Waymo cars refuse to drive in unsafe conditions

Heavy rain and blizzards aren’t the only forms of severe weather Waymo’s self-driving vehicles encounter on the regular. In a blog post published this morning, the Alphabet subsidiary laid out the ways its cars in over 25 cities tackle fog, dust, smoke, and other dangerous conditions that trip up even human drivers.

“Challenging [environmental] conditions, which affect human driver and vehicle performance, are one of the leading contributors to crashes on our roads … Poor perception creates significant risk for other road users including pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicle occupants,” wrote Waymo chief safety officer Debbie Hersman. “Waymo is working hard to master a variety of weather scenarios as part of our mission to improve road safety.”

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73 mind-blowing implications of driverless cars and trucks

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I originally wrote and published a version of this article in September 2016. Since then, quite a bit has happened, further cementing my view that these changes are coming and that the implications will be even more substantial. I decided it was time to update this article with some additional ideas and a few changes.

As I write this, Uber just announced that it just ordered 24,000 self-driving Volvos. Tesla just released an electric, long-haul tractor trailer with extraordinary technical specs (range, performance) and self-driving capabilities (UPS just preordered 125!). And, Tesla just announced what will probably be the quickest production car ever made — perhaps the fastest. It will go zero to sixty in about the time it takes you to read zero to sixty. And, of course, it will be able to drive itself. The future is quickly becoming now. Google just ordered thousands of Chryslers for its self-driving fleet (that are already on the roads in AZ).

In September of 2016, Uber had just rolled out its first self-driving taxis in Pittsburgh, Tesla and Mercedes were rolling out limited self-driving capabilities and cities around the world were negotiating with companies who want to bring self-driving cars and trucks to their cities. Since then, all of the major car companies have announced significant steps towards mostly or entirely electric vehicles, more investments have been made in autonomous vehicles, driverless trucks now seem to be leading rather than following in terms of the first large scale implementations and there’ve been a few more incidents (i.e. accidents).

I believe that the timeframe for significant adoption of this technology has shrunk in the past year as technology has gotten better faster and as the trucking industry has increased its level of interest and investment.

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City planners eye self-driving vehicles to correct mistakes of the 20th-century auto

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Autonomous cars could cut traffic and pollution — or make them worse, planners say

 The Los Angeles City Council last year approved a $4.9-billion contract to design, build and operate an automated people mover at Los Angeles International Airport. The elevated system will have driverless electric trains that carry passengers between terminals, a transportation center and the Metro light-rail system. It is expected to be operational in 2023. (Los Angeles World Airports/AP)

As self-driving vehicles begin to transform the way people get around, urban planners around the country are beginning to think about how they will remake cities and change the way we live.

Not since the Model T replaced the horse and buggy have transportation and cities faced such an extensive transformation. Many planners say they see an opportunity to prevent — and correct — the 20th-century mistakes of the auto’s reign: congestion, pollution, sprawl and roads designed to move vehicles rather than people.

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Bosch and Daimler get approval for Level 4 automated parking in Germany

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It’ll be put to use at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

The car’s indicators turn turquoise when the car is operating autonomously, telling pedestrians that there’s no driver behind the wheel.

Back in 2017, Bosch and Daimler teamed up to operate a pilot program for its driverless valet service. Clearly, it worked well enough, because that program has just been given clearance to operate as more than just a pilot.

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Elon Musk: Tesla will stop selling cars to consumers once autonomous driving is perfected


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Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been talking a lot about Tesla Network lately, part of Tesla’s “Master Plan, Part Deux” which will enable Tesla cars with full self-driving hardware to operate as autonomous robotaxis to generate revenue for owners and for Tesla itself.

This is all still a ways off, but that hasn’t stopped Musk and others from theorizing about what might happen when the technological problems behind self-driving are solved. Recently, Musk stated that any Tesla bought today is an “appreciating asset” due to its potential to be used to generate revenue in the future. But an asset wouldn’t really appreciate unless a new, similar asset couldn’t be bought at the same price. So now, Musk has committed to making that happen, stating that once robotaxis become possible, Tesla will likely stop selling cars to consumers, at least at anywhere near the same price.

The exchange came, as it often does, as part of a nighttime tweetstorm from Musk. Among various other questions about the timeline for upgrading HW2+ hardware to Tesla’s new FSD computer and a comment about Tesla’s potential to have a million-robotaxi-fleet by the end of next year, Musk was asked whether prospective buyers would be able to keep buying Teslas well into the future, or if their potential as a revenue generating asset would make that price unattainable for a typical consumer:

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Driverless cars are coming for the airlines

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Our research has revealed just how much people’s travel preferences could shift with the advent of driverless cars.

As driverless cars become more capable and more common, they will change people’s travel habits not only around their own communities but across much larger distances. Our research has revealed just how much people’s travel preferences could shift and found a new potential challenge to the airline industry.

Imagine someone who lives in Atlanta and needs to travel to Washington, D.C., for business. This is about a 10-hour drive. A flight takes about two hours, assuming no delays. Add to that the drive to the airport, checking in, the security line, and waiting at the gate. Upon arrival in D.C., it may take another 30 minutes to pick up any checked bags and find a rental car–and even more time to drive to the specific destination. The average person would estimate a total travel time of four to five fours. Most people would choose to fly instead of driving themselves.

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Florida will allow autonomous cars with no safety drivers on public roads starting July 1

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The new law is intended to make Florida competitive with other states that have welcomed self-driving vehicles and testing.

Self-driving vehicles without any safety driver in the vehicle will be allowed on Florida roads starting July 1.

As Florida’s governor signed the new bill into law, he stated the intention is to remove “barriers to the advancement of autonomous vehicles” in the state.

Anyone who is onboard is also exempted from laws against texting or other distracted-driving activities in the vehicle.

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Volkswagen is testing anti-vomit technology for autonomous cars

 

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VW’s solution is better than a barf bag, but testing continues on the perfect solution to a messy problem.

One-third of all people are highly susceptible to motion sickness, according to the National Institutes of Health.

It tends to get worse when that susceptible person is a passenger instead of a driver, which will be the case more often as self-driving cars and semi-autonomous driving features enter the mainstream.

Volkswagen is testing solutions to carsickness in self-driving cars that involve such features as red and green LED lights and movable seats.

Forget the technical and safety challenges facing self-driving cars’ march toward the mainstream: good old-fashioned carsickness is coming up as a worthy consideration for automakers designing autonomous vehicles. Volkswagen has announced that it has set scientists in Wolfsburg, Germany, on the task of studying motion sickness in autonomous cars and developing anti-puke solutions (our term, not VW’s).

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Tesla Navigate on Autopilot drives itself poorly, Consumer Reports finds

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Tesla says it has improved its self-driving Navigate on Autopilot system with its latest software update. Consumer Reports begs to differ.

Last month, Tesla updated its Navigate on Autopilot software to allow its cars to change lanes automatically, without prompting or warning the driver. This gives the system the ability, for example, to navigate highway interchanges by choosing the appropriate lane. The system fulfills Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s promise to develop a system that can drive itself from highway on-ramps to off-ramps without intervention (though several system warnings note that the driver still has to pay attention, and it will shut off if the driver doesn’t hold the steering wheel for too long.)

Only, Consumer Reports says that the system does a poor job changing lanes and that watching over the system and correcting its mistakes is more work for drivers than just driving themselves.

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Lyft’s robo-taxis have made more than 50,000 rides in Las Vegas

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If you’ve been to Las Vegas in the last year, you might have seen one of Lyft’s self-driving cars tootling up and down the Strip. Heck, you might even have ridden in one.

The company has just revealed it’s now given more than 50,000 automated rides to paying passengers in the city, up from 30,000 in January 2019. Lyft says the figure makes it the largest commercial self-driving car program currently operating in the U.S.

Lyft partnered with vehicle technology firm Aptiv to launch the service, with locals and tourists alike able to request a ride in the usual way, via the Lyft app. It uses 30 modified BMW 540i cars, all kitted out with Aptiv-made sensor, cameras, and software to ensure a safe ride.

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Autonomous cars : Consumer excitement soars despite barriers

 

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Consumers believe autonomous cars will take on a larger role in their daily lives, going beyond the act of driving to also have autonomy in running errands and completing chores.

Consumer preference for riding in self-driving cars is set to double within the next five years. While only 25% of consumers would prefer to ride in a self-driving car over a traditional vehicle in 12 months’ time, over half (52%) say driverless cars will be their preferred mode of transport by 2024.

These findings have been published in Capgemini Research Institute’s report “The Autonomous Car: A Consumer Perspective.” The positive response from consumers suggests that they see huge benefits with autonomous vehicles in terms of fuel efficiency (73%), reduced emissions (71%) and saving time (50%). Such is the sense of optimism and anticipation, over half of the consumers (56%) say they would be willing to pay up to 20% more for an autonomous vehicle over a standard one.

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China just held a car race without any drivers

BD3F8AE6-328D-4CB3-8764-9A3A17B4B83FDriverless cars compete during the 3rd World Intelligent Driving Challenge in Tianjin.

China’s annual driving challenge attracts dozens of hopefuls.

China’s road to mastering driverless-car technology is bumpy and full of surprises — literally. Just ask those attending the country’s top autonomous-vehicle race .

In hot and windy conditions this week in the eastern city of Tianjin, dozens of self-driving cars raced for glory. On a circuit covering an area of 10 soccer fields, they navigated through bumps, sudden turns and artificial fog. Even fake cows and sheep suddenly crossed their paths for good measure. Some teams wreaked less havoc than others.

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