The Autonomous Report: Airbus announces plans for a flying car and VW’s new concept vehicle

The Pop.Upsystem from Airbus. A flying drone can be called to pick up the pod from the chassis and fly it away. It’s not entirely clear what happens with the chassis.

By Jeff Sanford

Toronto, Ontario — March 12, 2017 — In the latest edition of the Autonomous Report, we take a look at the Pop.Upsystem from Airbus, a new concept from Volkswagen that resembles a lounge on wheels, the potential job losses from autonomous vehicles and much, much more!

Airbus revealed this week its vision for a car that can be, “… airlifted by a drone.” Called the Pop.Upsystem, the car-drone combo was also debuted at the Geneva Motor Show. According to a report, “The key component of the Pop.Upsystem is a capsule that is 2.5 meters (8 feet) long and 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) high that can house passengers. That capsule can attach to a battery-powered chassis to become a two-seater electric car … Airbus says that without the capsule, the chassis can drive 100 kilometers (62 miles) on a single charge … The Pop.Up’s modular design means the capsule can easily unhook from its chassis and get airlifted by an accompanying drone that’s autonomous and powered by 8 rotors. (Airbus doesn’t provide any insight as to what happens to the chassis once it’s left behind).”

– The Tesla Model S Autopilot is again suspected of causing an accident. A user on the popular website Reddit posted video of an accident in Dallas this past week. According to the poster, after Tesla’s, “Autopilot was engaged as the road curved because of construction. The Tesla couldn’t read, or possibly lost, the road lines on the Dallas-area freeway and kept going straight, causing the car to deflect off the temporary barrier, flattening the tires and setting off a few airbags.” Someone also posted a picture of a Tesla crash that saw the car burst into flames. This has happened in a couple of Tesla crashes of late.

– The new US Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao, said in her first appearance in her new role that she was, “… reviewing self-driving vehicle guidance issued by the Obama administration and urged companies to explain the benefits of automated vehicles to a sceptical public … The guidelines, which were issued in September, call on automakers to voluntarily submit details of self-driving vehicle systems to regulators in a 15-point ‘safety assessment’ and urge states to defer to the federal government on most vehicle regulations … Automakers have raised numerous concerns about the guidance, including that it requires them to turn over significant data, could delay testing by months and lead to states making the voluntary guidelines mandatory … In November, major automakers urged the then-incoming Trump administration to re-evaluate the guidelines and some have called for significant changes. Automakers called on Congress earlier this month to make legislative changes to speed self-driving cars to US roads.”

Chao was quoted as saying, “In particular, I want to challenge Silicon Valley, Detroit, and all other auto industry hubs to step up and help educate a sceptical public about the benefits of automated technology.”

Chao also said she was “very concerned” about the potential impact of automated vehicles on employment, according to the Reuters report.

Volvo announced this past week that the 2018 XC60 will come with an advanced ADAS system. The car will be able to brake itself as well as “swerve” around obstacles while avoiding traffic in the oncoming lane. Volvo has vowed that nobody will die in a crash caused by its cars by the year 2020. A report about the new features also, “… reaffirmed the potential impact such safety technology could have on the collision repair business.”

According to the article the current “third generation” of Volvo autobraking and collision warning systems has, “… reduced rear-ending — one of collision repair’s bread and butter areas — by 45 percent in Sweden.” A Volvo exec was quoted as saying, “We have been working with collision avoidance systems for many years and we can see how effective they are. In Sweden alone we have seen a decline of around 45 percent … in rear-end frontal crashes thanks to our collision warning with autobrake system.”

Volkswagen introduced a new concept vehicle at the Geneva International Motor Show this past week. The driverless “lounge on wheels” car has a Siri-like voice assistant and giant screens inside. Volkswagen named the vehicle “Sedric.” The windscreen serves as a massive TV.

“The German automaker laid out its vision about how Sedric will be part of a Volkswagen fleet able to be hailed via a smartphone app like Uber,” according to a report. “Sedric will drive the children to school and then take their parents to the office, look independently for a parking space, collects shopping that has been ordered, picks up a visitor from the station and a son from sports training – all at the touch of a button, with voice control or with a smartphone app – fully automatically, reliably and safely,” the company said in a press release. VW claims that Sedric is the first vehicle to be designed for fully autonomous driving “from scratch.” One report said the vehicle, “… looks more like a ‘70s-era cocktail lounge than your average transit [device].”

Sedric LG  
VW’s new concept, Sedric, has some saying it’s more of a lounge on wheels than a car.  


– An economic study looked at the possible jobs losses involved with automated vehicles. The report notes that the, “…internal combustion engine facilitated the growth of the auto industry and many associated sectors (and jobs), including oil, road construction, insurance, finance, police, and orthopedic surgery.” But now the automotive sphere will under a round of job destruction as, “…artificial intelligence and business model changes will shift the core technology from steel to information and undermine the need for many of the industry’s associated sectors.” Jobs will be displaced. “In tomorrow’s automated car, the physical value will be its advanced electronics. The manufacturing of vehicles may, increasingly, shift offshore…[As] vehicle hardware will shift from steel to electronics and lightweight materials. Will this further erode the jobs in Canada’s already reduced auto sector? Also, demand for oil and gasoline will decline. Electric vehicles will need less routine maintenance (no oil changes!). All this means more jobs for information technologists and fewer jobs for oil workers, gas station attendants and car mechanics.” As well, “Mobility services will use their own fleets and deal directly with consumers via mobile apps. This will have an impact on car dealers and car rental firms.” The report also predicts that, “A major benefit of automation will be improved vehicle safety and traffic self-management. This will mean fewer jobs in auto body repair, policing, and accident-related medical services.” 

Another report notes that self-driving cars will create a “third space” between home and office that will allow people to consume much more video content. How much? “By 2020, connected car services, such as infotainment and navigation, will generate $40 billion globally, according to Deloitte. By 2030, in-vehicle data consumption will reach .7 Exabytes, or the equivalent of the storage of more than 21 million standard smartphones, per month,” according to the study. “With this new content consumption can come consumer preference and behavioral data, and ultimately, actionable marketing insights.” Deloitte also forecasts that by 2040, at least 70percent of vehicles sold in urban areas will be shared or autonomous. The long term trend: The majority (80 percent) of miles travelled by US adults in 2040 will be through shared vehicles.”  

– Skurt, a Los Angeles-based rental car delivery start-up, raised $10 million in Series A funding. The round was funded in part by Magic Johnson. According to a report, “Customers request a rental on their phone and can have a car delivered to them within 60 minutes of booking. When they’re done, they set up a pick-up time and someone comes to get the car from wherever they are.”

– TetraVue, a company specializing in LiDAR technology, received $10 million in Series A funding from a group including funds run by Robert Bosch and Samsung. “TetraVue’s LiDAR gives cars perfect vision, and allows them to make better decisions,” said Connie Sheng, Founding Managing Director at Nautilus Venture Partners. “Imagine a car being able to instantly determine if a black spot is a rock or a plastic.”


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