By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario — February 19, 2018 — In this week’s AV Report, constitutional issues around AVs, the mighty size of the market, an AV suitcase named the Fun Puppy 1, and much, much more.
-An interesting quote from the recent Senate report on automated vehicles (AVs) comes from Ian Jack, the managing director at the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA). He observed that it was unclear whether roads would be safer or more dangerous as AVs begin to appear in the vehicle fleet. An executive attending the recent Consumer Electronics Show had this to say about the rapid advances in artificial intelligence, “I think what we have right now is good. In a couple of years, [AI] will be very good. In about five years, it will be excellent. And in 10 years it will be impossible to work without it.” Artificial intelligence programs are considered key to facilitating the AV revolution.
-The idea that there is a real shift coming in terms of the existing auto-based economic infrastructure is becoming a hot topic of conversation across the country. A media report from Manitoba notes that the infrastructure minister in that province is worried that the province’s current laws don’t allow for driverless vehicles. “It’s coming very quickly and certainly we want to be on the forefront of this, we want to allow for it, so for instance maybe want to do a test run from Calgary to Toronto. We want to be part of that,” the minister was quoted as saying. He went on to talk about what it is governments need to do to be prepared. “While each province must have its own legislative and regulatory framework in place to allow for testing autonomous vehicles, the federal government has to create national and international guidelines as well,” said the minister. Collision Repair magazine attended one of the first conferences held on AVs. At that event a speaker pointed out that the Canadian constitution deals with split of powers between the federal and provincial governments concerning both transportation and digital technology. These two areas are germane to AVs. There is a convoluted apportioning of government responsibility on the AV file. At the time the speaker said something to the effect of, “The Canadian constitution may have to be changed to deal with AVs.” http://bit.ly/2FuYBdY
-In Regina, city councillors are also talking about AVs. The city council recently voted unanimously in favour of a motion to prepare the city for self-driving, connected and electric vehicles. A councillor suggested city officials monitor research and trials underway regarding autonomous and connected vehicles with a goal of reporting back to council in the second quarter of 2019 with an analysis of how these type of vehicles could impact and be advantageous to the city. “I think it’s rather exciting,” said the councillor. He highlighted the need for more electric-vehicle charging stations in the city. He encouraged the rest of the council to start thinking about the way land-use patterns could change. “I think we would be very foolish if we said, ‘This is like decades away, let’s not bother.’ That wouldn’t be right in my view. I think we have to start looking at the short-term,” said the councillor. According to the local news report the councillor said he began to think more seriously about this when General Motors announced it hopes to have fleet-based ride-hailing AVs on the road by 2019. Another councillor suggested that advancements in autonomous and electric vehicles should be considered when the city is planning new subdivisions. “It’s not good enough for us to plan for today. Planning for today is already out of date. We’ve got to be planning on a long-term horizon,” according to the councillor. The news report can be found here: http://bit.ly/2rSHAs9
-Another recent report on AVs in Canada comes from Ray Tanguay, the former head of Toyota’s Canadian operations, and now special adviser to the federal and Ontario governments on the automotive file. Tanguay’s report suggests the solution toward reversing the decline in the auto sector in Canada is to realize the country is “incredibly well positioned” to help automakers come up with “the car of the future.” That is, by capitalizing on the fact that Canada has strength in fields such as software development, data analysis, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, will found a new auto sector in this country. The University of Toronto is now known as the home of one of the important pioneers in the AI now being used as the base of development of AVs. Google has struck a deal to design a new east-end neighbourhood from the ground up that will see digital transportation tech built right into the concrete infrastructure, creating smart roads. “These capabilities, backed by our talent pool and access to globally recognized researchers, are putting Canada on the map,” according to the report. Tanguay recommends, “growing Canada’s auto sector by focusing on three key areas: investing in advanced technologies and infrastructure, remaining a competitive location for manufacturing operations, and developing the auto workforce by expanding apprenticeship programs and creating new incentives for on-the-job training.”
-There is a big new economic sector opening up around AVs. Or so says Adam Jones, an analyst for U.S. investment bank, Morgan Stanley. Jones is making a name for himself as someone who is following the AV industry expansion. He recently released a video online that includes various numbers the bank’s researchers have come up against concerning the potential size of the automated vehicle market.
The numbers are fantastically massive. It’s easy to forget the auto industry is the world’s single largest industrial sector. But it is, and that means any shift in the basic makeup of the auto fleet will result in massive shifts in the entire economy. As Jones notes, the auto industry currently thinks in terms of vehicles shipped. The world’s biggest automaker, Honda, sells, for example 10 million vehicles a year. Which is a lot of money and economic activity, something like two or three percent of total global GDP. But that’s with the old model. According to Jones, the Silicon Valley model of the auto industry goes like this: There are ten trillion miles driven annually. At a dollar mile that’s ten trillion dollars. That’s the real size of the new “addressable market” opening up as the digital tech is applied to the global car industry. This is an epic and one-time merging of two of the biggest industrial sectors in the world. “You’re looking for next $100 billion market? How about the next $100, 100 billion market,” says Jones. He suggests the AV sector could account for 15 percent of global GDP. Here’s the whole video: http://bit.ly/2By0CXZ
-A couple of blogs this week posted lists of changes that can be expected in the economy over the years to come. As AVs emerge and become more common there will be some interesting changes to the economy. These are some of the most fascinating predictions:
“The new players in vehicle design and manufacturing will be a mix of companies like Uber, Google and Amazon and companies not yet known. There will be two or three major players who control more than 80 percent of the customer-facing transportation market. There will be a tremendous transfer of wealth to a very small number of people who own the software, battery/power manufacturing, vehicle servicing and charging/power generation/maintenance infrastructure… The majority of the revenue will flow to a few large players as it does today to Apple and Google for smartphones.”
“Much like Internet traffic, there will likely become tiers of prioritization and some notion of in-network versus out-of-network travel and tolls for interconnection. Regulators will have a tough time keeping up with these changes. The tax treatment of these new systems will be very political.”
As for the vehicles themselves, “The bodies will be primarily composites (like carbon fibre and fibreglass) and 3D printed… Electric vehicles will mostly swap batteries rather than serve as the host of battery charging. Batteries will be charged in distributed and highly optimized centres… There may be some entrepreneurial opportunity, in a marketplace for battery charging and swapping, but this industry will likely be consolidated quickly… The batteries will be exchanged without human intervention – likely in a carwash-like drive thru… Vehicles will be able to provide portable power at construction job sites, and in the case of disaster/power failures and event some people may have their own ‘pods’ to get into which will then be picked up by an autonomous vehicle, moved between vehicles automatically for logistic efficiencies. These may come in varieties of luxury and quality – the Louis Vuitton pod may replace the Louis Vuitton trunk as the mark of luxury travel.”
-A report in the tech trade press notes Google’s self-driving car unit, “stopped developing features that required drivers to take control in dangerous situations.” According to company executives, a reliance on autopilot left users prone to distractions and ill-prepared to manoeuvre. Early autopilot systems the company tested require drivers to take over the steering wheel in tricky situations. “What we found was pretty scary. It’s hard to take over because they have lost contextual awareness,” said an exec. The company realized it was nuts to ask drivers to jump in and take over control of the vehicle again at the sound of an alert and that it was unsafe after seeing videos from inside self-driving cars during tests. “If a driver hasn’t been paying attention the human has no idea what’s going on and is terrible at figuring out what’s happening. As a result, the company decided to, “focus solely on technology that didn’t require human intervention.” That decision was arrived at a couple of days after something the company calls the “napping incident.” Since then Google execs have argued against allowing “handoffs” between automated driving systems and people. The only controls available to passengers in the company’s AV Chrysler Pacifica minivans are, “buttons for starting a ride and asking the vehicles to pull over at their next chance.” http://reut.rs/2A8RYMo
-An AV startup called Phantom Auto is building technology to let a remote human driver take over briefly for autonomous vehicles when they get into situations that they can’t handle. According to a story about the company, “Phantom Auto will work on so-called edge cases – rare situations that are likely to befuddle the vehicles, like very bad weather or unfamiliar obstacles such as a taco truck. The company’s remote drivers, who get training for the purpose, are meant to take over for short distances – a hundred meters or so to get past an obstacle, say – so the car can resume operation solo. The far-flung human operators are currently limited to driving at 25 miles per hour. Phantom Auto CEO and co-founder Shai Magzimof says that the company’s technology works by bonding multiple wireless networks – AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, for instance – to create a fast, reliable connection that makes it realistic for someone to operate a car in real time from hundreds of miles away.” http://bit.ly/2DpAjSG
-Chinese company 90 Fun recently released a smart suitcase that is kind of like a mini-AV of sorts. It uses the technology from the Segway and is designed to automatically follow the owner around. Your hands are free while walking through an airport. Your suitcase follows a foot behind automatically. The product is called the 90 Fun Puppy 1, because it follows you around like a puppy. http://bit.ly/2AuLVAP