Automakers and suppliers team up to share costs of self-driving cars | VentureBeat | OffBeat

(Reuters) – Automotive suppliers and automakers are expanding alliances to develop self-driving car technology that can serve multiple automakers, as the race to put such vehicles on the road separates companies that can go it alone from those that need help sharing the financial and technical burdens.

While some companies, such as Tesla Motors, General Motors and Ford Motor, are trying to develop proprietary driverless systems, a larger group of automakers appears to have decided it makes more sense to develop self-driving technology in collaboration with suppliers – as many other features such as anti-lock brakes or radar-enabled cruise control already are.

“What’s going on in the industry right now is like a hyper version of musical chairs – and the music is still playing,” said Gill Pratt, chief executive officer of Toyota Research Institute. “Everyone is changing partners.”

Several suppliers – notably Mobileye, Nvidia and Delphi Automotive – are among the more popular technology partners in the self-driving race, with multiple alliances around the globe.

“If you want to build a truly autonomous car, this is a task for more than one player,” said Amnon Shashua, chief executive of Mobileye, an Israeli-based supplier of mapping and vision-based sensing systems.

“The technological challenges are immense,” Shashua told Reuters. “I would compare it to sending a man to the moon.”

Mobileye supplies cameras, chips and software for driver assist systems – the building blocks for self-driving cars – to more than two dozen manufacturers around the globe. The company was an early supplier of vision systems to Tesla, but the two companies had an acrimonious and public breakup last summer after the driver of a Tesla Model S was killed while operating his vehicle using Tesla’s Autopilot system.

Since the break with Tesla, Mobileye has secured two critical partnerships to develop self-driving systems: With German automaker BMW and U.S. chipmaker Intel, and with longtime supplier Delphi.

The Delphi-Mobileye alliance involves a turn-key system that the partners plan to offer to smaller automakers that lack the resources to develop such systems on their own. It will be ready for production by 2019, said Jeff Owens, Delphi’s chief technology officer, with a projected wholesale cost of about $8,000.

The alliance with BMW and Intel is expected to draw additional vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, according to Elmar Frickenstein, BMW’s senior vice president for automated driving.

“We would like to create a standard system for everybody to use by 2021,” Frickenstein said. “That would share the costs and speed up the process of development and adoption.”

Eventually, BMW and its partners could offer self-driving hardware and software sets or an entire driverless system on a non-exclusive basis to companies ranging from Uber [UBER.UL] to Google, Frickenstein said.

A blueprint for collaboration is BMW’s joint ownership with Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG’s Audi of Here, the mapping company acquired in late 2015 from Nokia. Since then, both Intel and Mobileye have teamed with Here to pool and share data.

Chipmaker Nvidia also is ramping up its partnerships in self-driving technology and systems, this week announcing deals with Audi and Here, as well as German suppliers ZF [ZFF.UL] and Bosch [ROBG.UL].

“We’re not looking to develop a proprietary system,” said Dirk Hoheisel, the member of Bosch’s board of management who oversees autonomous driving. “We want to work with others to develop a standard platform and open standards for self-driving systems, especially around data and mapping.”

While pursuing similar partnerships with suppliers, Audi sees its role as a vehicle manufacturer evolving to that of systems integrator.

“There’s not one supplier out there who can provide the whole solution – no one who knows everything, every part of what’s needed to make an autonomous car,” said Alejandro Vukotich, Audi’s head of development for driver assistance systems.

Some key components of self-driving systems – cybersecurity, for instance – should remain the responsibility of vehicle manufacturers, said Guillaume Devauchelle, head of innovation and scientific development at French supplier Valeo.

But carmakers also will continue to rely on suppliers to provide specific self-driving technologies, he said.

“There will be a mix because it’s quite a complex system (with) sensing, data fusion, artificial intelligence, connectivity, man-machine interface and so on,” Devauchelle said. “Those are big blocks.”

(Reporting by Paul Lienert and Alexandria Sage in Las Vegas; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Presenting the Best of CES 2017 winners!

Best Accessibility Tech: Whill Model M

Whill’s Model M is an electric wheelchair meant to boost mobility for people with disabilities. Powered wheelchairs have been around for decades, but this new version from Whill has a compact, sturdy design that allows people to move across different surfaces independently. The patented omni-wheel technology enables maneuverability and makes this wheelchair a clear winner in this category. — Mona Lalwani, Senior Editor


Best Startup: Amber Agriculture

Plenty of startups promise solutions to problems that are either overblown or don’t really exist, but we can’t say the same about Amber Agriculture. With Amber’s array of sensors, farmers can more easily check the quality of their stored grain and get their wares to the companies that make our food at the right time. Beyond ensuring these farmers get the biggest return on their crop yields, the ability to monitor for the conditions that lead to spoilage could eventually help whole countries deal with food supply issues. Long story short: Amber’s is a savvy approach to a pressing problem most people don’t even know about. — Chris Velazco, Senior Editor


Best Digital Health and Fitness Product: Willow smart breast pump

The technology world is so dominated by men that it’s so rare to see a gadget designed to solve a problem that’s wholly the preserve of women. Willow has crafted a bra-worn breast pump that tackles an issue you rarely hear discussed here at CES. But this prize isn’t just about rewarding a startup for helping destigmatize a sensitive topic; it’s to recognize a company building something that could make many people’s lives easier. In addition to being portable, with no outlet required, the device has a companion app that lets parents monitor their baby’s nutrition — ideal for when you’re sleep-deprived and dealing with a hungry newborn. — Daniel Cooper, Senior Editor


Best Wearable: Willow smart breast pump

Too many wearables exist for gimmicky reasons; only a few actually make our lives more convenient. Willow’s smart breast pump belongs in the latter category. This thoughtfully designed device is for mothers who want to avoid being chained to a wall outlet while breastfeeding and instead have more time to themselves or to spend with their babies. — Cherlynn Low, Reviews Editor


Best Automotive Technology: Honda Riding Assist

Once again CES has transformed itself into a de facto auto show. But amid all the future-looking, AI-based vehicles, it was the self-balancing Honda Riding Assist motorcycle that ultimately made the biggest impression. Using research from the automaker’s UniCub mobility scooter and Asimo robot, the bike stays upright on its own without any help from the rider. It’s a potential game-changer in terms of safety: Anything that keeps riders from tipping while preserving the thrill of cruising on two wheels is a spectacular invention indeed. — Roberto Baldwin, Senior Editor


Best Home Theater Product: Dish AirTV

The Engadget team spent a particularly long time debating this category. In the end, though, AirTV’s blend of streaming and over-the-air broadcast television won us over. The Sling TV guide neatly organizes live channels alongside Netflix, Android TV apps and whatever networks you can receive for free with an OTA antenna. Conveniently, there’s also voice search built right into the remote. At $130, it’s competitively priced too, and it’s already available for purchase. What’s more, you don’t have to pay for Sling TV to use it. That means users get a whole lot of options in one place. — Billy Steele, Associate Editor


Best Connected Home Product: Whirlpool Zera Food Recycler

The Whirlpool’s Zera Food Recycler makes home composting not only easy, but efficient. For urban gardeners or folks who just want to reduce the amount of waste they send to local landfills, the fertilizer-making device is one-button simple, turning food scraps into compost in about a week. While the modern smart home is filled with devices that ultimately just keep people on the couch, the Zera gives people the satisfaction of knowing they’re making the world a better place, one banana peel at a time. — Roberto Baldwin, Senior Editor


Best Innovation (Disruptive Tech): Honda Riding Assist

For the second year in a row, automotive technology is taking our Best of CES Innovation award. Honda’s Riding Assist is one of those rare pieces of technology that feels like magic when you first see it. And unlike much of what you see at CES every year, Riding Assist is genuinely new and has the potential to make things safer for motorcycle riders. This year often felt like a very iterative CES, which made the sheer “wow” factor of Rider Assist stand out even more. — Nathan Ingraham, Senior Editor


Best Mobile Device: ASUS ZenFone AR

The ZenFone AR is the first phone that doubles down on the future, promising both virtual reality (with Google’s Daydream platform) and augmented reality through Google’s Tango technology. No other smartphone does both. To do both features justice, ASUS has crammed in 8GB of RAM, three camera sensors and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 processor, all wrapped up under a 5.7-inch AMOLED display. In addition to everything else, the ZenFone AR is also very stylish, thin and light. With this phone, ASUS has a head start on the competition as it kicks off 2017. — Mat Smith, Senior Editor


Best TV Product: LG OLED W-Series

LG’s flagship OLED is our Best TV winner for the third consecutive CES. Even as the technology is popping up across other brands, as and LCDs continue to improve, this is still the best display we’ve seen during this show. Shifting its smarts and inputs to its Dolby Atmos soundbar enabled the “wallpaper-thin” design that makes it seem more like a window into another world than any TV we’ve seen before. With that, LG once again remains a step ahead of the competition. — Richard Lawler, Senior Editor


Best Gaming Product: Razer Project Ariana

It won’t be for everyone, but Razer’s Project Ariana is an exciting option for gamers looking for more from their home setup. It’s an extension of the gaming company’s Chroma lighting project, but instead of just brightening up a keyboard, this is a 4K projector that expands your game outside of a monitor. Though Project Ariana is just a concept for now, Razer hopes to make the idea a reality by the end of the year. In a sea of laptops, mice, monitors and game streaming services, Project Ariana stood out. — Aaron Souppouris, Senior Editor


Best Offbeat Product: Fisher-Price Smart Cycle

Given the breadth of the category and the sheer number of potential contenders, the offbeat category is always a difficult one to judge. This year, however, a single product stood head and pedals above the rest. We are, of course, referring to the Fisher-Price Smart Cycle. The bike’s combination of activity tracking and STEM-based edutainment means that kids can exercise their bodies as well as their brains — regardless of the weather outside. The ability to train the next generation’s hearts, bodies and minds, all at the same time, makes for a potent learning tool and a clear winner. — Andrew Tarantola, Associate Editor


Best Maker-Friendly Technology: Lego Boost

If we want people learning how to build for themselves, we might as well start when they’re young. Lego has been doing that for decades, but its new Boost set lets you build five different motorized creations and program their actions with the accompanying tablet app. It’s similar to Lego Mindstorms but much simpler — created with younger builders in mind. Naturally, too, you can augment your creations with any other Legos you have tucked away in the closet. While this kit seems great for kids, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested in checking it out myself. — Nathan Ingraham, Senior Editor


Best PC: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 has everything we want in an ultraportable. It retains the refined style of the previous XPS 13, which itself was the best Windows laptop of both 2015 and 2016. This 2-in-1 can be folded over like a tablet and, thanks to Intel’s latest CPUs, it’s more powerful than similarly thin machines. If you’ve been waiting for the ideal convertible laptop, you’ll want to seriously consider this one. — Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor


Best Robot or Drone: UVify Draco HD

At CES this year we’ve seen a slew of drones, but UVify stood out for a number of reasons. Drone racing is becoming increasingly popular, but there are still many challenges for new pilots to get into the sport. UVivy’s Draco dissolves many of those, with a modular, easy-to-repair design, high-quality live video feeds from the camera and assisted flight modes for learning. All of this, without compromising on race performance. — James Trew, Deputy Managing Editor


Best of the Best: LG OLED W-Series

It’s rare that a product truly blows us away at CES, but LG’s W-Series OLED TV did just that. At just 2.6 millimeters thick across its entire body, it’s the slimmest TV we’ve ever seen. It’s not quite paper-thin, but it sure is close. And this isn’t a case of style over substance either. Its picture quality is better than last year, and the TV also supports more HDR standards and comes with a Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbar (which also handles all of your inputs). The only downside? You need a flat wall to mount it; there is no stand.– Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor


People’s Choice Winner: Razer Project Ariana

Razer is, yet again, the winner of our People’s Choice award! This time it’s for Project Ariana, a 4K projector that expands your game beyond the confines of your monitor. The company has now won this category for four years running thanks to a remarkable get-out-the-vote effort and an ardent fan base. It won first place handily with over 40 percent of the vote, while NVIDIA’s GeForce Now game-streaming service came in second and the LG OLED W-Series finished third. — Nicole Lee, Senior Editor

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.

Apple Said to Shift to Lower Power IGZO Displays for MacBook Pro Later This Year

Apple will shift to indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) material for MacBook Pro displays as soon as later this year, according to IHS. The research firm told DigiTimes that Apple may continue to procure MacBook Pro displays based on current amorphous silicon (a-Si) material until the end of the first quarter.

2016_macbook_pro_lineup
The report claims Samsung and Sharp will begin supplying IGZO panels to Apple as soon as mid-2017. Sharp began mass production of IGZO displays in 2012, but evidence points towards Apple only using the material in iPads so far. A rumor claiming the first IGZO MacBooks would launch by 2014 proved to be inaccurate.

IGZO is a semiconducting material that has forty times more electron mobility than the standard a-Si used as the active layer of an LCD screen, allowing for less power consumption, improved touch sensitivity, and increased pixel density, which could pave the way for higher resolution displays.

DisplayMate president Raymond Soneira told us IGZO can also result in “significantly higher brightness,” but the material costs “considerably more” to manufacture. Production and yield issues have slowed the adoption of IGZO, but the material is now showing up in more products such as LG’s new OLED TVs.

“Sometimes IGZO is simply referred to as Metal Oxide,” he added. “The higher the PPI and the wider the Color Gamut (like DCI-P3 for the new MacBook Pro) the greater the benefits of IGZO over a-Si, particularly for LCDs.”

The glass edge and backplane circuitry of IGZO displays can also be made smaller, possibly leading to a thinner MacBook Pro. However, such a design change is less likely this year given Apple just redesigned the notebook in 2016 for the first time in four years. Apple’s interest likely lies in the power savings.

The original iPad Air’s overall size and battery were reduced by around 25% compared to the previous model, and analysis suggested the tablet’s new IGZO display made that possible. However, a smaller MacBook Pro battery would likely be perceived negatively following battery life complaints on 2016 models.

Given the timeline, Apple’s switch to IGZO displays may be planned for the next-generation MacBook Pro. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said new MacBook Pro models will launch in the second half of 2017, possibly with slightly faster Kaby Lake processors unveiled this week.

IHS estimates Apple will order 9.7 million MacBook Pro display panels in 2017, an increase from 8.8 million units in 2016.

Core i5, GeForce GTX 1060, 512 GB SSD, 5-Liter Chassis, $799

ASUS at CES has introduced its new game console-like PC that weds relatively high performance, compact dimensions and a moderate price tag. The new VivoPC X packs Intel Core i5 CPU and NVIDIA GeForce GTX GPU into a 5-liter chassis.

Traditionally, ASUS has positioned its Vivo-series computers as miniature PCs for mainstream tasks, whereas ROG systems were designed for gamers and multimedia enthusiasts. With the release of the VivoPC X, the computer maker changes that positioning and offers an SFF gaming-grade system under the Vivo brand. The reasons for the decision are simple: sales of small form-factor PCs are growing and so are sales of machines for gamers. ASUS wanted to address both markets with computers at more or less mainstream prices and the VivoPC X is a result of this decision. The mini PC is positioned below the ROG GR8 II and its performance is lower, however, ASUS thinks that the combination of price and performance will satisfy many people looking for a console-like gaming PC.

The ASUS VivoPC X M80 is based on the Intel Core i5-7300HQ (4C/4T, 2.5 GHz/3.5 GHz, 6 MB cache, HD Graphics 630, 45 W) mobile processor, the Intel HM175 PCH as well as NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1060 graphics processor with G-Sync support. Since many gamers demand to have the performance of an SSD and capacity of a hard drive, the system will be equipped with a 512 GB M.2 SATA SSD as well as a 2 TB HDD with 7200 RPM spindle speed. The PC also comes with 8 GB of DDR4-2133 memory. To cool down the system components, ASUS uses a custom cooling system consisting of a blower for the GPU and a large aluminum heatsink for the CPU.

ASUS VivoPC X Specifications
  M80
CPU Intel Core i5-7300HQ
Quad Core
2.5 GHz/3.5 GHz
6 MB cache
HD Graphics 630
PCH Intel HM175
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 with GDDR5 memory
Memory  8 GB of DDR4-2133
Storage 512 GB SSD (SATA)
2 TB 2.5″ HDD (7200 RPM)
Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi + BT 4.1
Ethernet GbE
Display Outputs 2 × HDMI 2.0b
1 × DisplayPort
Audio 5.1-channel audio
USB 4 × USB 3.0 Type-A (5 Gbps)
2 × USB 2.0 Type-A
Other I/O
Dimensions 75.94 mm × 259.8 mm × 279.9 mm
2.99 × 10.23 × 11.02 inches
PSU 230 W
OS Windows 10

When it comes to connectivity, the ASUS VivoPC X has four USB 3.0 Type-A ports, two USB 2.0 headers, Gigabit Ethernet, an IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi with BT 4.1 module, three display outputs (two HDMI and one DisplayPort), 5.1-channel audio with Sonic Suite software enhancements and so on.

The computer uses mobile PC components in a bid to keep its physical size small and power consumption low: its volume is about five liters and its power consumption is less than 230 W (it uses an external power brick to feed itself). Meanwhile, usage of such components also means that its future upgrades will be rather complicated if possible at all (for example, the GPU is soldered to the motherboard and is thus not upgradeable).

The ASUS VivoPC X will be available in March, 2017, for $799.

Related Reading:

The best PCs, gadgets, and wearables of CES 2017

What happens at CES, ends up in a video montage.

Jennifer Hahn

LAS VEGAS—The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas tries to get consumers (and the media) excited for the new year with a treasure trove of new devices. Most of the big names in computing, gaming, fitness tech, smart home, and more show off some of their newest products that will come out later in the year. And until they hit shelves (if they hit the shelves), CES is the only way to get a glimpse of them.

While the show’s vastness results in a lot of seemingly useless hardware and even some vaporware—Ars UK has intel on the smart hairbrush, LG wants to make sure no one ever has to open a fridge manually again—there are always a few products that stick out and manage to get us genuinely excited for the year ahead.

You can find all our coverage from the ground here if you want to wade through both the crazy and cool, but these are our picks for the best technology coming out of CES 2017.

Best laptop or convertible: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga

Valentina Palladino

Traditionally when buying a laptop, one has to compromise. You’ll find a system that has almost everything you want, but there’s always something missing. We wrote about some of the basic features that we’re going to insist on for laptops in 2017, and one machine shown at CES stood out as doing all the things we want. With Thunderbolt 3, NVMe storage, Precision Touchpads, biometric authentication, touch screens, and so much more, we’re ready to lay hands on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga.

The Yoga nails the basics. It also includes the 360-degree hinge that’s invaluable on a plane or in a kitchen, a stylus that docks within the unit for safekeeping, built-in LTE connectivity, 802.11ad/WiGig, and (unusual these days) wired gigabit Ethernet. That’s a compelling start, but it’s the range of options that takes the Yoga to the next level: you can add an OLED screen, Iris Plus graphics, both a fingerprint reader and an IR camera supporting facial recognition, and NFC. The result is a machine that sets a new standard for connectivity and capabilities, showcasing some of the latest technology—and doing so without compromises.

Best desktop or all-in-one: Intel Kaby Lake NUCs

Intel

We’ve seen some interesting-looking all-in-one desktops at the show this year, including Dell’s XPS 27 and HP’s Pavilion Edge All-in-One with Micro-Edge Display. But in terms of sheer versatility and appeal, we’ve got to give the moniker of best to Intel’s new NUC mini desktops.

We’ve been fans of these PCs for years. Like the older NUCs, the new ones put decent Ultrabook-level performance suitable for productivity tasks and light gaming into a little box that will fit just about anywhere. The new models get an attractive makeover, the latest Kaby Lake CPUs and GPUs, HDMI 2.0 and HDMI-CEC support that will be sure to interest home theater enthusiasts, and a Thunderbolt 3 port that will allow for fast external storage, external GPUs, and all kinds of other possibilities.

Best PC peripheral: Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ 27-inch gaming monitor

Asus

Simply being first to something in the tech world isn’t necessarily a guarantee for quality or excellence. But when someone can lay claim to launching the consumer market’s first monitor to combine 4K resolution, 144Hz refresh, HDR-10 compatibility, and Nvidia G-Sync support, they’re bound to get our attention.

Just finding three of those four in a PC monitor is tough these days. (The best we’ve seen, up until now, is Dell’s UP3017Q, which maxes its 4K resolution at a 120Hz refresh without G-Sync.) Adding the wider color gamut and luminance differential of HDR to that package is a nice, brightly rendered cherry on top. You’ll need quite the powerful computer to render such crisp, colorful, and smooth content, of course, but if you’re already spending so much on a gaming powerhouse, what’s another pricey monitor to you?

Best gaming hardware: HTC Vive’s TPCast

While the HTC Vive’s room-scale VR experience is unquestionably amazing, it’s also unquestionably annoying to deal with a thick, three-piece wire that tethers you to a nearby PC tower, tugging on the back of the headset and creating a tripping hazard while you walk around. That’s why we’re excited about the TPCast, which promises to make the Vive a truly wireless experience by streaming video and audio to the headset from a PC over the air (though there is still a wire running to a pocketable battery pack).

There have been other untethered VR experiences, of course, but so far they tend to rely on underpowered mobile technology and have trouble with full head-tracking through space. TPCast promises the best of both worlds—high-end VR graphics and tracking without the annoying tether. If you can afford the $250 cost and can tolerate the reported two-hour battery life, this could greatly increase the quality of your virtual life.

Listing image by Valentina Palladino