Uber has just taken another big step from a ride-sharing service to a transportation provider. It announced that it will buy up to 24,000 Volvo XC90s, marking the first major vehicle fleet purchase by a ride-hailing service. Uber will take delivery of the SUVs between 2019 and 2021, then equip them with its own sensors and tech, allowing it to do fully autonomous, driver-free passenger rides. "This new agreement puts us on a path toward mass-produced, self-driving vehicles at scale," Uber's Jeff Miller told Bloomberg. The XC90 starts at $47,000, so this could be a pretty substantial purchase -- over $1 billion worth of cars, to be exact.
Hannah pulls up to the curb, opens the doors, and welcomes the kiddo inside. "We're headed to Darwin Elementary." That's where he goes to school, after all. For Milo's parents, there is good news and there is iffy news. The good news is that they don't have to cut babysitting checks for Hannah, because Hannah is a self-driving school bus.
OK, sure, there are self-driving cars on California roads today. General Motors' Cruise has Chevrolet Bolts zipping around San Francisco; Google self-driving spinoff Waymo has got Chrysler Pacifica motoring about Mountain View; secretive startup Zoox has black Toyota Highlanders mixing it up along San Francisco's Embarcadero. But all these vehicles, however capable, have a decidedly un-futuristic feature: There's a human in the driver's seat, ready to grab control in case the robot goes rogue. It's not just common sense, it's the law. California's Department of Motor Vehicles requires that safety driver to be there.
The California DMV is almost ready to allow autonomous vehicles on the state's public roads without a human test driver behind the wheel. LeBron James and Intel want to convince you autonomous cars are safe https://t.co/oytaRfDGmH That's largely because the DMV required companies testing on public roads to submit annual disengagement reports, which disclose the number of times a human operator was needed to take control of the vehicle. Some of the new rules will address those disengagement reports, while others will give companies more guidance on operating the test vehicles with public passengers. The DMV has granted 42 companies permission to test out self-driving tech on public roads, and has nearly 1,000 registered operators for the autonomous vehicles.
All together, this gives you an insane 40 or so driver assist options, including an all-new "adaptive cruise assist," which Audi calls "a progression from the adaptive cruise control of the previous model." It also showed how the AI electromechanical suspension lifts the car to help absorb particularly rough bumps. The active driving assist, AI electromechanical suspension and self-parking features rely on brand-new and complex systems that are, by their nature, prone to bugs and breakdowns. However, it won't automatically change lanes, and requires clear lane markings and a center barrier separating you from oncoming traffic.
Most of the self-driving truck attention has revolved around Tesla's much-teased reveal of its EV big rig next month and all the auto companies rushing to introduce their own electric models. Daimler will start with a test linking two of its larger Freightliner New Cascadia trucks that are'paired' to move in sequence, tech that the company first publicly experimented with in a 2016 Europe-spanning challenge. In short, the autonomous trucks will'talk' to each other and coordinate their driving to maximize efficiency, including keeping the trailing vehicle behind the front one to minimize drag, similar to how trains of cyclists'draft' behind the leading one. Back in January, Toyota and Volkswagen started a three-year truck convoy test.
In last week's Huawei Connect conference, Shenzhen's Traffic Police Technology Chief Li Quiang announced the launch of their Traffic Brain system. So it's no surprise that one of the most advanced traffic management systems in the world is being rolled out there first. This traffic management system represents some seriously advanced tech. But if the Shenzhen Traffic Brain system is proven to work, you can expect to see cities around the world rolling out their own versions over the coming decade.
"We're not going for the most impressive headlines or capabilities, that's not the space we're playing in," says Brian Maragno, the automaker's director of sales and marketing for EVs. But it does make highway driving easier. It'll bring the car to a complete stop, but if traffic doesn't start moving again within three seconds, you'll have to hit the accelerator or press the "resume" button on the steering wheel to start moving again. And systems where the car starts moving without human prodding (like Tesla's) feel much closer to the promise of self-driving.
And now they've taken another step in that direction: Lyft announced that it's partnered with Drive.ai, a company that produces AI for self-driving cars, for a pilot program in the Bay Area. The partnership will put actual self-driving cars, powered by Drive.ai's Drive.ai has already received a self-driving permit from the state of California, and all pilot program vehicles will have a trained driver in the car, just in case. In addition, when companies like Lyft partner with organizations developing this tech, they help push forward developments in (and regulations of, which is key -- we still haven't developed many of the laws we'll need to govern autonomous vehicles) self-driving. It's just another step forward for the technology as a whole.
Wired reports that Google Street View cameras are getting an upgrade for the first time in eight years, which will mean clearer images in the consumer-facing Street View product, as well as better color rendering – but the camera upgrade is more important to Google as a way to help improve its mapping info. The refined Street View hardware captures HD images from all sides, and can provide raw data to feed image recognition algorithms, potentially offering key data for maps and business information including place names, opening hours, methods of payment accepted and more – all of which is often displayed prominently in shop windows. Google's machine learning and AI investment means it can do a lot with higher resolution imaging data from its Street View camera cars, its engineers tell Wired. The new Street View cars started capturing imagery on the roads last month, and will gradually roll out to more spots around the world.