Want to stay on top of what’s happening in the fast-changing world of autonomous vehicles? We’ve made it easier with this list culled from the latest news updates on self-driving cars.
Toyota Establishes Third Research Institute in Ann Arbor, MI – Toyota Research Institute (TRI) will add a third facility in the U.S. when TRI Ann Arbor (TRI-ANN) opens in June 2016 with a target staff of 50. The Ann Arbor location is near the University of Michigan campus, the university’s Mcity, and the Mobility Transformation Center (which Toyota sponsors). The promise of the future American Center for Mobility at Willow Run and two well-established Toyota Technical Centers nearby also factored into the Japanese company’s decision to establish TRI-ANN in Ann Arbor. Each of the three TRIs have a different focus. TRI-ANN will primarily center on the fully autonomous (chauffeured) driver. TRI-PAL (Palo Alto, CA) will work on the “guardian angel” approach (where the driver is always engaged, but the vehicle assists as needed). Work at TRI-CAM (Cambridge, MA) will be largely dedicated to simulation and deep learning.
Florida Aims to be at Forefront of Autonomous Vehicle Adoption – Already being tested on streets in California, Arizona, Texas and Washington, autonomous vehicles (called AVs, as well as driverless cars and self-driving cars) have also operated on the Selman Expressway in Tampa, Florida. State Sen. Jeff Brandes, sponsor of legislation to speed up safe development, testing and operation of AVs in Florida sees a bright future ahead. The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority has applied for a $12 maximum grant to design an AV roadway system. At the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research, there’s an Automated Vehicle Institute. Furthermore, legislation passed in the spring session and recently signed by the state’s governor requires metropolitan planning organizations to consider AV technology going forward.
San Diego Readies for Self-Driving Cars – Meanwhile, in Southern California’s San Diego, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), a regional planning agency, is moving forward with plans to integrate autonomous or connected cars onto roads in the coming decades. SANDAG said that the 30 miles of express, carpool and bus lanes it has already built on the I-5, I-15 and I-805 could double as driverless car testing grounds. The agency won’t stop there: It’s going to spend another $21.2 billion by 2050 to build 160 miles more of those lanes. SANDAG is working with planning agencies in Los Angeles and Sacramento and the Bay Area to figure out ways to incorporate the technology and SANDAG says they may collectively hire a firm to help them plan.
Volvo Cars Readies Drive Me Autonomous Car Test in China, US Later – Swedish automaker Volvo is finalizing plans to test 100 self-driving cars in China, making this the largest test of driverless cars in that country. Volvo expects the experiment to involve up to 100 cars in the coming months. Vehicles will be tested on everyday roads in public driving conditions. Volvo says the introduction of autonomous driving cars promises to revolutionize roads in China in four main areas: safety, congestion, pollution and time saving. In addition, according to a report in Automotive News, Volvo Car’s CEO of North America Lex Kerssemakers said the company will launch an autonomous driving project in the United States, although that will be some time after the Drive Me Project in Gothenburg, Sweden that launches in late 2017.
Infrastructure Problems Confuse Driverless Cars – A report from the U.S. Department of Transportation says that poor infrastructure on American roads is confusing to driverless cars. Such things as potholes and hard-to-see road dividing lines make it difficult for the self-driving car to discern or sense what it needs to in order to drive safely autonomously. This is particularly true in the San Francisco Bay area where many companies are currently testing driverless cars. But the Department of Transportation report also cited the fact that an estimated 65 percent of roads in this country are in poor condition. For its part, Google said that it is able to safely test its driverless cars because its technology is not affected by these problems.
2017 Ford Fusion Offers Semi-Autonomous Technology – While not a full-fledged self-driving car, the 2017 Ford Fusion, out this spring, offers a new stop-and-go technology that piggybacks on the existing adaptive cruise control feature to allow drivers to experience less stress on the road. Once activated, the stop-and-go technology automatically accelerates and brakes according to road conditions, without driver input. The technology automatically maintains a safe distance from the vehicle ahead.
In addition, optional Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection provides audible and visual driver warning when the system detects a potential collision, pre-charges the brakes, and can automatically provide full braking if the driver fails to react in time. The 2017 Ford Fusion is the first Ford in North America available with adaptive cruise control with stop and go and Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection. The semi-autonomous technology will be available across the Fusion lineup, including Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi, and will be added to three new Ford vehicles in the next two years.
Ford Fusion AV Can Drive in Complete Darkness – In more Ford news, the Dearborn, MI automaker has overcome a major hurdle in driverless car technology: Its Fusion AV is able to operate in total darkness. Ford tested the driverless Fusion prototype in March in Arizona on a closed course previously mapped out to enable the car to localize or orient itself in the dark. The driverless Fusion traveled up to 60 mph and navigated curvy roads successfully. Ford is using sophisticated LiDAR technology with an Ultra Puck device from Velodyne.
General Motors Buys Cruise Automation – Striving to be nimbler and quicker to market with autonomous vehicles, General Motors acquired startup Cruise Automation, a deal said to be worth north of $1 billion in cash and stock. The San Francisco firm developed a system to retrofit existing vehicles with autonomous-driving software. The Cruise RP-1 system puts vehicles in autopilot mode on the highway. According to Cruise, it was designed to be compatible with certain Audi vehicles, but not new cars.
Feds Hope to Cut Red Tape on Self-Driving Cars – U.S. regulators released a report in early March citing potential conflicts between federal rules that currently exist governing self-driving cars and driverless vehicles – such as those being developed by Google – that lack a steering wheel, pedals or other controls for drivers. In an effort to cut red tape, the U.S. officials say they’ll focus on advising individual states on autonomous cars instead of undertaking a lengthy rulemaking process for federal standards that could be outdated by quickly emerging technology in the field.