|From: Sam||1/1/2021 4:20:19 PM|
|Nuro acquires self-driving truck startup Ike |
Kyle Wiggers @Kyle_L_Wiggers December 23, 2020 9:08 AM
Driverless truck company Ike today announced that it’s been acquired by Nuro, the autonomous delivery vehicle startup, for an undisclosed amount. Ike says it’s already begun work on integration of its 55 employees and technology and that joining forces with Nuro will allow it to “move faster on an ambitious mission to make people’s lives better with automated vehicles.”
“Our companies already have a lot in common — shared values, complementary expertise, and technology with the same DNA,” Ike wrote in a blog post. “Our teams have always collaborated closely, and the time is now right to join forces formally and accelerate our progress … After years of hard work to fulfill the promise of automated vehicles, we expect 2021 to be an important moment for Nuro and for the world. We are thrilled to start this next chapter of Ike’s journey and help deliver on a shared mission, together.”
Some experts predict the coronavirus outbreak will hasten the adoption of driverless vehicles for delivery. A study published by CarGurus found that 39% of people don’t plan to use human-driven ride-sharing services post-pandemic for fear of insufficient sanitation. Despite driverless cars’ need for regular disinfection and the public’s misgivings about their general safety, they promise to minimize the risk of spreading disease because they inherently limit driver-rider contact.
Ike, a self-driving truck startup founded by former Apple, Google, and Uber Advanced Technologies Group engineers, previously raised $52 million in venture capital in a February 2019 series A led by Bain Capital Ventures. The company’s namesake — President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the interstate system he helped create with the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act — wasn’t the only noteworthy thing about the company. Rather than develop a driverless solution in-house, it licensed Nuro‘s localization, perception, prediction, and planning software. (Nuro already had a small stake in Ike.) And Ike refrained from making bold pronouncements about its service. While it tested self-driving trucks on public California roads in 2019, they had human safety drivers behind the wheel, and they didn’t operate autonomously anywhere but on the highway.
From the outside looking in, Ike certainly had the chops to succeed in a market predicted to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars in the next decade. Ike cofounders Jur van den Berg and Nancy Sun are both veterans of Apple’s special projects group and Otto, an autonomous trucking startup acquired (and later shuttered) by Uber. Founding partner Alden Woodrow, for his part, was product lead of Google X’s Makani project, which sought to develop kites that produce electricity by harnessing wind energy, and he served as a group product manager at Uber’s self-driving truck program. (Sun, van den Berg, and Woodrow will join Nuro’s executive ranks.)
Ike reached agreements this fall with DHL, Ryder, and NFI to provide its technology to fleets. But Ike had competition in spades, like Pronto.ai and TuSimple, a three-year-old autonomous truck company with autonomous vehicles operating in Arizona, California, and China. There’s also venture-backed Swedish driverless car company Einride as well as Aurora and Embark, which integrates its self-driving systems into Peterbilt semis and which recently launched a pilot with Amazon to haul cargo. Incumbent Waymo is also investing heavily in Waymo Via, its self-driving freight-hauling service, as the Alphabet-backed venture seeks to carve out a slice of the transportation and logistics segment.
The pandemic and its effects, including testing delays, has resulted in consolidation, tabled or canceled launches, and shakeups across the autonomous transportation industry. Ford pushed the unveiling of its self-driving service from 2021 to 2022; Waymo CEO John Krafcik told the New York Times the pandemic delayed work by at least two months; and Amazon acquired driverless car startup Zoox for $1.3 billion. According to Boston Consulting Group managing director Brian Collie, broad commercialization of AVs won’t happen before 2025 or 2026 — at least three years later than originally anticipated.
Nuro, fortunately, is flush with cash. The Mountain View, California-based company, which was cofounded in 2016 by Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, both veterans of the secretive Google self-driving car project that eventually spun out as Waymo, nabbed $940 million in a February 2019 venture round led by Softbank’s Vision Fund and $500 million in a subsequent round in November. The latter valued Nuro at north of $5 billion.
“We have watched as Ike developed not just one of the most rigorous safety-first and systems-based approaches to self-driving development, but also a team that is widely regarded as one of the brightest in our field. The combination of the two, along with the ability to readily integrate some of their core technology (like their world-class virtual simulation tool), is what made the opportunity to have them join us a natural fit.,” Nuro president and cofounder Dave Ferguson said in a statement. “We look forward to all we’ll be able to accomplish together, knowing that our horizon of possible applications has been expanded with the addition of the Ike team and their expertise. And we are thrilled to have them join us in our collective mission.”
In April, Nuro, which has over 600 employees, secured a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to test driverless delivery vehicles on public roads within a portion of the San Francisco Bay Area. That followed the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) decision in February to grant the company an autonomous vehicle exemption that allowed Nuro to pilot its custom-designed R2 delivery vehicles on roads without certain equipment required for passenger vehicles.
For the better part of a year, Nuro’s fleet of Toyota Prius vehicles in Houston, Texas has been making deliveries to consumers from various partners, including Kroger, Domino’s, and Walmart. The company has deployed over 75 delivery vehicles to date, a mix of self-driving Priuses and R2s.
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|From: Sam||1/1/2021 4:39:59 PM|
|This is from October but it's still interesting.|
Lidar used to cost $75,000—here’s how Apple brought it to the iPhone How Apple made affordable lidar with no moving parts for the iPhone.
Timothy B. Lee - 10/15/2020, 12:40 PM
At Tuesday's unveiling of the iPhone 12, Apple touted the capabilities of its new lidar sensor. Apple says lidar will enhance the iPhone's camera by allowing more rapid focus, especially in low-light situations. And it may enable the creation of a new generation of sophisticated augmented reality apps.
Tuesday's presentation offered little detail about how the iPhone's lidar actually works, but this isn't Apple's first device with lidar. Apple first introduced the technology with the refreshed iPad in March. And while no one has done a teardown of the iPhone 12 yet, we can learn a lot from recent iPad teardowns.
Lidar works by sending out laser light and measuring how long it takes to bounce back. Because light travels at a constant speed, the round-trip time can be translated into a precise distance estimate. Repeat this process across a two-dimensional grid and the result is a three-dimensional "point cloud" showing the location of objects around a room, street, or other location.
A June analysis by System Plus Consulting found that the iPad's lidar sends out light using an array of vertical cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) made by Lumentum. It then detects the return flash using an array of sensors called single-photon avalanche diodes (SPADs) supplied by Sony. I'll explain what these are in the next section.
I found Apple's announcement particularly interesting because I've been working on a story about companies that are using the same combination of technologies—VCSEL lasers and SPAD detectors—to build much more powerful lidar for the automotive market. One of the big selling points of VCSELs and SPADs is that they can be created using conventional semiconductor fabrication techniques. As a result, they benefit from the huge economies of scale in the semiconductor industry. As VCSEL-based sensors become more common, they are likely to steadily get cheaper and better.
Two of the companies working on high-end VCSEL-based lidar—Ouster and Ibeo—have already gotten more traction than most companies in the crowded lidar business. Apple's decision to adopt the technology—and the possibility that other smartphone vendors could follow Apple's lead—will provide them with a nice tailwind in the coming years.
VCSELs helped Apple make radically simpler lidar
The first three-dimensional lidar sensor was introduced by Velodyne more than a decade ago. The spinning unit cost around $75,000 and was significantly larger than a smartphone. Apple needed to make lidar sensors radically cheaper and smaller in order to put one in each iPhone, and VCSELs helped the company do it.
What's a VCSEL? If you're building a laser using conventional semiconductor fabrication techniques, you have two basic options. You can make a laser that transmits light out the side of the wafer (known as an edge-emitting laser) or from the top (a vertical cavity surface emitting laser, or VCSEL).
Traditionally, edge-emitting lasers have been more powerful. VCSELs have been used for decades in everything from optical mice to optical networking gear. They were traditionally considered unsuitable for high-end applications where a lot of light was needed, but VCSELs have become more powerful as the technology has matured.
Making an edge-emitting laser typically requires cutting the wafer to expose the emitter. This adds to the cost and complexity of the manufacturing process and limits the number of lasers that can be made on one wafer. by contrast, VCSELs emit light perpendicular to the wafer, so they don't need to be individually cut or packaged. This means that a single silicon chip can hold dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of VCSELs. In principle, a chip with thousands of VCSELs shouldn't cost more than a few dollars when produced at large scale.
continues at arstechnica.com
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|From: Sam||1/19/2021 9:21:02 AM|
| GM, Cruise partner with Microsoft to speed up self-driving EV technology|
TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY 9:16 AM ET 1/19/2021
Symbol Last Price Change
|GM ||49.97 ||0 (0%)|
|MSFT ||212.65 ||0 (0%)|
|HMC ||27.4 ||0 (0%)|
|QUOTES AS OF 04:10:00 PM ET 01/15/2021 |
General Motors (GM) and its self-driving car subsidiary Cruise will partner with Microsoft(MSFT) to accelerate the commercialization of self-driving vehicles, the companies said Tuesday.
Additionally, GM will use Microsoft(MSFT) as its preferred public cloud provider, working with it to improve the automaker's advances in digital technology and robotics.
Microsoft (MSFT) joins GM, Honda(HMC) and institutional investors in a combined new equity investment of more than $2 billion in Cruise. That brings Cruise's post-money valuation, its estimated worth, to $30 billion.
“Microsoft will help us accelerate the commercialization of Cruise’s all-electric, self-driving vehicles and help GM realize even more benefits from cloud computing as we launch 30 new electric vehicles globally by 2025 and create new businesses and services to drive growth," said GM CEO Mary Barra in a statement.
A safer future
The specific investment amount that Microsoft(MSFT) will contribute in what is described as a "long-term strategic relationship" is unclear. But Cruise said adding Microsoft(MSFT) to its investor portfolio boosts its reputation.
“Our mission to bring safer, better, and more affordable transportation to everyone isn’t just a tech race — it’s also a trust race,” said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann. “Microsoft, as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratization of technology, will be a force multiplier for us as we commercialize our fleet of self-driving all-electric, shared vehicles.”
GM and Microsoft(MSFT) will combine software and hardware engineering expertise, cloud computing capabilities, manufacturing knowledge and a "partner ecosystem" to create the self-driving cars.
GM has said its long term mission is zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. The self-driving Cruise Origin vehicles are all-electric and GM believes they will be safer than vehicles with human drivers and eliminate traffic congestion by using technology to communicate to one another.
In addition, GM will work with Microsoft(MSFT) as its preferred public cloud provider to accelerate its digitization initiatives. Those will include collaboration, storage, artificial intelligence and machine-learning capabilities.
GM will also work with Microsoft(MSFT) to streamline operations across digital supply chains, boost productivity and bring new mobility services to customers faster.
Cruise will use cloud computing for self-driving vehicles by leveraging Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, to commercialize self-driving cars, the companies said.
Microsoft (MSFT) will tap into Cruise’s industry expertise to improve its product innovation and serve transportation companies worldwide through continued investment in Azure.
"Advances in digital technology are redefining every aspect of our work and life, including how we move people and goods,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft(MSFT). “As Cruise and GM's preferred cloud, we will apply the power of Azure to help them scale and make autonomous transportation mainstream.”
Contact Jamie L. LaReau: 313-222-2149 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Read more on General Motors(GM) and sign up for our autos newsletter. Become a subscriber.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: GM, Cruise partner with Microsoft(MSFT) to speed up self-driving EV technology
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|To: Sam who wrote (404)||1/19/2021 11:07:01 AM|
| GM-Microsoft Deal Is a Blockbuster for Self-Driving Cars -- and Good News for GM's Stock -- Barrons.com|
DOW JONES & COMPANY, INC. 11:05 AM ET 1/19/2021
Symbol Last Price Change
|GM ||54.5327 ||+4.5627 (+9.1309%)|
|MSFT ||213.6711 ||+1.0211 (+0.4802%)|
|HMC ||27.475 ||+0.075 (+0.2737%)|
|SFTBF ||84.92 ||+3 (+3.662109%)|
|QUOTES AS OF 11:06:02 AM ET 01/19/2021 |
General Motors (GM) stock is on the move because investors are finally treating it like a next-generation car company, able to generate value with electric and self-driving cars.
It took a while. And no less than software giant Microsoft(MSFT) was needed to help build positive momentum. Tuesday morning, Microsoft(MSFT) announced an investment in General Motors(GM) self-driving car company Cruise.
GM bought Cruise back in 2016 for an undisclosed sum. Over the past few years, Cruise has taken in capital from Honda Motor(HMC) and SoftBank Group(SFTBF) . SoftBank's investment valued Cruise at about $19 billion.
Microsoft (MSFT), along with Honda(HMC) and institutional investors, is investing another $2 billion in Cruise to accelerate the development of self-driving cars. The new capital values the company at about $30 billion. It was previously valued at $19 billion.
"Our mission to bring safer, better and more affordable transportation to everyone isn't just a tech race -- it's also a trust race," said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann in the company's news release. "Microsoft(MSFT), as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratization of technology, will be a force multiplier for us as we commercialize our fleet of self- driving, all-electric, shared vehicles."
Investors appear to feel good about having the Microsoft(MSFT) seal of approval. GM stock is up more than 8% in early trading Tuesday, at $53.95, creating roughly $7 billion in market value. The S&P 500 is up 0.5%.
An exact breakdown of Cruise ownership isn't known. GM hasn't updated its precise stake in Cruise after taking in additional investment. But the century-old auto maker likely owns roughly 70% of Cruise. That means the value increase of Cruise for GM shareholders is about $7 billion to $8 billion today.
In the past, investors weren't too eager to bid up GM stock on Cruise announcements. GM stock between the time it bought Cruise and the middle of 2020 did was essentially flat. But over the past six months, GM stock has more than doubled.
Cruise doesn't make any money yet. And GM's roughly $24 billion stake amounts to almost one-third of its current market capitalization. That leaves the legacy automotive business trading for roughly five times estimated 2021 earnings. It's a low multiple -- and probably too low if GM successfully navigates the technology transition to all- electric self-driving cars.
"This is a big deal," Benchmark analyst Mike Ward tells Barron's. "The No. 1 software firm invested in GM's autonomous driving technology." That's a big vote of confidence for Ward. It also resets GM's valuation. He rates GM stock Buy and has a $51 price target for shares. That was the price target before the Microsoft(MSFT) partnership was announced.
The news is also good for Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL), which owns Waymo. The Wall Street consensus is that Waymo has leading self-driving technology. The impact for Alphabet investors, however, is smaller because it already has a trillion-dollar market value.
Autonomous-driving news is coming at investors fast and furious lately. At the annual CES last week, parts supplier Aptiv (APTV) announced its new computing architecture for self-driving cars. Aptiv integrates all the sensors, such as radar, required for autonomous driving, among other things. And GM reviewed its autonomous-driving tech at CES.
Chinese EV makers NIO (NIO) and XPeng (XPEV) also made self-driving announcements recently . NIO hosted its annual NIO day earlier this month, where it launched a new sedan due in 2022 as well as reviewing its self-driving technology. Last week, XPeng announced enhancements to its self-driving features it calls XPILOT.
What investors have learned is that autonomous technology is making real gains. Self-driving taxis may make appearances in cities during 2023 or 2024. Full self-driving cars are likely to be service vehicles because self-driving technology is still expensive, which means the cars have to earn money to justify the expense.
Write to Al Root at email@example.com
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|From: Sam||1/27/2021 9:51:45 AM|
| Waymo CEO tells Tesla that 'this is not how it is done', regarding the autonomous car driving system |
John Krafcik, assured that for his company, Tesla is not a competitor in this market.
January 26, 2021 2 min read
This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.
John Krafcik , CEO of Waymo , a subsidiary of Alphabet , commented that Tesla has taken the wrong approach in developing its "total driving system" for autonomous cars, according to an interview he conducted for a German business outlet.
"It is a mistake to think that you can simply develop a driver assistance system and that one day you can magically jump to a fully autonomous driving system," said the executive, in an interview with Manager Magazine .
Also, Krafcik, assured that for his company, Tesla is not a competitor in this segment. "For us, Tesla is not a competitor at all at all," he said.
The CEO explained that Waymo manufactures a vehicle that is completely autonomous while Elon Musk's company is developing a driver assistance system, which he described as "pretty good."
Waymo VS Tesla
As reported Business Insider, the companies started a controversy recently when Waymo decided to implement the term self-driving to refer to its fully autonomous cars. This could be interpreted as an attack on Musk's company that used the same expression for its system.
Tesla defines its " autopilot " as the "future of autonomous driving." The Alphabet affiliate criticized the use of the term on its blog, saying, “We hope consistency helps differentiate the fully autonomous technology that Waymo is developing from the driver assistance technologies (sometimes mistakenly referred to as 'autonomous driving' technologies) that require supervising licensed human drivers for safe operation ”.
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|From: Sam||2/4/2021 3:46:02 PM|
|Apple and Hyundai-Kia pushing toward deal on Apple Car|
Published Wed, Feb 3 20215:58 PM ESTUpdated Wed, Feb 3 20219:11 PM EST
Phil LeBeau @Lebeaucarnews
- Apple is close to finalizing a deal with Hyundai-Kia to manufacture an Apple-branded autonomous electric vehicle at the Kia assembly plant in West Point, Georgia, sources tell CNBC.
- According to one source familiar with Hyundai-Kia strategy, “Chung has made it clear, mobility is the future of the company.” That’s important because the Apple Car will be fully autonomous.
- Sources familiar with Apple’s interest in working with Hyundai say the tech giant wants to build the “Apple Car” in North America with an established automaker willing to allow Apple to control the software and hardware that will go into the vehicle.
After years of speculation that it will eventually get into the auto business with its own vehicle, Apple is close to finalizing a deal with Hyundai-Kia to manufacture an Apple-branded autonomous electric vehicle at the Kia assembly plant in West Point, Georgia according to multiple sources who briefed CNBC on the plan.
The so-called “Apple Car,” which is being developed by a team at Apple, is tentatively scheduled to go into production in 2024, though people familiar with the talks between Apple and Hyundai-Kia say the eventual rollout could be pushed back.
Sources tell CNBC no agreement has yet been reached between the two companies. In addition, they stress that Apple may ultimately decide to partner with another automaker separately or in addition to working with Hyundai.
One source familiar with Apple’s strategy on developing a car tells CNBC, “I doubt Hyundai is the only automaker they could strike a deal with, there could be somebody else.”
Apple shares rose more than 2% after hours on the news.
Spokespersons for both Apple and Hyundai-Kia declined to comment when reached by CNBC.
If an agreement is finalized, why would Apple choose Hyundai-Kia? Just as importantly, why would the Korean automaker strike a deal with Apple?
Those familiar with the discussions say each company sees a unique benefit in working with the other to develop an Apple car.
For Apple, the decision to build a car opens the potential to tap a global auto and mobility market valued at $10 trillion. Morgan Stanley analyst Katie Huberty explained the profit potential for Apple in a research note she issued in January.
“Smartphones are a $500bn annual TAM. Apple has about one-third of this market. The mobility market is $10 trillion. So Apple would only need a 2% share of this market to be the size of their iPhone business,” Huberty wrote.
Sources familiar with Apple’s interest in working with Hyundai say the tech giant wants to build the “Apple Car” in North America with an established automaker willing to allow Apple to control the software and hardware that will go into the vehicle.
In other words, this will be an “Apple Car,” not a Kia model featuring Apple software.
For Hyundai-Kia, working with Apple is being driven by the company’s new chairman, Euisun Chung, who took control of the Korean automaker last October. According to one source familiar with Hyundai-Kia strategy, “Chung has made it clear, mobility is the future of the company.” That’s important because the Apple Car will be fully autonomous.
By working with Apple, leaders of Hyundai-Kia believe they will accelerate development of their own autonomous and electric and vehicle plans. Hyundai is currently partnered with Aptiv in a joint-venture developing autonomous vehicle technology, including robotaxis.
There is no indication that joint venture would change if Hyundai reaches an agreement with Apple. In addition, the Kia plant about 90 minutes southwest of Atlanta, Georgia, has available capacity, so scaling production and tapping the Hyundai-Kia supply chain can be done relatively quickly.
Vehicles sit outside the first U.S. Kia automobile manufacturing facility during its grand opening in West Point, Georgia, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 26, 2010.
Dave Martin | Bloomberg | Getty Images
While it is still unclear exactly what the first Apple Car will look like, those familiar with the plans say there are a couple of notable features.
“The first Apple Cars will not be designed to have a driver,” said one source with knowledge of the current plan. “These will be autonomous, electric vehicles designed to operate without a driver and focused on the last mile.” That could mean Apple cars, at least initially, could focus on package food delivery operations and firms incorporating robotaxis.
The move could bring the tech giant into direct competition with Tesla, which is rolling out self-driving features for its vehicles. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently told investors that turning Teslas into self-driving robotaxis could help justify the company’s valuation, as the cars would be in use for more hours per day, allowing Tesla to earn higher revenues per car. In 2018, Apple lured Doug Field, then Tesla’s senior VP of engineering, back to Apple where he had previously worked, presumably to work on self-driving cars. Apple has also hired myriad other former Tesla employees, including Michael Schwekutsch, now Senior Director of Engineering for the Special Projects Group at Apple and formerly Tesla Vice President of Engineering.
Musk said that he once attempted to start talks with Apple about acquiring his electric car company, but Apple CEO Tim Cook rejected his invitation to meet.
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|From: Sam||3/14/2021 8:54:08 AM|
|Federal investigators blast Tesla, call for stricter safety standards |
NTSB blames NHTSA and Tesla for a deadly 2019 Autopilot crash in Florida.
Timothy B. Lee - 3/13/2021, 10:35 AM
The National Transportation Safety Board has filed comments blasting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for its permissive regulation of driver-assistance systems. The letter was dated February 1 but was only spotted by CNBC's Lora Kolodny on Friday. The letter repeatedly calls out Tesla's Autopilot for its lax safety practices and calls on NHTSA to establish minimum standards for the industry.
The dispute between federal agencies is the result of Congress dividing responsibility for transportation safety among multiple agencies. NHTSA is the main regulator for highway safety: every car and light truck must comply with rules established by NHTSA. NTSB is a separate agency that just does safety investigations. When there's a high-profile highway crash, NTSB investigators travel to the scene to figure out what happened and how to prevent it from happening again. NTSB also does plane crashes and train wrecks, allowing it to apply lessons from one mode of transportation to others.
Elon Musk hung up on NTSB chief during call about Tesla crash probe
This separation of responsibilities has contributed to a culture gap between the agencies. As the agency responsible for writing regulations, NHTSA has to trade safety off against other considerations like economic costs, the lobbying clout of automakers, and the risk of consumer backlash. In contrast, NTSB's rulings are purely advisory, which frees the agency to doggedly advocate strong safety measures.
Under then-President Donald Trump, NHTSA largely let automakers do what they liked when it came to advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and prototype driverless vehicles. NHTSA has generally waited until safety problems cropped up with ADAS system and dealt with them after the fact. NTSB argues NHTSA should be more proactive, and it put Tesla and Autopilot at the center of its argument.
NTSB thinks minimum ADAS safety standards are overdue
NTSB thinks NHTSA has been too slow to develop safety standards for driver-assistance systems and too slow to mandate their use in every vehicle. A growing number of cars have automatic emergency braking systems, but these systems are not yet mandatory, and different AEB systems have different capabilities.
"It is important that the agency prioritize the development of minimum performance standards for collision-avoidance technologies and require the systems as standard equipment in all new vehicles," the NTSB wrote.
The NTSB also calls for NHTSA to require driver-monitoring systems to ensure drivers are paying attention to the road while driver-assistance systems are active.
Tesla: “Full self-driving beta” isn’t designed for full self-driving
"Because driver attention is an integral component of lower-level automation systems, a driver-monitoring system must be able to assess whether and to what degree the driver is performing the role of automation supervisor," NTSB argued. "No minimum performance standards exist for the appropriate timing of alerts, the type of alert, or the use of redundant monitoring sensors to ensure driver engagement."
A lot of driver-assistance systems on the road today use steering wheel torque sensors as a crude way to tell if drivers have their hands on the wheel. More recently, some manufacturers have used eye-tracking cameras to monitor driver attention. They are a more effective way to be sure users are actually looking at the road—though some drivers may find them intrusive or annoying.
Finally, NTSB argues that NHTSA should require automakers to limit use of driver-assistance systems to the type of roads they're designed for. For example, some ADAS systems are designed to only work on limited-access freeways. Yet few cars actually enforce such limitations. Many systems can be activated on roads the systems weren't designed for.
NTSB repeatedly singles out Tesla
The NTSB mentions Tesla 16 times in the report—far more than any other automaker. This is partly because Tesla vehicles have figured so prominently in the NTSB's work. NTSB says it has investigated six crashes involving driver-assistance or self-driving systems between May 2016 and March 2019. Four of those were fatal. One of these four was the 2018 death of Elaine Herzberg after she was hit by an Uber self-driving prototype. The other three were Tesla owners who relied too much on Autopilot and it cost them their lives.
In one section, NTSB points to the 2016 death of Tesla owner Josh Brown. The Autopilot software on Brown's car failed to recognize a semi trailer crossing in front of the vehicle. Brown's Model S slid under the trailer, shearing off the top of the car and killing Brown instantly.
In its report on the crash, NTSB noted that, at the time of the crash, Autopilot software was only designed for use on controlled-access freeways—not rural highways where cars and trucks can enter the highway directly from driveways and side streets. NTSB pointed out that its report on the Brown crash "recommended that NHTSA develop a method to verify" that companies selling driver-assistance systems like Autopilot have safeguards to prevent customers from using the systems on roads they aren't designed for. Such a system might have prevented Brown from activating Autopilot on the day of his death.
NHTSA didn't follow the NTSB's suggestion. In its February letter, NTSB doesn't let NHTSA forget it: NTSB suggests that this policy choice may have led to another deadly crash.
Tesla’s main self-driving rival isn’t Google—it’s Intel’s Mobileye
"In March 2019, because of Tesla's lack of appropriate safeguards and NHTSA's inaction, another fatal crash occurred in Delray Beach, Florida, under circumstances very similar" to Brown's death, the agency wrote. And NTSB worries that lax rules could lead to more deaths in the future.
"The NTSB remains concerned about NHTSA's continued failure to recognize the importance of ensuring that acceptable safeguards are in place so the vehicles do not operate outside of their operational design domains and beyond the capabilities of their system designs," the agency wrote. "Because NHTSA has put in place no requirements, manufacturers can operate and test vehicles virtually anywhere, even if the location exceeds the AV control system's limitations."
NTSB then called out Tesla again, specifically criticizing the decision to release its "full self-driving beta" software to a few dozen customers.
"Tesla recently released a beta version of its Level 2 Autopilot system, described as having full self-driving capability," NTSB wrote. "By releasing the system, Tesla is testing on public roads a highly automated AV technology but with limited oversight and reporting requirements."
Since the NTSB letter, Elon Musk has announced plans to expand the FSD beta to more customers.
The NTSB letter came at a crucial time—just as President Joe Biden was staffing the senior positions at NHTSA and the broader Department of Transportation. Under Donald Trump, NHTSA took a strongly hands-off posture toward regulation of driver-assistance systems and self-driving technology. It seems likely that the Biden team will do more in this area, but it remains to be seen how aggressive they will be.
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|From: Sam||3/14/2021 9:25:57 AM|
|Waymo begins robo-taxi tests in San Francisco |
Kyle Wiggers @Kyle_L_Wiggers February 17, 2021 9:00 AM
Waymo today announced that it has begun limited rider testing with employee volunteers in San Francisco to gather feedback and improve its robo-taxi technology. It’s the first expansion of the Alphabet subsidiary’s ride-hailing service beyond the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, where Waymo launched its first commercial driverless taxi service, Waymo One, in December 2018.
Some experts predict that the pandemic will hasten the adoption of autonomous vehicles for transportation and delivery. Self-driving cars, vans, and trucks promise to minimize the risk of spreading disease by limiting driver contact, which is perhaps why people across the globe trust the safety of autonomous vehicles more than they did three years ago, according to several surveys by Deloitte.
Waymo says its self-driving Chrysler Pacificas and Jaguar I-Pace electric SUVs have driven over 20 billion autonomous miles through computer simulations and 20 million autonomous miles on public roads in 25 cities. In 2020, Waymo ramped up testing in the San Francisco Bay Area in anticipation of future ride-hailing pilots. Waymo says it has optimized the Waymo Driver, its autonomous planning, perception, and navigation system, to handle the complexities of the Golden Gate City, aided by cameras that can spot jaywalkers. If the Driver pulls up to a bus by a crosswalk, it can reason that passengers may be getting off to cross the street. And if it’s driving on a street with road work, the Driver understands that traffic cones and signs are meant to guide it out of the usual lane.
Waymo employees in San Francisco will use the Waymo One app to hail rides, a spokesperson told VentureBeat via email. They’ll be prompted to specify pickup and drop-off points before being given an estimated time to arrival. As with a typical ride-hailing app, they’ll be able to rate the quality of rides using a five-star scale.
As of 2019, Waymo had 153 cars and 268 safety drivers in California. The company declined to disclose the size of its current fleet in San Francisco, but Waymo said last summer that it deployed autonomous minivans to service in the Bay Area, initially to deliver packages for nonprofits following a pandemic-related halt in testing.
“We’re beginning with a limited number of cars and riders and will scale over time. These rides are being offered with a single-vehicle operator,” the spokesperson said. “The initial program starts this week and will last for several, but we plan to grow it over time. We don’t have any specific timelines to share about when (or where) we’ll be offering a public service. It’s worth bearing in mind this is for early product testing and continuous improvement, and there are many further steps we’d need to go through … before we could deploy a service to the public.”
Waymo is one of the few companies with a permit from the California Public Utilities Commission, a procedural step that’s part of the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service pilot, which allows operators like Waymo to provide passenger service. This is separate from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) self-driving vehicles program, under which 66 companies — including Waymo — are permitted to test autonomous vehicles with safety drivers behind the wheel.
In Waymo’s most recent disengagement report, which it’s required to submit annually to the California DMV, the company’s driverless vehicles reported 21 disengagements over 629,000 miles of autonomous driving in California, for a rate of 0.033 per 1,000 miles. (The DMV defines disengagements as “deactivation of the autonomous mode when a failure of the autonomous technology is detected or when the safe operation of the vehicle requires that the autonomous vehicle test driver disengage the autonomous mode and take immediate manual control of the vehicle.”) That’s compared with 1.45 million miles in California in 2019, with a disengagement rate of 0.076 reportable disengagements per 1,000 miles.
Waymo’s ride-hailing services haven’t grown beyond Phoenix until now, but they’re moving incrementally toward a broader launch. Waymo One delivers rides with a network of over 600 autonomous cars from Phoenix-area locations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Shortly after announcing a partnership with Lyft to deploy 10 cars on the Waymo One platform, Waymo revealed that a portion of its driverless taxis no longer have a safety driver behind the wheel. Moreover, the company is on track to add up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica minivans to its fleet, and it signed a deal with Jaguar Land Rover to equip 20,000 I-Pace electric SUVs with its system.
Separately, Waymo is actively mapping Los Angeles to study congestion and expanding testing to highways in Florida between Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers, and Miami as it conducts pilots in Death Valley, California; El Paso, Dallas, and Houston in Texas; and various cities in Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, and Ohio and along Interstates 10, 20, and 45. In the Metro Pheonix area, the company is piloting autonomous vehicle package transportation with AutoNation and between UPS Store locations and a local UPS sorting facility through its subsidiary, Waymo Via. Waymo began testing dedicated goods delivery with class A trucks in 2017 and last October signed an agreement with Daimler Trucks to develop self-driving semis.
The expanded testing in San Francisco and freight transportation pilots come as Waymo looks to make a return on its multibillion-dollar investment. The company’s annual cost is estimated at around $1 billion, while Waymo One reportedly yields just hundreds of thousand dollars a year in revenue, according to The Information. Waymo hasn’t shared the number of customers that have ridden in its Phoenix fleet to date, but it said in December 2019 that more than 1,500 people are using its ride-hailing service monthly and that it has served over 100,000 total rides since launching its rider programs in 2017.
Waymo raised $3 billion in its first external funding round, valuing the company at tens of billions of dollars. It’s by far the most valuable autonomous vehicle startup, ahead of Cruise, Argo AI, Aurora, Pony.ai, and TuSimple, among others.
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