By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario — June 18, 2018 — In this week’s AV Report: Daimler Trucks’ boss tempers AV hype, Toronto Pearson International airport opens up to Uber, Ford tests delivery van in Miami, and much, much more!
A report in one of the world’s premier business newspapers, the Financial Times of London, notes that, “The world’s biggest truck maker says Silicon Valley should hit the brakes on expectations for self-driving lorries. Martin Daum, chief executive of Daimler Trucks, says it will take at least five years before driverless technology becomes commercially available to its customers.” This prediction is “more cautious” than the prediction promoted by Elon Musk at Tesla. All of these companies are hoping to develop trucks that can follow one another closely to reduce drag and save fuel. The FT article quotes Daum as saying, “What I am talking about is a truck that can follow another truck without a driver behind the wheel” on motorways. Truck manufacturers are hoping to develop trucks that can be tirelessly connected to a couple others to synchronize braking. These platoons of trucks would have a human-driver in the lead vehicle. That vehicle would lead two other dummy trucks. Elon Musk has promised that Tesla will have an electric semi truck on the road next year. The company’s Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system will be installed as a standard feature. Daimler is also working on self-driving trucks. The company will spend more than €500m on electrification, connectivity and automated driving technology this year and next, according to FT. The company is creating a global autonomous R&D center in Portland, Oregon. According to the FT article, the CEO of Waymo has predicted that self-driving trucks may become commonplace on public highways sooner than robot-driven taxis. But according to the FT article, “Daum cautioned there was a large gap between testing technology and bringing it up to the level of safety and reliability required for commercial production of its brands, including Freight liner and Western Star.” He is quoted as saying, “That’s a big hurdle sometimes companies new to the business overlook and underestimate as a difficulty. That’s an exponentially higher requirement than just running a truck with an engineer always sitting next to a driver,” a reference to the way current automated vehicles (AV) are being tested. HTTP://on.ft.com/2JQkhnt
Tesla’s Autopilot feature continues to suffer from a bad reputation. A series of accidents in which the Autopilot feature has been engaged have raised concerns about the feature. In a recent case a Tesla with Autopilot engaged plowed straight into the back of a fire truck at 65mph. A remarkably similar accident, also involving a fire truck, occurred in Salt Lake City. Some wonder if there’s a bug in the Tesla system. The co-founder of a company called Aura has questioned the wisdom of relying only on cameras. Aurora has an AV tech that utilizes cameras, sensors and LiDAR, which gives the car a much better sense of what’s happening around it. Car companies seem to be taking a shine to Aurora and its tech. OEMs like that the company is independent. According to a CEO of a major European OEM, “We can trust them.” Here is some video of the co-founder of Aurora, Sterling Anderson, discussing issues around sensors: http://bit.ly/2JEptyB
Travelers using Toronto Pearson International airport will now be able to summon so-called Uber Black vehicles. This version of the ride-sharing service is more expensive than a typical Uber, so it may not gut the business of cabbies that rely on the airport business. The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) announced that it gets an average of 100,000 ride sharing requests per month. According to a press release from the GTAA, “Following significant demand from our passengers, we believe that a pilot of full ride sharing options is timely at Toronto Pearson, and in line with other airports across Canada and the U.S. already offering this service.” A media report notes that a Uber Black SUV from Pearson to Union Station is, “… currently estimated to cost up to $130, for instance, while a regular old Uber X to the same location is roughly $40. Uber Pool, which has even cheaper rates, is not yet available to order.” According to the press release from the GTAA, “We appreciate the collaboration of the ground transportation industry in sharing their feedback and welcome another opportunity to offer our passengers choice in their transportation options.”
Ford is working with a company called Postmates in Miami to figure out how people ordering takeout food would interact with an autonomous delivery van. The answer seems to be “Tiny lockers and access codes.” According to a media report, “Ford has retrofitted a fleet of its Transit vans with touch pad-accessible lockers, from which Postmates customers with the right access code can retrieve their food. The lockers are varying sizes to accommodate different types of deliveries. (Some even have cup holders.) Audio prompts and light displays are used to guide customers to the appropriate locker.” The pilot is underway in Miami and Miami Beach, with over 70 businesses participating, including restaurants and hardware stores, according to a blog post the company published on Medium. The story goes on to say that, “The vans are manually driven by human drivers for now, as Ford is just using them to test different methods of food delivery. Eventually, the automaker says it will deploy a fully self-driving delivery service by 2021.” A Ford executive is quoted as saying, “Ultimately, we are testing how businesses and consumers interact with a self-driving vehicle.” Ford did something similar when it deployed delivery vehicles with Domino’s Pizza in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Miami is also serving as a test bed for Ford’s forthcoming Transportation Mobility Cloud, an open-sourced platform for cities and other transportation partners. A blog post from a Ford exec explains what the mobility cloud is. It defines a common set protocols on which developers can develop an app. As cars become more connected they’ll be able to talk to each other. These standards will determine how that happens. According to the blog post, “Building an ecosystem such as this requires the large-scale connection of bits of distinct data that flow from a variety of sources. And those sources — public transportation services, self-driving cars, cyclists and even infrastructure — will need to speak the same language and communicate with each other if we’re to realize the true potential of this type of ecosystem… The first step along that path is to establish a platform that enables that kind of communication. That’s why Ford is working with Autonomic, a Silicon Valley-based company made up of a team of passionate technologists with broad experience in cloud and distributed systems, as well as mobile and machine learning, to build an open cloud-based platform — the Transportation Mobility Cloud. This platform can manage information flow and basic transactions between a variety of components in the transportation ecosystem — service providers, personal vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, mass transit systems and city infrastructure, including traffic lights and parking locations… With this platform, cities will be able to facilitate communication between various transportation methods and services operating within them, including individual vehicle data. The Transportation Mobility Cloud can take in and process that data in real-time, and provide numerous services including… location-based services, route mapping, alerts, identity management, payment processing, data and analytical services, and much more. This enables developers to offer new apps and services that make getting around easier and more efficient… Think of it as similar to a box of Legos with configurable pieces that we can quickly rebuild to create different assets, products and services, much more quickly. Users get access to a new mobility experience, app developers can easily leverage connected vehicle capabilities such as GPS and sensors, partners can access users and the platform’s capabilities, and connected vehicles can pull the service together. As every city has its own requirements, transportation systems, traditions and needs, this box of assets enables flexibility for each one.” Cool beans Ford bro. https://bit.ly/2l13TWl