Scale to launch a mapping product to address the changing needs of its autonomous driving customers

Solving the varied challenges that arise in autonomous driving is an incredibly complex task, but even attempting to get started means ensuring you have quality data that’s accurate and well-annotated. That’s where Scale comes in, having identified early on that the AV industry would require annotation of huge swaths of data, including specialized LiDAR imaging. Now, co-founder and CEO Alex Wang tells me at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 (ExtraCrunch subscription required) that it’s moving into mapping with a new product that’s coming later this month.

“Our role has continued to evolve,” Wang said, regarding how it works with its transportation industry partners, which include Toyota among many others. “You know, as we work with our customers, and we solved one problem for them around data and annotational data labeling, you know, it turns out they they come to us with other problems that we can then help solve as well around data management, we launched a product called Nucleus for that. A lot of our customers are thinking a lot about mapping, and how to deploy with more robust maps. So we’re built a product, I’m going to announce that probably later this month, but we’re helping to address that problem with our customers.”

Despite my prodding, Wang wouldn’t provide any specifics, but he did go into more detail about the challenges of mapping, and what’s lacking in existing maps available to companies working on integrating those with AV systems that include other signals, like sensor fusion and vehicle-to-infrastructure components.

“I think a big question for the overall space has been that historically, the industry has relied very, very heavily on mapping — we relied very, very heavily on very highquality, high definition maps,” he said. “The tricky thing about the world is that sometimes these maps are wrong, and how do you deal with that? […] How do you deal with kind of this challenge of robustness, or updates. Even, if you think about it, Google Maps, which is the best mapping infrastructure in the world, by a huge margin, you know they don’t update quickly enough for [human] drivers.”

Wang said that the challenge isn’t all that different from the one that Scale has been actively solving for most of its existence, which is that of the data flywheel. With autonomous driving, it’s of utmost importance to be able to collect and annotate data quickly and accurately, which results in ever better collection and annotation of future data, and more reliability for the assumptions the system is making about its environment.

“Figuring out how to deal with the real-time nature of how the world changes, is one really big, one really big component,” he said. While we still have to wait to see what exactly Scale has planned, it seems safe to assume that it’s all about building confidence in maps and mapping accuracy as a key ingredient in whatever they launch.

#autonomous-driving, #event-recap, #mapping, #mobility-2021, #tc, #transportation

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Self-driving Waymo trucks to haul loads between Houston and Fort Worth

Will Waymo's autonomous truck honk its horn for little kids on the freeway?

Enlarge / Will Waymo’s autonomous truck honk its horn for little kids on the freeway? (credit: Waymo)

On Thursday morning, Waymo announced that it is working with trucking company JB Hunt to autonomously haul cargo loads in Texas. Class 8 JB Hunt trucks equipped with the autonomous driving software and hardware system called Waymo Driver will operate on I-45 in Texas, taking cargo between Houston and Fort Worth.

However, the trucks will still carry humans—a trained truck driver and Waymo technicians—to supervise and take over if necessary.

Although Waymo is better known for the autonomous taxi service it operates in a suburb of Phoenix, the company started experimenting with adding its autonomous technology to freight haulers several years ago. And in 2018, it began testing those trucks in the Atlanta area. What makes today’s news more notable is the partnership with a major truck operator.

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#autonomous-driving, #cars, #class-8-truck, #freight, #jb-hunt, #self-driving, #truck-freight, #waymo

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Waymo and JB Hunt partner to bring autonomous trucks to Texas in new pilot

Waymo will be moving freight for a major customer of transportation logistics company J.B. Hunt Transport Services under what the two companies are calling a “test run” that will take place in one of the country’s busiest trade corridors.

Waymo Via, the company’s trucking and cargo transportation service, will transport goods along Interstate 45 between Houston and Fort Worth, Texas. The trucks will be powered by the Waymo Driver autonomous platform, though a Waymo “autonomous specialists,” a commercially-licensed truck driver and a software technician will be riding in each truck to monitor the operations.

This is not the first time J.B. Hunt and Waymo, an Alphabet subsidiary, have worked together. It seems the companies have been preparing for a trial deployment of autonomous trucks for some time.

“We’ve also worked closely with J.B. Hunt for some time now on operational and market studies and will continue to do so as we roll out autonomous driving technology,” Waymo said in a blog post. “We’ve explored topics such as best practices for regular maintenance, what future facility layouts will look like, and which lanes are best suited for autonomous driving technology, to help ensure long-term preparedness on both sides.”

Waymo declined to share with TechCrunch the specific number of trucks that will be used for the test run, but a spokesperson said that it will be a limited duration pilot “with the goal of jointly developing a long term plan for how our companies can work together.”

Waymo Driver is a Level 4 platform, meaning that it could theoretically operate without a human safety driver behind the wheel, but only under certain conditions (like clear weather).

The autonomous driving company has also partnered with Daimler Trucks to equip Daimler freightliners with the Waymo Driver. That’s in addition to partnerships with Volvo to develop electric robotaxis, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for autonomous cargo vans.

#automotive, #autonomous-driving, #autonomous-transportation, #autonomous-trucking, #autonomous-trucks, #transportation, #waymo

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Motional CEO hints at an autonomous future in logistics

Motional, the $4 billion joint venture between Aptiv and Hyundai, is exploring the company’s potential involvement in autonomous trucking or logistics, its CEO said today during a live session at TechCrunch’s 2021 Mobility Event.

“The beauty of what’s on the other side of the coin is that the same core technology can of course apply to multiple use cases,” said Karl Iagnemma on the panel led by TechCrunch transportation editor Kirsten Korosec, who asked about Motional’s intention to expand its business model into trucking. “It’s similar, it’s not the same, but it’s similar. And so we are actively exploring other use cases. We will have additional activity in this area. We don’t have anything to announce today. But more to come.”

While Motional still believes the biggest economic opportunity comes from solving the hard technological problems of autonomy in the service of moving people, AKA the robotaxi model, Iagnemma recognized the same hard problems — perception, planning, decision making, localization — lie at the core of autonomy, whether that’s moving people or parcels.

“We’re looking for a great business opportunity that has the closest adjacency from a technical perspective to the stack that we’re currently developing,” said Iagnemma, responding to what is most appealing in the delivery and logistics model. “That’s really what it boils down to. These different use cases have, in some cases, quite dramatically different business cases around them, the opportunity looks quite different. And so that helps us score rank order internally. What presents an interesting opportunity? And then again, we tried to align that toward our current technology development path to say, hey, this would be the least incremental effort for the biggest incremental opportunity. That’s how we sort of guide our strategy, internally at Motional.”

For his part, Chris Urmson, co-founder and CEO of autonomous vehicle company Aurora, and the other panelist on the session, admitted that ride-hailing and moving people with automated vehicles will ultimately be both a transformational business and one that surpasses trucking in the long term. Aurora is currently focused on freight applications, rather than robotaxi, for a number of reasons, including the ability to scale now.

“[The robotaxi] market will take time to evolve, whereas the freight and trucking market is here today,” said Urmson.

Both panelists agreed that there’s no low-hanging fruit in the autonomous world. The problem of self-driving vehicles is difficult to solve, but Urmson argues it’s perhaps a bit easier to solve with trucking, where you don’t have to reckon with the amount of variability in the road network of a city. Building an autonomous stack to drive on freeways is easier due to their mostly uniform nature.

“So once you crack the initial nut of having the technology working in that operational defined design domain, the rollout moves from a technological expansion to an operational expansion,” said Urmson. “And that looks more like kind of a conventional business. So we think that’s a way to be scaling the business and operations and generating the revenue stream that allows us to then go and really take that core technology and apply it into ride hailing and build an exciting business in that space as well.”

#aurora, #autonomous-driving, #autonomous-vehicles, #logistics, #motional, #tc, #transportation

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What would you pay for autonomous driving? Volkswagen hopes $8.50 per hour

A yellow VW bus concept car drives past the beach, with surfboards on its roof

Enlarge / This one is destined to go on sale in 2023. You can watch a short video we made about it back in 2017. (credit: Volkswagen)

The future of driving may cost you $8.50 per hour if Volkswagen follows through on its boardroom musings.

The German automaker is considering charging an hourly fee for access to autonomous driving features once those features are ready. The company is also exploring a range of subscription features for its electric vehicles, including “range or performance” increases that can be purchased on an hourly or daily basis, said Thomas Ulbrich, a Volkswagen board member, to the German newspaper Die Welt. Ulbrich said the first subscription features will appear in the second quarter of 2022 in vehicles based on Volkswagen’s MEB platform, which underpins the company’s new ID.3 compact car and ID.4 crossover.

The executive said that Volkswagen will also offer video games in cars, similar to Tesla’s arcade. “In the charging breaks, even if they only last 15 minutes, we want to offer customers something,” Ulbrich said. He said the automaker wouldn’t be developing the games themselves, and it’s not clear whether they’ll come preinstalled or be available for purchase through an app store.

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#autonomous-driving, #cariad, #cars, #subscriptions, #volkswagen

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Verizon and Honda want to use 5G and edge computing to make driving safer

Honda and Verizon are researching how 5G and mobile edge computing might improve safety for today’s connected vehicles and the future’s autonomous ones. 

The two companies, which announced the partnership Thursday, are piloting different safety scenarios at the University of Michigan’s Mcity, a test bed for connected and autonomous vehicles. The aim of the venture is to study how 5G connectivity coupled with edge computing could allow for faster communication between cars, pedestrians and infrastructure. The upshot: faster communication could allow cars to avoid collisions and hazards and find safer routes. [TechCrunch is owned by Verizon Media, which is itself owned by Verizon]

The 5G testing is in its preliminary research phase and Honda doesn’t intend to implement this new technology as a product feature just yet. The companies do have plans to test 5G-enabled vehicles on public roads in at least four cities this year, according to Brian Peebles, Verizon’s senior manager of technology development and one of the leads on the project.  

This partnership builds off of Honda’s onboard SAFE SWARM AI technology, which the automaker began developing in 2017. That technology uses Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything, or C-V2X communication, which does what the name implies and lets vehicles communicate with other road users.

We’ve seen similar tech before with Dedicated Short Range Communications which requires cell towers to communicate between vehicles. V2X and 5G have the advantage of being able to communicate device-to-device, not to mention endorsement by the FCC.

“Traditionally, with V2X, the cars talk to each other,” Dr. Ehsan Moradi Pari, research group lead at Honda’s advanced technology research division told TechCrunch. “They provide their information, like their location, speed and other sensor information, and the car does a threat assessment, like whether I’m going to collide with another car. What this [5G and MEC] technology offers is that we all provide our information to the network, and the network tells me if there is a potential for an accident or not.”

Honda and Verizon’s premise is that the technology can handle communication far faster than a car’s computer. Instead of relying on a car’s less capable computer to do the work, information generated from connected cars, people and infrastructure is sent up into the 5G network. The computations are then done at the edge of network (meaning not in the cloud) in real time.

The payoff: a car relying on sensors and software might be able to understand a driver is about to hit something and hit the breaks, but the MEC can almost see into the future by checking out and communicating what’s happening farther down the road. 

One of the safety scenarios that Verizon and Honda tested was a red light runner. Using data from smart cameras, MEC and V2X software they were able to detect the vehicle running a red light and send a visual warning message to other vehicles approaching the intersection. They tested similar scenarios to warn drivers or vehicles about a pedestrian obscured by a building and an oncoming emergency vehicle whose sirens are drowned out by the car’s loud music. 

“Ensuring real-time communication among all road users will play a critical role in an automated driving environment,” said Pari. “Through these connected safety technologies, we can develop vehicle systems that detect potential dangerous situations in real time to warn the driver or automated system.”

While this initial research stage involves making human-driven vehicles safer, the Honda-Verizon partnership might eventually lay the groundwork for the use of 5G in future autonomous vehicles. If testing proves out, connected vehicles would be safer and could lead to a more efficient network that smooths out traffic congestion and reduces air pollution. 

“We’re primarily doing this to promote vehicle safety and human safety,” Peebles told TechCrunch. “There are over 42,000 people a year in the United States alone that are killed in automobile accidents, and another two million are injured. Technology is becoming more crucial as we undergo an evolution of human drivers, so as that transition happens, we need to do it in a safe and orchestrated manner, such that everything is working together.”

Autonomous vehicles being tested on public roads today don’t require 5G or edge computing. While autonomous vehicle companies are eyeing what might be possible with 5G, the vehicles they’re developing are based on present-day technology.

There are headwinds to this 5G-MEC combination. This level of interconnectivity only works if there are sensors on every highway and every intersection. Many 5G-enabled vehicles and devices will be able to communicate with one another, but they can only communicate with pedestrians or infrastructure if smart cameras are clocking them and sharing that info with the network. And sensors are not perfect.

That would require a huge infrastructure investment as well as public acceptance and cooperation with states, cities and localities to install all of the necessary sensors. However, one might look to China as a use case. The country has a national policy to move rapidly over to a 5G network, and many Chinese autonomous driving companies are finding this type of connectivity and computational power essential to development.

#5g, #5g-network, #automotive, #autonomous-driving, #honda, #mcity, #self-driving-cars, #tc, #transportation, #university-of-michigan, #verizon

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TuSimple’s IPO filing reveals roadblocks for self-driving startups with Chinese ties

While the governments of the United States and China are pushing policies for technological decoupling, private tech firms continue to tap resources from both sides. In the field of autonomous vehicles, it’s common to see Chinese startups — or startups with a strong Chinese link — keep operations and seek investments in both countries.

But as these companies mature and expand globally, their ties to China also come under increasing scrutiny.

When TuSimple, a self-driving truck company headquartered in San Diego, filed for an initial public offering on Nasdaq this week, its prospectus flagged a regulatory risk due to its Chinese funding source.

On March 1, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) requested a written notice from TuSimple regarding an investment by Sun Dream, an affiliate of Sina Corporation, which runs China’s biggest microblogging platform Sina Weibo. Sun Dream is TuSimple’s largest shareholder with 20% Class A shares. Charles Chao and Bonnie Yi Zhang, respectively the CEO and CFO of Weibo, are both members of TuSimple’s board.

If the U.S. government concludes that Sun Dream’s investment poses a threat to the national security of the country, the investor may be told to divest from TuSimple, the filing notes.

Several China-based autonomous driving upstarts, including WeRide.ai, Pony.ai and AutoX, keep research labs in California and have secured regulatory permits to test in the U.S., but most don’t seem to have apparent commercial plans in the country.

TuSimple, on the other hand, is focused on the U.S. for now, with 50 of its Level 4 semi-trucks hauling in the U.S. and 20 operating in China.

“Their strong Chinese background could hobble their U.S.-focused strategy,” an executive from a Chinese autonomous vehicle startup told TechCrunch, asking not to be named.

TuSimple cannot comment because it’s in the pre-IPO quiet period.

This kind of roadblock is hardly new to China-related tech firms coveting the U.S. market (or its allies). In a more famous instance, CFIUS opened a national security probe into ByteDance’s $1 billion acquisition of Musical.ly, which was folded into TikTok. As of last December, the agency was “engaging with ByteDance” to complete a divestment, Reuters reported.

While self-driving ventures can divest to shed their Chinese association, it may be more complicated to achieve short-term supply chain independence in an industry with tight global ties, as an executive from Momenta pointed out.

#artificial-intelligence, #asia, #autonomous-driving, #china, #self-driving, #tc, #transportation, #tusimple

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Tesla’s China rival Xpeng to use lidar sensors from DJI affiliate Livox

The battle is heating up between Tesla and its Chinese challenger Xpeng as the latter makes clearer its stance on the future of autonomous driving. Over the weekend, Xpeng, which counts Xiaomi and Alibaba among its investors, announced that it will be using lidar sensors from Livox, a startup with closes ties to the Chinese drone giant DJI.

The choice of remote sensing technology lidar and a Chinese supplier reflects the complexities of the U.S.-China tech war. Tesla has accused Xpeng of intellectual property theft, a claim that the Chinese electric vehicle maker repeatedly denied. In a turn that surprises some industry experts, Xpeng said it will be adding lidar to its mass-produced autonomous cars in 2021, a strategy that would differentiate it from Tesla. Having seen Xpeng’s announcement, Elon Musk scoffed that Xpeng lacks Tesla’s technology.

Musk has long dismissed the use of lidar in autonomous driving, calling the technology “expensive sensors that are unnecessary.” Instead, Tesla relies on neural network training and camera-enabled visual recognition for its autonomous vehicles. Some Chinese players agree with Musk’s vision. Daimler-backed Momenta, for instance, is betting on less expensive millimeter-wave radars and high-definition cameras.

Xpeng already utilizes several sources to collect data: camera, millimeter-wave radar, ultrasonic, among other sensors. The addition of lidar, it says, will “provide a greater level of safety redundancy,” which allows a self-driving car to continue operating even when the primary system component fails, “by allowing more accurate imaging of the road situation.” Lidar will also “enhance target detection, measurement accuracy, performance in low ambient light and other challenging perception conditions,” the company claims.

The choice of Livox is also intriguing. There are mature foreign options such as Velodyne and Luminar, but Xpeng’s pick is expected given the Chinese government’s push for technological autonomy in key industries. In China, Livox faces some strong opponents like Hesai, which is backed by Bosch and Chinese search giant Baidu, and Robosense, which has fundings from state-backed carmakers BAIC and SAIC.

Livox itself was founded as an “independent company” in 2016 through DJI’s internal incubation program, according to the startup’s own description. One of its selling points has been to lower the price point of lidar, which the company claims is made possible by its unique optoelectronic scanning method.

The foray into autonomous driving is fitting as DJI has been pivoting to B2B businesses like agriculture drones. But the giant’s relationship with the lidar startup remains mystic, at least from the public viewpoint. Livox’s company boilerplate states it is “backed by DJI’s deep expertise in sensor innovation and hardware manufacturing” and its products are sold through DJI’s official retail store. Other than that, it hasn’t addressed whether DJI holds any equity in it or has controlling power over its management.

As it turns out, Livox is “just a team within DJI, which was later positioned as a separate company” while enjoying access to DJI resources including manufacturing and supply chain “just like another product brand,” a person with knowledge of the matter told TechCrunch.

One possible motive for Livox’s deliberate distancing from DJI is to avoid potential scrutiny from the U.S. government, which sees lidar as a key area in the tech war with China, the person said. DJI was recently added to the U.S. government’s trade blacklist, which has sanctioned other Chinese tech titans like Huawei and SenseTime from accessing key components from U.S. suppliers. Frank Wang, founder and chief executive of DJI, is also believed to want less public attention.

Livox and DJI couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

#artificial-intelligence, #asia, #automotive, #autonomous-driving, #dji, #elon-musk, #lidar, #livox, #tc, #tesla, #transportation, #xpeng

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Chinese autonomous driving startup WeRide bags $200M in funding

WeRide, one of China’s most-funded startups developing autonomous driving capabilities, said on Wednesday that it has raised a $200 million strategic round from Chinese bus maker Yutong.

Mega investments aren’t uncommon at companies like WeRide developing the next-generation level 4 driving standard, which denotes that the car can handle the majority of driving situations independently without human intervention.

WeRide did not disclose its valuation for this round, which is the first tranche of its Series B round, a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.

The new funding will see WeRide joining hands with Yutong, a 57-year-old company, to make autonomous driving minibusses and city buses as well as work on R&D, vehicle platforms and mobility services together. The partners have already jointly developed a front-loaded driverless minibus for mass-production. The model, which comes without a steering wheel, accelerator or brakes, is designed for operating in urban open roads, said WeRide

Alliance Ventures, the strategic venture capital arm of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, became WeRide’s strategic investor in 2018 following the completion of the startup’s Series A round, which was partially funded by the Chinese facial recognition giant SenseTime.

Autonomous driving startups in China are racing to showcase their progress, in part to attract funding for their cash-bleeding businesses. Alibaba-backed AutoX, for instance, began deploying driverless cars on the roads in Shenzhen in a bold move. WeRide and its rivals are testing various levels of autonomous driving vehicles in both the United States and major Chinese cities where local policies are supporting the futurist transportation tech.

“Capital’s attitude is shifting and increasingly bullish about autonomous driving and its commercial future following the COVID-19 pandemic [in China]. Many investments are happening in this space because investors don’t want to miss out on any potential leaders in autonomous driving,” the WeRide spokesperson said. “Our Series B round has attracted a lot of interest.”

WeRide’s competitors include Pony.ai in its backyard Guangzhou, AutoX and Deeproute.ai in Shenzhen, Momenta in Suzhou, Baidu in Beijing, to name a few.

#artificial-intelligence, #asia, #autonomous-driving, #transportation

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Horizon Robotics, a Chinese rival to Nvidia, seeks to raise over $700M

In their rush to offer alternatives to advanced western chipsets, Chinese semiconductor companies are racking up large fundings from investors. Horizon Robotics, a five-year-old unicorn specializing in AI chips for robots and autonomous vehicles, announced Tuesday that it has secured $150 million in funding.

The proceeds are the first close of an over $700 million Series C round that Horizon is seeking to raise. The partial funding is jointly led by prominent investors 5Y Capital (formerly Morningside Venture Capital), Hillhouse Capital, and Capital Today. Chinese brokerage Guotai Junan’s international arm and KTB.

The round arrived less than two years after Horizon completed its $600 million Series B round, which valued the firm at $3 billion post-money and saw the participation of prominent Korean financiers including SK China, the China subsidiary of conglomerate SK Group, and SK Hynix, SK’s semiconductor unit.

The startup, founded by a Baidu veteran, raised its Series A round of over $100 million led by Intel Capital in late 2017.

 

With the fresh capital, Horizon plans to hasten the development and commercialization of its automotive chips and autonomous driving solutions. It also aims to build an “open ecosystem” for industry partners.

For the past couple of years, China has been striving to wean dependence on western chip giants in sectors ranging from smartphones to vehicles. Local startups like Horizon Robotics and Black Sesame Technologies, as well as telecoms titan Huawei, are pouring resources into autonomous driving processors, hoping to match or overtake the technologies from Nvidia and Intel’s Mobileye.

Horizon’s OEM and Tier 1 auto partners, according to the firm, include Audi, Bosch, Continental, SAIC Motor and BYD.

75% of China’s ADAS (advanced driver-assistance system)-equipped cars and Level 3 (autonomous driving under certain circumstances) vehicles will be supported by Chinese suppliers by 2030, up from 20% in 2019, investment bank CITIC Securities projects.

#artificial-intelligence, #automotive, #autonomous-driving, #chips, #horizon-robotics

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Waymo is working on autonomous Ram ProMaster Vans for goods deliveries

Could the stereotype of "<a href=white van man” come to an end once Waymo integrates its tech into the Ram ProMaster van?”/>

Enlarge / Could the stereotype of “white van man” come to an end once Waymo integrates its tech into the Ram ProMaster van? (credit: FCA)

Late on Tuesday night, Waymo and Fiat Chryler Automobiles announced that they are strengthening the partnership between the two companies that began back in 2016. Waymo will be FCA’s sole autonomous driving technology partner for developing so-called L4 (geofenced or otherwise operational design domain-limited autonomous driving) technology. Additionally, Waymo and FCA are going to develop autonomous Ram ProMaster commercial vans for driverless deliveries.

“With this next step, deepening our relationship with the very best technology partner in this space, we’re turning to the needs of our commercial customers by jointly enabling self-driving for light commercial vehicles, starting with the Ram ProMaster. Adding Waymo’s commitment to partner with us to deploy its L4 fully autonomous technology across our entire product portfolio, our partnership is setting the pace for the safe and sustainable mobility solutions that will help define the automotive world in the years and decades to come,” said FCA CEO Mike Manley in a statement.

“FCA was our first OEM partner and we’ve come a long way together. Today, we’re expanding our partnership with FCA with the Waymo Driver as the exclusive L4 autonomy solution for this global automotive company. Together, we’ll introduce the Waymo Driver throughout the FCA brand portfolio, opening up new frontiers for ride-hailing, commercial delivery and personal-use vehicles around the world,” said Waymo CEO John Krafcik.

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#autonomous-driving, #cars, #commercial-vehicles, #fca, #ram, #stellantis, #waymo

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Elon Musk rails against German court decision on Tesla Autopilot terminology

Tesla CEO Elon Musk disputed a German court ruling issued today that bans the company from using terms like Autopilot or “full potential for autonomous driving” on its website or other advertising.

In a tweet, Musk said “Tesla Autopilot was literally named after the term used in aviation. Also, what about Autobahn!?”

The Wettbewerbszentrale, an industry sponsored organization that focuses on anti-competitive practices, brought the case to the German courts, arguing that the terms mislead the public as to the capabilities of Tesla’s advanced driver assistant system.

Tesla vehicles come standard with Autopilot, an advanced driver assistance system that offers a combination of adaptive cruise control and lane steering. The more robust and higher-functioning version of Autopilot is called full self-driving, or FSD, which includes the parking feature Summon as well as Navigate on Autopilot, an active guidance system that navigates a car from a highway on-ramp to off-ramp, including interchanges and making lane changes. The system now recognizes and responds to traffic lights, as well.

Still, Tesla vehicles are not self-driving cars. The system requires a human driver to remain engaged at all times.

Wettbewerbszentrale also noted that Tesla’s announcements on its website imply that automated driving will work on city streets by the end of the year, which misrepresents the reality that some of the functions mentioned are still not legally permitted in Germany.

A Munich court agreed.

And while Musk might disagree, it’s unclear if he will direct Tesla to appeal the ruling. Tesla has not issued any official statements nor has the company responded to a request for comment. TechCrunch will update the article if Tesla responds.

This is not the first time that the terms Autopilot and FSD have sparked criticism and controversy. Over the years, organizations, players within the auto industry and the media have raised questions about the use of Autopilot and FSD for a system that provides Level 2 driver assistance.

This ruling is more than just a strongly worded remark. It carries weight and now raises the stakes for Tesla and how it brands or describes the ADAS on its vehicles in Germany. It could prompt other European countries, which tend to have stricter regulations about advertising, to follow suit.

#automotive, #autonomous-driving, #tc, #tesla, #transportation

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Amazon to acquire autonomous driving startup Zoox

Amazon has announced that it will acquire Zoox, a self-driving startup founded in 2014, which has raised nearly $1 billion in funding and which aims to develop autonomous driving technology, including vehicles, for the purposes of providing a full-stack solution for ride-hailing.

Zoox will continue to exist as a standalone business according to Amazon’s announcement, with current CEO Aicha Evans continuing in her role, as well as CTO and co-founder Jesse Levinson. Their overall company mission will also remain the same, the release notes. The Financial Time reports that the deal is worth $1.2 billion.

The Wall Street Journal had reported at the end of May that Amazon was looking at Zoox as a potential acquisition target, and that the deal had reached the advanced stages.

Zoox has chosen one of the most expensive possible paths in the autonomous driving industry, seeking to build a fit-for-purpose self-driving passenger vehicle from the ground up, along with the software and AI ended to provide its autonomous driving capabilities. Zoox has done some notable cost cutting in the past year, and it brought in CEO Evans in early 2019 from Intel, likely with an eye towards leveraging her experience to help the company move towards commercialization.

With a deep-pocketed parent like Amazon, Zoox should gain the runway it needs to keep up with its primary rival – Waymo, which originated as Google’s self-driving car project, and which counts Google owner Alphabet as its corporate owner.

Amazon has been working on its own autonomous vehicle technology projects, including its last-mile delivery robots, which are six-wheeled sidewalk-treading bots designed to carry small packages to customer homes. The company has also invested in autonomous driving startup Aurora, and it has tested self-driving trucks powered by self-driving freight startup Embark.

The Zoox acquisition is specifically aimed at helping the startup “bring their vision of autonomous ride-hailing to reality,” according to Amazon, so this doesn’t look to be immediately focused on Amazon’s logistics operations for package delivery. But Zoox’s ground-up technology, which includes developing zero-emission vehicles built specifically for autonomous use, could easily translate to that side of Amazon’s operations.

Meanwhile, if Zoox really does remain on course for passenger ride-hailing, that could open up a whole new market for Amazon – one which would put it head-to-head with Uber and Lyft once the autonomous driving technology matures.

#amazon, #artificial-intelligence, #autonomous-driving, #self-driving, #tc, #transportation, #zoox

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