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Ford, GM Betting Big on the Future with Major Moves into Autonomous Vehicles, Mobility Services

Detroit makers hope to lead radical transformation of the auto industry.

by on Mar.11, 2016

General Motors President Dan Ammann (right) with Cruise Automation co-founders Kyle Vogt (center) and Daniel Kan (left).

General Motors CEO Mary Barra recently suggested the level of change in the auto industry over the next five years will be greater than it has been over the last half-century – and major announcements by both GM and cross-town rival Ford appear to back that up.

The larger of the two makers has acquired Cruise Automation, a California-based start-up focusing on the development of autonomous vehicles. The smaller carmaker, meanwhile, says it is creating a new subsidiary, Ford Smart Mobility LLC, to focus on a wide range of mobility services, including not only autonomous vehicles but alternatives such as ride- and car-sharing.

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“Our plan is to quickly become part of the growing transportation services market, which already accounts for $5.4 trillion in annual revenue,” noted Ford CEO Mark Fields in a prepared statement. In a series of stump speeches in recent months, Fields noted that traditional automakers, such as Ford, currently get little to none of that revenue. (more…)

LA Auto Show Shifts Gears but Maintains High-Tech Focus

Autonomous, connected-car tech vie for attention with green machines.

by on Nov.20, 2015

The L.A. Auto Show carved out a niche on the circuit as the showcase event for green technologies. However, that's changing to all auto technologies.

When it lifted the covers off its new Clarity Fuel-Cell Vehicle this week, Honda carried on a long-running L.A. Auto Show tradition of focusing on green automotive technology.

But where hybrids, plug-ins, battery-electric and hydrogen vehicles have dominated the annual Tinseltown event for much of the last two decades, environmentally friendly vehicles have had to share the stage this year. The 2015 show, in fact, opened with a day-long symposium on connected car technology, and much of the buzz during the media preview surrounded autonomous vehicles.

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The L.A. Auto Show “has evolved from a single technology – environmental technology – to a broader range of technologies,” said American Honda Executive Vice President John Mendel. (more…)

SAE Panel Lays Out Framework for Arrival of Autonomous Vehicles

Executives cite connectivity, more players as key to growth.

by on Apr.23, 2015

Tesla's Model S will be one of the first examples of vehicles using autonomous vehicle technology on the road this summer.

Pandora’s Box is now officially open.

The emergence of self-driving vehicles as a major force in the automotive industry was underscored this week during the Society of Automotive Engineers conference in Detroit, where the topic of self-driving easily eclipsed fuel-efficiency as the major topic of discussion.

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Seval Oz, chief executive officer of Intelligent Transportation Systems at Continental AG, said two of the factors that are driving the autonomous car revolution are exponential growth of wireless connectivity in cars and the demand by other companies for the attention of drivers and passengers, who spend upwards of two hours in a vehicle during the daily commute. (more…)

Self-Driving Ride Sharing Fleets May Cut Car Ownership by Half

Autonomous cars make second car unnecessary.

by on Feb.09, 2015

Google's driverless car could ultimately cause a decline in car ownership in the U.S.

The growing levels of comfort of driverless cars and the rise of ride-sharing programs could combine to cut private car ownership nearly in half, according to a recent study from the University of Michigan.

If Google’s fleet of self-driving vehicles became part of a growing number of Uber and Lyft drivers, or even supplanted them, the need for a second car is blunted, the researchers said, especially if a “return-to- home” mode is involved allowing the ride share vehicle to act as a form of shared family or household vehicle.

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According to Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, the most recent U.S. National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) data shows a general lack of trip overlap between drivers within a majority of households, opening up the possibility for a significant reduction in average vehicle ownership per household based on vehicle sharing. (more…)

Google May Be Readying Challenge to Uber and Lyft

Google car autonomous test fleet could be prototype of nationwide ride-share service.

by on Feb.05, 2015

Uber's enjoying a successful run in the ride-sharing market, but a new foe may be on the horizon: Google.

Millions of Americans have begun turning to ride-sharing programs such as Uber and Lyft, not only as an alternative to traditional taxis but for some customers as a substitute for even owning a car.

Ride-share leader Uber has attracted not only a lot of new customers but, with an estimated valuation of $40 billion, it has drawn in plenty of big investors, including Google which has poured in more than $258 million in cash. But those erstwhile allies could soon by going head-to-head.

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“Google is preparing to offer its own ride-hailing service, most likely in conjunction with its long-in-development driverless car project,” reports Bloomberg. (more…)

Rinspeed Budii Aims to “Redefine Relationship Between Man and Machine”

"Trans-urban concept car" designed to learn as it drives.

by on Dec.10, 2014

The Rinspeed Budii appears to be an autonomous take on the new BMW i3 electric vehicles.

With the first autonomous vehicles likely heading to showrooms within the next decade, there’s little doubt life on the road will begin to change.  But exactly how? That’s a question garnering a lot of attention these days.  If our cars can handle the morning commute on their own, what will we be doing during our morning commute?

One thing seems certain, self-driving vehicles will “redefine the relationship between man and machine,” suggests Frank Rinderknecht.

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He’s better known as the visionary behind Rinspeed, a Swiss consulting firm that offers its take on the automobiles of the future with a series of concept vehicles that regularly appear at the annual Geneva Motor Show.

And the upcoming show will feature Rinspeed’s new Budii, which the firm calls a “trans-urban concept car.”


Motorists Like Concept but Still Wary of Autonomous Vehicles

Less than a third of U.S. drivers want to own a self-driving car.

by on Dec.03, 2014

Less than one in three drivers are interested in owning a self-driving vehicle, but of those who want one, they're will to pay an extra $4,000.

The vast majority of American motorists are aware that a new generation of autonomous vehicles will soon take to the highways. While they like the idea of being able to lay back and relax, less than one in three drivers say they actually would want to own a self-driving car.

Those that would want to buy one would be willing to pay as much as a $4,000 premium, according to a new study by AutoPacific, Inc.

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“Consumers are divided on autonomous driving, just as they are on many other issues facing society,” explained George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. “For some, this technology can’t come soon enough. Others appear to dread it.” (more…)

Component Costs Deter Implementation of Driverless Technology

Sensor prices too high for automakers to use on massive scale.

by on Sep.10, 2014

Sensor prices for autonomous driving are too high for widespread use. This lidar sensor, which fits in the palm of your hand, starts at $8,000.

Cars loaded with the technology that allows them to drive themselves have been cruising the streets of downtown Detroit this week, but unless the costs of a critical component come down dramatically, don’t expect them to be in showrooms any time soon.

Self-driving or autonomous cars currently rely on several sensors to help perform the functions of driving. However, the sensors are expensive and are not developed specifically for cars and trucks, but adapted and modified from other areas.

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“The cost of sensing and processing is going to have to move down a lot if we’re going to make a manageable and a large-scale deployment of autonomous automated vehicle technology over the next few years,” said John Lauckner, General Motors’ chief technology officer, during a recent forum at the ITS World Congress in Detroit. (more…)

Continental Ups the Autonomous Car Ante

Supplier hires Google exec for smart car company.

by on Aug.18, 2014

Continental hired former Google exec, Seval Oz, to oversee its new intelligent transportation systems company in Silicon Valley.

The race is on to be first to market with a fully autonomous vehicle. Right now, automakers like Nissan, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz are being challenged by high-tech upstart Google, which plans to launch a fleet of autonomous prototypes later this year.

One of the key figures in Google’s self driving program has been poached by German auto supplier, which itself hopes to become a leader in autonomous technology. German auto supplier Continental is going all in on intelligent driving systems by forming a new company, Continental Intelligent Transportation Systems LLC, located in Silicon Valley.

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Continental, which supplies driver assistance technology, such as blind-spot detection, hired Seval Oz to be CEO of the new company. Oz previously served as Senior Business Development manager at Google, where she was integral in the development of the self-driving car. (more…)

Autonomous Vehicles Could Account for a Third of US Auto Sales by 2035

It’s a question of “not if but when,” says new study.

by on Jan.03, 2014

A recent study expects 11.8 million self-driving cars will be on the roads by 2030.

They’ve long been the stuff of science fiction, but a new study predicts that once they come to market in the near future, autonomous vehicles will rapidly become a very popular reality.

The study, titled “Emerging Technologies: Autonomous Cars — Not If, But When,” predicts that by 2035, self-driving cars, or SDCs, will account for half the vehicles sold in North America. Worldwide sales will reach about 11.8 million, according to IHS Automotive, which prepared the report. By 2050, the consulting firm predicts, almost all vehicles will offer an autonomous mode.

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Officials at Nissan recently promised to put their first autonomous vehicles into production by 2020, and a number of other makers have since made similar announcements. The IHS report notes that the first generation of these vehicles will actually require a human co-pilot to sit at the ready in case the technology develops a problem – much like an aircraft autopilot. But it anticipates truly independent, self-driving vehicles requiring no human involvement will begin to be offered by 2030. (more…)