NuTonomy and Optimus Ride have agreed to suspend their self-driving car tests in Boston in the wake of Sunday's tragedy in Arizona, where an autonomous Uber vehicle killed a pedestrian. "We are working with City of Boston officials to ensure that our automated vehicle pilots continue to adhere to high standards of safety," a nuTonomy spokeswoman said in a statement. "We have complied with the City of Boston's request to temporarily halt autonomous vehicle testing on public roads." Karl Iagnemma, chief executive of nuTonomy, said the response to the crash will be vital for the future of driverless cars and whether passengers are willing to ride in them. "The reality is we may work very hard as technology developers and end up with a technology that members of the public are uncomfortable with," Iagnemma said, speaking at an event in Cambridge last night.
One problem with self-driving cars is people. The Los Angeles Times reports that of six crash reports filed in California so far this year, two involved a person attacking a robot car. Both incidents happened in San Francisco, according to Department of Motor Vehicles records. On Jan. 2, a vehicle operated by General Motors' Cruise driverless car division was waiting at a green light for pedestrians to cross when a shouting man ran across the street against the do-not-walk signal and struck its bumper and hatch, damaging a taillight. The car was in autonomous mode but a driver was behind the wheel.
Each January when nearly two hundred thousand attendees descend upon Las Vegas for CES, the world's largest tech pilgrimage can overwhelm the senses with a myriad of sights and sounds emanating from 2.6 million square feet of new gadgets designed to delight savvy consumers. One can count on televisions to be bigger and thinner, appliances to be smarter, and personal computers to be faster.
Toyota says it's developing self-driving mini-buses that can serve as bite-sized stores. These vehicles will drive themselves to places where potential buyers can try on clothes or shoes or pick through flea market items. They can also give employees fully functional office space on their commute. The project, unveiled at the CES gadget show Monday, is still in the conceptual stage. A concept vehicle is still being developed and will be tested in the 2020s.
Eight years and two million miles after Google began to build self-driving car technology, it's ready for passengers. Waymo, the search giant's renamed autonomous car company, will begin taking applications Tuesday from Phoenix-area residents who want to be among the hundreds of riders testing out an expanded fleet of Chrysler Pacifica Plug-In Hybrid minivans outfitted with Waymo's myriad autonomous car sensors. A range of automotive and technology companies have said they aim to produce self-driving cars for ride-hailing programs by around 2020. They include Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Volvo, Nissan and BMW. But Waymo's Arizona initiative shows it's getting a lot closer to the goal.
Stars and innovators from music, movies and technology have descended on Austin for the SXSW Conference and Festivals, which kicked off Friday and runs through March 19. This weekend, the event played host to the car of the future, a big rally and a speech from the former vice president of the United States. Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, yet he is just as worried about the rise of fake news and massive hacks as the rest of us. Berners-Lee's concerns were the topic of several panels at SXSW that zeroed in on the future of the Internet. Berners-Lee said he believes these issues must be confronted "in order for the web to fulfill its true potential as a tool which serves all of humanity."
Intel announced Monday it will acquire Mobileye in a deal worth about $15 billion, as the tech giant makes a deeper push into the growing self-driving vehicle market. In a statement, Intel says it plans to acquire Mobileye for $63.54 per share in cash. The equity value of the deal is $15.3 billion, while the enterprise value of the acquisition is $14.7 billion. "Mobileye brings the industry's best automotive-grade computer vision and strong momentum with automakers and suppliers," Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a statement. "Together, we can accelerate the future of autonomous driving with improved performance in a cloud-to-car solution at a lower cost for automakers."
MIT brainiacs are urging City Hall to tackle Boston's brutal traffic with wild, outside-the-box ideas -- like a futuristic, autonomous electric tricycle -- as officials prepare to unveil Mayor Martin J. Walsh's long-term transportation plan next week. "Most trips in the city are one-person, low-speed, short distance. It doesn't make any sense to put one person in a 4,000-pound vehicle to move across Boston a couple of kilometers," said Kent Larson, co-director of MIT's City Science Initiative. "We should have lighter-weight systems that supplement these more conventional mass transit systems," Larson said. Among the forward-thinking options the city should be considering, he said, is a self-driving, covered tricycle that Hub residents can hail remotely whenever they need a ride.
Ford Motor is spending $1 billion to take over a robotics startup to acquire more of the expertise needed to reach its ambitious goal of having a fully driverless vehicle on the road by 2021. The big bet announced Friday comes just a few months after the Pittsburgh startup, Argo AI, was created by two alumni of Carnegie Mellon University's robotics program, Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander. Salesky formerly worked on self-driving cars at a high-profile project within Google -- now known as Waymo -- and Rander did the same kind of engineering at ride-hailing service Uber before the two men teamed up to launch Argo late last year. Argo had been considering whether to raise money from venture capitalists, the conventional fundraising channel for startups, before opting to become an independent subsidiary of Ford instead. Ford is spreading its $1 billion investment over a five-year period.
Ford Motor is spending $1 billion to take over a budding robotics startup to acquire more expertise needed to reach its ambitious goal of having a fully driverless vehicle on the road by 2021. The big bet announced Friday comes just a few months after the Pittsburgh startup, Argo AI, was created by two alumni of Carnegie Mellon University's robotics program, Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander. The alliance between Argo and Ford is the latest to combine the spunk and dexterity of a technologically savvy startup with the financial muscle and manufacturing knowhow of a major automaker in the race to develop autonomous vehicles. Last year rival General Motors paid $581 million to buy Cruise Automation, a 40-person software company that is testing vehicles in San Francisco. The Argo deal marks the next step in Ford's journey toward building a vehicle without a steering wheel or brake pedal by 2021 -- a vision that CEO Mark Fields laid out last summer.