With a historic net neutrality vote set to take place tomorrow, people across the United States are rightly concerned about the future of the internet. Visions of price-tiered online spaces dancing in their heads, constituents all over the country are reaching out to their elected officials in a likely doomed effort to forestall what many see as the inevitable destruction of our mostly level digital playing field. But tomorrow's vote is about more than whether Comcast can charge you extra for streaming movies on Netflix. Just as the internet has seeped into many unexpected facets of our lives, abandoning net neutrality could have unexpected consequences in places you might not expect. If Elon Musk is correct, driverless cars could soon be everywhere.
Autonomous vehicles (AVs) will likely change the way we get around forever, but the AI that controls them might not be able to tell other cars on the road when they're driving like assholes. Case in point: The City of Las Vegas and AAA's self-driving shuttle, one of the most advanced public autonomous trials in the U.S., was hit by a semi-truck within hours of its maiden trip last month. The Navya Arma bus was stuck between a car behind it and the slowly advancing truck, which backed its way into the the shuttle. The shuttle behaved exactly as it was designed to in the situation, according to a AAA rep -- but it didn't move or, more importantly for the truck driver who might not have seen the vehicle behind it, honk a horn to make its presence known. One of the most essential tools for interpersonal communication between drivers wasn't even in the AI's protocol, which made us wonder: Can self-driving cars even beep?
Ford is changing the focus its self-driving car platform as early as next year. The company says it now plans to focus on features beyond just enabling a computer system to drive from point A to B. SEE ALSO: Lyft's self-driving cars are now on the road in Boston The company's president of global markets Jim Farley wrote about the new developments in a Medium post, in which he emphasized Ford's devotion to the customer as the main concern for its autonomous plans. More specifically, Farley wrote that Ford is dedicated to establishing systems that will prioritize the movement of people and goods, hinting at plans for commercial fleets and ride-hailing services that align with the company's existing deals and partnerships. The automaker's plans include a brand new self-driving vehicle design that eschews the hockey puck-sized LiDAR units mounted near the side-view mirrors seen last December for a less obtrusive roof-mounted sensor unit. Ford will test the new design in an undisclosed city starting next year, according to a report from Reuters.
When fully autonomous vehicles finally hit the road, they'll turn everyone into a passenger. As such, we'll need something to do in order to pass the time while we're riding in our vehicles. Luckily, Intel and Warner Bros. are here to help. Intel and Warner Bros. announced today at the L.A. Auto Show that they're teaming up to develop in-cabin entertainment experiences for cars of the future. Intel CEO announces partnership with Warner Bros. to develop concept of what a self-driving car's entertainment might be #AutoMobilityLA pic.twitter.com/UV3NQ1wfqA
Apple's self-driving car project might have a new test site. The company is leasing an Arizona proving ground to experiment with its nascent autonomous platform, according to a Jalopnik report citing a source familiar with the project. The facility in Surprise, Arizona was previously owned by Fiat Chrysler, which took advantage of the area's brutal climate to conduct tests on how heat affected its vehicles. Apple's designs for the now-empty property would be focused squarely on testing its autonomous platform, which is thought to be the main focus of the company's automotive development after the rumored work to actually produce a car, "Project Titan," reportedly shuttered last year. Tim Cook confirmed Apple's self-driving car platform earlier this year, and the company's test vehicles have reportedly been spotted on California's public roads.
Waymo's autonomous cars have steadily rolled through test routes in multiple states over the past few years, and now the company claims it has passed a new milestone: 4 million self-driven miles logged on public roads. That makes the Waymo fleet the most experienced autonomous car platform currently on the road, according to the company, which says the average American driver would take 300 years to hit the same mark. While the number is arbitrary to a degree, the progress it represents is essential to Waymo's mission to create truly driverless cars. The AI behind the platform needs to be trained in real-world situations to understand how to react to every potential condition it might face, so the more test miles it logs, the better. The Google spinoff says its fleet of test vehicles drove the last million miles in just six months, a rapid improvement from the 18 months it took to accumulate the first million (from the first public test).
Lyft just took a small but essential step forward in the development of its own self-driving car project. The California DMV granted the rapidly growing ride-hailing company permission to test autonomous vehicles on the state's public roads. The registration, which the DMV gives after the submission of an application and an annual $150 fee, has become a rite of passage of sorts for the various AV projects from automakers, tech companies, and startups that are currently racing to develop their own platforms. Registering with the state means that Lyft will now have to submit certain information to the DMV about its operations, most significantly an annual disengagement report detailing the number of times human operators had to take control of test vehicles. Lyft joins the likes of massive companies like Volkswagen, Waymo, Apple, and Ford with the registration, rounding out the full list of testers to 45.
Uber just made a deal that will boost its self-driving efforts in a big way as well as signal a shift in the way the company operates. The company announced a partnership with Volvo where it would buy "tens of thousands" of self-driving vehicles from the Swedish automaker, deploying them from 2019-2020. The exact terms of the deal weren't initially disclosed, but an Uber spokesperson confirmed to Mashable via email that the fleet size will be around 24,000 vehicles. The agreement is worth over $1 billion, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The agreement marks a bold step forward for Uber, both for its autonomous program and its overall operational strategy.
Tesla finally unveiled its heavy-duty, all-electric Semi truck, and we're impressed. The big rig is the sum of all of the automaker's work in one massive package, featuring design cues from its other vehicles and even borrowing their parts, like the Model 3 motors that power each of its "super single" wheels. Musk claims the Semi will also offer truckers BAMF acceleration and performance specs, up to 500 miles of range per charge, and a cheaper cost to operate than standard diesel trucks. The Semi certainly looks the part of the next big thing for the trucking industry -- but there's still so much about it that we don't know. Elon Musk only showed off certain aspects of the truck during his presentation, leaving some very important features to be shared at a later date, when Tesla is ready to start churning out the rigs for clients.
Tesla will reveal its semi-truck design tonight in a highly anticipated event in Hawthorne, California, reaching another goal in founder Elon Musk's "Master Plan" for the company. The semi is the automaker's first shot at disrupting the trucking industry in the same way it brought all-electric cars to the forefront of the consumer auto conversation -- but Tesla won't be alone in its attempt to bring electric, autonomous big rigs to the world's highways. There are multiple next-gen trucking projects in the works from all manner of players, from fledgling startups with one killer concept to major conglomerates launching new brands. Some of the ventures focus on creating all-electric powertrains for heavy-duty vehicles, while others add self-driving features and new fleet logistics systems to standard rigs -- but they all want to shake up the trucking industry. SEE ALSO: Elon Musk rips the press for'ridiculous' coverage of Tesla firings Before Musk takes the stage at 8 p.m. Pacific on Thursday (or jumps on top of his new rig or whatever he winds up doing), lets take a look at a few of the other most exciting trucks in development that could change the way we haul cargo.