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Google Says It’s Looking for Partners – But Won’t Discuss Ford Deal

New chief says only full autonomy will work.

by on Jan.13, 2016

John Krafcik, former Hyundai CEO, recently signed on as head of Google autonomous program.

Google is going the full Monty. While some other research programs are looking to phase in autonomous vehicle technology, a step at a time, The head of the Silicon Valley’s self-driving project says his company doesn’t believe in taking baby steps.

In a visit to Detroit coinciding with the annual North American International Auto Show, Google’s John Krafcik said that as the company’s autonomous vehicle project moves ahead, Google will be “partnering more and more and more.” But Krafcik pointedly avoided answering the obvious question: what about Ford?

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Numerous reports over the last month have suggested Google and Ford are ready to team up to put the Silicon Valley firm’s technology on the road. The move, insiders claim, would help the Detroit automaker kick-start an autonomous vehicle program that has lagged behind key rivals’ efforts.

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Google’s Autonomous Car Unit Set to Become Stand-Alone

But what sort of business will it become is far from clear.

by on Dec.17, 2015

A Mountain View, CA police officer recently gave a warning to a Google Car for driving too slowly. Photo courtesy Google autonomous vehicle blog.

Google plans to spin off its autonomous vehicle operations next year, turning the unit into a stand-alone business under the corporate umbrella of Alphabet, Inc.

That could serve as a prelude to actually putting the company’s first self-driving vehicles on the road in a commercial application, according to a report by the Bloomberg news service. While Google has clocked more than 1 million miles testing its autonomous technology it has not laid out a public plan for turning that research into an actual, for-profit business.

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But a plan to put driverless cars on the road, possibly through a new ride-sharing service to compete with the likes of Uber and Lyft, could be endangered by draft regulations proposed by the State of California. Those new rules would require all vehicles to have conventional controls, including steering wheel and pedals, with a trained “operator” behind the wheel in case of a system failure.

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California Says “Driverless” Cars Still Need a Driver

Rules will create new class of autonomous vehicle "operators."

by on Dec.17, 2015

Google won't be allowed to start testing vehicles without steering wheels or pedals.

California regulators have laid out new rules covering the imminent roll out of autonomous vehicles and, among other things, they’ve decided that “driverless” cars will continue to need to have a driver – or at least a licensed “operator” — sitting behind the wheel.

California already has a large number of autonomous prototypes rolling down its highways, and Google, considered one of the leaders in self-driving technology, operates many of them near its base in Silicon Valley. But the new rules show regulators want to take a go-slow approach to actually putting autonomous vehicles in the hands of consumers.

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The draft regulations are generating a mixed response; some skeptics see the move as a way to put safety first, but Google said it was “gravely disappointed” by the state’s announcement.

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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…)

Latest in Driver Safety Technology Coming to Detroit

Makers, suppliers and tech companies demonstrating latest wares.

by on Sep.05, 2014

Collision avoidance systems improve safety for individual vehicles, and will be just one form of safety technology on display in Detroit next week.

Toyota’s announcement yesterday of its goal of zero highway deaths related to its vehicles was one of several made by automakers recently about new safety technology coming to vehicles, which makes the timing of the 21st Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress in Detroit next week perfect.

Major carmakers, suppliers and other technology companies will display some of the latest technical advances that promise to curb deaths, injuries and traffic jams.

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With growing interest in driver assistance system, automated driving and intelligent highways that can make roads safer not only for motorists but also for pedestrians and bicyclists and wider use of smart technology linked to wireless systems. (more…)

U-M Escalating Connected Car Research

Mobility Transportation Center leading the efforts.

by on Apr.30, 2014

The University of Michigan is about to begin a new wave to testing connected cars to improve their future viability.

The University of Michigan’s Board of Regents is ready to approve a new project that will help make the university one of the centers for the study of connected car technology in North America.

Jim Sayer of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute said the rapid development of connected-vehicle technology and the potential it has to improve transportation safety, driver accessibility, optimize mobility and reduce vehicle crashes is compelling technology.

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Going forward, automotive engineers will need to be familiar with connected vehicle technology, he said. Located on the university’s campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan, new Mobility Transportation Center will be supported by the university, the State of Michigan and several corporate backers with an interest in the technology. (more…)

Feds Wants Vehicles to “Talk” to One Another in Bid to Cut Crashes

NHTSA announces plan that could improve safety, reduce traffic jams.

by on Feb.03, 2014

A V2V system could signal you when another car has run a red light.

Federal regulators want your car to be able to talk to others on the road in a bid to reduce motor vehicle crashes and to help motorists avoid traffic jams.

After years of study, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today said it will begin taking steps that could eventually require all new cars and trucks to be equipped with so-called vehicle-to-vehicle, or V2V, technology, calling it a “key” to saving lives while also improving traffic flow in major urban areas.

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“Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements, building on the life-saving achievements we’ve already seen with safety belts and air bags,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “By helping drivers avoid crashes, this technology will play a key role in improving the way people get where they need to go while ensuring that the U.S. remains the leader in the global automotive industry.”

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Driving? Riding? Co-Piloting an Autonomous Vehicle

New vocabulary needed when operating hands-off driving technology.

by on Aug.28, 2013

A prototype Nissan Leaf autonomous vehicle negotiates a simulated urban intersection, complete with cross traffic.

Today’s new cars are routinely loaded with an array of advanced technologies, so it wasn’t a complete surprise to see the small ports cut into the front fenders and rear door panels of the little Nissan Leaf, nor the camera mounted behind the rearview mirror. But there was no way to completely prepare for what happened as the vehicle was shifted from conventional to autonomous mode.

With just a brief warning in synthetic speech, the Leaf suddenly came to life, surging ahead as if possessed, heading out onto a course designed to mimic a typical urban route, complete with stop signs, passing lanes – and oncoming traffic.

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The extra hardware – and the words, “Autonomous Vehicle” on the side of the car – were, in fact, the giveaway that this was a prototype of the self-driving car Nissan this week promised to put into production by 2020. It is so confident of the role that autonomous vehicles will play in the future that the Japanese automaker’s global product development chief said the technology will quickly roll out across the Nissan line-up.

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Ford Turns to Robot Test Drivers

Technology designed to handle tests too strenuous for humans.

by on Jun.17, 2013

No, it's not C3P0 behind the wheel.

We’ve been hearing a lot about autonomous vehicles in recent months, some experts forecasting the first driverless cars could roll into showrooms by the end of the decade – while others say our litigious legal system will never let that happen.

But Ford Motor Co. has already put some robots to work at its big test track in the northern Detroit suburbs, using the technology to handle the repetitive task of test driving vehicles like the new Transit van.

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Dave Payne, Ford manager vehicle development operations at the automaker’s proving ground, said the robotic system is now used for more than 70% of the durability testing done at the company’s Michigan Proving Ground outside Romeo, Michigan.

Test drivers are still used for some of the durability tests, Payne stressed, noting that, “The human brain is a wonderful machine.”

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First Driverless Cars Could Be on the Road by 2020

But will legal system stall autonomous technology?

by on Apr.17, 2013

Google's autonomous car cruises the Las Vegas strip.

The first driverless cars could begin to roll into showrooms by 2025 – if not sooner — a panel of experts agreed during the annual convention of automotive engineers in Detroit.

And many of the technologies that will permit autonomous driving will become commonplace even sooner.  Indeed, most major carmakers already offer automated parking systems and radar-guided cruise control technology that allows a vehicle to hold with the flow of traffic, even if it comes to a complete stop.

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But one of the big questions is whether the litigious U.S. legal system will prevent the widespread use of autonomous vehicles even though the nation’s top auto safety official has suggested self-driving cars could reduce by “thousands” the annual American highway death toll.

“Connected and autonomous vehicles will be the car of the future — cars that don’t crash for drivers who live in a sea of distraction,” proclaimed Peter Sweatman, director of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

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