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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.

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“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.

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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…)

Uber Rival Didi Chuxing Ready to Test Autonomous Vehicles in California

China-based ride-sharing company making inroads in the U.S.

by on May.15, 2018

Uber's autonomous vehicle testing has been suspended, but rival Didi Chuxing is now testing AVs in California.

Uber has scaled back its autonomous vehicle program after one of its self-driving vehicles killed a pedestrian in Arizona in March.

But one of its major rivals for ride-sharing dollars around the world appears to be charging ahead.

Pushing the Envelope!

Didi Chuxing, the China-based ride-hailing service that bought Uber’s business in China last year, obtained a permit to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in California. Didi is the latest to join the growing list of companies developing self-driving vehicles in the state but perhaps one of the most significant because of the company’s huge presence in China, the world’s largest ride-sharing market, and its potential global reach. (more…)

Uber Backs Down on Arbitration Accused of Silencing Sex Assault Victims

Ride-sharing service’s drivers accused of numerous rapes and assaults.

by on May.15, 2018

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi agreed to end the company's practice of using only confidential arbitration to resolve issues.

Ride-sharing giant Uber responding to critics who feel it has tried to silence victims of sexual assault says it will stop using the forced arbitration contained in its terms of service.

The move comes after reports surfaced revealing at least 100 Uber drivers in the U.S. had been accused of sexually assaulting passengers in recent years, including one recent case in which a driver followed a female passenger after reaching her home and tried to force himself into her apartment. Critics have also accused the service of lax background checks that have allowed some convicted of sex crimes to go to work for the company.

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Anyone using the Uber smartphone app to hail a ride was required to enter into confidential arbitration, even in the event of serious crimes, such as rape, committed by a driver. Going forward, Uber says it will now let victims, including passengers as well as drivers and employees, choose the venue in which to pursue their grievance, including the courts. (more…)

Flexibility Will Drive Success of Autonomous Vehicles

Needs of owners will lead to customization of self-driving cars.

by on May.11, 2018

GM's Mike Abelson suggested that self-driving cars, like the Cruise AV, could be redesigned to customer wishes in the future.

Automakers appear to have moved on from if they can produce self-driving vehicles to what might they look like once the technology is ready — and if one automaker is correct, the sky will be the limit.

And to put a twist on an old phrase, you’ll get to pick the color of the sky in your world, according to Mike Abelson, GM vice president of global strategy. Speaking at Citi’s Car of the Future conference in New York City.

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These designed-by-you vehicles might be owned or leased by individual customers, Abelson noted, adding that he sees a market outside of large cities where ride-sharing services, like Uber or Lyft, may not available. (more…)

More Than 100 Uber Drivers Accused of Sex Crimes

CNN found problem not limited to Uber, Lyft has issues too.

by on May.01, 2018

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the company is looking to make riders feel safer.

For much of the eight years of its existence, Uber has billed itself as a safe alternative for drivers who can’t, don’t want to or shouldn’t be behind the wheel.

How safe is Uber is really in question now that it has been revealed by CNN that 103 Uber riders have accused drivers of sexually assault or abuse in the last four years. Some of the cases that have been successfully prosecuted have seen drivers go to jail for 80 years.

The result of the one trial and other actions are of little solace to the victims. (more…)

Uber CEO Says Autonomous Testing Done Until NTSB Investigation Complete

Company reached a settlement with victim's family.

by on Apr.11, 2018

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the company wouldn't resume testing its self-driving cars until the NTSB was complete.

Uber is tackling one issue at a time after one of its autonomous test vehicle collided with and killed a pedestrian outside of Phoenix last month, according to CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

He said right now the company is cooperating fully with the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation of the event.

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“Right now our total effort is helping them out and we’ll figure out what we do afterward,” he said, adding that self-driving cars “ultimately will make the world much, much safer.” (more…)

Uber Makes Jump to Electric Bikes

Ride-sharing company pushes toward elimination of drivers.

by on Apr.10, 2018

Uber acquire bike-sharing company Jump, which offers electric bikes for users.

With Uber’s latest acquisition, the odds of any company executive getting into an argument with the driver is unlikely as the company has acquired bike-sharing service Jump. Terms of the deal were not released.

Jump is a “dockless” bike, which means users can leave them in any bike stand – as opposed to a branded stand – and they’ll be disabled until the next user comes along to rent it. The rider gets a code on their smartphone to activate the bike.

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The move pushes Uber closer to its goal of reducing car ownership, according to CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in a blog post. (more…)