General Motors-owned Cruise Automation has revealed what it claims is the first mass-producible car capable of driving itself. In a blog post, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt said the Chevrolet Bolt-based vehicle is equipped with all of the sensors and redundant equipment to safely put it on the road without a driver when the software to operate it is fully-developed. No timeline for final validation of the software was revealed, and public sales are not yet planned. Tesla also claims its new Model 3 is equipped with the hardware needed for full self-driving capability, but has not said when its software will be ready to activate the function.
With the looming advent of the age of autonomous cars comes many questions. Foremost among them: Can they deliver pizza? That's what Domino's and Ford will try to find out in the coming weeks when they deploy a jointly-developed self-driving car into the streets of Ann Arbor, Mich., that's equipped with a heated compartment hidden behind the passenger side rear window that rolls down and dishes out orders when a customer enters an access code into a tablet installed on the side of the vehicle. Whether its people or pizza, the question remains: What do you give a robot for a tip?
Apple tried to reinvent the wheel. In a wide-ranging New York Times report on the technology company's efforts to enter the autonomous car arena, insiders revealed that one team researched the idea of replacing traditional wheels and tires with spheres that would allow a car to move side to side more easily. They weren't the only ones to explore idea, it's showed up in science fiction several times and Goodyear last year showed a concept for spherical wheels that use magnetic levitation to suspend the car above them. Eventually, it gave on the idea of building a car and began to focus on the technology that will enable autonomy instead.
Electronic blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping systems do help to prevent crashes, according to new studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A second institute study of blind-spot detection systems -- usually warning lights in side mirrors -- found the systems lower the rate of all lane-change crashes by 14 percent and the rate of such crashes with injuries by 23 percent. A separate study by the insurance industry-funded institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab found that drivers using automated systems that scan for parking spots and then park the car spend a lot more time looking at dashboard displays than at the parking spot, the road in front or the road behind. Automakers, taking note of the problem, appear to be switching to systems that vibrate the steering wheel or driver's seat, Cicchino said.
As it continues to improve its sensor technology to help its vehicle understand its surroundings and respond quickly and safely to unfolding events, it's also been considering how to deal with unavoidable collisions, whether it's with a "soft" human that could easily sustain an injury, or a harder object like another vehicle. A patent recently awarded to Waymo offers some insight into how the company is approaching the issue. In Waymo's own words: "The vehicle may contain tension members that are arranged so that a change in tension across one or more of the tension members will alter the rigidity of the vehicle's surface. The vehicle may identify and respond to a potential collision by altering the tension that is applied to one or more tension members, thereby altering the rigidity of the vehicle's surface."
The Taiwanese electronics manufacturer recently announced plans to build a massive $10 billion plant in Wisconsin. In a phone interview from Shanghai, where he was concluding a nine-day trade trip in China, Snyder told the Associated Press Monday night there is a "strong possibility" for Foxconn to still locate in the state after the company in recent weeks picked neighboring Wisconsin for a $10 billion display panel plant with 3,000 employees that could grow to 13,000. They discussed the autonomous vehicle industry and advanced manufacturing, Snyder said. But we're going to continue to present them good opportunities of what we can do in Michigan."
There may be no need to tip your Lyft driver in Boston later this year -- because there may not be a driver. The ride-hailing company said Friday it will introduce driverless cars to its Beantown fleet later this year -- before expanding the program to other cities. Driverless cars will be chosen for particular customers by Lyft depending on traffic, weather, route and time of day, the company said. As the driverless car program expands and becomes more battle tested -- and accepted by passengers -- Lyft said it will still have a need for "drivers."
Ocado, which launched 17 years ago and makes deliveries from a string of warehouses across the country, has just started testing its first self-driving "CargoPod" truck built by U.K. tech firm Oxbotica. It's designed primarily for short journeys or last-mile deliveries in urban or residential areas, taking relatively small orders to customers rather than weekly or monthly supplies. While Oxbotica is focusing on last-mile deliveries, the likes of Waymo and Uber are developing self-driving trucks big ones to transport large amounts of goods over much greater distances. Uber, meanwhile, last year drove a semi full of Budweiser along more than 100 miles of freeway using driverless technology developed by Otto, a tech company that it purchased for $680 million in 2016.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned from the ride-sharing service he co-founded, another twist in a rough year for the company. There's also a court battle stemming from allegations that Uber stole trade secrets from Waymo, Alphabet's (GOOGL) self-driving car development company. Waymo alleges that Anthony Levandowski - a former top manager for Google's self-driving car project - stole pivotal technology from Google before leaving to run Uber's self-driving car division. Uber's board releases Holder's recommendations, which include removing some of Kalanick's responsibilities and replacing Uber's chairman and founder, Garrett Camp, with an independent chairman.