Volvo and Aurora team up on fully autonomous trucks for North America

Another day, another partnership

By Andrew J. Hawkins

Volvo is partnering with self-driving startup Aurora on a new lineup of fully autonomous semi trucks, the companies announced. The trucks will be deployed in North America on highly frequented hub-to-hub routes.

The deal between Volvo Autonomous Solutions and Aurora — which was founded by former executives from Google, Tesla, and Uber — is a “long-term partnership spanning several years,” the companies said. 

It’s also the latest partnership between a major OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and an autonomous technology startup, as the industry continues to slowly inch toward a future with more fully driverless passenger vehicles and trucks on the road. 

Aurora has been testing its “Aurora Driver” hardware and software stack in its test fleet of minivans and Class 8 trucks in the Dallas-Fort Worth area since last year. Unlike its rivals, which are largely focused on robotaxi applications, the company has said that its first commercial service will be in trucking “where the market is largest today, the unit economics are best, and the level of service requirements is most accommodating.”

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Driverless Air Taxis Could Fly Tourists to Restaurants 100-Feet Above the Ground

A groundbreaking concept proposes driverless air taxis lifting tourists to restaurants situated 100 feet off the ground – giving an unprecedented experience and view of the Italian wilderness around.

By Mark Bustos 

Chinese unmanned aircraft company EHang Holdings are working with architects from the Rome, Italy-based Giancarlo Zema Design Group to turn this lofty vision into a reality. The 100-foot towers – dubbed “Vertiports” by the proponents – are designed to receive the driverless air taxis landing vertically on each roof.

Tourists who will go on the experience will be automatically carried to the raised restaurants. After the dining experience with a panoramic view of the Italian forests, tourists will be ushered by their self-driving vehicles in an equally scenic ride back to their nearby accommodations.

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Waymo study: Robot drivers would avoid crashes


By Joann Muller

Waymo, which pointedly stopped using the term “self-driving” to describe its technology this year, has released a study intended to prove that its robot drivers are safer than humans.

Why it matters: With about 40,000 Americans dying in vehicle accidents every year, AV operators are trying to convince consumers and regulators that autonomous vehicles would make the roads safer.

What’s happening: Waymo, which operates a limited driverless taxi service near Phoenix, reconstructed 72 fatal accidents that occurred over the past decade in its geo-fenced operating area.

  • It then fed the data from those real-life crashes into its simulation system, and substituted the “Waymo driver” for the human driver.

What we know: Waymo’s autonomous technology avoided or mitigated collisions in almost all cases.

  • When the Waymo driver replaced the “instigator” of the accident — a drunk driver speeding through a red light, for example — the crash was avoided because the robotaxi is engineered to obey the law.
  • When the Waymo driver replaced “the responder” — someone reacting to a bad driver — its perception systems anticipated the situation earlier and responded to avoid it.
  • The few instances where the Waymo driver couldn’t avoid the accident was where it was struck from behind.
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Europe’s first full-sized self-driving urban electric bus has arrived

The bus has a maximum carrying capacity of 60 passengers.

By Sean Fleming

  • Málaga is the first place in Europe to trial full-size autonomous buses.
  • China has recently changed the law to allow trials of its own.
  • In Norway, where electric cars are already popular, two trials have been underway.

The electric, self-driving bus is coming to cities. In some parts of the world, it has already arrived. One of the latest cities to run a live-trial of autonomous buses is Málaga, in southern Spain. 

Málaga is the sixth largest city in Spain and is a thriving tourist destination – in pre-pandemic times, at least. Now, a 12-metre self-driving bus will make an eight kilometre round-trip from the city centre to the port, six times daily.

The bus has a maximum carrying capacity of 60 passengers and is kitted out with sensors that allow it to respond to the environment around it. “The bus knows at all times where it is and what is around it,” Rafael Durban Carmona, from the Spanish transport company Avanza, told The Guardian newspaper.

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Waymo begins testing autonomous vehicles with riders in San Francisco

By Kyle Bradshaw 

After successfully opening Waymo One as a public driverless ride-hailing service in Phoenix, Waymo is beginning to test autonomous vehicles with riders in San Francisco.

Over on the official Waymo blog, the company shared that one of its major goals has been for its driverless vehicles to be robust enough to handle the complexities of San Francisco’s roads. In part, this goal is rooted in Waymo being based in the San Francisco Bay Area — having spun out of Google to become an Alphabet company in 2016.

However, a recent survey of San Francisco residents, taken by Waymo, reveals a more noble cause. A massive 63% of the respondents said “dangerous drivers” made it difficult to get around the city, while as many as 23% said they “don’t feel safe” on the roads.

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Hyundai develops an autonomous vehicle that sprouts legs to WALK across remote terrains to transport urgent goods and medication to inaccessible locations

Korean car manufacturer Hyundai has unveiled its latest vehicle.

By Rob Hull

  • The Hyundai TIGER is a Transforming Intelligent Ground Excursion Robot
  • It has been developed by the auto manufacturer’s New Horizons Studio in the US
  • When terrains are not too difficult to navigate, the vehicle uses its wheels and a four-wheel drive system to quickly navigate to a set destination
  • If the route is blocked, it sprouts four legs and can clamber over items such as large rocks and fallen trees

But instead of being a family-friendly hatchback or a school-run SUV, the brand has revealed an autonomous vehicle that sprout legs and walk.

Called TIGER – short for Transforming Intelligent Ground Excursion Robot – it is an unmanned electric robotic vehicle designed to transport cargo and medication to the world’s most inhospitable locations.

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Toyota reveals plans to take on big tech with self-driving vehicles

Toyota has devised a plan to take on big tech. The Japanese car making giant recently unveiled its Woven Planet research group, which is set to develop driverless and connected cars.

This move represents a giant change of direction for the car maker, which has previously spurned development of autonomous car tech in comparison to companies such as Mercedes-Benz and VW that have invested heavily.

Tesla is also a big time developer of autonomous car tech, with its controversial Autopilot and Full Self-Driving mode.

Toyota said it would unveil a fully self-driving prototype in the near future but didn’t give any further details.

Woven Planet is led by ex-Google roboticist James Kuffner, who said that Toyota has a distinct advantage in developing electric cars because of the amount of data they can collect from the tens of millions of Toyotas on the road around the globe.

Toyota is now on a collision course with some of tech’s biggest names.

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Driverless bus trials draw 320, including curious passengers

Japanese housewife Satoko Nemoto boarding one of the driverless buses at Haw Par Villa.

Singapore- Ms. Satoko Nemoto, a 43-year-old Japanese housewife who has been in Singapore for only three months, travelled by MRT all the way from her home is Pasir Ris to Haw Par Villa just to ride on a driverless buss operated by SMRT.

She said the bus ride was quiet and smooth, and she especially liked that the bus was fully electric thus, eco-friendly.

She was among a total of 320 people who have taken the driverless buses at HawPar Villa and Jurong Island since they were launched last month, with some specially making the trip to the two areas for the ride.

Most found it a pleasant enough experience, saying the buses were not as slow as they had expected and the presence of a driver at the wheel in case of emergencies reassured them.

There remained concerns, however, over safety issues.

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Driverless robotaxis are now available for public rides in China

By Jon Fingas

AutoX is the first in the country to offer rides without safety drivers.

After lots of tests, it’s now possible to hail a truly driverless robotaxi in China. AutoX has become the first in the country to offer public rides in autonomous vehicles without safety drivers. You’ll need to sign up for a pilot program in Shenzhen and use membership credits, but after that you can hop in a modified Chrysler Pacifica to travel across town without seeing another human being.

As with Waymo One, there is help if you need it. You can talk to customer support reps if you have questions or need help.

AutoX is eager to tout its robotaxis’ ability to handle real-world conditions after several months of stress testing. In a demo video (below), the driverless van knows how to safely “nudge” past a parked vehicle and deal with a scooter running a red light. The vehicles use a combination of LiDAR, radar and blind spot sensing to get a feel for their environment.

Fully driverless robotaxis are still very rare anywhere in the world, and it’ll take a combination of refined technology and updated regulation before they’re relatively commonplace. This is an important step in that direction, though. They might get a boost in the current climate, though. The COVID-19 pandemic has added risk to conventional ride hailing for both drivers and passengers, and removing drivers could make this one of the safest travel options for people without cars of their own.

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Milton Keynes to trial 5G drones, robots and driverless shuttles

By Christopher Carey

The trials will be hosted at the Stadium MK sports arena on the outskirts of the city.

Milton Keynes Council has secured more than £4 million  (US$5.4 million) in funding, including £2.3 million from the government, to create and test mobility services using 5G technology.

Trials will include the use of driverless shuttles and road vehicles for moving people and goods, autonomous surveillance vehicles and drones for enhancing security, and robots and drones for goods delivery and hospitality use. E-scooters could be included in the trials in future.

The initiative, which builds on a £10 million investment by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP), industry and academic partners, will be hosted at the Stadium MK sports arena on the outskirts of the city.

Speaking to Cities Today, Brian Matthews, Head of Transport Innovation, Milton Keynes Council, said: “The trials will be designed to provide useful input into thinking how visitors move around the venue, which includes an arena, a large hotel, restaurants and a retail complex.

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Toyota’s driverless shuttles could double as ‘office-on-the-go’

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Toyota’s e-Palette is a largely transparent, driverless oblong carriage on wheels that’s powered by a battery. It can accommodate up to 20 passengers, with seats that fold up and allow the space to be re-purposed. (Bloomberg)

TOYOTA IS AIMING TO COMMERCIALISE AN AUTONOMOUS SHIPPING-CONTAINER-LIKE VEHICLE WITHIN A FEW YEARS THAT IT SAYS COULD DOUBLE AS A MOBILE STORE OR ROVING OFFICE.

Toyota is aiming to commercialize an autonomous shipping-container-like vehicle within a few years that it says could double as a mobile store or roving office.

Toyota’s e-Palette is a largely transparent, driverless oblong carriage on wheels that’s powered by a battery. It can accommodate up to 20 passengers, with seats that fold up and allow the space to be re-purposed.

The e-Palette began as a concept vehicle, announced at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show by Toyota President Akio Toyoda, who said it is a symbol of how he is trying to transform the world’s second-largest automaker into a mobility company. On Tuesday, Toyota said it plans to make the e-Palette commercially viable within a few years.

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Mini Urbanaut concept hints at how its cars could look in a decade

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Mini Urbanaut concept hints at how its cars could look by the time new petrol and diesel vehicles are banned – and it can convert into a living room on wheels at the push of a button

  • Mini has unveiled an electric and self-driving compact car concept it sees as a vision for vehicles sold in 2030
  • At a turn of a switch, the Urbanaut mini-MPV doubles as a relaxing sanctuary for drivers and passengers
  • It features a comfortable sofa in the rear, fold-down dashboard day-bed, rotating chairs and a dining table
  • The windscreen swings open from the top hinges to provide what designers have called a ‘street balcony’

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