Detroit Bureau on Twitter

Archive for the ‘Driverless Vehicles’ Category

New Study Shows Motorists Confused By High-Tech Features Like Autopilot, ProPilot and Super Cruise

Drivers may wind up misusing these systems, even fall asleep behind the wheel.

by on Jun.20, 2019

Cadillac's Super Cruise provides "hands-free driver assistance." It will expand the availability of Super Cruise across the entire line-up by 2020.

What is in a name, asked William Shakespeare, and while the Bard was talking about a rose, his modern-day counterpart might be asking the same thing about the names being applied to the latest high-tech systems designed to share some of the driving duties with human motorists.

More and more of today’s vehicles features advanced driver assistance systems, like forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. The most sophisticated ADAS technology – such as Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise – even can assume some limited driving duties. But there’s where the problem sets in, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The findings suggest those names often imply that these systems can do more than they’re designed for, leading to potentially dangerous situations.

Safety News!

“Current levels of automation could potentially improve safety,” IIHS President David Harkey said. “However, unless drivers have a certain amount of knowledge and comprehension, these new features also have the potential to create new risks.” (more…)

Ford Pushes Ahead with Detroit Neighborhood Redevelopment

Automaker envisions big things for Corktown campus.

by on Jun.20, 2019

Ford is opening a new information center at the Factory at Corktown to facilitate engagement with the community.

Ford Motor Co. celebrated the one-year anniversary of the acquisition of Michigan Central Station in Detroit by opening an information center at The Factory at Corktown, a few blocks from the station.

“We’ve learned a lot from local residents and businesses over the past year as we further our plans for the development of Michigan Central Station,” said Mary Culler, Detroit development director for Ford Motor Co., as the automaker works with the community and other stakeholders to create a destination that will help shape the future of transportation while strengthening Detroit’s position as the Motor City.

Beyond the Headlines!

“Our new information center will provide an ongoing opportunity to share our plans, celebrate the culture of the area and continue learning from the community. In this historic neighborhood, we’re building a place where people can solve real-world challenges and create future opportunities together,” added Culler, noting Ford is also hoping to encourage new residential development in Corktown. (more…)

Ford, Volkswagen Nearing Second Agreement

Two automakers working on EVs and autonomous vehicles.

by on Jun.13, 2019

Ford CEO Jim Hackett, left, and VW AG CEO Herbert Diess downplayed the immediate impact their new deal. The two companies are on the verge of their second deal.

Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG are finalizing a deal to work together on autonomous and electric vehicles, according the German automaker’s top executive.

Herbert Diess, VW’s CEO, told a group of employees that the two sides were negotiating the final parts of the deal, which would be the second since the two automakers agreed to start working together earlier this year.

Business News!

The first deal called for Ford to provide VW with assistance on developing a new pickup truck that it would sell in global markets, but not the United States. This new deal centers on Ford getting use of Volkswagen’s MEB EV platform. (more…)

Hyundai, Kia Invest in Autonomous Software Startup Aurora

Investment expands Korean automakers autonomous program.

by on Jun.13, 2019

Hyundai and Kia are investing in self-driving startup Aurora to accelerate its autonomous program.

Hyundai Motor Co. said it plans to invest in self-driving car software startup Aurora along with Kia Motors Corp. to speed up development of autonomous vehicle technologies.

“With the new investment, the companies have agreed to expand research to a wide range of models and to build an optimal platform for Hyundai and Kia’s autonomous vehicles,” Hyundai said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Technology News!

Aurora said in a blog post that Hyundai and Kia’s investment is part of a series B financing round, which has now raised more than $600 million. (more…)

Ford Begins Testing Autonomous Vehicles in Detroit

Automaker working with Argo AI on self-driving program.

by on Jun.13, 2019

The new Ford Fusion Hybrid is a third-generation test vehicle that Argo AI is now testing in Detroit.

Ford Motor Co. has begun testing autonomous vehicles around its new engineering campus in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood with its AV partner Pittsburgh-based Argo AI even as it launches a new research center in Israel with an eye on developing new technology.

Peter Rander, president of Argo AI, said the new vehicles being tested in Detroit are equipped with a significantly upgraded sensor suite, including new sets of radar and cameras with higher resolution and higher dynamic range.

News You Can Trust!

When trying to see an object that’s very far away, a lower resolution camera may only be able to represent it as a pixel or two. But with higher resolution, you may be able to get a dozen pixels out of the same far away object. In concert with upgraded software, this means our vehicles are getting better at seeing what’s farther ahead and classifying what it is, Rander said in a blog post on the Argo website. (more…)

Musk Hypes Tesla Performance, Future to Shareholders

CEO suggests a Tesla with a 400-mile range is coming soon.

by on Jun.12, 2019

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told shareholders that the company would likely set a new production record in the second quarter.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk walked into the EV maker’s annual meeting facing a slew of tough questions and, as usual, overwhelmed attendees with a slew of positives resulting in enough happy investors to see the stock jump above $220 a share to start the day.

However, the enthusiasm of the previous night’s meeting wasn’t enough to sustain the momentum and the stock fell nearly 6% to just over $211 a share in mid-day trading.

Business News!

The brash leader of the world’s biggest seller of battery electric vehicles swept aside concerns about ongoing issues with crashes involving Autopilot, day-to-day funding of the company and demand for the company’s first mainstream vehicles. (more…)

Toyota, SoftBank Preparing Launch of Self-Driving Venture

Monet looks compete with other autonomous entities.

by on Jun.12, 2019

Monet Technologies, led by CEO Junichi Miyakawa, will operate the new self-driving joint venture created by Toyota Motor and SoftBank.

Toyota Motor and its partner SoftBank plan to begin operating a self-driving venture, originated by Monet, in Southeast Asia in 2020.

The move would mark a shift for Japan’s third biggest telco as it looks abroad for growth and potentially bring it into competition with portfolio companies of parent SoftBank Group Corp. and its $100 billion Vision Fund, which has invested in major ride-hailing firms around the world.

Global News!

Monet, which is developing an on-demand self-driving service platform, is planning to export a basic version of the system, Chief Executive Junichi Miyakawa told Reuters. (more…)

Fiat Chrysler Teams Up With Autonomous Vehicle Start-Up Aurora

Move could fill a gaping hole left open after collapse of merger talks with Renault.

by on Jun.10, 2019

Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley hasn't stopped looking for partners the wake of the FCA-Renault falling apart.

Fiat Chrysler will form an alliance with autonomous vehicle start-up Aurora to develop technology for commercial vehicles that could range from hands-free taxis to driverless delivery trucks.

Aurora currently runs operations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as well as San Francisco and Palo Alto, California, three of the hotbeds of autonomous vehicle research, with more than 200 employees. Earlier this year it raised $530 million through a Series B funding round, with Amazon one of its key investors.

Business News!

“As part of FCA’s autonomous vehicle strategy, we will continue to work with strategic partners to address the needs of customers in a rapidly changing industry,” said Mike Manley, chief executive officer, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. “Aurora brings a unique skillset combined with advanced and purposeful technology that complements and enhances our approach to self-driving.”

The deal, which officially links Aurora with Fiat Chrysler’s North American unit, FCA US, was announced only days after the parent company broke off merger talks with Renault. One of the potential benefits of that tie-up would have been access to autonomous and electrified vehicle technologies being developed by the French automaker’s Japanese alliance partner, Nissan.

(French government blamed for collapse of Fiat Chrysler-Renault merger plan. Click Here for the story.)

Fiat Chrysler also supplied Waymo with 65,000 Pacifica minivans for its Waymo One service.

FCA insiders have blamed French government interference for scuttling the proposed “merger-of-equals,” but sources in France have, in turn, claimed that they were concerned that the deal could have fractured the two decade old Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

What is clear is that Fiat Chrysler has needed help when it comes to autonomous technology. Under Sergio Marchionne, the former CEO who passed away unexpectedly last summer, it was little more than an afterthought. There was little work done in-house, in sharp contrast to other major competitors such as Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen, General Motors and Ford.

Prior to this announcement, FCA’s biggest move in the autonomous field was to agree to provide as many as 60,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans for use in the new Waymo One ride-sharing service started by the Google spinoff Waymo in the Phoenix area – which is scheduled to expand to at least 20 more cities in the coming years.

In an ironic twist, Aurora’s CEO Chris Urmson, a pioneer in the autonomous field, previously headed Waymo before it was spun off by Google and new CEO John Krafcik came onboard.

In the non-monogamous world of high-tech transportation, the connecting lines crisscross all over one another. Amazon, which is now paired with FCA though Aurora, led a consortium that purchased a major stake in electric vehicle start-up Rivian earlier this year. While the digital retailer hasn’t explained its goals, it is widely believed to be working up plans to field a fleet of driverless delivery trucks.

Meanwhile, another investor in Rivian is Ford Motor Co., a key rival of Fiat Chrysler’s in the commercial vehicle market.

(Click Here for more about the failed FCA-Renault merger.)

Neither FCA nor Aurora would discuss specific details of their new alliance, including any financial arrangements. Earlier this year, after the Series B funding round was completed, the start-up reportedly had a $2.5 billion valuation, according to the Reuters news service.

Along with the new FCA deal, Aurora has also forged relationships with Hyundai, Volkswagen and Chinese electric vehicle start-up Byton.

“We are thrilled to forge a partnership with FCA US to develop a meaningful business model for delivering the benefits of self-driving commercial vehicles,” said Sterling Anderson, Aurora co-founder and chief product officer.

Precisely what those vehicles will be isn’t clear, but the dozens of automakers and research firms exploring autonomous technology see a number of possible options. The general consensus is that costs will run too high, at least in the early years, for most consumers, putting the focus on commercial ventures. These include autonomous cabs like those Waymo One is fielding, with General Motors and its Cruise Automation subsidiary promising to launch their own operation later this year.

Local delivery services would like to dispense with costly drivers, as well, though the challenge is resolving the “last 100 foot” problem, getting packages from the truck to the door. Some experiments have required customers to go and pick up their packages but that isn’t seen as a popular option. Drones are a possibility, but Ford last month demonstrated a robot that could take packages from truck to drop-off.

(Waymo kicks off autonomous taxi and ride-sharing service. Click Here for the story.)

Long-haul trucks are also a possibility, though not an area in which FCA competes. Its former partner, Daimler AG, however, has been fleet testing hands-free technology through several subsidiaries, including the U.S.-based Freightliner.

FCA Lays Out Plan for “Transformative Merger” with Groupe Renault

Move would create 3rd-largest global automaker; 1st if factoring in Alliance partners Nissan, Mitsubishi.

by on May.27, 2019

Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Mike Manley originally approached Renault over much more limited plans, such as platform sharing.

After extensive, secret negotiations, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has laid out a plan to merge with the largest of France’s two automakers, Groupe Renault, a move that would create the world’s third-largest motor vehicle manufacturer, with annual sales of 8.7 million vehicles – and a clear number one if factoring in the volumes of Renault’s current Alliance partners, Nissan and Mitsubishi.

Both FCA and Renault have openly sought new partnerships over the past decade to both expand their geographic bases and fill in gaps in their product and technology portfolios. If, as expected, the proposed deal is completed, the new organization will have a more well-rounded global presence, with FCA bringing to the table its Jeep SUV and Ram pickup brands. Renault, among other things, provides a growing range of electric vehicles and an aggressive autonomous vehicle develop program.

Breaking News!

Over the past decade, FCA has repeatedly said it was looking for a partner, with names like General Motors and Volkswagen on its list. But while those were seen as unsolicited proposals, talks between the Italian-American automaker and Renault have been underway since early this year. And though the French automaker early Monday said that its “Board of Directors will meet this morning to discuss this proposal,” it is expected that this is largely a formality.

(more…)

US Postal Service Using Autonomous Trucks to Haul Mail

USPS partners with TuSimple to deliver mail.

by on May.22, 2019

The United States Postal Service is partnering with TuSimple, using the company's autonomous trucks to haul mail across three states in a two-week trial.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds — however, poor lane markers might be problematic for the United States Post Office’s latest “courier.”

The USPS entered into an agreement with TuSimple to use the San Diego-based company’s autonomous trucks on a two-week trial to deliver mail between postal centers in the southwest United States.

Business News!

The self-driving trucks, which will have a safety driver behind the wheel and an engineer in the passenger seat, will haul mail between USPS facilities in Phoenix and Dallas. The program is designed to see if autonomous technology could improve delivery times and lower costs.  (more…)