Topic: Autonomous driving

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    Waymo Hires Former Tesla Autonomous Hardware Lead to Run its Own Hardware Efforts (Jun 23, 2017)

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    Nissan-Renault Plans to Combine Electrification, Automation and Mobility Within 10 Years (Jun 23, 2017)

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    Ex-Apple Engineer Chris Lattner Leaves Tesla After 5 Months (Jun 20, 2017)

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    ★ Tim Cook Confirms Apple is Working on Autonomous Driving Systems (Jun 13, 2017)

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    Lyft Partnering with nuTonomy on Self-Driving Car Trial in Boston (Jun 6, 2017)

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    Waymo Exploring Expansion into Self-Driving Truck Technology (Jun 2, 2017)

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    Baidu Partners with Bosch and Continental for Autonomous Driving (Jun 1, 2017)

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    ★ Uber Fires Anthony Levandowski for Refusal to Cooperate in Lawsuit (May 30, 2017)

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    Uber Under Investigation for Testing Otto Trucks in California (May 26, 2017)

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    Drivers Trust Carmakers More than Tech or Ride Sharing Companies for Autonomy (May 24, 2017)

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    Ford Announces New CEO, Who Formerly Headed its Mobility Initiatives (May 22, 2017)

    It might seem odd at first glance that I’m covering an auto industry leadership change, but it’s news that’s very much in keeping with the “Tech Disrupts Transportation” narrative here on the site, and the nature of both the troubles that prompted the move and the move itself are reflective of that trend too. Mark Fields, who has been CEO for the last three years, is being replaced by Jim Hackett, who has been running Ford Smart Mobility. Although this New York Times piece and others this morning are focusing on the fact that FSM and therefore Hackett has owned Ford’s autonomous driving initiatives, that’s only part of its remit, and that’s worth noting. It also owns in-car connectivity, mobility itself (which is the industry term for ride sharing and other new ownership and other business models for cars), and data and analytics, among other things. In other words, with the exception of electrification, it has owned essentially all of what’s next in the automotive industry. That Fields would have put all that in a separate division is perhaps the biggest sign that he underestimated how central these changes would be to the future of the company, and it also makes sense to put the guy who’s been running all that in charge of the company at this point. Hackett will need to bring these initiatives to the forefront of what Ford does, along with electrification, where it’s moved more slowly than other car companies, if he’s to help turn Ford around. But he’s taking over at a really tough time in both the company’s history and the US automotive industry.

    via The New York Times

    Uber Threatens to Fire Levandowski if He Doesn’t Comply with Court Orders (May 19, 2017)

    The judge in the Uber-Waymo case has told Uber in no uncertain terms that it has to do all it can to get its employee, Anthony Levandowski, to comply with the court’s orders in terms of handing over documents and disclosing other information relevant to the case. As such, given his continued unwillingness to cooperate, Uber has officially threatened to fire him – something it certainly doesn’t want to do – and his lawyers are now fighting back. Levandowski has throughout this process invoked his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination, but that in turn has made it harder for Uber to defend itself, because much of the most relevant information has been held back by Levandowski. At this point, it feels like both Uber and Levandowski are coming off badly around this whole situation, given that it seems very clear that Uber was working with Levandowski before he left Waymo, and Levandowski clearly feels he has something to hide. I very much doubt Levandowski will actually be fired, but it’s remarkable that he continues to resist these clear orders from the judge even as his job is at stake. Meanwhile, both parties – Levandowski and his employer – seem remarkably willing to throw each other under the bus, which says something both about the stakes here and the prevailing culture at the company.

    via WSJ

    Waymo-Uber Injunction Made Public (May 15, 2017)

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    ★ Waymo and Lyft Partner Over Self-Driving Cars (May 15, 2017)

    The New York Times reported last night that Alphabet autonomous driving unit Waymo and ride sharing company Lyft are partnering around self-driving cars. There aren’t many details, but it’s worth noting that Lyft already has GM as an investor and partner, and GM has its own autonomous driving technology through its Cruise Automation subsidiary. But the brief Lyft statement on the partnership described Waymo’s technology as the best out there, which certainly matches my own perception but likely wasn’t well received at Cruise. But the partnership is a concession by Lyft that it needs its partnerships in autonomy to move much faster to compete in autonomous driving with Uber, which of course is developing its own technology, and a concession by Waymo that it likely won’t be building a ride sharing network at scale on its own. Even though the situation is complicated somewhat by Alphabet’s investment in Uber through GV, Waymo and Lyft certainly have a common enemy in Uber at the moment, and joining forces makes a ton of sense. Waymo has the autonomous technology but not ride sharing expertise or scale, while Lyft has the ride sharing scale but no expertise in autonomy. As I’ve said before, though a number of tech companies are trying to play in one of the three major shifts in transportation – autonomy, electrification, and mobility as a service – few are serious players in more than one of those domains. Partnerships are therefore going to be key for most of them, although acquisitions (including a possible eventual Waymo-Lyft acquisition) would be another eventual outcome.

    via The New York Times

    Uber’s Bid to Move Waymo Case to Arbitration Fails (May 11, 2017)

    We’ve already seen some juicy stuff come out of the Uber-Waymo case, and we’ve only been in the preliminary stages of the lawsuit. Uber had therefore understandably moved to have the case decided in arbitration rather than open court, away from public eyes, but it has today failed in that attempt as a judge decided the case will be heard in court as Waymo wanted. That, in turn, means we’ll likely have lots more details about Uber and Anthony Levandowski’s actions aired in court, something Uber likely desperately wanted to avoid given all the bad press it’s already had since the beginning of the year over its support for the Trump administration, its toxic culture, its CEO’s treatment of drivers, and so on and so forth. And of course, there’s still the possibility the case ultimately goes against Uber, though based on the preliminary hearings it sounded like Waymo hadn’t yet found its smoking gun in proving that Uber and Levandowski stole and used confidential information. However, the judge has referred the case to the US Attorney for consideration as a criminal case as well, so things just keep getting worse for Uber here. see also this Axios piece, which not only does a better job of explaining the situation with regard to arbitration but includes a rebuke of Uber by the judge. And lastly notes that Waymo has been granted a partial injunction against Uber, though the details remain secret.

    via Reuters

     

    Alphabet’s Waymo Announces 3m Miles of Driving on Public Roads (May 10, 2017)

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    Waymo and Uber Make Arguments in Court Over LIDAR Stealing Allegations (May 3, 2017)

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    Samsung Gets Permission To Test Self-Driving Tech in a Hyundai in Korea (May 2, 2017)

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    Weekly Narrative Video – Tech Disrupts Transportation (Apr 29, 2017)

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    Apple Asks California DMV to Tweak Reporting Requirements for Autonomous Driving (Apr 28, 2017)

    Apple has filed a letter with the California DMV requesting some changes to its reporting requirements for the testing of self-driving cars as well as some of the definitions it uses, in response to a request for feedback from the DMV in March. Apple formally received permission to test its cars a couple of weeks back, and is now taking a more active role in helping to shape policy around the topic, partly because at the end of the year it’ll have to report its performance to the DMV and the public. Apple’s biggest request relates to the reporting requirements for disengagements, the name given to a situation in which a driver has to take over from the autonomous system. Apple wants the definition of a disengagement to be narrowed to include only those necessary to avoid either crashes or traffic violations, and to exclude cases which are pre-determined (such as driving through a construction zone) or for which the technology explicitly isn’t designed. That would have the effect of reducing significantly the number of disengagements reported, which would further Apple’s stated goal (as outlined in the letter) of increasing public confidence in autonomous systems. It would also have the side effect of making Apple’s first year of testing look better than the first years of other companies which began testing earlier under the current definitions. The other changes Apple proposes are relatively minor and mostly appear intended to provide greater clarity and remove unintended restrictions on reasonable testing.

    via CA DMV