Company / division: Toyota
Toyota, Ericsson, Intel, NTT, and other companies have formed a consortium to figure out ways to manage the massive explosion of data that will be generated by cars over the coming years. As cars become more autonomous, they will need to gather enormously more data from cameras, radar, LIDAR, and other sensors and transmit at least a subset of that data over networks to central repositories for processing and analysis. That, in turn, is going to require some big decisions about which data to process locally, what needs to be sent over the air, and how much and which data to store on an ongoing basis in both locations. Since carmakers like Toyota don’t really have much experience with that kind of thing, network infrastructure vendor Ericsson and chip vendor Intel among others are going to work together with them to figure some of this stuff out, and have left the door open for others to join their effort in future. Notably absent from this initiative are other big automotive chip vendors like Nvidia, any cloud service companies beyond Japan’s NTT, or mapping companies like HERE, and given the strong roles they’re playing or likely to play in this area, the consortium does need to add additional members (including ones who compete with the founding members) if it’s to make real headway here.
Toyota’s approach to autonomous driving strikes me as exactly the right one – as this article briefly explains, it’s approaching the problem from two different perspectives, one of which is about improving existing ADAS systems within the cars we’re driving today and in the near future, with the other being focused on Level 4 and 5 autonomy. I continue to be very skeptical that any car company is going to work its way incrementally and smoothly through the levels from 2 to 3 to 4, and believe much more strongly that we’re going to see a Big Bang shift from Level 2 to Level 4, which means that transition is likely to take quite some time. That doesn’t mean things like cruise control, self parking and so on aren’t going to get a lot smarter in the meantime, and that’s a good thing, but it does mean that true autonomy is both a long way away and likely to arrive all at once rather than incrementally. And of course because companies like Toyota have tens of millions of cars on the road already, they’re able to capture lots of data that will help with both the incremental ADAS and eventually autonomous technologies.
via The Verge
I linked to a news item a while back about a Massachusetts bill which was intended to find ways to tax autonomous and electric vehicles, and in doing so talked about the competition that’s emerged between states and municipalities over autonomous driving – some have been welcoming, while some seem determined only to see trials of the technology as a tax revenue opportunity. But the patchwork of regulations and policies across the US is also a major barrier to the launch of production autonomous vehicles, because any vehicle sold in the US needs to be able to drive across state lines. As such, major carmakers are today asking the federal government to do what it can to create a harmonized rather than fragmented regulatory approach across the US. It’s interesting that it’s the major legacy manufacturers rather than newcomers like Tesla, Uber, or Waymo making this request, but they would certainly all benefit if the government listened.
Ford and Toyota Establish SmartDeviceLink Consortium to Accelerate Industry-Driven Standard for In-Vehicle Apps | Ford Media Center (Jan 4, 2017)
This announcement builds on an existing partnership between Ford and Toyota around in-car entertainment systems, and it’s hard to see it as anything but a concerted effort to bypass CarPlay and Android Auto. Ford supports both technologies after being a holdout early on, but Toyota never has. It’s likely that for most of the consortium members those options will be present in addition to their proprietary systems, but it’s clear these carmakers aren’t willing to cede the in-car UI to Apple or Google.