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Automakers Can’t Sacrifice Safety in Rush to Autonomous Driving, Warns Transportation Sec. Foxx

“People who start a trip” should “finish it.”

by on Jul.20, 2016

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said safety must be the top concern when it comes to the development of autonomous vehicles.

Safety, rather than the rush to be first to market, must be fundamental to the development of autonomous vehicle technology, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The government will move ahead with plans to release new guidelines covering the development of self-driving vehicles later this summer, Foxx said during a speech in San Francisco. But regulators are clearly keeping in mind the series of collisions that have involved Google autonomous vehicle prototypes and the May 9 fatal crash of a Tesla Model S being driven in semi-autonomous Autopilot mode.

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“We want people who start a trip to finish it,” Foxx said. And while “Autonomous doesn’t mean perfect,” he cautioned that, “We need industry to take the safety aspects of this very seriously.” (more…)

Self-Driving Cars Likely to Mean Lower Insurance Premiums

Autonomous cars expected to be a standard feature by 2035, predicts Moody’s.

by on Mar.29, 2016

A Google car prototype.

An estimated 90% of all crashes are the result of driver error which, proponents believe, should mean markedly fewer deaths and injuries once autonomous vehicles begin rolling out on the nation’s highways.

That should be doubly good news for American motorists, according to a report by Moody’s Investors Service, which predicts a sharp decline in auto insurance rates. But that’s not necessarily good news for the insurance industry.

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“Accident frequency will fall sharply over time, and will ultimately translate into significantly lower premiums and consequently lower profits for auto insurers,” the report forecasts.


Google on Hiring Spree for Autonomous Vehicle Program

Will it build cars, after all?

by on Feb.12, 2016

Google plans to expand the range of places it is testing its autonomous prototypes.

Google is putting out the “Help Wanted” sign, and it could signal a major shift in plans for its Google X autonomous vehicle program.

For the last several years, the high-tech firm has said it doesn’t want to produce its own vehicles but would rather find partners – a term used by Google X CEO John Krafcik during a visit to Detroit last month. But among the dozens of jobs being advertised, at least some put a focus on manufacturing skills.

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That includes one for a manufacturing process engineer who would be responsible for “designing factory assembly stations, optimizing production floor layout, automating critical manufacturing processes and approving fixture designs used in the assembly of electronic modules for the self-driving car.”


Still Secret Apple Car Project Suffers Series of Setbacks

But project moving ahead, says key rival.

by on Jan.26, 2016

Apple execs won't confirm their plans but hint of "massive change" coming in the auto industry.

While tech giant Apple isn’t ready to confirm the car project it has reportedly dubbed Project Titan, it has become what one rival calls “an open secret.” But while the program appears to be moving ahead, sources warn that it has suffered a series of unexpected setbacks.

One of the key members of a team now said to number as many as 1,000 employees plans to leave, while another senior Apple exec has expressed his frustration at the progress the program is making, according to reports from Silicon Valley.


That said, after touring Silicon Valley this past week, Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche told the German publication Welt am Sonntag he was impressed with what he learned about the car programs at Apple and tech rival Google.


Ford and Google Partnering on Autonomous Vehicles

Deal expected to be announced at CES on January 5.

by on Dec.22, 2015

CEO Fields has been pushing to transform Ford into a "mobility company," not just a carmaker.

Ford Motor Co. and Google are expected to announce a new alliance that will include joint development of autonomous vehicles.

Several sources have confirmed reports that were circulating on Monday indicating the announcement will be made two weeks from now when Ford CEO Mark Fields serves as keynote speaker at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

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The move could help jump-start the self-driving vehicle program at Ford which was planning to begin testing an autonomous version of its Fusion Hybrid sedan on public roads near its high-tech center in Silicon Valley next month. Ford is generally considered a follower in the emerging field while Google is generally seen as leading the field in autonomous vehicle development.


Ford Set to Test Autonomous Cars on California Roads

Modified Fusion Hybrid will operate out of Palo Alto research center.

by on Dec.16, 2015

An autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid begins testing on public roads in California.

California roadways are starting to get crowded with autonomous vehicles.

Even though the first retail self-driving vehicles aren’t expected to roll into showrooms until 2020, at the earliest, a growing number of automakers have begun testing their technology out on public roads. And Ford Motor Co. is the latest to get a permit from the Golden State, one of the first to create a special license for autonomous vehicles.

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Starting next month, Ford will start testing a specially modified version of its familiar Fusion Hybrid sedan on the streets near its new Silicon Valley research center. It’s already been using a simulated urban setting, dubbed Mcity, set up by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.


Police Pull Over Google Car for Tying Up Traffic

Driver avoids ticket.

by on Nov.16, 2015

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

A traffic stop in the Silicon Valley suburb of Mountain View has raised a number of new question about autonomous vehicles, among other things who gets a ticket if a self-driving car is pulled over?

A police officer stopped one of the bubble-shapped “Google Cars” last week because it was tying up traffic, driving at only 24 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone. The person behind the wheel of the two-seater was ultimately let go without a citation, the cop apparently more interested in finding out how the autonomous vehicle works,

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He used the stop to “learn more about how the car was choosing speeds along certain roadways and to educate the operators about impeding traffic,” explained a post on the blog operated by Google’s autonomous vehicle unit. “Driving too slowly? Bet humans don’t get pulled over for that too often,” the post noted.


Consumers Demanding New Safety and Autonomous Driving Features

Google takes the lead in autonomous driving.

by on Nov.12, 2015

A new Google car negotiates traffic.

While traditional attributes, like good fuel economy, remain important to American auto shoppers, the focus is shifting. Buyers are putting more and more emphasis on high-tech safety features and looking forward to a wave of new autonomous technologies coming to market in the near future, according to a new study.

Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and General Motors all have announced plans to begin rolling out semi-autonomous features, starting in 2016, and Tesla just began remotely updating its Model S sedans to use its AutoPilot system, which permits hands-free driving on well-marked, limited-access highways. But a second study says it’s a new entrant to the automotive world, tech giant Google, that has taken the lead in self-driving technology.

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“No other company has as much relevant technology to advance autonomous driving software,” says Egil Juliussen, PhD., senior research director at IHS Automotive and author of one of the new reports. “Google is in a unique position to provide the software and map infrastructure to allow mobility services to anyone — via fleets of driverless cars — within a decade or less.”


Autonomous Cars Will Soon Rule the Road, Predicts Tesla’s Musk

Owning a conventional car “will be like owning a horse.”

by on Nov.05, 2015

Tesla CEO Elon Musk predicts an autonomous car is in almost everyone's future.

Autonomous cars are coming fast, predicts Tesla Motors’ founder, CEO and resident visionary. And they will dominate the roads well before we reach the midpoint of the 21st Century, he predicts.

Tesla is taking a first step in that direction with the ongoing roll-out of its semi-autonomous Autopilot program, which will allow the owner of a Model S sedan or Model X sport-utility vehicle to cruise along hands-free on a well-marked, limited-access highway.

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Within 15 to 20 years, Musk said during a conference call, it will become “quite unusual to see cars that don’t have full autonomy.” It’s a position some, but by no means all, of Tesla’s competitors share.


Autonomous Vehicles Involved in High Number of Crashes

Human drivers may have trouble sharing the road with self-driving vehicles, warns study.

by on Nov.02, 2015

A Google car in traffic. A new study suggests autonomous vehicles are experiencing five times the rate of accidents as regular cars.

Proponents have promised a world in which crashes, injuries and fatalities are virtually absent, but a new study warns that, at least for now, autonomous vehicles aren’t coming close to meeting those expectations.

The limited number of test vehicles now on the road have been involved in crashes at five times the rate of conventional vehicles, according to an analysis by the University of Michigan’s Transportations Research Institute, or UMTRI. But the news wasn’t entirely bad.

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“Self-driving vehicles were not at fault in any crashes they were involved in,” wrote researchers Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak. And, they added, “the overall severity of crash-related injuries
involving self-driving vehicles has been lower than for conventional vehicles.