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Waymo Launches Test of All-New Autonomous System

Google self-driving subsidiary starts producing its own hardware.

by on Jan.08, 2017

Waymo CEO John Krafcik with the specially modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid using the tech firm's latest autonomous technology.

Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary, will start testing a fleet of specially modified Chrysler Pacifica minivans in Arizona and California later this month, moving a big step closer to reaching the point it can start moving its self-driving technology from prototype to production, CEO John Krafcik said during an appearance at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Sunday.

That was one of several big announcements made by Krafcik during his appearance at the annual NAIAS. Krafcik also noted that Waymo is now producing the various LIDAR – 3D laser – cameras, radar sensors and other hardware used for its autonomous vehicle technology. That has helped it drop costs by as much as 90% and speed up the development process.

“This future isn’t very far away,” said Krafcik, a former Hyundai Motor America chief executive, adding that Waymo’s goal is “building cars that can help millions of people every day.”

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Uber Pulls Autonomous Cars Out of San Francisco

California revokes registration of 16 Uber self-driving vehicles.

by on Dec.22, 2016

Uber has pulled its autonomous Volvos out of San Francisco after their registrations were revoked.

Uber has pulled a test fleet of autonomous Volvo XC90s off the streets of San Francisco after being told the California Department of Motor Vehicles had revoked their registrations.

The confrontation followed the car-sharing service’s decision to launch the pilot program without getting the necessary state permit – a move the DMV said 20 other companies have taken. Uber also came under fire after it became widely reported that some of its cars were failing to obey traffic laws, putting other motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists at risk.

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“We’re now looking at where we can redeploy these cars but remain 100 percent committed to California and will be redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules,” Uber said in a statement.

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Waymo to Unveil Autonomous Chrysler Pacifica at NAIAS

Division leader Krafcik tweets news about appearance.

by on Dec.21, 2016

A Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, modified for Waymo, shown driving autonomously.

Waymo, the newly renamed Google autonomous vehicle division, will pull the wraps off its latest self-driving vehicle prototype, a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan, during the opening day of the 2017 North American International Auto Show.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Monday confirmed it had delivered 100 of its Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans to Waymo, which will now have them modified to run autonomously. When they go into operation early next year they will more than double the size of the Google spinoff’s test fleet.

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“As we get fully self-driving cars ready for the road, we’ll need more types of vehicles to refine and test our advanced driving software,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a tweet.

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Uber’s Autonomous Cars Running into Trouble in San Francisco

Ride-sharing service acknowledges running lights, failing to yield to pedestrians.

by on Dec.20, 2016

The San Francisco test uses modified Volvo XC90s - one shown here on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Uber’s experiment with autonomous cars appears to be off to a star-crossed start in San Francisco, the ride-sharing service acknowledging the modified Volvo CX90s have been experiencing a “problem” or two.

That includes everything from running stop lights, failing to yield to pedestrians and crossing heavily used bike lanes. That’s on top of the legal challenge Uber is facing from the Department of Motor Vehicles for failing to acquire the permit required by California law.

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A spokesman for Uber told Britain’s “The Guardian” that the company is racing to resolve an issue that put the city’s bicyclists and pedestrians at risk – no small issue considering there are 200 miles of bike lanes used for 82,000 daily trips in the City by the Bay.

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FCA Delivers Google’s 100 Autonomous Minivans

Project will push autonomous testing into tougher environments.

by on Dec.19, 2016

A Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, modified for Waymo, shown driving autonomously.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has finished building 100 minivans that will be used as part of the latest test program by Waymo, the newly renamed autonomous vehicle unit of Google.

Produced at FCA’s assembly plant in Windsor, Ontario, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids still must be retrofitted with the sensors and control systems needed to let them operate hands-free. They are expected to go into operation early in 2017, joining the numerous other vehicles Waymo is testing, including bubble like “Google Cars” produced by Detroit’s Rousch Engineering.

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“The Pacifica Hybrid will be a great addition to our fully self-driving test fleet. Fiat Chrysler’s product development and manufacturing teams have been agile partners, enabling us to go from program kickoff to full vehicle assembly in just six months,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a statement announcing the latest milestone.

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California DMV Wants Uber to Stop Autonomous Ride-Share Venture

Company officials say they don’t need permit.

by on Dec.15, 2016

Uber could be facing a legal storm over its decision not to get the permit California requires.

Ride-sharing service Uber has been ordered by California regulators to halt the public test of autonomous vehicles until the company gets what the state claims is the necessary permit.

Uber on Wednesday began offering rides in San Francisco using specially modified versions of the Volvo XC90 SUV. Though nearly two dozen other companies have so far received permits from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Uber officials said they are not required to get one. DMV officials have vociferously disagreed and have sent a warning to the company.

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“If Uber does not confirm immediately that it will stop its launch and seek a testing permit, DMV will initiate legal action,” DMV attorney Brian Soublet wrote in a letter to Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber’s autonomous car programs.

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Uber, Volvo Launch Autonomous Ride-Share Test in San Francisco

But pilot project is operating without a state permit, could face legal issues.

by on Dec.14, 2016

One of 11 autonomous Uber Volvo XC90s climbs a steep San Francisco hill.

Uber is expanding its autonomous vehicle pilot program to San Francisco – though the move could run afoul of California regulators since the ride-sharing service has decided not to seek a permit for the project.

Today’s launch comes three months after Uber began testing self-driving vehicles in its hometown of Pittsburgh. The company has said that it eventually wants to jump past autonomous cars and put a fleet of fully driverless vehicles on the road, something it says would lower the cost of a ride to the point where hailing an Uber would be cheaper than the cost of owning a vehicle.

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“The promise of self-driving ride sharing is becoming a reality,” said Mårten Levenstam, vice president of product planning at Volvo Cars, which is providing the vehicles being used for the San Francisco pilot. “Volvo is proud to be at the forefront of the latest developments in the automotive world alongside our partners at Uber.”

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Ford Launches New Safety Tech to Avoid Collisions, Ease Parking

New systems to phase in over coming two years.

by on Nov.04, 2016

Ford's Evasive Steering Alert will help a driver not just stop but steer around obstacles.

Ford plans to roll out an assortment of advanced systems over the next two years designed to make driving simpler and safer, among other things helping prevent the sort of deadly crashes that occur when motorists turn the wrong way on a limited-access highway.

The new tech features are also meant to take Ford’s current auto-park system and make it even easier and more flexible. Ford’s push puts it in line with what key competitors are doing as they move ever closer to launching the first fully autonomous vehicles. Ford has gone as far as promising to have its first completely driverless model in production by 2021.

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“Driver-assist technologies help us all be better drivers because they enhance our ability to see and sense the road around us,” said Scott Lindstrom, manager, driver-assist and active safety at Ford. “Ford’s investment in research and development is paying off by accelerating innovation to expand our portfolio of driver-assist technologies that deliver functionality and performance that customers will value.”

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Tesla Updates Software After Chinese Hackers Take Control of Model S

Researchers take complete control of vehicle from up to 12 miles away.

by on Sep.21, 2016

Chinese researchers take control of a Model S, even remotely popping open its rear hatch.

Tesla has issued an urgent update to the software controlling virtually aspect of its high-tech battery-electric vehicles, a move triggered by reports that a Chinese security team had managed to hack into the Model S sedan’s control system.

Researchers from Keen Security Lab were able to take remote control of the vehicle from distances of up to 12 miles. They were able to take control of functions such as the vehicle’s brakes and windshield wipers.

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The news only adds to growing concerns about automotive cybersecurity at a time when the industry is in the midst of what some are calling a “transportation revolution.” Just this week, federal regulators issued the first national guidelines for the development of autonomous and even more advanced driverless vehicles. Some observers fear hackers could make such vehicles a target for criminal efforts and even for terrorist activities.

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With Autonomous Guidelines, Feds Take Crucial Step Towards “Third Transportation Revolution”

by on Sep.20, 2016

U.S. Transportation Anthony Foxx wants to see regulations keep up with technological change.

Government regulators are often accused of holding up progress. But with the release of the first-ever federal guidelines for autonomous and self-driving vehicles, they could help spur what is being described as a transportation revolution.

At the federal level, the new rules will cover the development, testing and eventual sales of self-driving vehicles, while also providing guidelines for state regulators. The first semi-autonomous vehicles are already on the road and models capable of driving entirely hands-free are expected in showrooms by the beginning of the next decade. Several automakers even hope to have fully driverless cars in production within five years.

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“This is just the first step,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who said the initial model “will be updated annually to ensure it remains relevant and timely.”

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