Saturday, March 12, 2016

GM Buying Self-Driving Tech Startup for More Than $1 Billion

D. Patrick Mar 11,"General Motors  GM 1.43%  this morning announced that it will acquire Cruise Automation, a San Francisco-based developer of autonomous vehicle technology. No financial terms were disclosed, but Fortune has learned from a source close to the situation that the deal is valued at “north of $1 billion,” in a combination of cash and stock.

Talks between the two companies originally related to a strategic investment by GM in Cruise, which was planning to raise a new round of venture capital funding. But that quickly morphed into an acquisition discussion with the entire agreement getting hashed out in less than six weeks. Read more Hmmmm…That sets the bar.  Reminiscent of AOL paying $1.1B for MapQuest resulting in NavTeq getting $8.1B from Nokia followed by Here getting $3B from MB et alDeja vu all over again!  Very interesting  🙂  Alain

  Primers On The Business Innovation And Disruption Enabled By Driverless Cars

C. Mui, Mar 10, "“Baloney” and “nonsense” captured the zeitgeist of many reactions to my early articles on the potential of Google’s self-driving car program. But, that was in 2013, when many viewed driverless cars as nothing more than a high-tech dalliance by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. …To facilitate an ongoing discussion (and help to address search engine limitations), this post will provide an ongoing, chronological compendium of my articles on the business and societal innovation and disruption enabled by driverless cars. Happy reading, and I’d welcome your comments. Read more and Comment  Hmmmm…23 of Chunka’s visionary articles are linked.  He’s be right on! 🙂  Alain

Driverless Trucks – Background and views on Truck Platooning

Mar 2016, "The correct term for the proposed system to be trialled is not ‘driverless trucks’, but ‘platooning’. This is where a series of vehicles use technology to enable drivers to move more closely to each other in convoy than would be safe if he or she were not using them. The UK government has agreed to a limited trial of platooning on a stretch of the M6 in Cumbria, a portion of UK motorway that is relatively quiet with larger sections between junctions…." Read more Hmmmm…I hear the arguments about truck platooning; however, the value of platooning can only be captured if there is a substantive chance that vehicles so equipped will find ech other sufficiently often in their normal traffic movements to make a difference. There is one place where platooning would be useful for a substantial portion (~25%) of their daily travels:  The 3,000 buses in trans-Hudson service!  Alain

Exclusive – At 100, BMW sees radical new future in world of driverless cars

E. Taylor, Mar 4, "After a century building what it calls the "ultimate driving machine", BMW is preparing for a world in which its customers will be mere passengers, and the cars will do the driving themselves….Days before BMW’s 100th birthday, its board member for research and development described plans for a completely overhauled company, where half the R&D staff will be computer programmers, competing with the likes of Google parent Alphabet to build the brains for self-driving cars…." Read more Hmmmm…BMW finally becoming "The Ultimate Riding Machine"?!?!  Yeah!!!. Alain

Sergio Marchionne Wants Fiat to Build an Apple Car

Mar 2, "Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne, who describes himself as an “Apple freak,” is keen to partner with the technology giant on building a car.
Given the complexity of auto manufacturing, Apple Inc. would be better served working with an established manufacturer than trying to build a car on its own, and the Italian-American company would be well-suited, according to Marchionne, who says he owns every kind of product Apple makes…." Read more Hmmmm…The 500 already looks like a Google car so there’ll be no infringement by Apple. Go for it!  Alain

Baidu Joins Geely Urging China to Hasten Autonomous-Driving Law

Mar 2, "The chairmen of Internet search provider Baidu Inc. and automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. urged China’s government to speed up the drafting of a legal framework for autonomous driving technology.  Baidu Chief Executive Robin Li and Li Shufu, founder of Volvo owner Geely, wrote in separate proposals to a Chinese political advisory body that early establishment of a legal system governing autonomous driving would boost development of the technology and attract investment. China’s carmakers and tech companies are competing in the space with the likes of Google Inc. in the U.S., Daimler AG in Germany and Nissan Motor Co. in Japan….." Read more Hmmmm…Yup!  Go for it!. Alain

  Startup trials autonomous delivery robots in Greenwich

A. Scroxton, "Starship Technologies, a supplier of autonomous robotics technology, has secured permission from Greenwich Council to trial self-driving delivery robots.

The Estonia-based startup –  set up by two of Skype’s co-founders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis – has just opened a London office in the area. It aims to revolutionise the logistics sector and cut the cost of delivering goods – by as much as 15 times per shipment – using a fleet of autonomous, lightweight robots for the last-mile, local delivery of items such as groceries.  

Its six-wheeled robots generate zero carbon emissions and move around without human input for most of the time – but they are monitored by human controllers, who can take the reins if they need to…Read more Hmmmm…Seems more promising than Amazon’s drones. Alain

Hi-Res 3D Flash LIDAR will supplement Continental’s existing portfolio for automated driving

Press Release, Mar 3, "…acquisition of the Hi-Res 3D Flash LIDAR business from Advanced Scientific Concepts, Inc. (ASC) based in Santa Barbara, California. This innovative technology will further enhance the company’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems product portfolio with a future-orientated solution to add to the group of surrounding sensors needed to achieve highly and fully automated driving…."Read more Hmmmm…Maybe…In the end, this technology gets dominated by vision (and acoustics).  Continental should have saved its money?   See Wired article below.  Just stirring the pot with my expectation. Alain

Anthony Foxx: Grit Goes Further Than Genius

A Bryant, Mar 11, "This interview with Anthony Foxx, United States transportation secretary, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant…."  Read more  Hmmmm… Enlightening!  Alain

Some other thoughts that deserve your attention

Long-Haul Sweatshops

A. Balay, Mar 9,  "…A big part of the problem is that when it comes to long-haul trucking, the government’s focus has been almost entirely on road safety. That’s not a misplaced concern; highway accidents involving semis kill about 5,000 people per year. But it overlooks a critical concern: the well-being of the drivers themselves…." Read more  Hmmmm…Well worth reading, but the driver’s well-being can be best improved through the aggressive adoption of automated collision avoidance and lane keeping systems.  Drivers need help in performing and extremely difficult and tedious task!! The technology is available and has an ultra-attractive RoI since the technology allows insurers, self or otherwise, to "print money" through the technology’s substantive reduction in expected liability exposure (expected loss). Alain

In a Huge Breakthrough, Google’s AI Beats a Top Player at the Game of Go

C. Mets, Jan 27 "…In a major breakthrough for artificial intelligence, a computing system developed by Google researchers in Great Britain has beaten a top human player at the game of Go, the ancient Eastern contest of strategy and intuition that has bedeviled AI experts for decades…" Read more  Hmmmm…The Wired article gives some details about the Google approach which is similar to our real-time-image-based DeepDriving approach to the cognitive aspects of autonomous driving.  Update: the DeepMind software has beat an even better player in their first match: Master of Go Board Game Is Walloped by Google Computer Program, and their 2nd match: Google’s DeepMind beats Lee Se-dol again to go 2-0 up in historic Go series Also see AlphaGo: Mastering the ancient game of Go with Machine Learning 🙂 Alain

As roads become safer for drivers and passengers, pedestrian deaths still rise

A. Halsley, Mar 8,"Safer cars and safer roads have resulted in an overall decline in driver and passenger fatalities in recent years, but pedestrians are as vulnerable as ever and the number killed by vehicles continues to increase, according to a new study…. Read more  Hmmmm…and see: Early data suggests pedestrian deaths surged in 2015.   Unfortunately, the National Safety Council recently reported that deaths went up 8% in 2015 (VMT up only 3.5%) (Motor Vehicle Deaths Increase by Largest Percent in 50 Years)  and Owen Curtis has weighed in as linked here with respect to the pedestrian issue.  Alain

Silicon Valley Residents Leave for Greener Grass, Cheaper Housing

G. Wells, Mar 3, "Not everyone wants to live in Silicon Valley. Americans are starting to leave the techie hub faster than they’re arriving, a new study says….Not everyone wants to live in Silicon Valley. Americans are starting to leave the techie hub faster than they’re arriving, a new study says…. Read more  Hmmmm…Come to Jersey (however, property and income taxes are brutal!)  🙁 Alain

4 Carnegie Mellon spinoffs acquired by global companies in 2015

K. Serenke, Mar 7, "Pittsburgh is on a roll….Following is a brief recap of just a few Pittsburgh companies—all CMU spinoffs—that were acquired in high-profile deals in the last year…Ottomatika’s path as a company was intense, jettisoning from creation to acquisition in less than 18 months. Now that he has handed over his “baby” as part of Delphi’s August 2015 acquisition, Dr. Rajkumar will continue as a CMU professor, working to develop embedded technology that will further transform transportation and manufacturing as we know it.  Read more  Hmmmm…Congratulations! Alain

On the More Technical Side

 Review of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards(FMVSS) for Automated Vehicles

A. Kim, et al, Mar 2016, "Current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) do not explicitly address automated vehicle technology and often assume the presence of a human driver. As a result, existing language may create certification challenges for manufacturers of automated vehicles that choose to pursue certain vehicle concepts.  Read more  Hmmmm…One really doesn’t have to read more to realize that the name of these"Standards" should be changed to "Federal Human Controlled Vehicle Safety Standards" and a whole new set of standards should be set for Driverless Vehicles (NHTSA Level4) ("Federal Driverless Vehicle Safety Standards" ) and  Self-Driving Vehicles (NHTSA Level2/3) ("Federal Self-Driving Vehicle Safety Standards" ).  The Feds have work to do and they should get going or get out of the way.  Alain

Recompiled Old News & Smiles:

Half-baked stuff that probably doesn’t deserve your time:


i Mar. 2, "The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has revealed two innovative new concept tires at the 86th Geneva International Motor Show that could literally reshape the future for autonomous cars.
The concepts: the spherical-shaped Eagle-360 – a future-oriented tire – was designed with key features of maneuverability, connectivity and biomimicry for autonomous mobility, while the IntelliGrip, featuring advanced sensor and treadwear technology, is a solution for the earlier adoption of self-driving vehicles…Connected via magnetic levitation: The tires would rely on a magnetic levitation system to suspend the car resulting in a smooth, quiet ride for the passenger…"  Read more Hmmmm…When I first saw this I thought I was reading an Onion article.  Really???  Alain

C’mon Man!  (These folks didn’t get/read the memo)

Suburbia reimagined in driverless car future

Mar 9, "The are currently 31 million cars in Britain, but are we close to "peak car"?"  See video Hmmmm…Doubtful!  What is improperly imagined is that this neighborhood is locally self-sustaining requiring only a pleasant walk in the sunshine to create a desirable quality of life.  (Even though the sun rarely shines in the UK)>  It is not the road, nor the cars that are the problem in this neighborhood; it is the sterility of the land use.  No stores, no workplace, no entertainment places, no playgrounds, no parks, no schools, no… No wonder people needed cars and escape this sterility!  C’mon Man!  Alain

Calendar of Upcoming Events:

The Business of Autonomous Vehicles
March 22-23, 2016
Crowne Plaza Hotel, San Francisco Airport

Workshop on Automated Vehicle Policy and Regulation:

A State Perspective

The National Transportation Center, University of Maryland

May 18, 2016
Preliminary Program

Recent Highlights of:

Thursday, March 3, 2016

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN: How we found (and lost) the dream of Personal Rapid Transit

A. Robertson, Feb 10 , Feb. "…Half a century after its heyday, the Alden StaRRcar clearly wasn’t made for its world. It looks like a white flatiron with wheels or a sleek, plastic bullet, dwarfed by the regal sedans of 1960s Detroit. It belongs in one of Buckminster Fuller’s domed cities, a vehicle for traveling under the geodesics of a bubble-topped Manhattan. Its future wasn’t one of highways, but of narrow cement tracks looping gracefully between city and suburb, connecting increasingly alienated parts of the American landscape…

Once considered a key to solving urban blight, the StaRRcar was part of a public transit revolution that never was — but one that would help launch one of the weirdest and most politicized public infrastructure experiments of the 20th century. It’s an old idea that today, in an age of self-driving cars, seems by turns impractically retro and remarkably prescient…

PRT’s invention is attributed to a transportation expert named Donn Fichter, but the central idea was conceived, remixed, and adapted by many in the 1950s and 1960s. While the details varied, the prototypical PRT system was a network of narrow guideways populated by small passenger pods. When commuters arrived, they would hit a button to select a destination, calling one of the pods like a taxi. Then, instead of running on a set line, the pod would use guideways like a freeway system, routing around stations in order to take passengers directly to their final stop.

The system was designed to be everything that existing public transportation wasn’t. Pods would carry only as many people as an average car, guaranteeing a nearly private ride. Riders wouldn’t need to follow a timetable or wait for other people to enter and exit the system. Because the pods would only be dispatched on demand, cities could run service to many low-traffic areas without worrying about waste. There were no drivers to train or pay, and the pods could run quietly on electrical power instead of with fossil fuels…

Multiple plans for personal rapid transit fell through, whether because of budget problems, logistical issues, or political power struggles….

And as in the ‘60s, we’re talking about whether self-driving vehicles could spell the end of private cars…." Read more  Hmmmm…A must read.  Pretty much as I remember it.  I lived much of it, including designing 10,000 station, 10,000 mile PRT networks that could serve all of New Jersey’s needs for personal mobility.  The good news was that the area-wide systems would provide great mobility for all.  The bad news: No viable way to start.  The best starting places could each be readily served by conventional systems with no technology risk.  Without a place to start, PRT never got a chance to flourish in the vast areas that are un-servable by conventional technology.  Moreover, PRT needed the diversion of public sector capital funds that weres already in the back pocket of those pedaling the conventional technologies. Consequently, the personal auto has reigned on.

Today is different. With PRT, even the first vehicle needed a couple of stations and interconnecting guideway (and all of the discussion and heartache was about the location and cost of those initial stations and guideway).  With autonomous taxis sharing existing roads, one can begin with a single vehicle capable of serving many existing places without needing to pay-for/justify any infrastructure.   That is today’s fundamental opportunity, in contrast to PRT’s monumental infrastructure burden even for one vehicle.  That’s why aTaxis are destined to finally deliver PRT’s utopian mobility to all and substantially transform our cities and suburbs. Alain

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Vancouver councillor wants city to prepare for driverless cars  T. Fletcher, Feb 18 "Driverless cars might seem like a futuristic dream, but a city councillor doesn’t want Vancouver to take a hands-off approach to the emerging technology.  Coun. Geoff Meggs is steering a motion slated for next Tuesday’s council meeting asking city staff to look into the impact of self-driving vehicles and how to maximize the benefits of the technology for Vancouver and the city’s economy.

Although the city’s transportation 2040 plan, which outlines a strategy for how people and goods will move in and around Vancouver for the next 30 years, was adopted only four years ago, Meggs said it fails to address driverless technology….  “It may be a powerful tool or there may be problems with it, but at the moment, it’s an empty category in a lot of our thinking,” Meggs told Metro. “We don’t want our (transportation) plan, which we just did, to be obsolete before it even starts.”…"  Read more Hmmmm…Yup!  Obviously, "obsolescence before ribbon cutting" is something all cities should try to avoid.  Alain

Thursday, February 18, 2016

  Motor Vehicle Deaths Increase by Largest Percent in 50 Years

Press Release Feb 16 "With continued lower gasoline prices and an improving economy resulting in an estimated 3.5% increase in motor-vehicle mileage, the number of motor-vehicle deaths in 2015 totaled 38,300, up 8% from 2014.

The 2015 estimate is provisional and may be revised when more data are available. The total for 2015 was up 8% from the 2013 figure. The annual total for 2014 was 35,398, a less than 0.5% increase from 2013. The 2013 figure was 3% lower than 2012. The estimated annual population death rate is 11.87 deaths per 100,000 population, an increase of 7% from the 2014 rate. The estimated annual mileage death rate is 1.22 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, an increase of 5% from the 2014 rate. Read more Hmmmm…This is REALLY BAD news.  Come on insurance. This is costing you money!  Accident rates going up means that your actuarials are behind, your regulated pricing lags and you are losing money.  To get ahead of your actuarials, you MUST incentivize the adoption of automated collision avoidance systems.  You’ll then do very well, thank you AND help society.  Alain

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

 Budget of the U.S. Government, FY 2017

Feb. 9, "…(3) Accelerate the integration of autonomous vehicles, low-carbon technologies, and intelligent transportation systems into our infrastructure….

  • Providing almost $400 million on average per year in funding over the next 10 years for the deployment of self-driving vehicles. Investments would help develop connected infrastructure and smart sensors that can communicate with autonomous vehicles, support R&D to ensure these vehicles are safe and road ready, and expand at-scale deployment projects to provide “proving grounds” for autonomous self-driving and connected vehicles in urban and highway settings.

Read more Hmmmm…major victory…not only: "…for autonomous self-driving…", bit also stated before: "… and connected…".     Alain

Thursday, January 28, 2016

London’s first driverless cars revealed

The consortium behind the trial has decided to adapt electric passenger shuttles that are currently in service at Heathrow Airport for use in Greenwich.  Unlike the Heathrow pods, they will not need dedicated tracks.
The Greenwich trial is one of four in the UK to test driverless technology and public reaction to it…"This vehicle has millions of miles under its belt and now we have to take it outside of the track and modify it for use on pavements," he added.  The so-called UltraPODs currently in service at Heathrow carry passengers between the car park and Terminal 5. In the five years they have been in use, they have carried 1.5 million passengers and traveled three million kilometers (1.8 million miles)…."   Read more   Hmmm…Wow!! … PRT evolving to be autonomousTaxis!  Wow!!!  🙂    Alain

Thursday, January 14, 2016

 Obama’s $4 Billion Plan for Self-Driving Cars Will Make Google Very Happy

M. Bergen, Jan 14 "The Obama Administration has seen the self-driving future, and it’s jumping aboard.  At the Detroit auto show on Thursday morning, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will unveil a plan to develop a national blueprint for autonomous driving technology within the next six months.  He will also announce that President Obama is planning to insert $4 billion into the 2017 budget for a 10-year plan to support and “accelerate” vehicle automation projects.

“We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and transform mobility for the American people,” Secretary Foxx said in a statement. …But here’s the part of Foxx’s talk that really matters for Google: These national rules will allow fully driverless cars..." Read More  Hmmm… A few months ago it was $42M for Connected Vehicles. Today it is 100x for automated vehicles! Finally Secretary Foxx.."YES! YES! JESUS H. TAP-DANCING CHRIST… I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT" (Blue Brothers)  Yea!!!!!   🙂 Alain

Sunday, January 3, 2016

 Google Pairs With Ford To Build Self-Driving Cars

J. Hyde & S. Carty, Dec. 21 "Google and Ford will create a joint venture to build self-driving vehicles with Google’s technology, a huge step by both companies toward a new business of automated ride sharing, …According to three sources familiar with the plans, the partnership is set to be announced by Ford at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. By pairing with Google, Ford gets a massive boost in self-driving software development; while the automaker has been experimenting with its own systems for years, it only revealed plans this month to begin testing on public streets in California….

Google already has several links to Ford; the head of the self-driving car project, John Krafcik, worked for 14 years at Ford, including a stint as head of truck engineering, and several other ex-Ford employees work in the unit as well. Former Ford chief executive Alan Mulally joined Google’s board last year.

And Ford executives have been clear for years that the company was ready to embrace a future where cars were sold as on-demand services. Ford CEO Mark Fields has repeatedly said Ford was thinking of itself “as a mobility company,” and what that would mean for its business" Read more  Hmmm…Not surprising and not exclusive. 🙂 Alain

Sunday, December 19, 2015

Adam Jonas’ View on Autonomous Cars

Video similar to part of Adam’s Luncheon talk @ 2015 Florida Automated Vehicle Symposium on Dec 1.  Hmmm … Watch Video  especially at the 13:12 mark.  Compelling; especially after the 60 Minutes segment above!  Also see his TipRanks.  Alain

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