Tesla Motors Inc. began rolling out software updates to customers with newer cars, bringing them to parity with owners who have what's known as "Autopilot 1" and setting the stage to ultimately unleash full self-driving capability. Will then hold to verify no field issues and upload to rest of fleet next week," Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said in a Twitter post on Saturday. The end-of-year software update comes as the automotive and technology industries prepare to descend on Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show and Detroit for the North American International Auto Show. Tesla is skipping CES and the Detroit auto show but instead is hosting investors at its $5 billion Gigafactory 1 east of Reno, Nevada, on Jan. 4, where it makes batteries and energy storage packs. Now customers with the "Hardware 2" suite will have those features.
Self-driving technology is shifting to the bus lane. Proterra, an electric bus manufacturer, just announced its three-phase plan to create the self-driving public transit system of the future, filled with autonomous, emission-free electric buses. The company says the move to autonomy should make mass transit safer and more efficient than ever before. The company is partnering with the University of Nevada, Reno's Intelligent Mobility program to make it happen. The university's Living Lab Coalition, which is supported by the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County, Nevada, will allow the self-driving system to be developed on the streets of Reno, Sparks, and Carson City.
IBM has teamed up with Local Motors, a Phoenix-based automotive manufacturer that made the first 3D-printed car, to create a self-driving electric bus. Named "Olli," the bus has room for 12 people and uses IBM Watson's cloud-based cognitive computing system to provide information to passengers. In addition to automatically driving you where you want to go using Phoenix Wings autonomous driving technology, Olli can respond to questions and provide information, similar to Amazon's Echo home assistant. The bus debuts today in the Washington D.C. area for the public to use during select times over the next several months, and the IBM-Local Motors team hopes to introduce Olli to the Miami and Las Vegas areas by the end of the year. By using Watson's speech to text, natural language classifier, entity extraction, and text to speech APIs, the bus can provide several services beyond taking you to your destination.
Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society. On May 9, the Department of Transportation announced the first 10 project sites it chose to participate in its new three-year Drone Integration Pilot Program aimed at expanding the testing of new drone technology in a select number of local, state, and tribal jurisdictions. Selected from 149 lead applicants and over 2,800 private sector "interested parties," they're an eclectic bunch: the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; projects in the city of San Diego; the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority in Herndon, Virginia; the Lee County Mosquito Control District in Florida; the Memphis–Shelby County Airport Authority in Tennessee; the North Carolina, Kansas, and North Dakota departments of transportation; the city of Reno, Nevada; and the University of Alaska–Fairbanks all saw their specific public-private partnership proposals get the greenlight. The projects include plans to test various kinds of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS for short, as they are formally known), including drone-based mapping, inspections, traffic and weather monitoring, commercial and medical delivery, and law enforcement surveillance systems. Selected applicants will be given special attention from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Finally, someone on public transit you'll actually enjoy talking to. Local Motors, creators of the world's first 3D-printed car, unveiled Thursday morning debuted its latest creation, a driverless car that incorporates IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) technology called Olli. Olli is capable of carrying up to 12 passengers, without a human driver. What's more, with Watson riding shotgun so to speak, riders can naturally interact with the car. Local Motors is doing more than simply showing a concept car, as of Thursday, Olli is around the streets of Washington, D.C., and it will be deployed in Miami and Las Vegas later in 2016.