Staying on top of autonomous car development is a relentless pursuit of a moving target. News headlines on breakthroughs, key players emerging in various areas of the burgeoning technology, regulatory and insurance implications, consumer acceptance and other important aspects of driverless cars occur daily. Here are some of the latest developments:

Nissan Smart City Concept

Renewables, Driverless Cars Key to Nissan’s Smart-City Concept – Preparing for the future of driving, envisioning a scenario where self-driving cars are the norm and not the exception, Nissan offers its smart-city concept. At the heart of the idea is the incorporation of environmentally-friendly energy regeneration with driverless cars. The system would make use of such technology as vehicle-to-grid, over-the-air connectivity, battery storage, wireless charging and autonomous drive. Nissan also released a video showing cities powered by renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, and excess energy generated stored in the batteries of consumers’ electric cars.

Photo credit: AAA

AAA Study Finds 75% of Drivers Don’t Feel Safe in Driverless Car – The swelling wave toward fully autonomous cars may seem like a sure thing, but don’t tell that to the 75% of drivers surveyed by insurer AAA in January. Granted, most people surveyed want some of the features of autonomous vehicles, tech such as lane departure warning, advanced cruise control, self-parking aids and so on, but they just don’t have that much trust in a car that completely drives itself. Not yet, anyway. The breakdown of those surveyed showed:

  • 80% of baby boomers said they were afraid to ride in a driverless car.
  • Among younger drivers, 69% said they’d fear riding in a self-driving car.
  • 81% of women respondents mentioned concerns with driverless cars.
  • 67% of men reported having concerns with a self-driving car.

Of those who said they wanted some of the features of self-driving cars, 84% cited safety as the main reason. Other motivating factors to purchase a car with some semi-autonomous driving features included convenience, stress reduction and the desire to have the latest technology.

Google Self-Driving Car

Self-Driving Google Car Causes Its First Accident – In the first accident not caused by another driver, a Google self-driving SUV being tested in Mountain View, California hit a bus when it tried to change lanes. The accident happened on Valentine’s Day and the report was just released. The vehicle was traveling at a speed of 2 mph when the incident occurred.

Google blamed sand bags in the road placed around a storm drain as the underlying crash cause, saying the self-driving SUV moved one lane over when it detected the sand bags and thus sideswiped the bus. Google said in the report, “We clearly bear some responsibility, because if the car hadn’t moved, there wouldn’t have been a collision.” The report went on to say that “our test driver believed the bus was going to slow or stop to allow us to merge into the traffic, and that there would be sufficient space to do that.”

Allstate logo

Allstate Acknowledges Potential Threat from Driverless Cars – In its 2015 annual report, Allstate, the Northbrook, Illinois-based auto insurer, cites the potential risk to its business posed by driverless cars. The company is also worried that cars that are increasingly connected could become vulnerable to hacking, if not now, at least eventually.

King Abdullah Economic City-Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Economic City to Accommodate Driverless Cars – Originally announced in 2005, the master plans for the megaproject King Abdullah Economic City are now being redrawn in order to accommodate driverless cars. Development is underway on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Coast, with about 40 projects completed to date.

The chief executive Fahd Al Rasheed said that they’re currently reviewing the master plan “to assess the economic and political implications such as autonomous automobiles and the increasing prevalence of the Internet of Things.” Advantages for cities with driverless cars include smoother traffic, shorter commutes, less parking required and more space for higher-value real estate. Driverless cars can self-park, and parking spaces can be narrower since there’s no need for a driver to open the door.

5 Principles That Will Help Make Driverless Cars a Success – While technology continues in the self-driving cars arena, the reality of driverless cars is still a long way off. According to Anand Shah, vice president, and Theodore Waddelow, analyst, the Albright Stonebridge Group, there are five principles that should inform policy in order to make self-driving cars a success:

  1. Positive, or at least neutral, environmental impact of driverless cars.
  2. Increased affordability and created value of autonomous technologies for those who are otherwise underserved by transit alternatives.
  3. Reduction in money spent on transportation infrastructure.
  4. Safer communities as a result of driverless car implementation and use.
  5. Rewards in the form of increased time (lost to traffic congestion) and property (regaining prime real estate currently lost to parking lots).

Baidu Autonomous Car-Photo-Tech in Asia

Baidu Intensifies Drive for Driverless Cars – Chinese Internet giant Baidu is increasing investment in patents and ratcheting up field tests in its goal of developing self-driving cars, reports the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Baidu’s CEO Robin Li said that artificial intelligence (AI) in one area of strategic direction the company is heavily invested in and will “continue to be an increasing core for Baidu innovations.”

Li said that the company has applied for many patents in pursuit of AI technology, which he noted is in its early stages. Baidu has a few self-driving cars currently undergoing testing, according to the WSJ report.

Ford Patent for Windshield Movie Screen

Ford Patents Windshield Movie Screen for Autonomous Cars – In the future (although who knows how soon this will be), while you’re in your self-driving car, why not kick back and watch a movie? Ford Motor Company envisions such a scenario and just patented a windshield movie screen for autonomous vehicles. In Ford’s patent, this is accomplished with a 50-inch drop-down projector screen. The movie or video content could also be transferred to other, smaller screens – like the dashboard display – when the driver is in control of the vehicle. According to Ford, however, the company submits all kinds of innovative ideas for patents in order to protect them, but this doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an immediate product plan for a windshield movie screen.


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