Driverless cars could use lights and sounds to “communicate” with pedestrians

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Volvo Cars and Safety in the cities

VOLVO SAYS PROPOSED DESIGN WOULD USE UNIVERSAL “BODY LANGUAGE” TO REVEAL THE VEHICLE’S INTENDED PATH.

In a move to boost road safety, the self-driving cars of the future may communicate with the pedestrians and cyclists around them through human-inspired modes like intuitive sounds and flashing lights, auto vendor Volvo Cars said Tuesday.

Instead of relying solely on the car’s technology to avoid obstacles, the proposed design would also warn nearby humans of its intended path by using an array of external sounds, lights, and even subtle movements, the Swedish manufacturer said. Volvo is developing the system through its model 360c autonomous concept car, unveiled in 2018 as a platform for testing creative approaches like this safety-focused communication.

Of course, logistics professionals are well acquainted with similar safety tools on existing platforms, such as the backup warning beeps emitted by trucks in reverse gear, or the headlights used by forklifts to warn warehouse employees walking down the same aisle. But Volvo’s planned signals would differ by deploying in reaction to specific targets detected by the vehicle’s sensors, and communicating through a wider vocabulary.

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Lexus is addressing autonomous car anxiety with innovative designs

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Lexus is reimagining the future of self-driving cars.

Although the future of autonomous cars is certainly exciting, much of what it will look like remains unknown. Will we still sit in the “driver’s” seat or will the interiors of new cars look more like a café? This is one of thquestions that Lexus is trying to answer.

The luxury carmaker partnered with two TED fellows to try and figure out what the future of self-driving vehicles will look like. Moreover, the project aims to lessen some fears about taking away the interactive part of driving.

Although true autonomous cars won’t be a reality for most consumers anytime soon, addressing these problems now will help make their adoption much smoother.

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How your city will transform as mobility tech catches on

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Polestar accelerates the shift to sustainable mobility, by making electric driving irresistible.

Parking prices, congestion charges, fuel stations – the costs and diversions one never had to face on their way to work in the age of horse and carriage. The switch from horse-riding to automobiles changed the kind of materials used to build roads – slippery asphalt replaced cobbled streets and dirt roads.

Autonomous driving and other new transportation modes are key technological megatrends in the infrastructure industry. This calls for the built environment to adjust to these latest mobility technologies as they shape the future of roads and real estate construction.

In the public sphere, assimilation to these new technologies in mobility has already begun in the regulatory space. Nations across Asia, Europe and North America for example have already issued autonomous testing permits and offered regulation for self-driving cars on public roads.

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Self-driving cars will hit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a landmark A.I. race

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Take a look at the ‘Road of the Future’

Next year, a squad of souped-up Dallara race cars will reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour as they zoom around the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway to discover whether a computer could be the next Mario Andretti.

The planned Indy Autonomous Challenge—taking place in October 2021 in Indianapolis—is intended for 31 university computer science and engineering teams to push the limits of current self-driving car technology. There will be no human racers sitting inside the cramped cockpits of the Dallara IL-15 race cars. Instead, onboard computer systems will take their place, outfitted with deep-learning software enabling the vehicles to drive themselves.

In order to win, a team’s autonomous car must be able to complete 20 laps—which equates to a little less than 50 miles in distance—and cross the finish line first in 25 minutes or less. At stake is a $1 million prize, with second- and third-place winners receiving a $250,000 and $50,000 award, respectively.

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Study says autonomous taxis will cost users more than car ownership

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When Sir Thomas More coined the term “utopia,” he lifted two words from Ancient Greek that roughly translate into “not a place.” Turns out people from the 16th century still understood satire, perhaps better than we do today. After all, we are the ones operating under the assumption that we can remap society in order to build consequence-free transportation network without a shred of humor to keep us grounded.

We may not need satire in this instance, however. A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health asks questions about how just effectively the shift to autonomy will benefit society as a whole. Industry leaders have broadly framed the shift toward self-driving as kicking down the door to an idyllic universe where no one wants for transportation, with autonomous taxis serving as the first wave of this planned paradise. The reality may be vastly different that what’s being sold, however.

The study essentially asserts that the entire concept of robotic cabs doesn’t actually serve poor communities any better than just buying one’s own automobile. Researchers compared the costs of a robo-taxi trip with those of owning a conventional used vehicle in an urban environment. Tabulating the combined costs of vehicle financing, licensing, insurance, routine maintenance, fuel/electricity and everything else they could account for, the team estimated that self-driving taxis would cost a minimum of $1.58 per mile. By contrast, the total cost associated with traditional vehicle ownership (assuming one is trying to be thrifty) ended up being 52 cents per mile. At least, that was the case for their model in San Francisco.

While your author has long suspected that unsupervised robotic taxis might outpace the subway as one of the dirtiest ways to get around (and become potential liabilities for whoever operates them), the general assumption has been that they’ll offer societal and health benefits that vastly outperform private vehicle ownership — almost as if the people making these assessments have never taken a regular cab or piloted an inner-city ZipCar. Other presumed benefits involve improved air quality by making it easier for people to get by without an automobile of their own.

But this thinking comes with some problems. Studies have already shown that ride-hailing firms exacerbate congestion by having a fleet of cars constantly scouring the streets in search of fares. That interim period between riders wastes energy and will be broadly similar when/if autonomous vehicles arrive. Why should we believe they’ll be any different when they’ll be similarly competing for riders and milling around neighborhoods? Even if they’re entirely electric, that energy has to be sourced from somewhere, and much of it will be in service of nothing.

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Chinese automaker plans satellite network to support autonomous vehicles

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Geely’s constellation will provide connectivity to its next-gen autos.

 One of the most important components in an autonomous vehicle is its communications technology—which allows it to access the data needed to navigate its route. Chinese automobile company Geely has developed a solution to maintain a reliable data feed for its products: making its own satellite constellation.

The giant automaker—which sold 2.18 million vehicles in 2019 and also owns Volvo and a stake in Daimler-Benz—is investing $326 million in a new satellite manufacturing plant in Taizhou, close to its existing assembly lines. The plant will manufacture 500 satellites a year by 2025—with its first launches scheduled for later this year—and will have the capability of producing different satellite models. It will feature modular satellite manufacturing lines, research and testing centers and a cloud computing facility. The facility will be the first private satellite factory in China.

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Self-driving cars won’t eradicate the car crash, study says

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While self-driving cars won’t get distracted or drive drunk, that only accounts for a third of wrecks that occur, according to the insurance industry.

Self-driving cars likely have a long, long way to go.

In a blow to hopes for a future free of car crashes with the coming of self-driving cars, a study released Thursday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows totally driverless cars would have a difficult time achieving such a goal.

The IIHS looked at more than 5,000 police-reported crashes from the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, which the insurance industry-funded group said represents vehicle crashes that resulted in one car towed and required emergency medical services.

Combing through the files, the IIHS then sorted the crashes into five categories: sensing and perception; predicting; planning and deciding; execution and performance; and incapacitation errors. Self-driving cars will be able to eliminate sensing and perception errors, or crashes that result in the driver’s distraction, and autonomous technologies won’t be subject to the influence of drugs or alcohol. So, that takes incapacitation errors out. From the sample, that accounts for 34% of crashes. Let’s note the figure is not an insignificant number of crashes automated cars could prevent — 2 million a year in the US alone.

“It’s likely that fully self-driving cars will eventually identify hazards better than people,” said Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president for research, “but we found that this alone would not prevent the bulk of crashes.”

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The Self-Driving car race between Tesla, GM and Ford takes a big turn

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Tesla’s Autopilot uses a different guiding technology than GM’s Super Cruise and Ford’s new ADAS.

It took Tesla years to convince the old automobile world that electric is the future and drag the world’s largest gasoline carmakers into the race of electric vehicles. Now, the Elon Musk-run EV pioneer, which recently surpassed Toyota to become the world’s most valuable automaker, is leading a different game in the auto world: self-driving cars—or, more realistically, semi self-driving cars, at least for now.

Tesla’s hands-free driver assist system, Autopilot, has been in the market for nearly six years, with software updates released every few months, each edging the vehicle closer to fully self-driving. However, due to the inherent high risk of this feature (Autopilot is believed to have played a role in at least three fatal crashes due to driver misuse), most of Tesla’s EV rivals had been hesitant to develop competing technologies until recently.

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Pandemic alters carmakers’ driverless plans. Here’s how

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Detroit — The coronavirus pandemic is proving to be yet another obstacle for the self-driving and ride-sharing movement, delaying the widely touted arrival of next-generation automotive technology.

Ford Motor Co. is postponing for a year the commercial deployment of its autonomous vehicles. Waymo LLC, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc., had to temporarily suspend its on-road testing and its ride-hailing offerings in Arizona. Uber Advanced Technologies Group recently announced layoffs of 3,500, citing the pandemic. And General Motors Co. is shutting down Maven, the car-sharing service that debuted in 2016 as the wave of the future.

With demand for car-sharing and ride-sharing diminishing sharply in the age of social-distancing and other forms of vigilant hygiene, companies are shifting their focus to using driverless vehicles to deliver goods before they ferry people — a reversal of a robo-taxi future envisioned just a few years ago, courtesy of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Expensive electrification programs that have yet to create revenue for automakers, however, continue despite automakers losing billions with auto plants closed for eight weeks and many dealerships unable to sell vehicles with stay-at-home orders in place during the pandemic. Still, the prevailing industry consensus holds that electric vehicles must be an option for consumers, and electrified powertrains are the foundation of self-driving vehicles and future mobility technologies.

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The autonomous car industry is about to get hammered

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Today on Speed Lines: The “coronavirus economy” means a huge potential setback for self-driving car tech.

Good morning and welcome back to Speed Lines, The Drive’s morning roundup of what’s going on in the world of transportation. I think it’s Wednesday, although I’m not really sure anymore, let alone what that even means.

A ‘Bumpy Road’ Ahead For Self-Driving Cars.

As I’ve said many times on Speed Lines this year, the pandemic is unique in that it has left virtually no facet of daily life or sector of the economy untouched. It’s already drying up the capital markets, and that’s extremely bad news in the world of autonomous vehicles. Development of that technology is costly for both legacy automakers and new startups, yet there’s still no clear path to widespread deployment or profitability.

Adding semi-autonomous features to your next Cadillac or Volvo is one thing; creating fully robotic cars, and making money while doing so, is another thing. And it may be a pipe dream in this economy.

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Cars could go completely driverless ‘very soon,’ says CEO of Chinese autonomous driving tech start-up

AutoX rolls out self-driving robotaxis in Shanghai’s ride-hailing market

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Despite current regulations and safety concerns over self-driving cars, the time that cars could really go driverless is coming “very soon,” according to Jianxiong Xiao, CEO and founder of AutoX, a start-up developing autonomous driving technology based in Shenzhen.

It had received approval from Shanghai authorities to roll out a fleet of 100 autonomous ride-hailing cars in Shanghai’s Jiading district in September last year.

Backed by investors such as Alibaba, Shanghai Motor and Dongfeng Motor, AutoX is one of the players in the multi-trillion U.S. dollar Chinese autonomous driving vehicles market alongside others like DiDi Chuxing.

The time that cars could go completely driverless is coming “very soon,” according to Jianxiong Xiao, CEO and founder of AutoX, a Shenzhen-based start-up developing autonomous driving technology.

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MIT tech lets self-driving cars “see” under surface of road

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In poor visibility, your car could look for landmarks — under the surface of the road.

 MIT is working on self-driving technology that allows cars to “see” through the ground up to a depth of ten feet below the surface of the road. The idea is to allow self-driving cars to figure out exactly where they are — especially when snow, heavy fog, or other bad weather obscures road markings.

Current-generation self-driving cars typically rely on cameras and light detection sensors (LIDAR) to position themselves on roadways. But once the snow starts falling and covers up lane markers, it can get tricky for the car to tell where it is — and that could spell disaster, especially at highway speeds.

A team at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab have come up with a new system they call “Localizing Ground Penetrating Radar” (LGPR) that can create a real-time map of the ground below the road’s surface.

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