AV Update - February 2014
From the Editors
The whole area of Automated Vehicles (AVs) just keeps gaining momentum. Since our last edition, there has been a lot of news -- as you will see below.
The big story of the month for us is more details from the Morgan Stanley report which estimates that AVs will save the US $1.3 trillion/year.
The question of the month: could Singapore-MIT researchers really have an AV ready for safe use on Singapore roads in 2016?
If you are new to the subject of AVs, then the most recent version of the AUVSI "Mission Critical" magazine focuses on urban mobility and is a great introduction to the subject. But it doesn’t give you the depth of insight that our AV Update does!
Renault Nissan: Ghosn, the CEO, said "Stay tuned, because [there's} a lot of investment coming there. You are going to see the [self-drive] car before 2020." Ghosn said this at the Davos World Economic Forum.
Renault: This was followed by Renault announcing the "NEXT TWO" self-driving car which could be on the roads by 2020, but the self-driving function would be limited to speeds of up to 30 km/h and on protected routes where no pedestrians or cyclists are expected…. We are unsure of the unique selling point with this proposal.
Audi: CEO Rupert Stadler said "Driverless cars with us in 3-5 years"
VW: "VW draws nearer to driverless cars"
Tesla: Mobileye has teamed with Tesla to develop AVs. This is vison-based technology that isn’t yet at the point where it can meet the safety levels required for public roads – but that is probably just a matter of time.
Tesla: Yes, they did meet with Apple.
Tesla: CEO Elon Musk said they "Will be first with [significant] autonomous driving" But has he not seen the Mercedes Bertha Benz run of last year? But we find the "Giga Factory" compelling as it reinforces the argument that AVs will mostly use electric propulsion.
Volvo: the "concept Roam Delivery service brings you groceries right to the trunk of your car" – could this be an early precursor to automated delivery?
Volvo: Li Shufu, Chairman of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (China) said: “Volvo has now realized highly-automated; the completely-automated phase is expected to be fulfilled around 2020. A highly self-driving car may need little human input, while a completely autonomous car needs absolutely no human interference. The new highly-automated Volvo model that will be launched in October can run with or without drivers' control.”
"Protesters show up at the house of Google self-driving car engineer" – this is of concern and comes against a backdrop of a wider backlash from some in the San Francisco Bay Area against the impacts of tech companies and the perceived social inequalities created.
"Technology giant Google has entered a lease agreement with Merced County [California] to use 60 acres of land at Castle Commerce Center to help develop the company's self-driving car technology"
"Google Acquires Artificial Intelligence Startup DeepMind For More Than $500M". Google now has definitely more than 5% and less than 50% of the world’s top artificial intelligence researchers. Combine that with their recent robotic company acquisitions and you may get the feeling that self-driving cars could be just the beginning.
There is no direct connection with AVs at the moment, but Google’s recent announcement on Project Tango giving "mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion" will lead to some very interesting developments. We strongly expect that some meaningful convergence will materialize between AVs and Project Tango down the line.
Ontario is moving quickly towards regulations for testing autonomous vehicles. As we reported in December, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has published draft regulations that will allow autonomous vehicles to be tested on Ontario's roads. There is a public consultation process that included a meeting on February 21, 2014, and written comments were due by February 24, 2014. Barrie Kirk of CAVCOE attended the consultation meeting. The meeting was well-attended and the discussion was lively and well-informed. The Ministry has committed to keeping us appraised of progress on this file and we hope to share further updates in the near future.
After a long wait, US DOT have finally announced their decision to move forward with Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication technology for light vehicles.
Brad Templeton as usual has some very interesting things to say on this decision: "US push to mandate V2V radios – is it a good choice?" From which we conclude that it’s complicated and that an alternative solution based around cellphones/smart devices might be more appropriate. Please make your own mind up on this one – it’s very political and there are lots of vested interests.
If you haven’t seen the Stanford CIS wiki page on AVs and "Legislative and Regulatory Action" then we suggest you have a look. The page states that Michigan has now enacted laws for testing on public roads, and Georgia and South Dakota are in process with recent updates.
A newly published Google patent shows how their driverless cars monitor traffic lights in real-time.
Sensors for self-driving cars are getting smaller.
"New LiDAR chip will sharpen aerial mapping and autonomous car vision" It’s all about packing in an unprecedented number of single photon pixel detectors. This breakthrough could be very significant indeed.
An interesting 2m 25s video in which Velodyne explains their LiDAR systems and gives us a peek preview of their latest offering which is much smaller and easier to integrate into the vehicle profile.
In January, Ford said it was working with the University of Michigan and State Farm to develop an autonomous Ford Fusion hybrid test car. Now Ford, Stanford and MIT research is giving self-driving cars "intuition".
The first Singapore-MIT developed driverless car is being developed to solve the "first-mile, last-mile" problem and to promote car sharing. The team believes that in a situation where all legal obstacles are removed then it can bring their AV prototype onto public roads in two years. Food for thought!
An AV testing ground has been designated in Florida: “The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority said Friday the Selmon Expressway has become one of 10 sites nationwide where researchers can study the safety and performance of automated vehicles.”
A paper "Implementing Technology to Improve Public Highway Performance: A Leapfrog Technology from the Private Sector Is Going To Be Necessary" by Clifford Winston and Fred Mannering caught our attention. Very simply – they believe the private sector and AV technology development will leap frog the public sector, and it would be best if the public sector does not impede the process with unnecessary regulations.
The same paper is summed up in this article as "How driverless cars could save the government lots and lots of money". We couldn’t agree more – but it is a conditional statement that requires action by the party involved, and we aren’t sure the level of action required has been appreciated yet.
The Hefei Institute, China, will work with a domestic automaker "to make unmanned new-energy vehicles". Apparently they are “not inferior to the Google driverless car.” When we see the result, we will be happy to provide an opinion.
"Aussie car-share service GoGet is working on a self-driving car with UNSW". The details are sketchy but this seems to be looking at studying the roads and how human drivers treat their cars.
"Auto insurers prepare for self-driving cars and frayed nerves". State Farm predicts that while the frequency of accidents may decline, the cost of collions will be more severe. There also seems to be an assumption of personal ownership. Whereas we can see an increasing shift away from personal ownership.
Insurance companies are being "told to prepare for the seismic impact of driverless vehicle technology". This captured our interest because futurist Rohit Talwar, chief executive of Fast Future claimed that “policymakers in New York City are already discussing plans to acquire more than 5000 driverless vehicles to serve as taxis."
AVs in Cities
Another Singpaore-MIT study suggests that they only need a third of the current passenger vehicles that are in operation to meet the mobility needs of the entire population.
"AVs: What’s the impact on public transit?" includes a quote from our Paul Godsmark. The general advice – public transit should consider the impacts of AVs. Easier said than done, but the longer this is delayed, then the greater the cost in our opinion.
"Imagine: A world where nobody owns their own car" – we are not sure if Prof Kornhauser’s views were represented with 100% accuracy, but it’s a great article to add to the discussion.
"How many Americans want to live in a driverless city?" is the question asked in a Bloomberg video. This is becoming a common theme.
"Ed Bacon competition examines Philly with driverless cars". Suddenly everyone seems to be interested!
"The office of the future is a self-driving car". Yes, for some this is definitely going to be an option – with all sorts of implications on cities, taxes, rents etc.
"Woes of Megacity Driving Signal Dawn of ‘Peak Car’ Era". This article strongly points to some of the problems, the mega-trends and the solutions for the motor car in the existing paradigm. AVs will be key to the solution.
We have our own article coming out soon, and papers being presented this year on Automated Vehicle Zones or "driverless car neighbourhoods". This is a subject we have been promoting for nearly two years now. Why wait decades for human drivers to disappear when we can create zones for AVs to capture the full benefits within just a few years?
Other Interesting News
On the subject of advertising and privacy: "What If Your Autonomous Car Keeps Routing You Past Krispy Kreme?".
"Google patents ad-powered taxi service that would offer free rides to shoppers."
If you are getting worried that automated internal combustion engine vehicles will need our help every time they need fuel, then think again.
"Future Disruptions in Transportation – 2014 and beyond" identifies same-day delivery, 3D printing and AVs, but then fails to spot the massive potential for convergence between the three – just look at the zoox concept of a car manufactured by additive printing that could be used for same-day delivery.
Upcoming AV-related Events
May 6-7, 2014: the "Self Drive Vehicles" conference in San Francisco. Keep an eye out for our Paul Godsmark who will be speaking on "The Wider Socio-Economic Impacts of Automated Vehicles".
May 28-29, 2014: Telematics Update's:Insurance Telematics Canada 2014 in Toronto. CAVCOE's Barrie Kirk will be a panelist discussing how autonomous vehicles and connected vehicles will change auto insurance.
June 1-4, 2014: CITE/OTC "Transportationfest" Conference in Waterloo, Ontario. Barrie Kirk will present a paper on autonomous vehicles.
July 14-18, 2014: there is the joining of the previous two best AV events of the last couple of years into the one AUVSI / TRB AV Symposium, also in San Francisco.
September 14-17, 2014: IEEE 80th Vehicular Technology Conference in Vancouver. Barrie Kirk is the Co-Chair of a full day on autonomous vehicles and connected vehicles. Both Barrie and Paul Godsmark will be speakers that day.