computers, the chaos would be an enormous challenge.
Even in relatively orderly environments, a confusing situation such as a freeway merge can make a self-driving car hesitate long enough to hold up traffic or even cause an accident, Vasudevan says. This might be because the car's software, erring on the safe side, isn't willing to merge in front of a speeding car, or because the car needed more time to understand the scene around it and the intent of other drivers. Put the same car on a road where stop signs, traffic signals, and yielding rules don't exist or are routinely ignored, and its reaction times will need to be a great deal sharper to survive.
What's more, self-driving cars need the help of mapping data that doesn't yet exist in most parts of the world. Autonomous driving requires highly detailed street maps that contain everything from the height of street curbs, to the location of temporary construction detours, to the exact position of street signs and traffic lights in 3-D space. Those maps have already been developed for cities with self-driving fleets, and they're constantly being updated using data that autonomous cars capture as they drive around.
In places like Lebanon, where two-dimensional Google and Apple Maps contain basic mistakes, missing data is an enormous disadvantage. Even if detailed maps existed, they would require intensive upkeep. "In a structured environment, you wouldn't have to do it that often, because things are pretty much staying the same," Asmar says. "In an unstructured environment, where things are changing all the time, you can imagine how many times you have to keep building this platform over and over again. It's a really daunting task."
A few wealthy countries in the Middle East are already moving toward autonomous driving. Israeli companies are behind important developments in autonomous driving software, and the country opened its first test track for driverless cars last month. In Dubai, a 10-seater driverless shuttle began trundling through a riverside business district last year. City officials are aiming for a quarter of local trips to be made without a driver by 2030, and Dubai's police force is planning to roll out tiny self-driving patrol cars by the end of the year.
But it appears India and China are the only countries that contain both driving chaos and local companies developing autonomous vehicles. Unsurprisingly, their efforts face extra hurdles. India's Tata has created a testing track outside Bangalore to simulate local roads, complete with fearless pedestrians and stray cattle, Bloomberg reported. The company still has a long way to go: Its computer-vision systems currently fail to identify 15 percent of vehicles on Indian roads, a senior vice president at Tata told Bloomberg, because of the sheer variety in their shapes and sizes. (When former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick visited India last year, he joked that the country would be "the last one on earth" to get self-driving cars. "Have you seen the way people drive here?")
China's Baidu, meanwhile, is openly working on autonomous driving, teaming up with more than 50 international companies to develop its software. In a recent video demo, Baidu CEO Robin Li sat in a self-driving car as it wound its way through Beijing traffic-making a few unsafe maneuvers along the way. Since self-driving cars aren't currently road-legal in China, Chinese police said they'd investigate whether Li broke any laws. (India is moving toward a similar ban, citing concerns about job losses.) Despite the regulatory hurdles, Baidu's president, Ya-Qin Zhang, told Bloomberg that he's confident that the company's autonomous cars will be on the road "as early as next year."
Didi Chuxing, the reigning ride-hailing company in China, is taking a much more measured approach. Although it opened an office in California earlier this year to develop autonomous driving technology, the company's president, Jean Liu, said in a recent interview with Charlie Rose that a sudden, "disruptive" switch to autonomous driving would be dangerous. "I think people should be more, you know, focusing on how safe it is [rather] than how soon it can come out," Liu said.
In China, autonomous vehicles won't just have to learn to deal with cars, electric scooters, and pedestrians that don't follow the rules, a Didi spokesperson said-they would need to be able to understand regional differences in signage and traffic signaling, which aren't standardized in China like they are in the US or Europe. There, Didi's size offers it an advantage. The company says its human drivers give 25 million rides every day, generating more than 70 terabytes of data daily that it can mine to develop its autonomous driving capabilities.

Following the Leader

For now, many companies are testing their autonomous vehicles by throwing unexpected scenarios at them on controlled tracks. At Castle, Waymo's secret compound for training its cars, human assistants cut off self-driving minivans at high speed, back out of blind driveways into their path, and throw basketballs at them, all to test and improve the cars' reactions.
But artificial intelligence that's trained on one set of assumptions can fail when it meets a different set. Studies have found that facial-recognition algorithms trained on Caucasian test subjects perform poorly on African American faces, and algorithms trained on East Asian subjects perform poorly on Caucasian faces. The same might go for self-driving cars. Software trained on worst-case scenarios that involve flying basketballs and dicey merges might freak out at the sight of two dudes hanging out the back of a station wagon on a fast-moving highway.
Despite vast regional variations in how people drive, manufacturers might not have to create a Ghana version and an Iran version and a Southwest India version of their driving software. "It's really the same math and the same software that's going to exist in every cultural context," says Matthew Johnson-Roberson, a University of Michigan engineering professor and the Ford Center's other codirector.
What matters most is that cars are trained to react to all of them. A spokesperson for Uber, which is testing self-driving cars in the US and Canada, said that its cars have driven more than a million autonomous miles in multiple cities, under different conditions and during different times of day, in order to improve its software's adaptability.
Even if self-driving software understands unruly drivers and can predict how they're likely to break the law, autonomous vehicles will probably be constrained by it. Uber's cars will always follow local traffic laws, a company spokesperson says. Stephan Hoenle, senior vice president of automated driving at Bosch, agrees. "You can drive more aggressively or defensively without breaking the rules," Hoenle says. An autonomous vehicle's driving style might vary from one market to another based on demand and expectations, but violating the law isn't an option-it's too great a liability for a manufacturer.
The problem is that in some places, driving according to the letter of the law could be more dangerous than aping law-breaking human drivers. Failing to adjust when impatient commuters turn a two-lane road into a four-lane highway by driving on the shoulder during rush hour can quickly lead to an ugly pileup.

Back of the Line

To someone steeped in the day-to-day work of teaching computers to drive better than humans, the details of where self-driving cars will end up might not seem very pressing. "It doesn't even work here, right?" said the University of Michigan's Johnson-Roberson. "From an engineering perspective, I don't know anyone who's working on this, because some of the fundamentals are still not there."
Putting off these questions risks shunting the very regions that most need self-driving technology to the very end of the line. Hoenle claims no part of the world will be excluded from self-driving cars' eventual rollout but acknowledges it won't happen all at once. Compared to the US and Europe, he says, "normally some of these other continents have a slower technology ramp-up curve."
The developing world will eventually catch up, predicts Carlo Ratti, the director of MIT's Senseable City Lab. "Every technology needs to start somewhere-and often it starts at the cutting edge," he wrote in an email. "At the beginning, new technologies can increase existing societal gaps between the haves and have-nots. However, the subsequent dissemination of technology can cause interesting 'leapfrogging' effects and help reduce gaps."
Mobile phones, for example, were at first only available to rich Westerners. Now they're abundant in Africa, where startups are coming up with new ideas for mobile banking and healthcare provision. "There is no reason to think that self-driving cars will follow a different path," Ratti said.
The gap between introduction and the "leapfrog" stage might be considerably longer for self-driving cars, which have to adapt to their surroundings, need gobs of data specific to each street they drive, and have the potential to kill if poorly designed.
Developers that put off questions about regional differences and leave matters to the "ramp-up curve" will be locked out of an immense market. And as their lifesaving autonomous technology rolls onto friendly roads in places such as North America, Europe, and Singapore, it may leave behind the developing countries that most desperately need that technology.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Now is the Time to Plan for the Autonomous Vehicle Future The arrival of autonomous vehicles bring the prospect of improved transportation systems without the capital costs, operating subsidies and construction delays of new highway lanes and fixed rail systems.

Craig Mundie
The arrival of autonomous vehicles bring the prospect of improved transportation systems without the capital costs, operating subsidies and construction delays of new highway lanes and fixed rail systems.  Cities, states, and the Federal Government,  need to revise their transportation planning accordingly.
Autonomous vehicles have gone from a Jetson-like dream to a clear reality in less than one decade. In 2010, when Google first started developing autonomous vehicles, people asked, "Why are they wasting money on this? That's never going to work."
Today, we have not only seen public pilots of autonomous vehicles from companies like Uber and recent announcement by automakers such as Audi that it plans to begin selling, in 2018, a production car with Level 3 autonomy (meaning it requires no human attention to the road at speeds under 37 miles  per hour), we have also begun to see striking data on the benefits of autonomous vehicles.
For example, after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigated a Tesla Autopilot crash, they found a 40% decrease in traffic accidents when Tesla's Autopilot feature was enabled in cars. In addition to significant reductions in accidents, the benefits of autonomous vehicles will also include less congestion, reduced emissions, reclaimed productive time, fewer new roads, reclaimed parking space, lower transportation costs for all and improved mobility of the elderly and disabled.

As traffic planners wrestle with the issues of moving people and goods within and between cities, there are a variety of transportation options to consider with everything from Hyperloop, to highways, bridges, buses, and light rail.
One thing that these projects all have in common is large-scale infrastructure projects which take a long time (often multiple decades) and require large up-front capital investments. Examples include the Big Dig in Boston, which cost nearly $15B, began in 1982 and was not completed until 2007; and in Seattle, the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement, which began in 2001 and is not expected to be completed until 2021, at a cost of more than $4B.
Incorporating autonomous vehicles into our transportation systems, on the other hand, is a very low cost way to drastically improve the flow of goods and people within a region as long as we begin now to make the policy changes that will allow the benefits to be achieved as the technology comes to market.
Seattle and Vancouver are vibrant cities, but the transportation between them is tedious and impedes valuable economic partnerships.
Our proposal, which could be applied to many main Interstate highways and local limited-access thoroughfares, is to begin turning carpool lanes into  autonomous vehicle lanes as early as next year.

Recall that HOV lanes were created as an incentive for commuters to change their behaviors.  It is time to use that incentive to accelerate the move to the fututre architecture of transportation.  As the number of autonomous vehicles grows over the coming decade, we could gradually dedicate entire lanes exclusively to AVs (and perhaps fit three AV lanes into the space of two traditional car lanes). Eventually, the entire highway would become autonomous-only.
While some stakeholders believe it is still too early to begin planning for autonomous vehicles on public roads, at the current rate of technological progress and with the early data suggesting drastic improvements in traffic safety, we believe we will reach a major tipping point during the coming decade, well within the time frame of a major transportation project.
The very same computing advances that allow your cell phones, computers, tablets and other gadgets to recognize you and respond to your voice now underpin the enabling of cars to achieve more and more autonomous operation.  In the computing world these advances proceed quickly, with society adopting them en masse.
The only thing that will delay the arrival of autonomous vehicles will be timidity on the part of regulators and legislatures to give the public the chance to take them up at a similar rate.
There are still many questions in introducing autonomous vehicles into our current transportation systems- what level of autonomony will be required for inattentive driving under various conditions, will most people continue to own cars, how will street parking change - but dealing with these issues is clearly less expensive than the massive investment of building new highways, bridges, or rail lines.
Autonomous vehicles offer a plethora of benefits to cities and their tax payers - fast to market, low investment requirements, and many societal benefits ranging from fewer accidents to broader access to low-cost transportation.
Transit planners across the country should accelerate their consideration of the importance of autonomous vehicles as they map out their plans for the future of city and interstate transportation. These changes will be as important as the construction of the Interstate Highways System in the last century.  It is time to get going…

article from

Friday, 10 November 2017

NVIDIA CEO: "No More Than 4 Years to Have Fully Autonomous Cars on the Road" TAIPEI (Reuters) - Nvidia Corp chief executive Jensen Huang said on Thursday artificial intelligence would enable fully automated cars within 4 years, but sought to tamp down expectations for a surge in demand for its chips from cryptocurrency miners.


TAIPEI (Reuters) - Nvidia Corp chief executive Jensen Huang said on Thursday artificial intelligence would enable fully automated cars within 4 years, but sought to tamp down expectations for a surge in demand for its chips from cryptocurrency miners.


FILE PHOTO: Nvidia co-founder and CEO Jensen Huang attends an event during the annual Computex computer exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Nvidia came to prominence in the gaming industry for designing graphics-processing chips, but in recent years has been expanding into newer technologies including high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, and self-driving cars.
Its expansion has been richly rewarded with a 170 percent stock surge over the past year, boosting its market value to $116 billion.
"It will take no more than 4 years to have fully autonomous cars on the road. How long it takes for the vast majority of cars on the road to become that, it really just depends," Huang told media after a company event in Taipei.
Global tech firms such as Apple Inc, Facebook, Alphabet Inc, Amazon and China's Huawei [HWT.UL] are spending heavily to develop and offer AI-powered services and products in search of new growth drivers.
Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams said earlier this week that the firm sees its mobile devices as a major platform for AI in the future. 
"There are many tasks in companies that can be automated... the productivity of society will go up," said Nvidia's Huang.
But Huang joined peers taming expectations of strong revenue growth from a wave of interest in cryptocurrencies. Advanced Micro Devices Inc expected this week that there will be some leveling off of cryptocurrency demand. 
"Revenue for us in crypto is over $100 million a quarter. For us, it's a small percentage... It's obviously not a target market," Huang said.
Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that use encryption techniques for security and can be traded. Miners use computers to process cryptocurrency transactions, and they are rewarded with additional cryptocurrency.
Reporting by Jess Macy Yu; Writing by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Can You Build a Car From Plants? Yes - The Green Machine Manufacturers are constantly searching for lighter, cheaper and more durable materials. The past 20 years have seen steel slowly replaced by aluminium in vehicle chassis, while carbon fibre has also started to trickle down from race cars to mainstream production lines.

The Green Machine

Manufacturers are constantly searching for lighter, cheaper and more durable materials. The past 20 years have seen steel slowly replaced by aluminium in vehicle chassis, while carbon fibre has also started to trickle down from race cars to mainstream production lines. 
Now a team of students from the Netherlands is saying car makers should start using more sustainable materials, such as plant fibres, to cut down on waste and pollution. And to show exactly how it can be done, the group of Dutch academics from Eindhoven University of Technology has built the world's first plant-based vehicle.
Auto Express visited the TU/ecomotive team at the Dutch embassy in London to find out how the planet's first car with a chassis that is made of plant fibre came to be and what the unique model aims to achieve.

The idea for a plant-based vehicle started two years ago. Each year, the TU/ecomotive team builds an electric car to test new technologies and its own engineering wits, but this year it wanted to do something different. 
Quinten Oostvogel, an automotive engineering student and team manager of the TU/ecomotive group, told us: "We wanted to look at bio-based options to build a chassis and considered the plant flax. Flax fibres are very tough, and the flower is very popular in regions like Canada and Russia. This makes it ideal for making strong composites."
The 22 students then began designing, engineering and building the car. The aim was to take part in the 2017 Shell Eco-marathon, which was held in London in May. Mechanical engineering student and chief mechanical systems and chassis engineer Bas Huisman explained the process: "We built the flax fibres ourselves," he said. "We first dried thousands of plants in a field in the summer." 

The plants were then placed in an oven to help separate the fibres, which were woven into 100-metre rolls that were dried once more. "We then laid the fibre rolls on top of one another and put them into an oven and pressed them hard to create strong sheets of flax fibre," Huisman added. 
Sheets of flax fibre on their own aren't strong enough to endure the stress a vehicle chassis goes through when on the road. To add some extra strength, the TU/ecomotive team placed a honeycomb PLA (polylactic acid) structure between two sets of compressed sheets. 
The end result is several big plates of flax-fibre 'blocks' that can be cut to fit. According to Huisman, 80 per cent of the chassis is made of flax fibre; the rest, such as the suspension, is bolted on. The structure only tips the scales at 70kg, although Huisman claims it could weigh as little as 40kg - a lot lighter than an aluminium chassis. 
The rest of the car - an electric drivetrain featuring two motors and a modular lithium-ion battery system - was 
finished in seven weeks. The vehicle was aptly named Lina by the students, after the Greek goddess of weaving.
Although the 310kg gross vehicle weight was above the maximum 225kg allowance set by Shell to race in the Eco-marathon in London this year, the purpose was never to compete. Rather, it was to make a point. "The reason we created this car was to show manufacturers that they should be looking at different materials," Oostvogel said.
He explained: "Car makers opt for lightweight materials such as aluminium and carbon fibre to create lighter, more efficient cars. The processing of these materials, however, requires five to six times more energy than steel. 

"Consequently, energy that is saved is now spent during the production phase. In addition, recyclability of these lightweight materials is lacking. These are not sustainable materials," the engineering student added.
Flax fibre is not only more environmentally friendly, it's also far lighter than any of the materials and can easily be recycled. But what about safety? Oostvogel admitted the team hadn't crash-tested the car, but said that the honeycomb structure means the flax-fibre chassis has the same structural strength as a fibreglass chassis, which isn't too far off the strength of an aluminium unit. 
"We've done some simulation crashes and the results are encouraging. Definitely you could see flax fibres in future chassis of production cars," Oostvogel told us. 

The TU/ecomotive team isn't alone in encouraging research and investment into bio-based chassis. Japanese researchers at Kyoto University - working with the Denso Corporation, Toyota's biggest supplier - are currently studying how wood particles could be incorporated into chassis manufacturing for future vehicles.
Wood particles weigh five times less than steel, but with the correct engineering can be up to five times stronger than the metal, potentially offering huge benefits for car makers. Oostvogel said: "People need to start seeing bio-based materials as more than paper cups. They offer huge amounts of potential utility." 

What's it like to ride in? 

Auto Express was given a brief spin around a closed London street to get a feel for the Lina. The moment you climb aboard, there's a distinct but pleasant smell of burnt wood.  "This is the flax. Because we've heated it in the oven there's a smell to it," explained team manager Quinten Oostvogel.

Inside, the group has fitted mood lighting and music-streaming ability; this is, after all, a car designed and built by students. With no noise insulation, the electric drivetrain and road noise make themselves heard, and the suspension is rigid, but all these are minor points to note and nothing you wouldn't find in any other prototype. 
Whether this is the future of cars is hard to tell at this stage, but as an engineering feat the flax-fibre car has to be marvelled at. 

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