Spurred in part by the car industry's race to build driverless vehicles, marine innovators are building automated ferry boats for Amsterdam canals, cargo ships that can steer themselves through Norwegian fjords and remote-controlled ships to carry containers across the Atlantic and Pacific. "We're in full autonomy now," said Jeff Gawrys, a marine technician for Boston startup Sea Machines Robotics, sitting at the helm as the boat floated through a harbor channel. The ocean is "a wide open space," said Sea Machines CEO Michael Johnson. In Norway, fertilizer company Yara International is working with engineering firm Kongsberg Maritime on a project to replace big-rig trucks with an electric-powered ship connecting three nearby ports.
The two will develop the core technology of Ford's autonomous vehicle -- the "virtual driver" system, which Nair described as the car's "brains, eyes, ears and senses." By joining with Ford, Argo gets strong capital backing and expertise on other components needed to run autonomous cars, as well as product development and manufacturing knowledge, Salesky said. Uber bought autonomous trucking startup Otto for an estimated $680 million last summer primarily to get Otto's engineers on its team working on driverless vehicles. Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski, another former Google engineer, is now overseeing Uber's testing of driverless cars in Pittsburgh and Arizona.
"Arizona welcomes Uber self-driving cars with open arms and wide open roads. Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said the governor has been a strong supporter of driverless car technology and new business models, signing in August 2015 an executive order supporting the testing of such cars in Arizona. The ride-hailing company and state regulators negotiated for a week, but Uber pulled its cars off California roads Wednesday after state officials announced they would revoke the vehicle registrations of all 16 self-driving cars. The executive order Ducey signed last year calls for the state's public safety and transportation departments to take steps toward allowing for the testing of self-driving cars.
Among other things, the safety assessment asks automakers to document how the car detects and avoids objects and pedestrians, how the car is protected against cyberattacks and what sort of backup system is in place in case the computers fail. Companies that are developing autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles will be asked to submit assessments before those cars go on the road. The guidelines allow automakers to seek exemptions from NHTSA from federal safety standards that might be outdated, such as a rule requiring a steering wheel in brake pedals in a vehicle without a human driver. California currently requires a steering wheel and brake pedals, but NHTSA has the authority to approve vehicles without them if the agency decides they're safe.
Is Honda's walking robot Asimo marrying Pepper, the chattering robot from SoftBank? Automaker Honda Motor Co. and internet company SoftBank said Thursday they will work together on artificial intelligence to develop products with sensors and cameras that can converse with drivers. Major automakers and technology companies are interested in robotics to improve driving safety and comfort. SoftBank said its robotics unit Cocoro SB, which is researching cloud-based artificial intelligence, will work with Honda on research that seeks to harmonize mobility with people, so that drivers can feel a kind of friendship with their vehicles.