Lyft and Waymo might not be the only ridesharing companies developing self-driving technology with hopes of making it available to others. Nikkei has claimed that Uber is in talks to slip its autonomous vehicle system into a Toyota minivan, marking… Engadget RSS Feed
Over the years, human drivers have gotten pretty good at communicating intent to the people around them. A little wave of the hand, a nod, maybe some eye contact, and that’s usually all it takes to let pedestrians, bicyclists, and other drivers know what they’re doing. And, if all else fails, we can lean on our horns or roll down our windows and speak our minds (sometimes colorfully). But what happens when you remove the human from the driver’s seat? How will the cars of the future “talk” to the world around them?
Uber thinks it may have arrived at a solution. In a recent patent application, the ride-hailing giant proposes wrapping its self-driving cars in flashing signs to…
Ride sharing platform Lyft and automotive supplier Magna have announced a multi-year partnership.
The goal is to fund, develop, and manufacture self-driving vehicles. As well as providing hardware expertise, Magna will invest $ 200 million in Lyft as part of the deal.
Following in the tyre tracks of ride-sharing giant Uber, Lyft made public its autonomous car ambitions back in May 2016 after receiving a $ 500 million investment from GM.
In July 2017 Lyft opened Level 5, a department dedicated to developing driverless cars. Since then, the company has announced plans to test self-driving vehicles at an ex-military base in California.
The Magna partnership can be viewed as another step towards catching up with competitors that include Uber, Waymo, Ford, and several other automotive giants, which all have established technologies in the autonomous vehicle space.
The partnership will see Lyft continue its operations at its self-driving engineering centre in Palo Alto. Magna will take control of manufacturing and aid Lyft’s development team onsite.
Magna’s main expertise lies in manufacturing, vehicle systems knowledge, safety, and advanced driver assistance systems. All will help Lyft take its fleet of self-driving cars to market in the next few years, according to a joint statement from the two companies.
Lyft will provide test data along with its current fleet of vehicles to aid development. Intellectual property resulting from the agreement will be shared between the two companies.
“Together with Magna, we will accelerate the introduction of self-driving vehicles by sharing our technology with automotive OEMs worldwide,” said Lyft CEO Logan Green. “This is an entirely new approach that will democratise access to this transformative technology.”
Magna CTO Swamy Kotagiri said that collaboration is the most effective way for any company to get ahead in an emerging space filled with so many complex elements. “There is a new mobility landscape emerging and partnerships like this put us at the forefront of this change,” he said.
“Lyft’s leadership in ridesharing and Magna’s automotive expertise makes this strategic partnership ideal to effect a positive change as a new transportation ecosystem unfolds.”
Alphabet/Google subsidiary Waymo has already started tests with help from Fiat Chrysler, while Uber has deals in place with carmakers Volvo and Toyota, as well as chipmaker Nvidia.
2018 is certainly shaping up to be the year of the connected car, and the year in which driverless – and pilotless – vehicles began to make their way into the world in large numbers.
As ever, partnerships are critical to making it all work – indeed, they can help companies navigate through complex business and development challenges, just as sensors help their cars to navigate in the physical world.
But more importantly, this new deal reveals the hidden truth about ride-sharing apps, such as Lyft and Uber. In the long run, these ventures will have little to do with creating work for drivers in the gig economy. They are really about building out the infrastructure to support an autonomous, driverless future.
If Lyft is going to translate self-driving car experiments into production vehicles offering rides, it's going to need some help — and it's on the way. The company has formed a partnership with Magna that will see the two jointly fund and develop a… Engadget RSS Feed
Having put its first fleet of fully self-driving cars on the road, Waymo is turning its attention to self-driving trucks.
Since its beginnings as Google’s self-driving car project in 2009, Waymo has focused on getting passengers from A to B with AI at the wheel. Its autonomous vehicles have driven five million miles and navigated complex streets, and along the way the company has launched its own reference vehicle, Firefly.
Now, as an independent enterprise, Waymo has turned its attention to logistics. Its self-driving truck pilot will launch in Atlanta, Georgia, this week, carrying cargo bound for Google’s data centres.
The past year has seen Waymo road test its trucks in California and Arizona, adapting its self-driving technology to cope with the different braking, turning, and blind spot needs that come with fully laden articulated vehicles.
As one of the biggest logistical hotspots in the country, Atlanta was an obvious candidate for the pilot, as well as a natural environment for Google’s own logistical operations.
The pilot was announced in a blog post from Waymo:
“This pilot, in partnership with Google’s logistics team, will let us further develop our technology and integrate it into the operations of shippers and carriers, with their network of factories, distribution centres, ports, and terminals.
As our self-driving trucks hit the highways in the region, we’ll have highly-trained drivers in the cabs to monitor systems and take control if needed.
Internet of Business says
We hope that this repurposing of Waymo’s self-driving technology for delivery trucks speaks to its capabilities and growing maturity. Here, apparently, is AI technology that is not only advanced, but flexible too.
By using the same suite of proprietary sensors, its cameras and LiDAR system, the software can apply all it has learnt from self-driving cars to trucks – and presumably apply that data to both sets of vehicles on the road, such as when an autonomous car meets a driverless truck in difficult driving conditions.
Waymo says it has put five million self-driven miles on the clock and five billion in simulation, after almost a decade in the business. This will stand it in good stead to become a major player in what will be a huge self-driving truck industry.
Waymo’s blog post refers to trucking as a vital part of the American economy, and claims that the technology has the potential to make this sector “safer and even stronger”. While this may be true, it needs urgent qualification, because it certainly won’t appear so to the millions of professional drivers in the US.
Estimates vary, but the American Trucking Association (ATA) says that there are 3.5 million truck drivers currently working in America, shifting 70 percent of the country’s entire freight tonnage. Nearly nine million jobs are supported by the road freight industry alone, according to the ATA.
Other estimates suggest that 3.5 million is the total number of professional driving jobs in the US, with freight haulage being the most common. Whichever is correct, truck driving is certainly the most common job in many US states – particularly in the logistical hotspot around Georgia.
US government statistics reveal that many more people work as taxi drivers, bus drivers, and in other professional driving positions, again supporting millions of jobs.
So for companies such as Waymo and Google, and their growing number of rivals in this sector, autonomous vehicles may represent an enormous opportunity, but also a significant social, cultural, and economic risk for the country.
In many areas of automation, companies talk of AI and robotics augmenting human employees and allowing them to offload menial or repetitive tasks. But one person’s menial task is another person’s life and heritage. When it comes to self-driving vehicles and logistics, therefore, the job losses could be stark when there is no longer a person sitting behind the windshield – or no longer a cab at all.
That said, perhaps Waymo is pitching itself at filling a human need, rather than replacing employees. In its latest statistical roundup, the ATA estimates that there may be more than 115,000 unfilled truck driving positions in the US.
Alphabet’s self-driving arm is expanding beyond passenger vehicles into autonomous freight trucks. The company, called Waymo, is testing its driverless trucks in Atlanta, Ga., by shipping cargo for its sister company, Google.
But Waymo — a pioneer of the self-driving industry — is entering a space already crowded by competitors, including Uber, with the same challenges facing the passenger vehicle space: How does it plan to commercialize the technology?
Waymo has explored multiple business strategies, according to people familiar with the matter. But it doesn’thave a built-in path to market the way Uber does. The ride-hail company launched a trucking logistics platform, called Uber Freight, that matches commercial truck drivers with companies looking to ship cargo, close to a year after it acquired self-driving trucking startup, Otto.
Of course, using an in-house logistics platform is not the only way to approach the driverless trucking industry. Trucking startup Embark, which has raised a little more than $ 17.2 million in funding, is taking the partnership approach instead. The company is working with commercial fleet management company Ryder to ship Frigidaire refrigerators.
Like both Uber and Embark, Waymo needs to strike a manufacturing partnership to build these trucks. That’s where Tesla, which recently unveiled its self-driving electric freight trucks, could have a leg up. As the original equipment manufacturer, Tesla’s primary path to market is fairly straightforward: Selling the trucks to other companies.
All that said, the driverless trucking space is in its infancy, and given Waymo’s clear technological lead, the company may seem like an attractive partner for manufacturers and commercial shippers alike.
Alphabet has been public about its move into driverless trucking since Waymo was formed in late 2016, but it may not have always been the plan, at least according to recent testimonies. As part of Alphabet’s lawsuit against Uber over the acquisition of Otto, Otto co-founder and former Google Maps employee Lior Ron testified that he originally wanted to try to work on driverless trucks at Alphabet alongside Waymo. But the company wasn’t interested, he said.
In fact, he decided to sell the company to Uber — instead of staying at Alphabet or selling to Lyft — because it was one of the few places that was open to creating a driverless trucking service.
As many industry experts have predicted, autonomous trucks may hit the road en masse much faster than passenger vehicles, largely because teaching software how to drive on the highway is much easier than teaching software how to drive on local streets where there are many more variables.
The company provided little detail on the scale of the operation.
Uber’s self-driving trucks are now delivering commercial freight in Arizona, the company announced on Tuesday. This marks the beginning of the company realizing the ambitions it laid out when acquiring self-driving trucking startup, Otto, in August 2016.
Uber’s acquisition of Otto has not been without its roadblocks, however. Most notably, there was Alphabet’s lawsuit against the company over the acquisition, something Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said, when he agreed to settle the suit, could have been handled better.
But, as Recode first reported, there was also tension within the self-driving department over which of Uber’s two autonomous efforts took priority — was it the cars or trucks? Staffers who joined Uber as part of the Otto acquisition worried trucks would take a back seat to Uber’s original driverless ambitions of building cars to be used in its ride-hail network.
While former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said he wanted to acquire Otto as a means to hire one of its co-founders, Anthony Levandowski, Levandowski’s partner Lior Ron testified during the Alphabet lawsuit that being able to develop driverless trucks was non-negotiable. In fact, he decided to sell the company to Uber, instead of staying at Alphabet or selling to Lyft, because it was one of the few places that was open to creating a driverless trucking service.
Though Uber has spent the better part of its driverless PR efforts on promoting its semi-autonomous Volvos, it appears its driverless trucking efforts are a bit further along. It’s not because the trucks are more technically capable of driving autonomously than the cars — in fact, driving autonomously on the highway as these trucks are doing is much easier than driving on city streets — it’s because Uber has actually managed to commercialize the trucks.
The company wouldn’t specify how many self-driving trucks were operating in Arizona nor how many companies it was working with or the number of shipments that have been delivered. Uber simply said its self-driving trucks had performed “thousands” of rides since the beginning of the year, a “significant portion” of which have been in autonomous mode.
So it’s impossible to tell how much money the company has made from the shipments they’ve delivered with these trucks, and it’s likely it’d be a drop in the bucket compared to how much Uber has spent and will continue to spend on developing, retrofitting and owning the trucks.
But, it is one of the first few examples of a company actually commercializing autonomous vehicles as a service. Uber isn’t alone in the space, however. In fact, trucking startup Embark beat the company to the punch and started shipping Frigidaire refrigerators between Texas and California late last year.
Uber is beginning to operate — in however small a scale — what could be an interesting new revenue stream for the company. Creating the foundation for that is not exactly an inexpensive endeavor, however.
Uber has been building out the logistics end of its trucking service, called Uber Freight, and officially launched the platform in May 2017. It essentially operates like an Uber for freight wherein the company matches commercial shippers with truck drivers looking for a job.
So, as there is for its autonomous cars with the existing ride-hail network, there is a built-in path to market for Uber’s autonomous trucks. As many industry experts have predicted, autonomous trucks may hit the road in a meaningful way much faster than passenger vehicles, largely because teaching software how to drive on the highway is much easier than teaching software how to drive on local streets where there are many more variables.
That’s why the trucks will hand control back to the driver when exiting the highway or freeway. In fact, the vehicle operator will have full discretion over when to engage and disengage the autonomous technology on the highways — just like in Teslas.
That means there’ll still be drivers in the mix.
“We are not even looking at what it would take to operate a self-driving truck on busier city streets,” Uber spokesperson Sarah Abboud told Recode. “The highly skilled truck drivers out there today are going to facilitate these short-haul routes now and in the future.”
Each of these drivers have commercial licenses but must receive extra training to be able to operate the autonomous truck. Today, the company needs three drivers for a single long haul.
The way it works is after a shipper posts a job on the Uber Freight marketplace, an assigned driver will pick up the freight from the shipper in a conventional truck. That driver then goes to a dedicated location, called a transfer hub, that Uber has set up where the shipment is transferred to a self-driving truck.
Then a trained autonomous vehicle operator drives the long haul portion of the trip to another transfer hub close to the destination. Here, a third driver picks up the trailer in a conventional truck and delivers the shipment to the final destination.
Uber currently owns the trucks but may partner with another company to bring the trucks to market in the future. While it’s a potentially significant move for Uber, the ride-hail company will have to compete with a number of major players operating in the space like Tesla and Alphabet’s self-driving arm Waymo, as well as newer players like Embark.
Uber announced today that its self-driving trucks have been operating in Arizona for the last couple of months. The company said it has two main transfer hubs in Sanders and Topock, but other than that, Uber is being pretty tight-lipped about the ope… Engadget RSS Feed
Apple’s experimentation with autonomous car technology is likely to veer away from creating a simple platform and back towards a fully self-designed vehicle, one analyst argues. AppleInsider – Frontpage News
Toyota has invested ¥300 billion ($ 2.8 billion) in a new Tokyo-based company that will build software for self-driving cars, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal on Friday. The Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development (or TRI-AD) will set out with 300 employees but the Japanese automaker hopes that number will grow to about 1,000 as the company takes off.
When Toyota first announced its 2020 goal, the company teased that the autonomous vehicles in development might come with AI functionalities that could facilitate conversations between vehicles and passengers.
Toyota’s main goal with TRI-AD is ensuring the development of reliable software for the cars. “With automated-driving-software development happening around the world, there is a broad spectrum of software being written with a wide variance in quality,” James Kuffner, the new company’s leader told the Wall Street Journal.
Why did Toyota create an entirely new company to handle this work? As Jean-Yves Jault, a Toyota spokesperson explained to the Wall Street Journal, it was partially due to recruiting needs. “The idea is to create a company where we are not bound by restrictions,” Jault said, adding that they’ll need to hire “a globalized team, and one of the best ways to do that is to create a company separate from Toyota Motor Corp., to create a company with different rules—like a startup.”
Driverless cars might seem far off from being commonplace on our roads, but autonomous vehicles are already on the streets in several cities. Self-driving vehicles have the potential to make our roads safer, and with companies like Toyota dedicated to investing in and improving the technology, by 2020 they could become far more commonplace.