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Mercedes, Bosch Team to Launch Self-Driving Car Service

Set to debut in late 2019 in Silicon Valley.

by on Jul.11, 2018

Initially, Daimler will use the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan for the pilot ride-sharing project.

Mercedes-Benz is teaming up with German mega-supplier Bosch to launch a new ride-sharing service in Silicon Valley next year that will rely on self-driving vehicles.

The project marks the latest entry into the fast-expanding field that, by some estimates, could eventually account for as much as a quarter or more of the miles Americans travel by automobile. Other planning to launch ride-sharing services using self-driving vehicles include General Motors, Google spin-off Waymo and Uber, the country’s largest ride-sharing service.

Making Sense of the Brave New World!

While Mercedes’ parent Daimler AG is referring to the vehicles it will use as “automated shuttle(s),” customers will be able to ride in style. When the project initially gets underway during the second half of 2019, it will rely on modified versions of the luxurious S-Class Sedan. Eventually, the goal is to switch to a production version of the edgy Mercedes concept vehicle, the F 015.

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Uber Gets Reprieve in London

Court gives ride-hailing service a 15-month pass.

by on Jun.27, 2018

Uber has been given a 15-month reprieve in London by a British court.

Uber has been granted a 15-month probationary license by a British court on Tuesday, which will allow it to continue operating in London.

The ride-hailing service argued successfully that Uber had made significant changes to its business and corporate culture after Transport for London, the city’s regulatory body for public transportation, declared Uber unfit to serve the city. The agency said Uber had failed to vet its drivers, who had been involved in a series of sexual assaults.

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Uber’s “approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications,” Transport London said in its decision. (more…)

Uber Fatality Now Deemed “Entirely Avoidable”

Safety driver was watching television right before crash.

by on Jun.22, 2018

The Tempe (Arizona) Police Department released the video footage of Uber's collision with a pedestrian.

After initially faulting the pedestrian killed in a crash with an autonomous Uber car in March, the Tempe (Arizona) Police Department is calling the collision “entirely avoidable” after determining the safety driver was streaming Hulu on her phone while behind the wheel.

According to the department’s 318-page report, the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, was watching a television show on her phone for 5.3 seconds prior to looking up and seeing 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg crossing the road in front of her.

The Last Word!

Vasquez applied the brakes just 0.5 seconds before the collision. The report says that Vasquez could be charged with vehicular manslaughter. She was watching the television show “The Voice” for 42 minutes with it ending at 9:59 p.m., which is about the time that Herzberg was struck. (more…)

Volvo Hopes to Electrify Customers – and Investors

All-electric models now expected to generate half its sales by mid-2020s, with 1/3 self-driving.

by on Jun.08, 2018

The Volvo 40.2 Concept hints at what's coming with the marque's first all-electric vehicle.

Volvo took a lead in the push into electrification last year, announcing it would use some of battery-based drive system on all future products, whether mild, conventional or plug-in hybrids, or pure battery-electric. And, last January, it gave us a hint of what that first BEV would be with the debut of its 40.2 concept.

The production version will follow in 2019 and, if Volvo’s latest forecast is any indication, so will plenty of other all-electric models, as the Swedish automaker now says it wants them to generate half of its sales by mid-decade.

Plug In!

The mid-term plan Volvo is laying out is nothing if not ambitious. It also predicts that half of the Chinese-owned automaker’s sales will come from self-driving vehicles, and that half of its volume will come through its Care by Volvo subscription service, rather than conventional sales and leasing. Oh, and add a goal of boosting volume – and profitability – to match other premium manufacturers.

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FCA Maps Out a Self-Driving Strategy

Automaker teams up with Waymo, BMW and Aptiv, but carves out its own path.

by on Jun.01, 2018

A Waymo-modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.

While there are a growing number of autonomous vehicle prototypes on the road these days, Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles made headlines when they announced, earlier this week, plans to direct as many as 62,000 Pacifica Hybrid minivans into the self-driving ride-sharing service the Google spin-off will launch later this year.

By some estimates, 20% or more of the miles Americans clock on the road will be in driverless vehicles operated by ride-sharing services like Waymo, Uber and Lyft by the end of the coming decade. Millions of motorists may opt to give up their personal vehicles and switch to those services. Millions more are expected to own their own autonomous vehicles.

The Last Word!

Until recently considered a laggard in the self-driving field, FCA has jumped in big, relying on partnerships with not only Waymo, but BMW and mega-supplier Aptiv. And that approach will not only help it to make up for lost time but give FCA several alternative paths to follow.

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SoftBank Investment Triggers GM Best Share Gain Ever

Cruise Automation could be floated in IPO.

by on Jun.01, 2018

The Chevy Bolt will be General Motors first fully autonomous car when it brings a self-driver to the market in the future.

Shares of General Motors posted their biggest gain in years, rising nearly 13% Thursday on news that Japanese tech investment fund SoftBank was investing $2.25 billion in GM’s autonomous vehicle development subsidiary, Cruise Automation.

SoftBank’s big investment was one of several major announcements yesterday that underscored the growing interest in self-driving vehicles. Waymo, the spinoff of Google, said it would purchase as many as 62,000 Chrysler Pacific Hybrid minivans for use in its planned self-driving ride-sharing service. Currently in a pilot program, it intends to begin commercial operations in Phoenix later this year and then begin a national rollout.

EV News!

GM plans to launch a similar ride-sharing operation through another subsidiary, Maven, using versions of its all-electric Chevrolet Bolt EV modified by Cruise. Mary Barra, the automaker’s CEO, said GM will look at “other opportunities” for Cruise that could involve alliances with other companies SoftBank has funded, including Uber and China’s Didi Chuxing. (more…)

Waymo Set to Purchase 62k Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Minivans for Autonomous Ride-Share Service

Announcement follows news of a major investment in GM Cruise self-driving car program.

by on May.31, 2018

An early version of a Waymo-modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan roams the streets of Phoenix.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Waymo will radically accelerate their alliance, FCA announcing it will supply as many as 62,000 more Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to the autonomous vehicle spin-off of Google.

FCA previously committed to providing several thousand of the plug-in people-movers. Waymo has also committed to purchasing up to 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace battery-electric SUVs, and CEO John Krafcik has told TheDetroitBureau.com that it expects to add still other models for use in the planned self-driving ride-share service that is currently in pilot testing in Phoenix. Commercial service will launch in that city later this year, Krafcik announced in March, and will eventually expand to “other” cities across the U.S.

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The FCA-Waymo announcement comes just hours after General Motors revealed that Japanese venture capital fund SoftBank is investing $2.25 billion in GM Cruise Holdings, the carmaker’s autonomous vehicle unit. That news quickly sent shares of GM surging by 10% in early Thursday morning trading.

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Uber Posts Positive Q1 Earnings After Tough 2017

Shuttering of Arizona ops stings as Waymo, Lyft take off.

by on May.24, 2018

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has made an impact on the company in the short time he's been there.

After nearly a year of problems and attempts to rectify them, including the addition of a new CEO, Uber Technologies’ first quarter results reveal some of the positive impact of changes implemented across the ride-sharing company.

Uber reported net income of $2.5 billion on gross bookings of $11.29 billion, an increase of 55% compared with the year-ago period. The company’s net revenue grew 67% to $2.5 billion.

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Much of the company’s positive results can be attributed to the changes implemented by new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and two significant transactions: the sale of GrabTaxi Holdings Pte Ltd. and a joint venture with Yandex N.V. (more…)

Three Quarters of Americans “Too Afraid to Ride” in Self-Driving Vehicles

As more problems reported, acceptance declines, finds new AAA study.

by on May.23, 2018

A fatal March crash involving a Tesla Model S in Mountain View, California. Pic courtesy KTVU.

They’re expected to flood our roads by the millions over the next decade, and Congress is currently working on legislation that would expand testing on public roads – but a new AAA study reveals that the American public is, if anything, growing more concerned about the safety of autonomous and fully driverless vehicles.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. drivers would be “afraid” to ride in one today, up from 63% when the AAA last polled American motorists in late 2017. The decline in confidence appears to follow an array of incidents involving prototype autonomous vehicles, including the first-known fatal crash near Phoenix when a hands-free SUV being tested by Uber slammed into a pedestrian.

Safety First!

“Despite their potential to make our roads safer in the long run, consumers have high expectations for safety,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “Our results show that any incident involving an autonomous vehicle is likely to shake consumer trust, which is a critical component to the widespread acceptance of autonomous vehicles.”

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Apple’s Mysterious Autonomous Vehicle Program is Rapidly Expanding

Records show permits for more than 55 self-driving cars.

by on May.16, 2018

CEO Tim Cook has finally begun to offer some hints as to Apple's self-driving car program.

While Apple has yet to say much about its long-rumored car program, some intriguing information has come out thanks to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the DMV revealing that the tech giant now has permits to test up to 55 self-driving vehicles in the state.

That would actually give Apple the ability to test even more vehicles than Waymo, the Google spinoff that has been far more open about its own autonomous ambitions – though less than General Motors, its San Francisco-based Cruise Automotive now holding permits for 104 test vehicles.

News You Can Trust!

And the DMV report does not cover other states where Apple might be testing, notably Nevada and Arizona, the two Southwest states that have positioned themselves as particularly friendly to autonomous vehicle researchers. Waymo, for example, is known to be running large fleet tests that may run into the hundreds of vehicles in Arizona, including both autonomous models requiring human backup “operators” and the first of its completely driverless prototypes. (more…)