Google Self Driving Car May Have Caused its First Crash

Google have often flaunted the fact that none of its numerous self-driving cars have ever been responsible for a crash it has been in, instead always being put down to outside forces, usually humans. Now this flawless record could be in jeopardy as according to a filing with the Californian DMV discovered by Mark Harris, a self-driving Lexus SUV belonging to Google drove itself into the side of a bus, thankfully at low-speed.

The description of the incident from the report states the following:

The Google AV test driver saw the bus approaching in the left side mirror but believed the bus would stop or slow to allow the Google AV to continue. Approximately three seconds later, as the Google AV was reentering the center of the lane it made contact with the side of the bus. The Google AV was operating in autonomous mode and traveling at less than 2 mph, and the bus was travelling at about 15 mph at the time of contact.

What exactly caused the crash is currently uncertain, either the car made the same assumption as the test driver, that the bus would allow the car into traffic, or there was a blind spot in its sensors. The latter is extremely unlikely due to the large array of sensors packed into the vehicle that covers all 360 degrees around it.

It was only a matter of time until an autonomous car was involved in an accident that was the fault of the car, with the growing number of them on the road for testing. Even one accident doesn’t change the statistics that autonomous cars are far safer than human drivers, especially with the years of testing and improvement ahead of them. Whether this accident shakes confidence in the readiness of self-driving cars remains to be seen, but with Google’s monthly self-driving report due soon, more details of the incident and the future of the car’s development may come to light.

Processor Design Expert from AMD and Apple Hired by Tesla

The race to develop self-driving cars is very competitive, with a growing number of companies doing their utmost to beat out the competition to develop the technology. One company, in particular, is taking self-driving car technology very seriously, Tesla, who have already rolled out a very limited form of the technology to their popular Model S. Now according to Electrek, Elon Musk’s car company have recently hired a veteran of processor design, Jim Keller to assume the lead of their Autopilot hardware engineering team.

Exactly what Keller will be working on a Tesla is currently undisclosed, with there being no implications that Tesla will be developing in-house microprocessors to use in their vehicles’ systems. Self-driving systems like Tesla’s Autopilot certainly require a lot of processing power in a tight space, however, and Tesla intends to make full use of Keller’s hardware engineering experience and especially his low-power design expertise.

Keller himself is a renowned and respected figure in his field, having worked on a number of AMD’s flagship processors over the years, including their upcoming Zen architecture. Not only that, but he has held a high-profile engineering role at Apple where he played a crucial role in the development of their A4 and A5 processors, which went on to power most of Apple’s mobile devices and Apple TVs from 2010 to 2012.

Could Keller’s expertise be just what Tesla needs to transform their Autopilot technology from a limited option to a fully fledged driving assist or self-driving system? The right hardware could allow the company to solve the tough computational problems that come with such systems.

Volvo Pledges Their Cars Will be Deathproof by 2020

Safety in a car is important, as is made clear when you see new cars marketed with their safety ratings proudly on show. Volvo has now gone one step bolder than their rivals, with their North American CEO, Lex Kerssemakers, telling CNN that their complete lineup of cars and SUVs will be entirely deathproof by 2020.

Volvo’s plan to achieve the deathproof car involves the incorporation of a number of technologies we have already seen in the development of autonomous cars, including adaptive cruise control, auto lane keeping assists and collision avoidance. This isn’t to say that Volvo’s fully safe car is fully autonomous, instead, the safety assists will run regardless of autonomous or manual control. This results in a reverse of current self-driving cars, where instead of the manual driver taking over in an emergency, the safety systems will kick and override the driver when needed. Most of the technologies Volvo plans to put to work here also already exist in autonomous vehicles, which may explain their confidence in the timeframe.

Volvo also already tracking the number of deaths that occur in their vehicles worldwide. This may seem morbid, but in fact, it helps the engineers at Volvo see the impact of new safety measures in each generation of car and predict how much safer the car can be made. Fatality-free cars are not a new thing either, with the Volvo XC90 (and eight other non-Volvo vehicles) having no recorded fatalities in the US between 2009 and 2012, which is the most recently available data on the subject.

It is unlikely that even the safest car can save those going out of their way to put themselves at risk or ignore the rules of the road, but for the sane majority of drivers, this is a great move. It is nice to think that by the start of the next decade driving could be no less hazardous that walking around your own home, for both those behind the wheel and pedestrians.

Ford Test Autonomous Car in Snow

Autonomous cars have come a long way in recent times, with some even being considered safer than human drivers. But now Ford have decided to try out their autonomous car in snow, which can even cause trouble for experienced human drivers.

Ford’s self-driving car makes use of a technology they have termed “snowtonomy”, which integrates high definition maps to allow the car to fill in the gaps that its sensors cannot see due to the adverse weather.

The car employs the standard array of laser-imagine LIDAR sensors that it is equipped with in order to build the most accurate picture of the current location as possible. It then matches this 3D image against the stored maps in order to maintain the car’s position on the road. According to Ford, this system is accurate enough for the car to be able to stay in lane, even when road markings are obscured by snow.

The testing ground for this technology has been Mcity, an artificial city created by the University of Michigan, specifically for testing autonomous cars. This has allowed Ford to gain a lot of experience with self-driving cars in adverse conditions such as rain and snow.

Technologies like Ford’s “snowtonomy” really show that companies out there are bringing their self-driving systems to the next level. Driving in straight lines in perfect conditions is hardly a challenge for today’s self-driving technology, but for autonomous cars to truly displace the human driver, they will have to be able to adapt to all conditions, be it visibility impairing or a lack of grip.

Elon Musk Claims Tesla Cars Are Two Years Away From Self-Driving

Hot on the heels of the beta release of Tesla Motors’ Summon software, which adds automated parking to the Model S range of electric cars, founder and CEO Elon Musk has predicted that Tesla cars will be fully automated by 2018.

Musk reiterated statements he made last month regarding the future of Tesla’s self-driving program during a press conference on Sunday night, The Guardian reports, saying, “I actually think, and I might be slightly optimistic on this, within two years you’ll be able to summon your car from across the country.”

“I think we have all the pieces, and it’s just about refining those pieces, putting them in place, and making sure they work across a huge number of environments—and then we’re done,” Musk told Fortune back in December 2015. “It’s a much easier problem than people think it is. But it’s not like George Hotz, a one-guy-and-three-months problem. You know, it’s more like, thousands of people for two years.”

Musk made the same assertion during a call with reporters, according to The Verge. “Ultimately you’ll be able to summon your car anywhere … your car can get to you.” he said, “I think that within two years, you’ll be able to summon your car from across the country.”

Google Plans Self-Driving Taxis for 2016

Google will launch its self-driving car initiative as a separate business, offering rides for hire in direct competition with firms such as Uber, under parent company Alphabet Inc next year, according to Bloomberg Business.

An anonymous source briefed on Google’s self-driving car strategy claims that, initially, the vehicles will not be sold, but instead will be available for hire to customers during the day, returning to Google depots for service and maintenance at night.

“These potential ride-for-hire services could allow consumers to experience the technology and embrace it in a bigger way,” said Thilo Koslowski, vice president and automotive practice leader at Gartner Inc.. “That would help not just Google but the entire industry.”

Self-driving cars that don’t require a human driver are not yet legal on public roads in the US, so unless Google has inside information regarding an imminent change to the law, its vehicles will only be permitted for use on private property, such as university and business campuses, military bases, or airports.

While Google waits for the law to catch up with new automotive technologies, Uber has invested over $10 billion it has raised in private markets to develop its own fleet of self-driving cars, as well as recruiting a number of autonomous vehicle engineers from Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics program.

Image courtesy of Google.

iPhone Hacker George Hotz Built a Self-Driving Car in His Garage

The man responsible for the first iPhone hack is taking on the big boys from Google and Tesla with his own self-driving car… that he built in his home garage. 26-year-old George Hotz outfitted a white 2016 Acura ILX with a lidar (laser-based radar) system and a rearview-mounted camera, all routed into a Linux- powered computer system housed in the glove box, controlled via joystick, with a 21.5-inch monitor mounted on the dashboard.

Hotz, also known as “geohot” online, is the first person to use hardware to jailbreak an iPhone from former exclusive carrier AT&T and to crack the PlayStation 3. He took Bloomberg Business journalist Ashlee Vance – author of a recent book on Elon Musk – for a test-drive in the homemade automated vehicle.

“The car does, more or less, have it,” Vance reports. “It stays true around the first bend. Near the end of the second, the Acura suddenly veers near an SUV to the right; I think of my soon-to-be-fatherless children; the car corrects itself.”

The self-driving system is designed only to function on highways – chaotic urban roads require more variables to consider, and are thus harder to program for – but this prototype is only the start for Hotz, and he is building his own version of the Mobileye self-driving system that features in Tesla electric cars.

“He’s building a kit consisting of six cameras—similar to the $13 ones found in smartphones—that would be placed around the car,” Vance says. “Two would go inside near the rearview mirror, one in the back, two on the sides to cover blind spots, and a fisheye camera up top. He then trains the control software for the cameras using what’s known as a neural net—a type of self-teaching artificial-intelligence mechanism that grabs data from drivers and learns from their choices. The goal is to sell the camera and software package for $1,000 a pop either to automakers or, if need be, directly to consumers who would buy customized vehicles at a showroom run by Hotz.”

Elon Musk Says Not Having a Self-Driving Car Will be Like Owning a Horse

Elon Musk, the pioneering CEO of electric car company Tesla Motors, has gone all-in on driverless cars, predicting a future in which driving your own car is archaic. Musk told the Wall Street Journal that, in twenty years’ time, any motorist that does not own a self-driving car will be purely out of sentimentality, equating it to still “owning a horse”.

“They will be a factor of 10 safer than a person [at the wheel] in a six-year time frame,” Musk told the Wall Street Journal, echoing statements he made during a recent Tesla earnings conference call that the future of the company will be exclusively autonomous.

“Well, I’m actually on record saying that I think that all cars will go fully autonomous in the long-term,” Musk said. “I think it will be quite unusual to see cars that don’t have full autonomy, let’s say, in 15-20 years. And for Tesla, it will be a lot sooner than that.”

Musk branded any future car without autonomous features as having “negative value,” adding that “in 20 years, if you have a car that isn’t autonomous, it will be like owning a horse. You’re really just owning it for sentimental reasons.”

Tesla has already introduced fledgling autonomy to its Model S electric car with its Autopilot software, which allows drivers to shave and eat while driving.

Robot Cars Will Fill the Roads Within 5 Years Says Google Co-Founder

Driving is so passé. At least, it will be within five years, according to Sergey Brin. Google co-founder Brin claim that autonomously controlled vehicles will become a fixture on our roads in less than a decade follows the rigorous testing the company has forced the Google Car to undergo, with the self-driving vehicle passing with flying colours.

“You can count on one hand the number of years it will take before ordinary people can experience this,” Brin said, speaking at the signing of SB-1298, the Senate Bill which ensures safety and performance standards for autonomous vehicles on California roads and highways.

The bill allows licensed drivers to tested self-driving cars within the state of California, which went through a thorough review and revision process to ensure that safety of passengers travelling in automated vehicles is guaranteed.

So far, the Google Car has clocked up 300,000 miles during the successful testing process, but the company is not resting on its laurels. Though Google has said that it is “encouraged by this progress,” it is determined to keep putting the vehicle through its paces, adding that “there’s still a long road ahead”. Yes, someone really made that pun.

Thank you CNet for providing us with this information.

Human Error to Blame for Self-Driving Car Collisions Says Google

Amid reports of safety problems and road collisions, Google has leapt to the defence of its self-driving car, insisting that human error was to blame, not its automated vehicle. Chris Urmson, Head of the Google Automated Car Program, spoke about the vehicles’ safety record at the Automated Vehicle Symposium in Ypsilanti, Michigan on Wednesday.

“There’s been a lot of noise recently in the press about the fact that our vehicles have been in collisions,” said Urmson, during his during his keynote speech. “We’ve been hit 14 times over the lifetime of the program, and there’s been a bunch of speculation about that.”

Urmson blames the human drivers of the other vehicles for the 14 collisions, attributing the majority of them to the distraction caused by the novelty factor of Google’s self-driving car. He backed up his claim by showing sensor data from the Google cars involved in road accidents, with one video showing a car rear-ending the Google vehicle without applying brakes.

“We see [the accidents] as an illustration of the epidemic of distracted driving,” Urmson said. “[The car] isn’t distracted. It doesn’t worry about missing its first cup of coffee in the morning. It’s going to be paying attention all the time.”

Google’s self-driving cars have, collectively, clocked up around a million miles. Suffering 14 collisions, none of which are the fault of the automated system, is pretty good going.

Thank you Technology Review for providing us with this information.

When Two Robot Cars Meet On A Street

When a car driver pulls out in front of a fellow motorist, you will more often than not be called a variation of the word banker, although to be fair most bankers are called, well as this is eTeknix there described as individuals with little intelligence of risk taking, as this is what I have been told to say by the editor.

But what happens when two robot cars meet each other on a regular everyday street? Wonder no more as on Thursday one robot car decided to cut off another robot vehicle on a San Antonio Road in Palo Alto US. The incident took place between a Google self driving prototype car which decided to cut off a robot car which was operated by Delphi Automotive, forcing the later to change lanes.

Google have been testing a prototype Lexus RX400h crossover which has been adapted to include sensors and cameras which hopefully enables the car to drive itself and allegedly see where it’s going. This tech may need tinkering with after forcing the Audi Q5 crossover which is operated by Delphi to change lanes.

The fail safe to these cars arrives courtesy of a human passenger who is sitting in the car for those occasions when the AI fancy’s a trip through Walmart, or Asda if you’re a reader in the UK. To my mind it just goes to show how advanced a human brain is and how as yet under developed artificial AI is. I am glad these cars are prototypes at this stage; otherwise I would certainly feel less confident pulling up at the traffic lights, only to look to my left and see a robot car who suddenly fancies a race with its owner reclining while playing Mario on the 3DS.

Thank You Reuters for providing us with this information

Image Courtesy of Cosmoso

Google’s Self-Driving Cars In Action! Latest Prototypes Get Road-Tested

Google X, Google’s semi-secret division for developing crazy new technologies, has come out with a brilliant new technological advancement: their first prototype self-driving car. We’re not even talking a normal car that can drive itself under certain scenarios but a car that has been purpose built for self-driving with no ability for the passengers to drive it in any way other than setting the destination. From some perspectives it may seem scary, from others exciting and liberating, but whichever you see it the innovation is impressive.

Google’s prototype self-driving car has nothing on the inside except seats and some seat belts: there’s no steering wheel, pedals, mirrors, backseats or glove compartments. The car is driven by a complex interaction of sensors and 360 degree viewing lasers. The current prototype model is limited to 25 miles an hour with significant foam padding on the sides and front as well as plastic instead of glass, this is to improve the safety of the car in the event of a collision. Another safety feature includes steering and braking redundancy systems, think of it as RAID 1 for cars!

Google plans to build 100-200 prototypes themselves to help develop and advance the technology, maybe a big car manufacturer will jump on-board – who knows! The technology has massive potential with the ability to grant personal mobility to the blind, the disabled and those who are too old or young to drive. Check out the video below for yourself and see what you think!


Source: Google Self-Driving Car Project (YouTube)

Image courtesy of Google

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