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waymo-rolls-autonomous-vans-without-human-drivers-arizona-public-road-tests

The Japan Times

DETROIT – A self-driving car company created by Google is pulling the human backup driver from behind the steering wheel and will test vehicles on public roads with only an employee in the back seat. The move by Waymo, which started Oct. 19 with an automated Chrysler Pacifica minivan in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, Arizona, is a major step toward vehicles driving themselves without human backups on public roads. Waymo, which is owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet, is in a race with other companies such as Delphi, General Motors, Intel, Uber, Apple and Lyft to bring autonomous vehicles to the public. The companies say the robot cars are safer than human drivers because they don't get drowsy, distracted or drunk. Google has long stated its intent to skip driver-assist systems and go directly to fully autonomous driving.


Canada, a leader in AI, now makes its foray into driverless car technology

The Japan Times

TORONTO – Having built an impressive lead in artificial intelligence, Canada is keen to do the same in driverless cars -- specifically the lidar (laser radar) technology that lets these vehicles see where they're going. The Quebec City-based company makes solid-state technology it says is better and cheaper than earlier versions of lidar and sells it to parts makers, which in turn bake it into their hardware. LeddarTech has attracted big-name industry backers including Delphi Automotive, Germany's Osram Licht and Fiat Chrysler's parts division, which last month participated in a $101 million fundraising round. There's a race on to get self-driving cars on the road over the next four years and lidar is a key component in making that possible. The market for the technology will grow tenfold to $2.5 billion by 2027, according to Akhilesh Kona, a senior analyst at IHS Markit, and become much bigger as cars become increasingly autonomous.


Transport ministry developing self-driving snowplows to offset driver shortage

The Japan Times

The transport ministry will speed up work to develop snow removal vehicles with self-driving technology so trials can be carried out on expressways starting this winter, officials have said. The ministry plans to test the vehicles on other public roads from fiscal 2018, using data from the Michibiki quasi-zenith satellite network behind Japan's version of the Global Positioning System set to debut in April. The use of snow removal vehicles requires skilled drivers, but most are getting too old, and the shortage is generating concerns. In fiscal 2015, people over 61 accounted for 19 percent of the drivers, up from 3 percent in 1998. Snow removal vehicles with self-driving technology will detect obstacles with sensors and warn drivers when they deviate from lanes or approach guardrails.


Toyota targets 1,000-km driving range with fuel cell concept car

The Japan Times

Toyota Motor Corp. is set to unveil a fuel cell concept car that aims to offer 50 percent more driving range than its current hydrogen-powered sedan in a technology push that defies a rising wave of battery-powered vehicles. The nation's biggest auto manufacturer is targeting a 1,000-km (620-mile) range for the Fine-Comfort Ride concept saloon under local standards, compared with about 650 km for the current Mirai fuel cell vehicle, according to a statement Wednesday. The concept car, to be introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show next week, will include artificial intelligence and automated driving features. Toyota is continuing to champion fuel cell vehicles as the ultimate zero-emission cars, even as the falling cost of lithium-ion batteries have lured a majority of automakers to plug-in technology in the face of ever more stringent environmental standards worldwide. China, the world's largest market, said last month that it was working on a timeline to end the sale of internal-combustion vehicles, joining countries including France, India and the U.K. While Japan has created a Hydrogen Society Roadmap to increase the number of fuel cell vehicles on its roads to 40,000 by 2020, there are currently just 2,200 or so.


Toyota channels 'Knight Rider' with concept car that read drivers' emotions

The Japan Times

Toyota will be highlighting an array of experimental technologies aimed at improving safety and anticipating drivers' desires at the Tokyo Motor Show later this month. Toyota Motor Corp. manager Makoto Okabe told reporters Monday that the use of artificial intelligence means cars may get to know drivers as human beings by analyzing their facial expressions, driving habits and social media use. Such a vehicle might adjust drivers' seats to calm them when they're feeling anxious, or jiggle them to make them more alert when they seem sleepy. It might also suggest a stop at a noodle joint along the way. Despite concerns over potential intrusions into privacy, many automakers will be displaying prototypes of such technologies at the auto show which opens to the public Oct. 28.


aichi-conducts-nations-first-test-autonomous-vehicle-without-backup-driver

The Japan Times

During the test, carried out at a leisure facility in the city of Kariya, a vehicle was operated using sensors to check its surroundings while observers monitored progress from a distance. The vehicle, equipped with six cameras and specialized sensors, traveled on a 500-meter route at a speed of 20 kph with steering, acceleration and braking controlled autonomously. "Seeing the steering wheel move automatically was an extraordinary experience," said Aichi Gov. The practical use of such autonomous vehicles on predetermined routes, such as circuit buses, is "just around the corner," he added.


Toyota invests in Japanese startups to catch up in autonomous car race

The Japan Times

The automaker last week made a $9.1 million (about ¥1 billion) investment in the initial public offering of Uenoyama's firm, PKSHA Technology Inc., which is developing software that could one day help cars learn to hold a conversation with drivers. "The digital needs of the manufacturing sector have become bigger and bigger, and that's why we started working with Toyota," said Uenoyama in a recent interview at his office near the University of Tokyo, where the 35-year-old received a Ph.D. in machine learning. Toyota's investment in PKSHA, along with another Tokyo-based startup called Preferred Networks Inc., comes as software starts to rival the motor as the most important thing inside a car and automakers compete with the likes of Google to make vehicles that can drive by themselves. To speed up development, Toyota spent $1 billion in 2015 to build a Silicon Valley AI research lab, and is said to be considering opening a hub in Tokyo next year.


Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi bets on spike in electric cars with 12 new models

The Japan Times

The carmakers -- who collectively sold more vehicles than any other company in the world in the first half of this year -- also announced plans to make "robo-taxis," driverless public transport vehicles and autonomous cars aimed at middle-class consumers. It wants 15 minutes of charging time to provide 230 km (140 miles) of range, up from 90 km (55 miles) of range now. Ghosn said electric car sales are growing by more than 50 percent annually in some European markets, and that his alliance is watching China's emissions policies closely. He said the carmakers aim to boost annual sales to $240 billion and to sell 14 million cars a year by 2022, up from 10 million in 2016.


Long in the works, self-driving boats may make a splash before autonomous cars

The Japan Times

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 start-up Sea Machines Robotics, sitting at the helm as the boat floated through a harbor channel. The start-up has signed a deal with an undisclosed company to install the "world's first autonomy system on a commercial containership," Johnson said this week. 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.


Trump camp updates U.S. self-driving car guidelines as more hit the road, paring safety assessment points

The Japan Times

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN – The Trump administration on Tuesday unveiled updated safety guidelines for self-driving cars aimed at clearing barriers for automakers and tech companies wanting to get test vehicles on the road. The guidelines also make clear that the federal government -- not states -- determines whether autonomous vehicles are safe. There is nothing to prohibit California, for instance, from requiring human backup drivers on highly automated vehicles, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would discourage that. California, which is the only state that requires automakers to publicly report crashes of autonomous test vehicles, said Tuesday it was reviewing the new guidelines.