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Archive for the ‘Autonomous Cars’ Category

PostHeaderIcon If Self-Driving Cars Are Scary, how do you Feel About Autonomous Fighter Jets?

It wasn’t long ago that we heard about F-16 fighter jets functioning as drones to serve as realistic targets to help fine tune new weapons integrated into the F-35 fighter jet. But, that just wasn’t enough for old Uncle Sam, and now Lockheed Martin has announced that an F-16 drone as not only successfully flown in formation with a manned F-35 but planned and executed an air-to-ground assault and then returned to formation once its mission was complete. What’s really crazy, however, is that the F-16 drone also identified an air threat, engaged in combat, and then proceeded to complete its original mission.

That’s right! Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force has teamed up and can now modify an F-16 fighter jet to not only fly on its own but engage in air-to-air and air-to-ground combat all on its own. It can assess threats as they come and deal with them accordingly all on its own. Reportedly, the drone makes use of Lockheed’s advanced collision avoidance system to ensure the safety of other manned aircraft in formation. Captain Andrew Petry of the Air Force Research Lab said, “We’ve not only shown how an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle can perform its mission when things go as planned but also how it will react and adapt to unforeseen obstacles along the way.”

This is a big deal in more ways than one, so keep reading to learn more.


PostHeaderIcon If Self-Driving Cars Are Scary, how do you Feel About Autonomous Fighter Jets?

It wasn’t long ago that we heard about F-16 fighter jets functioning as drones to serve as realistic targets to help fine tune new weapons integrated into the F-35 fighter jet. But, that just wasn’t enough for old Uncle Sam, and now Lockheed Martin has announced that an F-16 drone as not only successfully flown in formation with a manned F-35 but planned and executed an air-to-ground assault and then returned to formation once its mission was complete. What’s really crazy, however, is that the F-16 drone also identified an air threat, engaged in combat, and then proceeded to complete its original mission.

That’s right! Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force has teamed up and can now modify an F-16 fighter jet to not only fly on its own but engage in air-to-air and air-to-ground combat all on its own. It can assess threats as they come and deal with them accordingly all on its own. Reportedly, the drone makes use of Lockheed’s advanced collision avoidance system to ensure the safety of other manned aircraft in formation. Captain Andrew Petry of the Air Force Research Lab said, “We’ve not only shown how an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle can perform its mission when things go as planned but also how it will react and adapt to unforeseen obstacles along the way.”

This is a big deal in more ways than one, so keep reading to learn more.


PostHeaderIcon And We Thought Drones Were Limited to Flying!

Drones have been a small staple in our existence for the past few years. What started out as an expensive (depending on your perspective) toy for the rich and shameless, can now be had by anyone with $20 in the bank and a desire to drive household pets absolutely crazy. But, the definition of “drone” is set to change in the future with the introduction of the StreetDrone One. SteetDrone is an organization led by Mike Potts and Mark Preston, the latter of which has done extensive work in Formula E and has even worked with McLaren. These two men look to “accelerate and democratize the development of self-driving, electric vehicles.”

Self-driving cars are coming, no doubt, but the problem with autonomous technology and even electric cars is that development and testing are expensive – leaving development and testing of these new technologies in the hands of the large, wealthy automakers. But, that’s not the way dreams come true, is it? Hell, brands like Apple, HP, and even Google all started in someone’s garage, but with the insane cost of development and testing, there’s no chance a “little guy” could ever develop a true autonomous system without an excessive amount of money. StreetDrone One looks to change all of that by providing an affordable test bed that allows you to implement your own self-driving software and test it in the real world. Ultimately, it will bring autonomous development to the masses instead of leaving it in the hands of large automakers.

What we’re talking about here is a car, based on the Renault Twizy, that comes ready for programming so coders like you can see just how well your autonomous programming works without relying on computer simulation.

keep reading to learn more


PostHeaderIcon Tesla's Semi to Debut in September, but Will it Live Up to the Hype?

Leave it to Elon Musk to drop a bombshell just as we’re all getting ready for the weekend. The always provocative Tesla CEO took to Twitter last Friday, April 14, to announce plans to introduce the automaker’s first venture into the world of semi-trucks this coming September. The news itself isn’t groundbreaking since Musk already laid out what the company’s intentions were back in July 2016 as part of its “Master Plan, Part Deux” mission. But, until late last week, those plans were of the vague persuasion, devoid of any specific timetable.

Well, the timetable has arrived…and it’s literally five months from now.

Not one to be caught saying too much in the way of juicy details, Musk kept the announcement short and sweet, opting only to say that the “team has done an amazing job,” presumably in the development of the semi-truck and that the vehicle itself is “seriously next level.” Those statements aren’t much to go by at this point, but the mere hint that we’re closer to seeing the actual vehicle – even if it’s a prototype – so soon after its announcement is pretty indicative of the company’s intentions in staking its name into the electric semi truck arena.

At this point, the waiting game now begins on more details surrounding the semi-truck. If Musk’s past comments about the development are anything to go by, expect the Tesla Semi – or whatever name it ends up getting – to “deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.”

Continue after the jump to read the full story.


PostHeaderIcon Hands-Free, Semi-Autonomous Driving from… Cadillac??

Self-driving cars are coming. There’s no way around it, and come 2018, you’ll be able to get a Cadillac that lets you go truly hands-free. This new technology is being called “Super Cruise” and uses lidar map data along with onboard radar sensors, cameras, and GPS to navigate most limited-access highways in the U.S. and Canada. When activated on a road that is determined to be safe for use, drivers of the 2018 Cadillac CT6 Prestige will be able to take their hands off of the wheel, and the car will navigate the highway on its own – just like Tesla does. But, there’s a twist.

See, while Tesla’s AutoPilot system uses steering wheel feedback to determine if the driver is paying attention, GM took another big step towards the big-brother mindset. You won’t need to keep your hands on the wheel because the car will keep tabs on you via a small camera built into the top of the steering wheel. To be more specific, the camera system, which uses infrared light, will monitor the driver’s head position to determine when the driver is looking while the system is activated. This is what makes Super Cruise “more technologically advanced” than other systems currently available.

Should the system determine that the driver isn’t paying attention, it will issue a mild prompt to tell the driver to pay attention. If that doesn’t work, there are other visual alerts (light bar on the steering wheel and instrument cluster) and tactile alerts from the driver’s seat. If that doesn’t get your eyes back on the road, the CT6 will bring the car to a controlled stop and even contact OnStar so that it can alert first responders, if necessary.

Continue reading for the full story.


PostHeaderIcon Lexus' Lane Valet is the Autonomous Tech We Really Need

So now that April 1st has come and gone, and the world has managed to separate fact from fiction, I want to talk about one April Fool’s joke that shouldn’t be a joke at all: Lexus’ Lane Valet. Obviously, it was a complete joke that was set into motion a bit early, but how many times have you found yourself raging behind the wheel because some inconsiderate, self-righteous, pole smoker in a BMW, Mercedes, or even a Lexus is cruising down the left lane at five mph below the speed limit? Or, how about mom and pop lost on a Sunday drive? Personally, it happens to me all of the time, and it pisses me off. After all, I’m important and have important stuff to do.

Of course, we don’t have anything like Lane Valet, so my method of combatting the situation is to wait for a clearing, zip around the prick who thinks he owns the left lane, and flip the bird out the moonroof on my way through as I proceed on my mission to break the speed limit and get to my destination 1.3 minutes sooner than I would if I had abided by the law. But, that isn’t the point. The point is, get the hell out of the way. I’m sure a lot of you important folks feel the same way.

So, with that said, I say that this technology needs to become a real thing in the near future. It will be perfect for that period of time that falls between the mass introduction of connected cars and when we’re outlawed from driving ourselves anyway. Hell, I would have used the technology three times this morning on my way to the office, so why not? Anyway, check out the video and let me know what you think.


PostHeaderIcon Will BMW be the First Brand to Offer Level 5 Autonomy?

Just of nine months ago, Mobileye landed a deal with BMW to assist in developing Autonomous technology or future BMW cars. Just weeks later, Tesla and Mobileye cut the cord on their partnership. But, all is good in the world of autonomy as Tesla has soldiered on and BMW now claims that it will deliver Level 5 autonomy – in other words, a fully autonomous car – by 2021. Word was given to a panel discussion in Berlin by Elmar Frickenstein, BMW’s Senior Vice President of Autonomous Driving.

“We are on the way to deliver a car in 2021 with Level 3, 4, and Level 5 Autonomy.” But, he also went on to explain that the vehicle, which has yet to be announced, will have different levels of autonomy depending on where it is used. So, much like Tesla’s autopilot, it could offer full autonomous drive on the highway while still requiring human intervention within city areas or areas that haven’t been adequately mapped.

As things sit right now, Level 3 Autonomy still requires a human driver in place in case intervention is needed, but it’s theoretically hands-off when in operation. Level 4 will still require a human inside the vehicle at most times but will be hands-off and mind-off, meaning a car ride will be more about leisure or work than anything. Finally, Level 5 won’t require any human at all and is the endgame for autonomous technology as we know it now. Cars will be able to drive and function all on their own, which means the car can drop you off at work and return home to the wife. Or, it could take the kids to school on Friday while you enjoy sleeping in on your day off. It’s undoubtedly the future of cars at this point, and right now automakers are locked in a race to see who can get there first.

Continue reading for the full story.


PostHeaderIcon You Won't Believe Which Autonomous Car is the Fastest in the World

Five years ago, the thought of seeing autonomous cars on the road seemed like a far-fetched reality. These days, autonomous cars are touted as the future of the auto industry, and one car that prides itself on being able to drive by itself has set the performance benchmark for all the rest of the autonomous driving world to challenge. The Nio EP9 may not be a household name yet, but it recently made a strong case for itself at the Circuit of the Americas when it lapped the 3.4-mile circuit in 2:40.33, doing so while achieving a top speed of 160 mph and setting the record for the fastest self-driving car around the track.

Just as important (maybe even more so) is the 2:11.30 lap time it posted with a driver behind the wheel of the car with a top speed of 170 mph. All the same, the lap time is the fastest lap time around the famed circuit for a production car. The EP9’s achievement is a big milestone in it of itself, especially when you consider that the Aston Martin Vantage V8 racer that won a pole position in the GT-class car during the 2016 Six Hours of Circuit of the Americas managed to post its fastest lap of 2:04.61. Let it be said then: the EP9’s lap time with a driver behind the wheel is only seven seconds off the pace of track’s GT-class lap record. That’s impressive in any language.

Granted, the EP9’s record lap time might still ring hollow for some skeptics who believe that more autonomous cars should post their own lap times around COTA to “validate” Nio’s fastest lap around the track claims. But that’s neither Nio’s nor the EP9’s issue. All it can control is the lap time it posts; if somebody wants to put the EP9’s lap time in its proper place, that’s on them to make it happen.

Either way, there’s no denying that the Nio EP9 is a potent piece of autonomous driving machinery. The startup company says that its pride and joy is powered by four electric motors that combine to produce a staggering 1,341 horsepower. That allows the car to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds and 0 to 124 mph in 7.1 seconds. Top speed is reportedly begged at 195 mph to go with a 265-mile range.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.


PostHeaderIcon Airbus Has A Different Approach In Tackling The Issue Of Autonomous Mobility

Aviation company Airbus is known largely for its airplanes – the Airbus A380, in particular, is the world’s largest passenger aircraft – so there must be a really good reason why the company can be excused for finding its way into an automotive website like ours. Well, the reason is valid, if not a little exciting depending on how much ambition Airbus really has.

See, the concept images you see here are more than just imaginative prototypes from an artist with far too much free time on his hands. These images actually come from Airbus and it’s part of the company’s newly formed Urban Air Mobility division that’s looking into different concepts that are catered towards imagining what an actual autonomous flying car could turn into. Don’t laugh. The aviation company is dead serious about it, so says its own CEO Tom Enders, who let his plans be known at the DLD digital tech conference in Munich.

“One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground,” Enders said, before adding that all things considered, Airbus could have a demonstration vehicle for single-person transport by the end of 2017. Yup. That’s this year. A flying autonomous car has the chance to go for an experimental flight if Airbus really works at it.

“We are in an experimentation phase, we take this development very seriously,” Enders added. “With flying, you don’t need to pour billions into concrete bridges and roads.”

Well then.

Hard as it is to imagine a world where Jetsonian-like technology is actually becoming a real thing, or is in the process of becoming a real thing depending on how far technological developments go, a sliver of hope can peer through that seemingly daunting task if companies like Airbus really make an effort in making the most of these new technologies.

That said, even with all this talk and the apparent “seriousness” by which Airbus is tackling these opportunities, there are a litany of hurdles that need to be cleared before such a technology can, quite literally, lift off.

It’s still nice to see that a company like Airbus is seriously looking into it. Let’s see how this one goes.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.


PostHeaderIcon Semi-Autonomous Technology Helped Save Lives in Berlin Terrorist Attack

Terrorist attacks are becoming more and more common, with terrorists resorting to all kinds of different techniques to inflict pain and death on innocent people that don’t see it coming. If it wasn’t apparent before, it became painfully apparent back in July of 2016 when some nutcase decided it would be a great idea to drive a truck into the crowds that were celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France. But the truck attacks didn’t stop there, as it happened yet again just months later in Berlin, Germany. The attack on Nice, France saw 85 people dead and more than 400 injured while the attack in Berlin saw a much lower death and injury count to the tune of just 12 dead and 56 injured. So, what was the difference?

According to German new outlet Süddeutsche Zeitung, the truck used in the attack may have had semi-autonomous technology that helped to bring the truck to a stop. An independent investigative company known as “City” has gone on record saying that the truck was, in fact, equipped with an advanced emergency braking (AEB) system as part of its collision mitigation system – a required technology on heavy vehicles after the European Union mandated such equipment on new vehicles back in 2012. With this AEB system in place, the truck came to a stop automatically in less than 265 feet after the initial collision was detected – ultimately saving a lot of lives.

So, while some of us may hate the idea of autonomous technology and are hesitant to trust it, the terror attack in Berlin just goes to show how beneficial this technology can be. The attack in Berlin could have been just as bad, if not worse, than the attack in Nice. If anything, you can bet the folks in the crowd that night are surely thankful for semi-autonomous technology.

Continue reading for the full story.


PostHeaderIcon All Eyes On Bavaria As BMW Promises iNext Autonomous Vehicle By 2021

The auto industry is just like any major business segment in that it’s made up of “followers” and “movers and shakers.” Followers are those who prefer that the industry chart a definitive course before getting on board with whatever new evolution arrives. By contrast, movers are shakers are those who define the industry moving forward. They are those who plot the course of business and are usually ahead of everybody else. BMW qualifies in the “movers and shakers” category, in large part because it has never been afraid to stake its name in the pursuit of development.

The German automaker is doing it again with the announcement that it’s iNext autonomous vehicle has been scheduled for a release in 2021. As many of you know, BMW’s iNext project has been talked about in the past, often in vague terms. Not much is known about the car at this point other than it’s going to be autonomous and that it’s going to be the first of a wave of autonomous vehicles that BMW plans to build in the future. The latest development here is the timetable, something that Bimmer has been coy about. But now it’s official out; the iNext is now scheduled for release in 2021, or one year after BMW goes full-on electric with its core lineup.

With the long-term goal now established, getting there now becomes the tricky part. BMW says that it’s well equipped to hit its target, thanks in large part to its new research and development campus in Munich that will serve as ground zero for its electric, connectivity, and autonomous projects. Once the campus is running on full volume, it will employ more than 2,000 people, a large swath of whom will join the 600 employees that BMW already has in its ranks, most of whom are already working on the company’s automated driving software.

Not much is known about the iNext project, but it has been reported that a lot of BMW’s future technologies could be used by the car, including the HoloActive Touch system that the German automaker is introducing at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show. Cross your fingers then that the technology’s debut goes on as planned.

In the meantime, we can at least expect BMW to create a new work structure among its employees with the goal of combining specific expertise in certain areas of development, which in turn could create a more efficient response and collaboration among these teams.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.


PostHeaderIcon Uber: The Rebels of the Self-Driving Car World

Change is inevitable, and while we may not like certain changes, we eventually get used to them and adapt accordingly. One prime example of this is self-driving cars. Right now, we’re at a turning point where self-driving cars are being tested and we, as a society, and learning more about them every day. As the years go on, they’ll get better, and will ultimately be accepted. But, some companies seem to think they can usher in a new evolution of driving without complying with certain mandates. Tesla has been under fire for some time about its process of introducing autonomy but has ultimately complied with regulations. Uber, on the other hand, seems to think that it’s beyond governmental regulation and gives the California DMV and Mayor Ed Lee, a big “F You” when it was told to cease and desist the testing of its self-driving Volvo XC90s.

Like any other company testing higher levels of autonomy on California roadways, Uber has been asked to obtain the proper permits before it can legally test its self-driving vehicles. Uber has failed to do that thus far, and it doesn’t look like it will anytime in the near future. In a recent statement, Uber said, “we respectfully disagree with the California Department of Motor Vehicles legal interpretation of today’s autonomous regulations, in particular, that Uber needs a testing permit to operate its self-driving cars in San Francisco.”

To put things simply, Uber’s argument is that since there is someone behind the wheel to take control that the car is not fully autonomous and is similar to Tesla’s autopilot technology. Of course, Uber’s autonomous XC90s don’t have this requirement, so its reasoning doesn’t exactly hold water. And, if you know the California government, you know it feels the same way. For now, the government is threatening legal action and Uber is promptly giving them the bird at every turn. And, there’s the case of the XC90 that ran a red light last week. Uber blames the person behind the wheel and has suspended them, but that seems to justify California’s request to get the necessary permits. Obviously, these XC90s can drive without the driver paying attention – otherwise, that video of the XC90 running a red light wouldn’t exist – and it also proves that Uber’s self-driving technology is far from ready to take on the roads by themselves.

Keep reading for the rest of the story


PostHeaderIcon Be on the Lookout for Autonomous Cars gone Rogue in Michigan

Proving that it takes its long and rich ties to the automotive industry seriously, the state of Michigan has become the most lenient and supportive state in the U.S. to test autonomous vehicle technology. Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed four separate bills, each supporting specific elements of developing autonomous driving technology, including allowing automakers and tech companies involved in the development of the tech to operate self-driving cars on the state’s public roads, even without a human driver inside the cars. In addition, the legislation also gives Michigan the distinction of becoming the first state in the U.S. to allow companies to begin testing self-driving cars that have no steering wheel or pedals.

The signing of the legislature took place at the Automotive Hall of Fame Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. It’s an appropriate place to do it, largely because of the significance of the event in shaping the future of the auto industry. Governor Snyder himself seemed to understand the magnitude of signing the legislation, calling it an important moment for the state to once again “lead the way in transforming the auto industry.”

“We are becoming the mobility industry, shaped around technology that makes us more aware and safer as we’re driving,” the governor added. “By recognizing that and aligning our state’s policies as new technology is developed, we will continue as the leader the rest of the world sees as its biggest competition.”

The four legislations are formally referred to as “SB 995, SB 996, SB 997, and SB 998.” Each legislation specifically outlines regulations that allows auto and tech companies to freely test their vehicles across the state while also being allowed to operate self-driving ride-sharing services.

SB 995 (now called PA 332 of 2016), for instance, now allows operations of autonomous vehicles on Michigan roads, a major step up from previous regulations wherein only testing of these vehicles by auto companies was allowed. The legislation also allows “automated vehicle platoons,” a testing method by which vehicles travel together at electronically coordinated speeds. Swedish automaker Volvo has already done testing of this sort all the back in 2012, referring to it as a semi-autonomous road train technology.

Other items featured in the legislation include allowing on-demand, autonomous ride-sharing services and the creation of the Michigan Council of Future Mobility, a new arm under the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.


PostHeaderIcon Apple May Not Be Done With Autonomous Driving Technology Just Yet

Previous reports of Apple washing its hands clean of autonomous driving technology may have been unfounded. The California-based tech giant made that emphatically clear in a five-page letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration where it confirmed what has become an open secret to a lot of people within the auto industry. It’s working on being a significant part towards the development and adoption of autonomous driving technology.

Without diving into the specifics of what exactly it’s doing, Apple nevertheless made it clear that it is “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation” and that it’s looking forward to what this study evolves to, particularly with regards to the “potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”

The letter, signed by Apple’s director of product integrity, Steve Kenner, answers a lot of questions pertaining to the company’s involvement in autonomous driving technology. It’s been reported numerous times that the company was looking into possible entrance points into the industry, even creating a project – codenamed Project Titan – to specifically work on the enterprise.

Much has been made about the company’s interest in autonomous driving technology. Recent headlines, including a partnership with Magna International to help develop the Apple Car, all pointed to significant levels of activity within the company that were geared towards advancing its goals. But the tables were turned in October 2016 when a Bloomberg report indicated that development was not advancing to the pace Apple’s big wigs intended it to and that those still involved in the project have until the end of 2017 to prove its feasibility, or risk having the project scrapped altogether.

To be fair, Apple’s letter to the NHTSA made no mention of this timetable as the company opted to instead point out its position on a wide range of topics related to the segment, most specifically the NHTSA’s “Federal Automated Vehicles Policy,” a rough guideline that the agency describes as a “starting point that provides initial guidance.”

The policy itself is not ironclad, as the NHTSA intends to have it viewed for public consumption with the intention of fostering discussions and suggestions on how to best shape the policy when the time comes that it becomes binding.

The Apple letter pretty much dives into the company’s own suggestions for the NHTSA’s policy. In doing so though, it finally let the cat out of the bag. It may – or may not – be developing an autonomous car of its own, but it’s definitely fully invested in being a part of the autonomous driving tech industry moving forward.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.


PostHeaderIcon Are Automakers Force Feeding Us Subliminal Messaging in Regards to Autonomous Vehicles?

With fully-autonomous cars on the horizon, automakers and regulatory boards everywhere are pushing the envelope as hard as possible. We keep hearing about how great, safe, and time-saving a world full of autonomous vehicles will be, but do you honestly hear anyone you know saying something like “I can’t wait for self-driving cars” or “I’m so ready to give put my life in the hands of some complex computer algorithms?” No, you probably don’t, and some studies even show that a majority of people aren’t ready to give up the steering wheel. But, autonomous cars are still being pushed on us anyway, with new vehicles including semi-autonomous features like automatic braking and adaptive cruise control built in without the user option to disable.

Then there’s Tesla who’s practically heading off the self-driving idea and allowing its customers to put their life and that of others in risk to help build awareness that the technology is safe. Still, there are lots of people who enjoy driving, and will do their best to not give up the wheel, myself included. So, what’s the best way to build trust in something new with the masses quickly and efficiently? Easy, force them to use the features (think emergency braking) then subliminally convince them to trust those systems via tacky and annoying commercials.

There are quite a few out there, but I’m just going to highlight two because they are perfect examples of what I’m talking about. Let’s dive in.


PostHeaderIcon Porsche Has No Plans To Develop Full Autonomous Driving Cars

The looming possibility of autonomous driving technology taking over the auto industry has put the onus on automakers to get it on the bandwagon or risk getting left behind. Most mainstream companies have taken the lure and have begun developing their own versions of the tech. But there are some brands that have resisted going down the same road for one reason or another. Porsche counts itself in this group as no less than the automaker’s own CEO, Oliver Blume, made it clear that the German company isn’t considering a full self-driving sports car or SUV anytime soon.

Speaking with Autocar, Oliver Blume was direct with his words, vowing that Porsche would not compromise its own performance DNA in pursuit of a technology that essentially takes away the thrill of driving a Porsche from the driver. At most, Blume is willing to consider using certain features of autonomous driving and combining it with “the classic Porsche genes” on future Porsche models.

The idea, according to Porsche’s number one, is to add certain autonomous driving features like traffic driving or self-parking into future Porsche models. These would allow drivers to spend less idle time inside their cars and let the vehicles perform these tasks for them. But as far as driving the cars on the open road, the German automaker is very clear in its stance that only a driver should be able to do it because enjoying the sheer performance of Porsche sports cars is exactly what owning a Porsche is all about. At the end of the day, Blume wants drivers and owners to still have a “real” Porsche in their hands.

On the flip side, Porsche is fully embracing electrification and is already gearing up for the development of the Mission-E. Previous reports have indicated that Porsche is even looking into building the Mission-E to be more than just one car, but a family of models that will all share the common characteristic of being electric cars.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.


PostHeaderIcon Plans for an Apple Car are Dead; Self Driving Platform to Take its Place

Apple’s “Project Titan” has been one of Apples best kept, but widely speculated secrets. The project started by in 2014 with the mission to take on the automotive industry with an Apple Car. Primary competition would, of course, been Tesla and its wild Model S and Model X electric cars. Since the word spread, Journalists everywhere have speculated about what it will look like, what features it will have, and just when we would actually be able to lay eyes on this unicorn of a car. We even made a rendering of it not that long ago, but new reports are suggesting that Apple has canned the idea of building its own car altogether in favor of building an autonomous drive system instead.

That’s the word, according to Bloomberg who quotes unnamed sources that are “familiar with the project.” Out of a team that was once about 1,000 members strong, hundreds of members have been reassigned or terminated altogether. And, Apple is now focused on building a system that will allow it to partner with other manufacturers or ultimately build its own car someday in the future. On the other hand, Bloomberg reports that sources have indicated that Apple has been hiring new employees to help with the new focus.

Apparently, the team now has a deadline of late next year to prove that it can develop a feasible, self-driving system and must decide on a final direction. If not, the project could be scrapped altogether. All of this comes to light after months of uncertainty, strategy disagreements, and leadership problems within the project’s team. One of Bloomberg’s sources has even said that the project displayed “an incredible failure of leadership” until Bob Mansfield stepped in and gave the project a whole new direction. So, as much as you would like to see an iCar rolling down the street, it doesn’t look like that will be happening anytime soon.

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PostHeaderIcon Mercedes Says its Future Autonomous Cars will Prioritize Life of Passengers over Pedestrians

Have you ever heard of the “Trolley Problem?” Well, basically, it’s a Philosophical question that asks you to imagine that you’re riding on a runaway trolley. Up ahead there are five workers on the track. You can’t stop the trolley, but you can use the track interchange up ahead to divert the trolley onto a different track. The moral dilemma, however, is that there is one lonely worker on the second track. So, do you divert the trolley and kill one worker, or do you stay on the same track and kill five? It’s a tough question because either way there is death, but it’s up to you to choose how much. This question goes all the way back to the Mid-1960s, but with self-driving cars a hop, skip, and a jump away from becoming a reality, that question has become excessively relevant again: Should a self-driving car prioritize passengers or pedestrians in the event of an unavoidable accident? So far Manufacturers have avoided the question like the black plague for obvious controversial reasons, but Mercedes, on the other hand, has recently given an answer to this question, and you might not like it.

Speaking to Car and Driver at the Paris Auto Show, Mercedes’ Manager of Driver Assistance Systems and Active Safety – Christoph von Hugo – said that future autonomous cars from Mercedes (level 4 and level 5) will prioritize its passengers over pedestrians on the road, saying, “If you know you can save at least one person, at least save that one. Save the one in the car. If all you know for sure is that one death can be prevented, then that’s your first priority.”

I don’t need to tell you why manufacturers have constantly avoided this question – the controversy is out of this world regardless of your answer. Either way, it’s bad PR for your company as life is lost. But, what Hugo is saying is that no matter the circumstances – even if it’s a single mother pushing a three-seat stroller with infant triplets crosses into your path – your 2027 Mercedes S-Class will nail that woman and her three children so that you can live. That’s pretty ballsy, even for a brand like Mercedes.

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PostHeaderIcon Toyota Isn't Happy About California's New Autonomous Car Testing Rules

Toyota has issued a warning that California’s new self-driving guidelines could become a major roadblock in the race to widespread implementation of fully autonomous vehicles. This past Tuesday, Hilary Cain, director of technology and innovation policy at Toyota Motor North America, went before a Capitol Hill forum and criticized the Golden State’s recent adoption of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 15-point self-driving checklist, raising concerns that the move could stifle technology development.

Late last month, California revealed a new proposal that would incorporate the NHTSA’s latest checklist as a replacement for third-party safety testing. The proposal also relaxed other guidelines and would allow the testing of autonomous vehicles without a human driver or steering wheel, given the vehicle came equipped with two-way communication and complied with the NHTSA checklist. A public hearing on the proposal will be held later this month.

While in Washington, Cain argued that under California’s new guidelines, the NHTSA’s voluntary checklist would become mandatory, and could halt innovation.

“If we don’t do what’s being asked of us voluntarily by the NHTSA, we cannot test an automated system in the state of California,” Cain said, according to Reuters. “That is preposterous and that means testing that is happening today could be halted and that means testing that is about to be started could be delayed.”

Cain went on to criticize the NHTSA checklist as being unclear and potentially problematic. “The problem is there is going to be accountability and there is going to be enforcement. We need to go through this with a fine tooth comb.”

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PostHeaderIcon Volkswagen Patents Autonomous Driving Technology With Manual Control Options

The recent rise of autonomous driving technology has provided automakers the chance to conjure up new and exciting self-driving technologies in order to make first impressions in the burgeoning segment. Some companies have hunkered down to develop software systems while others have gotten into partnerships to accelerate their own development of the tech. Then there’s Volkswagen, which recently took the first step in developing a technology that allows drivers to configure a car’s automatic drive setup without having to disengage the self-driving mode altogether.

The German automaker filed the patent application in Germany with the main feature being a touch-sensitive control situated at the top of the gear shifter knob. The driver can use the control to manipulate certain automatic drive settings that the car will abide by. For instance, in times where the system detects a situation that needs input from the driver, it presents multiple options on how the driver would want to proceed. These could include speeding up to pass a slow-moving vehicle ahead or queueing behind the vehicle and remaining in the lane. The system recognizes when an option has been chosen through specific hand gestures. Taking from the same example, a driver could swipe horizontally to signal the system to pass the vehicle ahead or swipe vertically if he wants to remain in the same lane.

The patent also details other unique features about the technology, including a ring of lights around the touch screen device that changes hues depending on the urgency of making a decision. A blue hue, for example, could mean that there’s still ample time to make a decision on what the autonomous technology should do and a red hue could mean that a decision has to be made as soon as possible lest the system disengages its self-driving capabilities. There’s also a separate feature located on the gear shifter knob itself, which appears to suggest a feature that allows a driver to disengage the self-driving feature by pressing a button on top of the knob.

The technology isn’t expected to be included in Volkswagen models anytime soon. Since it’s still in the application phase, VW has yet to get a patent over the technology and even if it does receive the green light from the European Patent Office, there’s no telling how quickly the German automaker can develop the technology for actual production use. That said, the patent does highlight the steps VW is making to get ahead of the autonomous driving technology curb.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.


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