Transportation


Uber plans to buy 24,000 autonomous Volvo SUVs in self-driving push

The Guardian

Uber is planning to buy up to 24,000 self-driving cars from Volvo, the company has announced, moving from its current model of ride-sharing using freelance drivers to owning a fleet of autonomous cars. Following the three-year self-driving partnership with Volvo, the non-binding framework could give Uber a boost in its ambitions to perfect self-driving systems to replace human drivers, following setbacks and lawsuits over trade secrets and talent. Volvo said Monday it would provide Uber with up to 24,000 of its flagship XC90 SUVs, which retail from around £50,000, equipped with autonomous technology as part of a non-exclusive deal from 2019 to 2021. The Geely-owned car company will provide the vehicles, while Uber will provide the yet-to-be-built self-driving system, which is currently under development by Uber's Advanced Technologies Group. The announcement follows the news that Alphablet's Waymo will launch the world's first autonomous car service in the next few months in Arizona, where it is legal to operate self-driving cars without humans behind the wheel, unlike the majority of the rest of the US and the world, which requires the safety net of a human driver.


Google sibling Waymo launches fully autonomous ride-hailing service

The Guardian

Waymo, formerly known as Google's self-driving car, is launching a fully autonomous Uber-like ride-hailing service with no human driver behind the wheel, after testing the vehicles on public roads in Arizona. Waymo, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, said members of the public will begin riding in its fleet of modified Fiat Chrysler Pacifica minivans outfitted with self-driving technology in the next few months. Passengers will initially be accompanied in the back seat by a Waymo employee, but will eventually travel alone in the robotic car. The service will first be available to those who are already part of the company's public trial already under way in Phoenix. Rides will be free to start with, but Waymo expects to begin charging for journeys at some point.


End of the road: will automation put an end to the American trucker?

The Guardian

Google, Uber, Tesla and the major truck manufacturers are looking to a future in which people like Baxter will be replaced – or at the very least downgraded to co-pilots – by automated vehicles that will save billions but will cost millions of jobs. The family-run Iowa 80 has been serving truckers for 53 years, and is so confident about its future that it is expanding to secure its claim to being the world's biggest truck stop, adding more restaurants and shopping space to the "Disneyland of truckers". In July, the powerful Teamsters union successfully pushed Congress to slow legislation for states looking to broaden the use of autonomous vehicles. But the automation that seems to most concern drivers at Iowa 80 concerns their log books.


Push for drink-driving law exemption for those in automated cars

The Guardian

Uber drivers could one day be spared from engaging in small talk with drunks if a National Transport Commission suggestion to allow people under the influence of alcohol to use fully automated vehicles is adopted by state road authorities. The NTC, an independent statutory body tasked with reforming Australia's driving laws to prepare for the arrival of driverless cars, has recommended an "exemption" from drink and drug-driving laws for people who ride in fully automated vehicles. Advocates of the new technology argue its largest benefit would be reducing Australia's road toll. South Australia passed legislation last year, while New South Wales passed legislation to allow its own trials in August.


Why did Ford build a 'fake driverless car' using a man dressed as a seat?

The Guardian

Local news publication ARLnow caught the ghostly vehicle on camera and speculated that it was part of Virginia Tech's autonomous driving research. The "seat suit" stunt was the brainchild of Ford and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute research exploring how self-driving vehicles can communicate their intent to pedestrians, human drivers and cyclists. Ford and Virginia Tech wanted to test how people would react to light signals replacing some of this communication. "We needed to try out this new lighting to communicate the intent of the vehicle, but if you've got a driver behind the seat you still have natural communication between humans like eye-to-eye contact," said Andy Shaudt, who headed the research at Virginia Tech.


Elon Musk: Tesla electric lorry to be unveiled in late October

The Guardian

The commercial trucking industry appears interested in Musk's proposed battery-powered heavy-duty vehicle, which can compete with conventional diesels and travel up to 1,000 miles on a single tank of fuel. Tesla's plans for new electric vehicles, including a commercial truck called the Tesla Semi, were announced last year, and in April Musk said the release of the semi-truck was set for September. In August, leaked correspondence with vehicle regulators revealed Tesla's plan to test long-haul, electric lorries that move in so-called platoons, or road-trains, that automatically follow a lead vehicle driven by a human. The Department for Transport announced last month that platoons of self-driving lorries will be trialled on England's motorways.


Toyota Hilux review: 'A work horse, not a fashion pony' Martin Love

The Guardian

As we prepare for a driverless future, the UK's leading distributor of motoring parts, Euro Car Parts, has revealed how the introduction of autonomous vehicles will affect city landscapes and the environment across the world. Key findings from the research include the reduction of parking space in cities, wireless communication with traffic signals, emission-free transportation and constant circulating fleets of self-driving cars as public transport services. Paul Baylis, head of communications and PR at Euro Car Parts said: "The introduction of driverless cars across the globe is a huge technological feat for the automotive industry but we also want to show how this new innovation will affect the world around us. From the width of roads to the reduction of parking spaces and cleaner air across cities, this visualisation and research makes some really interesting revelations about how the landscape and environment will adapt to these changes in the automotive industry."


Rise of the robocar: are connected cars safer, or a target for hackers?

The Guardian

A bill that would speed up development of self-driving cars and establish a federal framework for their regulation, the Highly Automated Vehicle Testing and Deployment Act of 2017, is now working its way through Congress. But they're also willing to expose vehicles via online software updates because the logistical challenges posed by physical downloads (car drives to shop, shop downloads new software) would make the frequent improvements required to millions and millions of lines of code virtually impossible to effect. Geater explained that some of the measures being taken to improve security include separating functions – the sound system can communicate with the vehicle speed system (to modulate sound volume according to vehicle speed), but neither can communicate with the transmission, for example. "People prove time and time again to be absolutely terrible, dangerous drivers," Geater said, adding that the risks posed by an actual human behind the wheel of a car far outweigh those posed by a potential hacker.


Tesla seeking to test driver-free electric trucks on public roads

The Guardian

Tesla is working on electric, self-driving trucks that can travel in "platoons" or road trains capable of following a lead vehicle, according to leaked correspondence with regulators. The electric truck, which is due to be unveiled in September by Elon Musk's electric vehicle company, is close to prototype on-road testing, with both Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and California officials in talks to permit trials on public roads, according to documents seen by Reuters. Several Silicon Valley companies developing autonomous driving technology are working on long-haul trucks. Some companies also are working on technology for road trains, a driving formation where trucks follow one another closely.


Something doesn't sit right with this driverless car – video

The Guardian

Video from ARLnow.com shows a car that appears to be driverless. The sighting was a hot topic on tech blogs over the weekend because the vehicle seemed to be autonomous. However, when NBC's Adam Tuss approached the car he saw a person disguised as a car seat driving the vehicle, leading to questions about the purpose of such a stunt.