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   Technology StocksDriverless autos, trucks, taxis etc.


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From: Sam9/14/2020 9:29:27 AM
1 Recommendation   of 403
 
Lidar Is Finally Becoming a Real Business

The success of lidar companies was unclear until this summer, when three leading makers offered glimpses of their finances.

TIMOTHY B. LEE, ARS TECHNICA
via Wired
09.11.2020 08:00 AM

FOR YEARS, THE lidar business has had a lot of hype but not a lot of hard numbers. Dozens of lidar startups have touted their impressive technology, but until recently it wasn't clear who, if anyone, was actually gaining traction with customers.

That's starting to change. This summer, three leading lidar makers have done major fundraising rounds that included releasing public data on their financial performance.

The latest lidar maker to release financial data is Ouster, which announced a $42 million round in a Tuesday blog post. That post also revealed a striking statistic: The company says it now has 800 customers.

That's interesting because we can compare it fairly directly to two other prominent lidar companies that have released data in recent months. Velodyne, which has been considered the industry leader for the past decade, revealed in July that it had 300 customers.

The lidar startup Luminar hasn't revealed its number of customers, but it disclosed two other figures in August: The company has 50 commercial partners and expects to sell roughly 100 lidar sensors in 2020.

By the metric of total customers, then, Ouster seems to be well ahead of two of its better-known rivals. But saying that Ouster has become the industry leader would be too simplistic. In reality, the three companies are each pursuing different segments of the market.

At the high end of the lidar market are powerful sensors that sell for tens of thousands of dollars each. Self-driving-vehicle companies buy these units for their prototype vehicles. Because these companies are well-funded and are making only a few prototype vehicles, they're willing to pay piles of money to get the most powerful sensors available. This market has traditionally been dominated by Velodyne, which has charged as much as $75,000 for a single sensor.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are lidar sensors intended for mass-market automotive applications. Lidar sensors for this market generally need to stay under $1,000 to be viable.

The pioneer here was a little-known company called Ibeo, which partnered with auto supplier Valeo to provide lidar sensors for the 2018 Audi A8. The sensor was primitive, with only four vertical "lines" of resolution. But it was the best lidar Audi could afford given the financial constraints of the consumer car business.

This is the market Luminar is gunning for. Luminar's lidar is much more powerful than the sensor in those early Audis, and the company believes it can get the cost below $1,000 at scale. Back in May, Luminar announced a deal with Volvo to incorporate its lidars into vehicles beginning in 2022. It's the first deal to put high-performance lidar into consumer vehicles. Luminar hopes it will be an inspiration for other automakers.

Ouster makes spinning lidar that looks a lot like Velodyne's high-end sensors. But inside, Ouster uses solid-state chip technology to pack all of its lasers—16 to 128 of them, depending on the product—on a single chip. Ouster's sensors are much simpler than Velodyne's classic design, which involved packaging together 16 to 128 individual lasers and 16 to 128 individual sensors.

The resulting combination of strong performance and relatively low cost has opened new markets for lidar sensors. Ouster's latest generation of 32-laser sensors start at $6,000. That's way too expensive for mass-market automotive use, but it's much less than Velodyne charged for comparable sensors before Ouster came along.

Earlier this year, I talked to John Williams, chief technology officer at Kudan, which sells software to help robots track their own location (a problem known as SLAM in the robotics world). Williams said plenty of companies are building custom robots for niche applications in mines, warehouses, and other industrial environments.

Lidar sensors have obvious value for this kind of application. But before Ouster came along, high-quality lidar was simply too expensive.

"The fact that you can get a 64-channel spinning lidar for $12,000 was unheard of," Williams told me. While Ouster's lidars were "not quite as good as Velodyne" in his opinion, he argued that the company was "the up-and-comer in terms of disrupting the market."

So that may explain Ouster's 800 customers: Companies shipping robots to real customers can't afford to blow tens of thousands of dollars on a lidar sensor. But in many cases, their industrial customers are willing to spend a few thousands dollars for products that better understand the world around them.

Ouster also offers a compelling value proposition to university researchers. Researchers need high performance, but they don't have unlimited budgets. There are probably a lot more research labs with uses for a lidar sensor than there are self-driving projects.

This "broad middle" market is growing fast. Ouster says its third-quarter sales are already more than three times as high as they were in the third quarter of 2019. And Q3 2020 isn't over yet.

A big question for the next few years will be whether falling prices and improving performance will bring these companies into more direct competition.

The company with the most to lose is Velodyne, which has dominated the market for a decade but now faces growing competition from low-cost rivals—especially Ouster. History has shown that it's difficult for a company with a high-performance, high-cost product to deal effectively with a challenge from a cheaper, disruptive rival. It may prove much easier for Ouster to gradually improve its sensors than for Velodyne to slash its prices enough to compete with cheaper rivals.

In discussions with Ars, Ouster CEO Angus Pacala has argued that Ouster will benefit from progress in the broader semiconductor industry. If all goes well, Ouster's solid-state lasers and sensors will continue to get cheaper and more powerful in much the same way that computer chips have over the last 50 years.

Velodyne is certainly trying to meet the threat here. For example, the company has a product called the Velarray that's designed to be cheap enough for the automotive market. Whether Velodyne's lower-cost products have been gaining traction is not clear.

Meanwhile, Ouster and Luminar have very different go-to-market strategies. Luminar has focused on scoring big, multiyear deals with major automotive customers. Ouster has eschewed that market, focusing on selling lidar units a few at a time to a wide range of individual customers.

If Luminar is able to deliver on its Volvo contract and score similar deals with other carmakers, that could provide enough volume to achieve unrivaled economies of scale. Luminar might then be able to undersell higher-price rivals like Ouster and become the overall market leader.

Supplying equipment to automakers, on the other hand, is a notoriously cutthroat, low-margin business. If Luminar can't sign up other automakers, it could find itself yoked to a demanding but not especially lucrative customer.

Lidar is not just a three-horse race, of course. Velodyne is facing competition from Chinese rivals like Hesai and Robosense. Velodyne sued both companies last year for patent infringement.

Luminar, meanwhile, faces formidable competitors in the automotive market, including tier-one auto supplier Bosch. And there are a number of other independent lidar companies that could become significant players in the future.

This story originally appeared on Ars Technica.

wired.com

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To: Sam who wrote (375)9/14/2020 9:51:36 AM
From: kidl
   of 403
 
Given the German bureaucracy, I very much doubt Germany becoming the first country to allow driverless vehicles. China is a much more likely contender.

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From: Sam9/20/2020 9:30:23 AM
   of 403
 
CGTN Exclusive: Chips for self-driving cars caught up in China-U.S. tech war
11:49, 20-Sep-2020
Updated 14:32, 20-Sep-2020

Editor's note: The story is part of our continuing World Factory series, which delves into the trajectory of China's economic growth amid a changing geopolitical landscape, the pandemic and a global economic recession. You can read the first one here.

A speeding truck cuts in directly in front. The car slows down. Pressure is gently applied to the brake and slowly eased. There is no momentary jerk. It's a smooth stop.

This is enabled by an embedded automated driving system developed by iMotion Automotive Technology, a hi-tech company headquartered in eastern China's Suzhou Industrial Park – home to thousands of technology firms and high-end manufacturers.

The company is one of the many startups in the "Silicon Valley" of China and one of the country's few providers of autonomous driving solutions. "I started this company because China lagged behind in self-driving development," Song Yang told CGTN.

Over the years, Tesla and Google have been making headlines with their breakthroughs in autonomous driving, but what's receiving less coverage are Chinese companies using artificial intelligence (AI) to put cars on the road.

Song, a former automated driving specialist at Germany's tech giant Bosch, founded iMotion only four years ago. Developing self-driving car systems needs expertise in multiple dimensions ranging from decision-making and control algorithms to road infrastructure and vehicle interconnection. "It's interesting to see a car go from advanced driver assistance to driverless systems, and it requires long-term devotion."

The past few years witnessed China quickly catching up with the U.S. in this field. "We have achieved self-sufficiency when it comes to producing mass-market cars with L1, L2 and L3 automated driving systems despite a smaller market share. China and the U.S. are seeing the fastest development in autonomous driving in the world," said Song.

But when it comes to higher levels of self-driving systems – L4 and L5 – that will render vehicles fully autonomous, both countries are in the initial stage. What hampers these efforts is the looming tech war with the latest battleground in silicon chips.



A self-driving system developed by iMotion attached behind a rearview mirror for a demonstration, in Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province, August 25, 2020. /CGTN

For self-driving cars, chips are essential in enabling its "brain" and "eyes" to work. For the past four years, iMotion has been using chips made by Israeli company Mobileye to empower its sensors, among other key autonomous features.

Mobileye, founded in Jerusalem in 1999, has been developing vision technology for different levels of autonomous driving. In 2017, it was purchased by U.S. tech giant Intel at a prohibitive price of 15.3 billion U.S. dollars. Back then, the acquisition didn't cause jitters among global tech businesses. It wasn't until early 2018, when the trade war between China and the U.S. broke out, that tech companies started to grow concerned.

With a dismal deterioration in bilateral relations, the conflict has spread to high tech, with Washington moving on national security grounds against Beijing. In mid-May this year, the U.S. Department of Commerce extended export restrictions to all semiconductors made or designed with American software and technology, including those applied to automated driving. Those restrictions took full effect on September 14. Apart from Huawei, which received the most press coverage, most Chinese tech companies using such chips have been dealt a heavy blow.

"If we are completely cut off from the chips, both countries will suffer, but we'll lose more," said Song. Most decision-making chips for self-driving largely come from the U.S., Europe and Japan. China is in the early stage of such development despite its incremental investment in related arenas.



The logo of Israeli tech company Mobileye is seen on the building that houses its headquarters in Jerusalem, Israel, May 15, 2018. /Reuters

But an entire cutoff is unlikely, as tech companies can't separate from traditional manufacturing, according to Song. Control units, cameras and circuits, among a variety of ingredients, need traditional manufacturing. "The U.S. has been blighted by a hollowing-out of manufacturing in recent decades, and China's position as the world factory can hardly be replaced," Song said.

"There's no denying that a tech decoupling is looming as the U.S. seeks to contain China's hi-tech development, but core chips only constitute a tiny part," said Wang Dan, chief economist of Hang Sheng Bank (China), during a phone interview with CGTN.

A slew of Southeast Asian countries have seen the migration of certain American factories amid trade and tech tensions, but they have a difficult time catching up with China in precision manufacturing at an affordable cost. "They have lower labor costs, but most of their products are of coarse quality in addition to a much longer time span," said Chen Lei, an application engineer at iMotion.



A researcher uses a microscope to place a semiconductor on an interface board during research to design and develop a semiconductor product in Beijing, China, February 29, 2016. /Reuters

Besides its strength in high-end manufacturing, China has developed the most complete supply chain in the world, as well as reliable infrastructure over four decades of reform and opening up. The country also has the world's largest automotive market, making it a lucrative destination for chipmakers of autonomous driving systems.

American tech companies that got ahead in achieving truly self-driving vehicles have been making inroads into the Chinese market. Nvidia, a California-based company, is reported to have the world's fastest processors for running artificial intelligence programs that can power self-driving cars. It has teamed up with Baidu to develop an autonomous vehicle platform for China, but the tech export restriction has hampered the endeavor. Mobileye, on the other hand, partnered with Chinese electric vehicle startup NIO to apply its sensor chips to mass-produced cars.

A handful of big Chinese cities have begun issuing commercial testing licenses for self-driving cars in recent months. A dozen Chinese tech companies, ranging from ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing to startups such as WeRide, have introduced self-driving taxis in autonomous driving zones across Chinese cities.

The biggest opportunity on the horizon, Song said, is the upcoming deployment of 5G networks in China. According to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, more than 600,000 5G base stations were expected to be built nationwide by the end of 2020. A forecast from the Global System for Mobile Communications shows that China is set to become the world's largest 5G market by 2025, with 460 million 5G users.

"Under 4G network, latency in communications means it would be hard to realize autonomous driving, but under 5G network, it would be much easier," he explained.

The chip war, nonetheless, has put all these prospects in the crosshairs. "Globalization is only going to continue, albeit a bit slowly," Wang said. Cooperation between countries continues to drive the world economy, bringing to life what was seemingly science fiction just a decade ago.

Article written by Wang Xiaonan, Yu Jing

news.cgtn.com



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From: Sam9/20/2020 9:47:42 AM
   of 403
 
Canadian police charge Tesla driver who was allegedly doing 90 miles per hour while asleep

By Sara Spary, CNN Business
Updated 12:53 PM ET, Fri September 18, 2020

London (CNN Business)Canadian police have charged a 20-year-old man with dangerous driving after he was arrested for allegedly being asleep at the wheel of a 2019 Tesla Model S while it was operating in its semi-autonomous "Autopilot" mode.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said it received a complaint of a car speeding near Ponoka, Alberta at around 4 pm on July 9.

The vehicle was traveling at more than 140 km (86.9 miles) per hour, with both front seats "completely reclined and both occupants appearing to be asleep," the RCMP said.

When a police officer approached the vehicle with emergency lights the Tesla "automatically began to accelerate" to 150 km (93.2 m) per hour, the RCMP said.

After pulling him over, the officer charged the driver, who is from British Columbia, with speeding and suspended his license for 24 hours. After further investigation, police charged him with dangerous driving and he is summoned to appear in court in December.

"Although manufacturers of new vehicles have built in safeguards to prevent drivers from taking advantage of the new safety systems in vehicles, those systems are just that -- supplemental safety systems," Superintendent Gary Graham of Alberta RCMP Traffic Services said. "They are not self-driving systems, they still come with the responsibility of driving."

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.

The company has been adamant that drivers maintain control of the vehicle while the Autopilot system is in use, with a warning before it is first used saying drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel and be prepared to take over at any time.

While Autopilot can keep the vehicle in a highway lane and maintain distance from traffic, it is not a fully autonomous system and still requires driver oversight.

But it is not the first time the car manufacturer and Autopilot have been embroiled in a traffic incident -- though the company has defended the technology.

Last year, a 50-year-old man died in a car crash after switching from manual mode to Autopilot, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

And in 2018, Apple employee Walter Huang died when his car veered off a highway to the left, accelerated and crashed before bursting into flames. The Autopilot feature had been engaged for nearly 19 minutes, the NTSB found. His family announced last year they were suing Tesla, claiming the feature caused his death.
At the time, Tesla said that the only way the vehicle could have crashed is if Huang had not "paid attention" to the road, "despite the car providing multiple warnings to do so."

Another man, Joshua Brown , died in May 2016 when his Tesla crashed into a tractor-trailer in Florida while the software was active.
CNN's Jackie Wattles and Peter Valdes-Dapena contributed to this report.

cnn.com

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From: Sam10/31/2020 6:53:49 AM
2 Recommendations   of 403
 
Waymo pulls back the curtain on 6.1 million miles of self-driving car data in Phoenix
Over 21 months in Arizona, Waymo’s vehicles were involved in 47 collisions and near-misses, none of which resulted in injuries
By Andrew J. Hawkins @andyjayhawk Oct 30, 2020, 10:00am EDT

InIn its first report on its autonomous vehicle operations in Phoenix, Arizona, Waymo said that it was involved in 18 crashes and 29 near-miss collisions during 2019 and the first nine months of 2020.

These crashes included rear-enders, vehicle swipes, and even one incident when a Waymo vehicle was T-boned at an intersection by another car at nearly 40 mph. The company said that no one was seriously injured and “nearly all” of the collisions were the fault of the other driver.

The report is the deepest dive yet into the real-life operations of the world’s leading autonomous vehicle company, which recently began offering rides in its fully driverless vehicles to the general public. Autonomous vehicle (AV) companies can be a black box, with most firms keeping a tight lid on measurable metrics and only demonstrating their technology to the public under the most controlled settings.

Indeed, Waymo, which was spun out of Google in 2016, mostly communicates about its self-driving program through glossy press releases or blog posts that reveal scant data about the actual nuts and bolts of autonomous driving. But in this paper, and another also published today, the company is showing its work. Waymo says its intention is to build public trust in automated vehicle technology, but these papers also serve as a challenge to other AV competitors.

continues at theverge.com

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To: Sam who wrote (380)10/31/2020 6:55:04 AM
From: Sam
   of 403
 
I should have posted this a month ago.

Velodyne Lidar, Inc. and Graf Industrial Corp. Announce Closing of Business Combination

Trading of Common Stock on Nasdaq to Commence on Wednesday, September 30, 2020

September 29, 2020 04:01 PM Eastern Daylight Time
SAN JOSE, Calif. & HOUSTON--( BUSINESS WIRE)--Velodyne Lidar, Inc. (“Velodyne”) and Graf Industrial Corp. (“Graf”) jointly announced today that they have closed their previously announced business combination, pursuant to which Velodyne became a wholly owned subsidiary of Graf and Graf changed its name to Velodyne Lidar, Inc. The business combination was approved at a special meeting of Graf’s stockholders held today.

Beginning on Wednesday, September 30, 2020, the common stock and warrants of Velodyne Lidar, Inc., the post-combination company, are expected to begin trading on The Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker symbols “VLDR” and “VLDRW,” respectively. Graf’s units, common stock and warrants will cease trading on the New York Stock Exchange today.

<snip>

businesswire.com

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To: Sam who wrote (380)10/31/2020 11:07:45 AM
From: A.J. Mullen
1 Recommendation   of 403
 
Following the links in the piece, here are the publications from Waymo:

General outline of their layered approach - storage.googleapis.com

More detailed information resulting from 6.1 million miles driven in Phoenix, Az, in 2019 and first nine months of 2020 - storage.googleapis.com

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From: Sam10/31/2020 1:08:50 PM
   of 403
 
Daimler invests in lidar startup Luminar to bolster self-driving truck effort
GABRIELLE COPPOLA
Bloomberg
October 30, 2020 09:40 AM


Daimler’s truck unit is investing in a laser-sensor startup to bolster its development of self-driving trucks in the U.S. less than a week after striking a deal to use driverless technology from Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo.

Daimler Truck said Friday it will take a minority stake in Luminar Technologies Inc., a lidar developer that plans to go public via a reverse merger. The world’s biggest commercial-vehicle maker joins other investors including tech billionaire Peter Thiel and an arm of Volvo Car in an equity financing ahead of the startup’s public-market debut.

The announcement comes just days after Daimler agreed to incorporate self-driving technology from Alphabet unit Waymo in its Freightliner Cascadia trucks to be sold to U.S. customers.

Daimler plans to use technology from Luminar, which makes laser-based sensors that allow a vehicle to “see” its surroundings, for its in-house effort to develop automated heavy-duty trucks.

Trucks not taxis


As part of that initiative, the German company is pairing with Torc Robotics, a Virginia-based autonomous-driving company it bought a majority stake in last year. Daimler and Torc will have the technology ready to sell to freight customers within a decade, said Torc CEO Michael Fleming. Daimler will then offer customers Cascadias with its own self-driving tech or the rival system from Waymo.

“We definitely see there are bigger chances in trucking” than robotaxis for deploying driverless technology, said Peter Vaughan Schmidt, head of autonomous technology at Daimler Trucks. “The business opportunity is bigger and the problem you have to solve is easier.”

Daimler is stepping away from robotaxis and mobility services. Bloomberg reported last month it’s considering selling its ride-hailing joint venture with BMW to Uber Technologies Inc. CEO Ola Kallenius is focusing more on profitability to safeguard investments in future technology, which requires sweeping efforts to trim expenses across the organization.

Tech and automotive companies have been eyeing long-haul trucking as a more lucrative pathway to commercialize self-driving software. Waymo CEO John Krafcik said last year that trucks driving on easily repeatable routes are likely to be faster adopters of the technology than taxis in urban areas.

Lidar-maker Luminar said Friday it plans to complete its $3.4 billion merger with special purpose acquisition company Gores Metropoulos Inc. and go public in early December.

Dieter Zetsche, who stepped down as Daimler’s CEO last year, will chair a council of auto executives that will help Luminar make deeper inroads in the industry, the company said. Matt Simoncini, a Luminar board member and former CEO of Lear Corp., will also be on the council, it said.

autonews.com

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From: A.J. Mullen11/11/2020 12:24:58 PM
1 Recommendation   of 403
 
Honda announces the introduction of true Level 3 autonomy in Japan, techcrunch.com. Not driverless, but it's most of what most car-owners want - to be able to trust the systems many already have - and it's fully approved in Japan at least. Not a threat to Uber-drivers.

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From: Sam11/13/2020 9:25:49 AM
   of 403
 
Walmart taps self-driving vehicle startup Cruise for autonomous deliveries
Tatiana Walk-Morris
PUBLISHED Nov. 12, 2020

Dive Brief:
  • Walmart is piloting contactless deliveries with a self-driving car company, Cruise, in Scottsdale, Arizona, the retailer announced on Tuesday.
  • Starting in early 2021, customers can have orders delivered from local Walmart locations through Cruise's self-driving electric cars. The partnership is part of the retailer's overall autonomous vehicle testing and effort to understand the technology's role in retail going forward, the company said.
  • Cruise's fleet of self-driving cars consists of only electric vehicles. The collaboration supports Walmart's goal of reaching zero emissions by 2040, per the company statement.


Dive Insight:

As with many things Walmart does, the mass merchant is interested in self-driving vehicles because of the potential to save customers' time and money, as well as ease environmental impact, Tom Ward, senior vice president of Customer Product at Walmart U.S., wrote in the announcement.

The partnership with Cruise is a continuation of the company's overall efforts to modernize its delivery services for customers. After launching its Express Delivery service in April, the retailer has expanded the program across more than 2,800 stores and now reaches more than 65% of U.S. households, Ward noted.

In addition to adding Cruise to its self-driving vehicle roster, Walmart has tested out autonomous deliveries elsewhere. In December 2019, the company partnered with Nuro to deliver groceries in Houston via autonomous vehicles.

As Walmart grows its assortment of autonomous vehicles, other retailers have been testing the technology as well. CVS and UPS have tapped Nuro and Waymo, respectively, for their self-driving vehicle delivery capabilities. On the other hand, Amazon announced that it was testing out its own delivery robots in January 2019.

As retailers test out self-driving delivery capabilities, interest in autonomous vehicle companies has continued to grow. Back in January, Waymo expanded tests of its autonomous long-haul trucks to Texas and New Mexico, while earlier this week, Nuro landed $500 million in Series C funding.

retaildive.com

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