Car Makers Warn US Over Rules for Self-Driving Tech

It looks like car makers are not exactly pleased with the pace used by US officials to craft regulations regarding self-driving technologies. Usually, manufacturers would be pleased with regulations being released as swiftly as possible, but this time around they are being quite cautious, which is understandable considering how new the technology is. Apparently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is moving too quickly with its plan to push finished guidelines out by July, and the industry’s representatives have stated that it’s actually tying itself to “arbitrary, self-imposed deadlines” as opposed to permitting a “robust and thoughtful” analysis of the situation.

As a potential solution to this, the Global Automakers industry group has suggested a gradual approach that would take care of short and long-term issues as they come up. Moreover, it’s also important to differentiate between different levels of automation such as Tesla’s Autopilot and systems that require no input from the driver whatsoever. It’s not too difficult to understand where automakers are coming from, as they would be the one that would look bad in the event of an accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agrees that there should be some kind of rulemaking implemented soon, especially since semi-autonomous vehicles from Tesla are already on the road. However, the administration might conclude that releasing an imperfect rulebook might be a better choice than releasing no rulebook at all in the near future.

Self-Driving Trucks Hit The Roads In Europe

When it comes to vehicles, there are two new technologies that people are looking forward to. First off there are electric vehicles, with Tesla’s new Model 3 getting billions of dollars worth of pre-orders, then there is the move to automated vehicles. With driverless vehicles gaining momentum, a set of self-driving trucks have hit the roads of Europe in a demonstration that’s set to show the technology off to the world.

Six manufacturers took part in the European Truck Platooning Challenge, courtesy of the Dutch Government. Truck platooning refers to the ability for automated trucks to follow one another in close procession, making use of a slipstream to reduce carbon dioxide and fuel usage.

Travelling from different parts of Europe to the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, with companies like Volvo and Daimler watching as their vehicles picked up cargo from the port before heading back to different locations all around Europe.

With self-driving trucks already looking to be tested in the UK within the year, it could be sooner than we think before large companies start using automated vehicles to deliver their goods. With companies like Google looking to create and release a self-driving car just one of many self-driving ideas, including a self-driving pram, you could soon get to put your feet up and enjoy a movie on those long road trips.

DARPA To Begin Testing Its Sub-Hunting Drone Ship

Technology is getting smarter, it is now getting to the point where technology can start doing things that would often require a human such as deliver pizzas. DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) is keen on seeing this automated technology makes its way into the battlefield. Recently DARPA revealed its Anti-submarine warfare continuous trail unmanned vessel (named ACTUV for short), a sub-hunting drone ship that can operate without a human crew, and it now seems like they are already testing out what it can do.

ACTUV is already in testing and has already passed its speed tests. Designed to go at 31mph, the ACTUV met these expectations and have left people wondering what the next text may be. The ACTUV is designed to track foreign submarines and will then follow them, the ultimate hope being of either forcing them to emerge or retreat.

The ACTUV was also designed to do more than just hunt subs, with it being able to transport deliveries and perform long-term sea reconnaissance missions, all the while freeing up a human crew for duty aboard another vessel.

You can see the ACTUV launch and test out its speed in the video below. Luckily for those in fear of the robots going to the kill us, the ship isn’t equipped with any weaponry and is purely an advance reconnaissance vessel, no combat use what so ever, a reassurance I’m sure many will be happy with.

Driverless Bikes Are Now A Thing Too

The term driverless isn’t anything new and it is probably most known in relation to cars and Google’s self-driving car project that’s been going on for years now. But we’ve also heard of driverless lorries coming to the UK, driverless pods in London, and even driverless Formula E racing as well as oversized quad-copters for personal usage, but driverless bicycles is one I haven’t heard of before.

The driverless bike, or i-Bike as it has been named, is the brainchild of Ayush Pandey and Subhamoy Mahajan, two students from IIT Kharagpur, India. The whole idea started with an idea that is as noble as the result is brilliant: The two wanted to build a simple vehicle that could help disabled people get more out of life by increasing their freedom. Now that’s an idea we all can get behind.

The i-Bike has autonomous steering, brakes, driving, and balancing mechanisms that can work completely on their own as well as aids to just help you with the part that might be troublesome for you.

Just riding a bicycle wasn’t the only problem the students tried to solve, parking and retrieving a bike can be equally challenging for a disabled person as bicycle locations by default rarely have much in disability friendliness. You wouldn’t expect them to ride a bicycle, so it isn’t out of bad intentions.

“We saw some differently abled people who could ride bicycles but had to face many problems when trying to take their bikes out from the parking space, as most such spaces are not disabled friendly. To tackle this problem we started working to make a bicycle that would be controlled wirelessly,” says Ayush, a fourth year Mechanical Engineering student

You can ride the i-Bike manually or you can get help from the dual locomotion technology. The autonomous driving is handled with the help of GPS as well as lasers and sonar based sensors to avoid obstacles in its path. The destination is set by an Android app that sends an SMS to the i-Bike. Upon receiving this, it will start its journey.

None of the techniques used is new as such, but this combination of them is awesome. It has a unique and affordable software architecture that enables it to follow specialised bicycle lanes as they are found in many countries already. It also offers live tracking and wireless control mechanism on top of all that.

What started as a team of two is now comprised of 13 undergraduate students from various departments of IIT Kharagpur, all working together and making up the i-Bike team. Since the project was started back in October 2014, the team has won several awards, most recently the innovation challenge organised by KPIT Technologies where they won first prize.

The trainer wheels that have been used for balancing can easily be retracted by a switch and the same goes for the steering aids that also can be turned on and off by the flick of a switch.

The i-Bike could solve many problems in urban cities and crowded spaces. Whether you want to prevent theft by sending you bike home, retrieve it where ever you are in order to get home, or just want to send it on a cruise of its own, the i-Bike can do it. It would also allow new options for bicycle sharing centres where you could rent a bike, drive where you need to go, and then send it back home again on its own. The same way you could order it back via your smartphone no matter where you are located, and you won’t even have to pedal yourself.

Once the team has the patent, they plan to collaborate with companies willing to start bicycle sharing centres in India – and hopefully this kind of technology will make it to the rest of the world too.

Autonomous Car Accident Reports Finally Released

We love looking to the future of car technology, be it how the car is powered or how the car is controlled. We now have a pretty consistent means of powering the vehicles thanks to Tesla and the impressive battery system, but controlling the car is still under scrutiny. Companies such as Google are pioneering the push for autonomous vehicles (AV), but what about the safety of said vehicles?

Californian DMV has now released accident reports from the collisions that involved Google’s autonomous vehicles. I can safely say, on behalf of the human race, that we fail.

In all scenarios, the AV was either stationary or slowing to a stop due to traffic or pedestrian conditions and the accident occurred due to another driver not paying attention. There were three recorded accidents that happened when the vehicle was being controlled by the human driver, but that was due to bad judgement and taking control from the autonomous mode.

It has already been acknowledged that AV’s are too safe for public roads and this is just further proof that humans aren’t ready to share the road with perfect drivers just yet.

Personally I can’t see AV’s integrating in human driving society for a long time yet. They would likely work best in closed circuits or where safety is key, so airports or even densely populated city centre areas.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think we are ready to share the road with AV’s? Let us know in the comments.

Thank you to TechCrunch for providing us with this information.

Volvo to Accept Blame in Event of an Accident

Well in the case of the autonomous cars anyway. Up until now, the only company to come forward with a fully working prototype is Google and the accidents that occurred were never blamed on the company, rather the external parameters such as traffic and pedestrians. It has now come to light that Swedish-based company Volvo will “accept full liability whenever one if its cars is in autonomous mode” and is the route cause of an accident.

This announcement follows the steps taken by Volvo to protect the main software that controls the car by passing it through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This Act prevents occurrences such as vehicular hacking being blamed on the company itself and treated as a criminal offense.

If we remember back a few months, vehicle hacking way a hot news subject with a small team taking it upon themselves to hack multiple cars, including a brand new Jeep.

In the US specifically, the government has allowed monitoring and regulating of autonomous vehicles to be controlled by the individual states, but Volvo is now calling out for a country wide regulation format and this will be discussed further tomorrow at a seminar for self-driving cars.

I can see Volvo is taking a massive step forward by trusting the car’s software and hardware this much and removing the blame from the driver almost entirely. Let’s hope that this allows lawmakers and legal systems to become more lenient with autonomous vehicles operating in each state and each country of the world.

Thank you to Mashable for providing us with this information.

Google’s Bubble Car to Hit the Road this Summer

We follow autonomous cars quite closely, especially seeing that this could be the future of driving. Following our recent article on the safety record of Google’s other self-driving fleet, Google is now ready to unleash the little bubble car on the world; well the streets of California in the Mountain View area this Summer.

Since last September, Google has let a fleet Lexus RX450h roam the streets of California; equipped with the same self-driving technology. Together, they have clocked up near 1 million autonomous miles on the public highway, nearly 10,000 a week. The total amount of autonomously logged data is comparable to the experience of “75 years of typical American adult driving”.

The cool thing about autonomous driving, all of the data logged by the previous cars can be instantly uploaded to the new cars, with certain parameters changed such as vehicle size to give better spatial awareness. If that isn’t enough to calm you, then each car will have a human occupant with the control to override the system if needs be.

Following the recent news and criticism of Google’s self-driving cars, namely the Lexus models; Google has made statements to set the record straight. “Over the 6 years since we started the project, we’ve been involved in 11 minor accidents (light damage, no injuries) during those 1.7 million miles of autonomous and manual driving with our safety drivers behind the wheel,” wrote Google’s Chris Urmson in a recent post on Medium, “and not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident,” a Google representative said.

Apart from the awful looks of the car, would you be willing to let one drive you around? What about actually owning one when the are released? Let us know in the comments

Thank you to ArsTechnica for providing us with this information.

Google’s Self-Driving Cars are Better Drivers Than us

Self-driving cars are becoming more and more common everywhere we look (in news at least); the key player in this is Google. For the autonomous scheme to be accepted by California law, the company needs to provide proof of the number of accidents that the autonomous vehicles were involved in and of that, how many were the cause. Well, the results are good, well they’re better than good.

Seven of the accidents involved the car being rear ended, at least one was the result of another driver running a red light and the rest were human errors; where a human was in control for whatever reason. Google has been testing these vehicles on the road since 2009, so those figures are very encouraging for those who wouldn’t want to trust a car with no one in control.

Despite the figures, the cars themselves won’t be ready for consumer purchase for a few years yet; mainly down to the fact that a few states in America have laws which govern the use of autonomous vehicles on the public highway. These laws are still relatively new though, so I’d bet on them being changed very soon; especially with the recent news of a Big Rig/ 18 wheeler/ artic lorry being given a ‘licence’ in Nevada.

Would you trust being in such a vehicle? Imagine the carnage if someone managed to hack all the vehicles in a certain area, adding say 10MPH onto the speed or setting the internal GPS to a few foot to one direction. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you to MotorAuthority for providing us with this information.

Autonomous Driving Just got Bigger

We love to hear about new car technology at eTeknix; Electric Vehicles (EVs) and autonomous driving have caught our eye a lot recently. Self-driving cars have given us a look into the future and now it seems the next step has come to pass, self-driving trucks.

American truck company, Daimler, has now put the finishing touches on their semi-autonomous truck. This can now legally operate on the highways of Nevada thanks to thousands of hours and miles of rigorous testing. It had to drive over 10,000 miles on a self-contained circuit in Germany before it was ‘granted’ a license. Nevada governor, Brian Sandoval, has officially granted the “Freightliner Inspiration Truck” a license for road use in the state, giving it the status of “First of its kind” to navigate public roads in the US.

The system, dubbed “Highway Pilot System” isn’t fully autonomous, it operates by cameras, radars and hundreds of other sensors, but still requires a human input from behind the wheel; this system sounds more like a highway co-driver and the human driver has to take over for manoeuvring off the highway. When the system takes over, the sensors and computers then take charge of maintaining a legal speed, lane selection and maintaining braking distance from the car in front. This then frees up the driver to take on other tasks like stock take and route planning and scheduling.

Currently, there are only two of these trucks in operation and it’s unclear whether more will be made. I actually like the sound of this, the little black box in The Simpsons has now become a reality, but surely this is just another step towards ‘Robots taking over jobs’? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Thank you to engadget for providing us with this information.

Delphi Corp’s Audi Q5 Completes 3400 Mile Autonomous Road Trip

Following on from the news we brought you two weeks ago, The Audi Q5, equipped with Delphi Corp’s radar, cameras and laser sensors, has completed its epic 15-state, 3400 miles road trip from San Francisco to New York. The car mostly stuck to travelling on the various highways between the states, but what’s more impressive is that the self-driving feature managed a near perfect run, having the autonomous systems handle 99% of the journey.

“We expected we would be in autonomous mode most of the time, but to be in it close to 99 percent of the time was a pleasant surprise,” Owens told The Associated Press Thursday. “The equipment was flawless.”

Traffic was weaving around in a construction zone, there were some police cars on the right side that warranted an extra clear lane for which the driver took control of the wheel, but that’s hardly a big deal as this was a trial run and the car still scored exceptionally well. Some members of the public however, didn’t think too fondly of the car, as it stuck rigorously to the speed limit, even when other drivers we not. This prompted several members of the public to make “a few hateful gestures” at the car and its occupants.

After collecting 3TB of data from the trip, Delphi will now improve the systems which are expected to start appearing in Audi and Volvo cars within two years.

Thank you for providing us with this information.

Jen-Hsun Huang Interviews Elon Musk of Tesla

GTC 2015: As part of the keynote at GTC 2015 after talking about some amazing feats with the new TITAN X and some of the deep learning technology on offer, we were greeted with a special interview between Jen-Hsun Huang and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Upon talking about autonomous vehicles, a big discussion as part of that revolved around Artificial Intelligence. Skynet anyone?

For now, you can find all of the juicy information in the video below:

Swiss Researchers Built Robotic Vampire Bat for Search and Rescue

It isn’t easy to create a multi-terrain aerial robot, at least not without adding multiple propulsion features. Up until now they usually carried both wheels and wings to be able to travel in both elements, which in return would increase both weight and size, and thereby mobility and operating time.

Swiss researchers have now created a new type of vehicle that is designed for search and rescue operations, the DALER (Deployable Air-Land Exploration Robot). The robot uses adaptive morphology inspired by the common vampire bat, Desmodus Rotundus, meaning that the wings have been actuated using a foldable skeleton mechanism covered with a soft fabric such that they can be used both as wings and as legs (whegs).

The researchers behind the project hope that the DALER might be able to find victims in disaster areas much quicker than with current methods. It could be deployed and sent out to an affected area where it would switch to ground mode and crawl through tight spaces like collapsed buildings to quickly find injuries people.

If successful, it could decrease the rescue time significantly simple by allowing the rescue workers to focus their energy on the area where they are needed. The current version can’t take off again by itself and return to its airbase, but that is something that is being worked on for the next prototype.

Thanks to cnBeta for providing us with this information

Could Robot Fish That Eat the Dirt of Your Clothes Be Our Future?

A new concept originating from Korea show what very well could be the future of doing our laundry. Small robot fish that swim around and “eat” the dirt of our clothes. This is pretty cool in itself and the whole thing is presented to us now on the electrolux design lab.

The Pecera, as it is called, is inspired by the Doctor fish that swim around and eat dead skin cells and similar of your feet. The Pecera works in much the same way, except the small fish are robots. The fish’s mouth is shaped like a sucker and that’s what it does, it sucks the dirt away.

Pecera is a collection of robot fish called Dofi, cleaning your clothes in a water tank without detergent. This sustainable way of washing clothes is inspired by doctor fish who nurture human skin, except these busy fishes run on hydroelectric power and clean garments. The robotic fish detects the dirt in the clothes by using the tiny camera in each fish. The cleaning is made by a suction motion by the robot fish against the dirt particles. Washing without detergent makes this washing method suitable for the most sensitive and creates no need for multiple washing circles using water. The first layer spin-dries and drains off the water from clothes.

The best thing about this new concept is that it doesn’t need any detergent or washing liquids that makes it a lot more environmental friendly. It’s also so stylish and silent that it could be placed in the living room, though I doubt that’s where people will have it. It also removes the fear of oxidation and discolouration of fibres from those detergents. As combination with the robot fish, it uses a alkaline liquid jelly that automatic separates any unnatural elements from the fibres of your clothes.

Thank you electrolux for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of electrolux.

Google’s Delivery Drone Shown in Action

Google isn’t just working on self driving cars, they also want to take it to the skies. We’ve seen them with their Wi-Fi balloons before to spread internet to rural areas, but this one is a bit more commercially aimed. The secretive Google X team has been working on Project Wing for a couple of years now, a drone based delivery system. We’ve seen similar in the past from Amazon, but that was more a theoretical part where Google shows us an actual working prototype in action.

Google is a good guy that helps to evolve in many areas and isn’t just a profit mongering company. In the same way these new automated flying vehicles aren’t so much planned for the next generation On-line Google Mall, but rather to help in areas where help is needed fast, but at the same time aren’t easy accessible by conventional means. They could deliver medical supplies, water or food for example.

[youtube width=”800″ height=”600″][/youtube]

With just a few of these drones in action, it’s easy to see how they could make a real difference in emergency and catastrophe situations. In the video however we see the drone drop off some snacks for the dogs. This is also, in a way, a good deed.

Thank you Cnet for providing us with these information

Image and video courtesy of Google.

Trucks of the Future May Be Almost Completely Autonomous

Are you a HGV Driver? Ever wanted to be one? Well your time is running out, sorry if you are a HGV driver, Mercedes-Benz have developed the “Future Truck 2025,” which Mercedes says is the first self-driven freight vehicle. It may seem completely illogical right now, but the hands-off idea is aimed at eliminating human error.

Special sensors are placed all around the truck for 360 degree spacial awareness, which is obviously critical for the system to function efficiently and safely. The sensors include specially designed cameras and radar. Mercedes also boast that the computerized controls will increase driving efficiency, which is always a good thing!

Many of the component parts to put a vehicle like this into production are already available in trucks on the market: Systems that help drivers keep their distance from other drivers, active braking assistance, guidance and mapping systems and fine-tuned cruise control.

The “Future Truck 2025” can monitor itself along a road and realize if someone has moved in front of it, the truck will then slow down to make sure it doesn’t hit the other car. It won’t attempt an overtake on it’s own, this must be done by a driver.

So all in all, Mercedes have developed an autonomous HGV that increases driving efficiency and minimizes human error but still requires there to be drivers in the truck for it to switch lanes etc. These drivers will be known as “transport managers.”

Mercedes hope to have these vehicles everywhere by 2025.

Thanks to CNN for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of CNN.

Volvo Self-Driving Cars Start Public Road Testing

It may seem to be very science-fiction, but Volvo’s autonomous self-driving car is far more science-fact as the first vehicle sets out on to the open roads along with the general public. In the run up to a test drive where one hundred self driving vehicles will be let loose around the city of Gothenburg in Sweden, test drives are being performed with individual cars to test their capability to merge into lanes of traffic along with braking and accelerating where necessary.

A well orchestrated advert (as we have come to expect of Volvo since their Jean-Claude Van Damme advert with the two separating trucks went viral last year) demonstrates how the car requires no input from the passenger as it drives through the city and motorways before it returns to manual driving mode and the passenger then becomes the driver.

Eric Coelingh, a technical specialist at Volvo spoke out reporting, “The test cars are now able to handle lane following, speed adaption and merging traffic all by themselves. This is an important step towards our aim that the final Drive Me cars will be able to drive the whole test route in highly autonomous mode.”

When driving in autonomous mode, a series of cameras and sensors around the exterior of the car constantly monitor and track the position of nearby vehicles, calculating whether they are speeding up, slowing down, changing lanes or simply overtaking. Should all of the public road tests prove to be a success, the proposal to release the one hundred vehicles on to a 50km route of the city should be ready for around 2017. Whilst this is another step forward to the safer driving environment that both Google and Nissan have also ventured out to achieve, we are still a long way off having these vehicles publicly available to purchase, amid fears that they are not safe enough for the entire population and predicting the actions of other road users like a real person would be able to do.

Either way though this road test shows that the technology is there and it does work (on a small-scale) so it is not a case of if, but when will it finally be deemed safe and ready to go on sale.


Source: Tweaktown

US Army Working on Autonomous Convoy Project, Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

We expect Google to be the main topic of discussion when it comes to autonomous vehicles, not to mention after the acquisition of Boston Dymamics and DeepMind. But this time we skip Google and go to the US military, where they are developing an autonomous convoy. If proved successful, the project will help trucks get supplies through hostile territory without having to put any soldiers at risk.

Lockheed Martin and the US Army have announced the completion of an autonomous demonstration that has shown the ability for an autonomous convoy to operate in an urban environment. The demonstration used multiple vehicles of different models. The demonstration happened at Fort Hood, Texas this month as a part of the Army and Marine Corps Autonomous Mobility Applique System program.

The demo marked the completion of the Capabilities Advancement Demonstration and involved driverless tactical vehicles navigating hazards. The vehicles in the demo navigated obstacles like road intersections, oncoming traffic, stalled vehicles, and passing vehicles. The demo also faced the autonomous vehicles with pedestrian and traffic circles in urban and rural test areas. The demo proves that the software and hardware needed performed as designed.

Thank you Slash Gear for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Slash Gear

Self-Driving Cars To Have A Big Impact In Just 10 Years

A study by the IHS predicts that self-driving cars with driver control and self-driving cars without driver control will be on the road by 2025 and 2030 respectively. The study also predicts sales in self-driving cars will reach a total of 54 million self-driving cars globally by 2035.

The study anticipates that nearly all of the vehicles in use are likely to be self-driving cars or self-driving commercial vehicles sometime after 2050. In terms of pricing, the report states that between $7,000 up to $10,000 will be added to a car’s current pricing if the owner wants it to have a self-driving car package, a price that is estimated to drop to $5,000 by 2030 or $3,000 by 2035.

The good thing about this is that there will be near zero accidents on the road as well as traffic congestion and air pollution declination, as Egil Juliussen, principal analyst for infotainment and autonomous driver assisted systems at IHS Automotive, states.

“Accident rates will plunge to near zero for SDCs, although other cars will crash into SDCs, but as the market share of SDCs on the highway grows, overall accident rates will decline steadily,” Juliussen says. “Traffic congestion and air pollution per car should also decline because SDCs can be programmed to be more efficient in their driving patterns.” he adds.

The bad comes with software reliability and cyber security. Nothing can be 100% secure, yet alone a self-driving car on the streets. Hack that, and you have yourself a toy that you can control with your smartphone. However, several automakers have said publicly they will have autonomous cars by 2020, or earlier. Autonomous car technology is already affecting driver assist systems such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and collision mitigating brake systems.

Additionally, the IHS study says the first group of autonomous cars will have so-called Level 3 capability – limited self-driving that enables the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic and environmental conditions and includes auto pilot for highway travel and parking. Coming later in the decade will be SDCs with Level 4 capability – self-driving but with human controls.

Thank you IHS for providing us with this information