Toyota Says They Will Have Intelligent Talking Cars by 2020

In Brief

Toyota will begin testing its autonomous cars in 2020, which will be able to converse with their drivers to enhance the driving experience. The automaker’s cars will be able to track a user’s preferences, emotions, habits, and more.

Bonding With Your Car

Come 2020, Toyota will begin testing its own self-driving electric cars. However, instead of simply being autonomous, they’ll also come equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) capable of having a back-and-forth conversation with the driver.

The automaker previewed their idea for intelligent talking cars at the beginning of the year, during the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Toyota showed off its Concept-i, which has an AI nicknamed “Yui,” at the core of its functionality. Yui is expected to provide a number of benefits, as well as monitor the driver’s driving patterns, attentiveness, schedule, and more.

“The interface begins with the visual representation of Yui, designed to communicate across cultures to a global audience,” explained Toyota in a press release at the time. “With Yui’s home centered on the dashboard, Concept-i’s interior emanates around the driver and passenger side and throughout the vehicle in sweeping lines, with interior shapes designed to enhance Yui’s ability to use light, sound and even touch to communicate critical information.”

As reported by Reuters, Toyota is committed to forming a relationship between driver and AI as it competes with other car manufacturers and tech companies, who have also invested in self-driving cars and AI. To that end, Toyota will invest $1 billion into advancing development on both concepts between now and 2020.

“By using AI technology, we want to expand and enhance the driving experience, making cars an object of affection again,” said Makoto Okabe, general manager of Toyota’s EV business planning division.

Outdoing the Competition

Of course, Toyota isn’t the first company that wants to use AI to augment the driving experience. Last July, Honda announced it would be partnering with Softbank to look into using AI to improve car safety. Then, in December, it unveiled its Emotion Engine, a group of AI technologies capable of exhibiting emotions that could aid drivers, such as by providing weather or traffic information in a cheerful voice.

Ford, meanwhile, invested in Argo AI back in February to boost its own AI capabilities in time for the launch of its first autonomous car in 2021. General Motors (GM) has also invested in AI startups for the some purposes, such as Nauto, which has also received funding from BMW.

“In pursuit of the profoundly transformational impact autonomous vehicle technology can have on business and society, we’ll now more rapidly be able to gather the billions more miles of real driving experience and data required to get a precise understanding of how the best drivers behave behind the wheel,” said Nauto CEO Stefan Heck in July.

Toyota will certainly have its work cut out for it when its self-driving cars are fully operational. Next to electric cars, automakers are becoming more invested in autonomous vehicles, which can only strengthen competition and lead to more innovative designs. AI capable of bonding with the driver is one idea to come from competition; it will be interesting to see what other concepts automakers pursue to come out on top.

Uber drivers hoped leasing cars from Xchange would boost their credit scores. It didn’t. — Quartz

Like a lot of drivers, Anthony Plemonte turned to Uber’s Xchange Leasing program because his credit was bad.

Uber leased him a 2017 Honda Civic last October in Boston for $163 a week, plus a down payment of $250. The lease came with unlimited mileage and basic maintenance but didn’t include auto insurance. Plemonte, 42, thought the price was steep, but he figured weekly payments to Xchange would help build his credit history, which the company had checked when he applied for a car. But when Plemonte pulled up his statement on personal finance site creditkarma.com a couple months in, the lease wasn’t there.

Uber said last month that it would shut down Xchange, its US auto leasing division that lost about $9,000 per vehicle. The company stopped issuing new leases on Oct. 6 and has emailed drivers offering $450 electronic Visa gift cards and free Uber rides home if they return their cars to an Xchange dealership within a week.

Xchange targeted a subprime market of drivers with poor or no credit and limited options for getting a car. Many of these drivers assumed making regular payments to Uber would improve their financial standing. Now, as the program winds down, they’re learning that leasing from Xchange didn’t build their credit at all.

Uber set up Xchange as a wholly owned subsidiary in July 2015. The program grew out of a vision by ex-Goldman Sachs commodities trader and then-Uber employee Andrew Chapin to let drivers with spotty credit lease cars by tying the contracts to their Uber earnings. Xchange received a $1 billion credit facility to fund new leases in a deal led by Goldman.

The company has long promised its independent-contractor drivers the chance to “be your own boss,” but in practice has done little to empower them. Uber sets pay rates for drivers and determines what types of cars are allowed on its platform. Algorithms decide where they go every day. Gamified monetary incentives like “boost,” “quest,” and “surge” encourage drivers to work at certain times and places, without telling them they must. Uber has been making changes since June designed to improve the driver experience.

Uber never told drivers that leasing from Xchange would improve their credit. When the program rolled out it was billed as a “flexible” financing solution. Sample terms for Xchange advertise a variety of vehicle options with no mileage caps. “Xchange leasing did not claim that participation in Xchange would improve credit scores,” an Uber spokesman said in an emailed statement.

Drivers like Gene Neri made assumptions anyway. Neri signed up for Xchange in July 2016 after six months of driving for Uber in the Chicago suburbs with a van that got “extremely poor” gas mileage. Xchange charged him $133 a week for a 2015 Nissan Ultima and basic upkeep, like oil changes and tire rotations. Neri, 44, assumed weekly payments to Uber would boost his credit score. But when he checked Credit Karma and consumer credit reporting agency Experian for the first time last month, the lease didn’t show up.

On Sept. 21, Neri emailed Xchange customer support asking why his payments hadn’t been reported. “The whole point of me getting the leased car was to help build my credit history,” he wrote in his email. Christopher Arredondo, a support rep for Xchange, replied two days later. “I would like you to know that we value your business here at Xchange Leasing,” he wrote. “Xchange Leasing does not report negative or positive history to credit bureaus. The only time your credit is reviewed is the initial application process.”

Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com, said Uber’s approach wasn’t unusual. “It’s up to creditors to report information to the credit bureaus and not all do,” he said. “Particularly for lending that’s done to subprime customers, it’s not unusual for things to not report to the credit bureau.”

Uber’s vehicle financing options have helped it exercise control over drivers. Xchange deducted its payments directly from a driver’s earnings each week, all but ensuring they would drive for Uber before a competitor. A rental option Uber offered through Enterprise Rent-A-Car required exclusivity. Uber paused a leasing program with four subprime auto lenders in New York earlier this year after Quartz reported how the dealers locked drivers into three-year contracts and frequently crippled them with debt.

Because Xchange didn’t report credit history, many of the drivers who leased through it have no more options for obtaining a car now, as the program is shut down, than when they started. Drivers with Xchange leases have the option to finish it out to the end of the contract.

Plemonte, the Boston driver, returned his Xchange car on Oct. 5. The office had him to sign a release that, among other conditions, waived his right to reinstate the lease or to purchase the vehicle. “It was very somber,” he said. Since then, he’s been driving for Uber with his own car.

Neri brought back his Xchange car on Oct. 16, in time to claim the $450 gift card. “Anything that they want to throw my way, I’m going to take it,” he said. “They’ve taken enough from me.”


Read next: Inside Uber’s unsettling alliance with some of New York’s shadiest car dealers

Read next: How Uber gamified work

Tesla cars look amazing: strategy, design

Tesla Model 3The Tesla Model 3.Timothy Artman/Tesla

 

  • Tesla has always pursued a multi-car strategy.
  • A core value is that those cars are Teslas and therefore must be beautiful.
  • Customers have responded and Tesla has built a brand on aesthetics and technology.

With Tesla struggling to overcome what CEO Elon Musk has described as “production hell” on its lower-priced Model 3 sedan — a meager 260 were built in the third quarter versus more 1,500 predicted — it’s easy to think that Tesla is all about this car and only this car.

But even as Tesla works through its Model 3 bottlenecks, it’s on track to max out its manufacturing capacity for the Model 3’s stablemates, the Model S sedan and the Model X SUV, both high-priced luxury cars. The company could produce more than 100,000 in 2017, setting a record and sending a signal that no matter how long it takes to ramp up the Model 3, Tesla’s car business isn’t going to vanish.

This gives us the opportunity to look back at Tesla overall strategy for launching vehicles. Unlike the crop of electric-car startups that appeared around the same time Tesla did — and later faltered, leaving Tesla as the only game in town — and unlike major automakers that propose exotic concept EVs but never get around to actually marketing them, Tesla has long relied on a multi-vehicle plan.

You can’t do it with one car

Tesla Model SThe Model S.Tesla

As it stands, Tesla is a four-car company. That doesn’t sound like much, but it has almost single-handedly validated a global market for electric cars. Before Tesla’s ascent, the idea of a one-car EV maker would have been laughable. One of the cars, the original Roadster, has been discontinued, but eventually Tesla will make good on promises to introduce an updated version, and in any case, the company continues to take care of Roadster owners.

Then there are the Models S, X, and 3. And it’s worth noting that not only does the lineup represent a strategy for developing a meaningful EV market — the cars also look terrific. That’s thanks to Tesla’s design chief, Franz von Holzhausen, who, when he was hired away from Mazda back in 2010, was tasked with “building a world-class design competency at Tesla Motors,” according to the company.

Working with CEO Elon Musk, Tesla product architect and the guy with the multi-vehicle idea, Holzhausen has expressed the strategy in physical terms. If you look at Tesla’s post-Roadster vehicles, they are aesthetically unified and self-reinforcing. The cars aren’t especially flashy, but they do collectively express a Tesla look that’s unmistakable.

This is strategy given beautiful physical form, undergirded by Holzhausen’s obvious belief that less is more. Tesla’s luxury cars aren’t larded with luxury clues — the chrome isn’t laid on with a trowel, the curves and lines are smooth and sleek but not dramatic, and the interiors are subdued.

The Model 3 translates these values into a smaller, less expensive package, proving that it can be translated. Effectively, this ups the “Tesla luxury” aspect of the new vehicle and bolsters its Silicon Valley approach to design, which is informed by technology rather than by fealty to the automaking tradition.

An inverted wow!

model xThe Model X.Tesla

Most luxury cars and well-designed mass-market vehicles aspire to be handsome, stately, and low-key impressive. The wow! factor is reserved for sports cars and supercars and some big trucks. But Tesla has devised its own inverted wow! factor. Whenever I get to borrow and drive one, I get lots of looks, lots of thumbs-up, lots of questions. This can’t entirely be chalked up to novelty; the Model S has been around since 2012, the Model X since 2015.

Rather, Tesla’s aesthetics embody the company’s futuristic attitude and the carmaker’s embrace of a technological adventure, and people respond to that in a more emotional way that you might expect. They don’t drop their jaws as they would if a Ferrari or Lamborghini rolled by. Instead, they nurture of feeling of respect for Tesla’s nerdy ambition to change the world, but to do it without making their cars look like dreary virtue-mobiles.

This reaction has been key to Tesla’s success, which has far exceeded anything the auto industry anticipated. Tesla has created a club of intensely brand-loyal owners. The aura of that club was instrumental in the unprecedented reveal of the Model 3 in early 2016, after which hundred of thousands of preorders for the vehicle were logged. People wanted to do more than bask in the beauty; they wanted to own it. And they were willing to lay down $1,000 each for the right to take delivery of their car years later.

None of this would have happened if Tesla’s hadn’t made the design of its cars just as important as their invisible battery-electric engineering that made then go. It’s an incredible achievement that proves the oldest of adages in the industry: If you want them to buy, you have to show them the car.

Tesla didn’t just show the car; it made the showing matter in a new way.

Get the latest Tesla stock price here.

This week in ID@Xbox: Smash cars, dead beat brawling, and shiny platforming

Danger Zone for Xbox One

Welcome to our column that looks back at the week’s ID@Xbox releases for Xbox One!

It was a relatively slow week for ID@Xbox releases, with only five new indie games arriving on Xbox One. These include a spooky adventure game, a 3D brawler, a crash test simulation, a platformer, and a fighting game. Read on for impressions, trailers, and store links!

ACA NeoGeo: Real Bout Fatal Fury

ACA NeoGeo: Real Bout Fatal Fury

Japanese publisher Hamster’s ACA series is a collection of emulated NeoGeo arcade classics – we reviewed one-on-one fighter ACA World Heroes 2 and found it pretty solid and well-emulated.

SNK’s Fatal Fury is a series of (mostly) one-on-one fighting games akin to Street Fighter. Real Bout’s fighting engine uses three attack buttons, with a fourth button dedicated to plane changes. That’s the unique gameplay element here; fighters can jump back and forth between three planes of depth in order to maneuver and confuse opponents. Real Bout includes 16 playable characters, including the lovably bouncy Mai Shiranui. As with other ACA games, multiplayer is local-only.

Real Bout Fatal Fury costs $7.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Switch.

See on the Xbox Store

Danger Zone

Remember the Burnout series’ beloved Crash mode? Danger Zone from Three Fields Entertainment is heavily inspired by those classic vehicle destruction games.

In each of Danger Zone’s 36 levels, the object is to drive a car into traffic and cause as much destruction as possible. The more cars you hit, the bigger your score. Collecting score multiplier icons and using your at-will Smashbreaker power (which creates a huge explosion and lets you bounce around for a bit) are essential to scoring well. And to progress through the game, you’ll have to reach minimum score targets. That means lots of practice and learning the game’s combo system, for better or worse.

Danger Zone for Xbox One

The newly-released Xbox One version of Danger Zone features numerous enhancements that weren’t present when it launched on other platforms, such as more vehicles, revamped physics, and new levels. That said, the sterile virtual crash course environments and complete lack of music have a limiting effect on the game’s excitement levels. If you really enjoy the physics puzzle/driving nature, you’re sure to have a good time. But don’t expect this one to be as good as the real Burnout crash mode.

Danger Zone for Xbox One

Danger Zone sells for $14.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam. A promised update will add new Xbox One X features, including native 4K support and even more levels.

See on the Xbox Store
See on Steam

Xbox One review copy provided by the publisher.

Decay: The Mare

Former Windows Phone and Xbox 360 indie game Decay: The Mare has finally emerged on Xbox One, courtesy of original developer Shining Gate Software.

Decay is a point-and-click adventure game that uses static, prerendered scenes with minor animations rather than a full 3D presentation. The protagonist is a drug addict who has just checked into a rehabilitation clinic. He wakes up to find himself trapped in a dark nightmare version of the clinic. Players must explore the dark clinic and solve lots of puzzles if our hero is ever to kick his habit and get out alive.

Decay: The Mare

Decay looks a bit dated and cheap compared to more modern adventure games, but the whole thing can be beaten in an hour with all Achievements. Not a bad deal for Achievement hunters.

Decay: The Mare costs $9.99 on Xbox One and Steam (use our link to get a dollar off the PC version).

See on the Xbox Store
See on Steam

Deadbeat Heroes

Deadbeat Heroes comes from Square-Enix Collective, the Japanese publisher’s indie funding arm, and new developer Deadbeat Productions.

Deadbeat Heroes for Xbox One

A 1960s spy show parody in the style of Austin Powers, the game sends players out to beat up nefarious villains in 40 action-packed levels. Every fourth level has a boss, and you’ll get all of the Achievements just by beating the bosses. Between levels, players can visit their base to train in the gym or buy new moves and upgrades. Deadbeat Heroes’ gameplay is fast and fun, especially in 2-player local co-op. Check out our full review for more details.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKx8-mA4xYo

Deadbeat Heroes sells for $14.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam.

See on the Xbox Store
See on Steam

SHINY

SHINY is a 2.5D platformer from Brazilian developer Garage227. It stars Kramer, a cute and round robot who has been left behind on a doomed planet. His goal is to rescue his fellow robots and take them off-world.

SHINY

Kramer’s energy constantly depletes, so he’ll have to keep moving to survive. Each level has four robots to save, though you needn’t find them all to win. SHINY is extremely light on story and a bit rough around the edges, but players who are looking for a pure and simple platformer might enjoy it.

SHINY costs $9.99 on Xbox One and Steam.

See on the Xbox Store
See on Steam

Over to you…

Which ID@Xbox games are you getting this week? Let us know in the comments!

NVIDIA AI-Driven Autonomous Cars Take Center Stage at GTC Europe

The GPU Technical Conference in Munich is an annual showcase of the best advancements in computer technology, but it seems like it’s no place for cars. That is, until autonomous concept cars became the main attraction this year according to NVIDIA, a gaming technology company and now a competitive force in the realm of artificial intelligence.

Those who set foot in the International Conference Center this week were greeted with a fleet of autonomous concept vehicles powered by NVIDIA’s Artificial Intelligence systems. The theme for this event was the future of mobility, displaying a diverse range of concepts that covered everything from race cars to taxis. 

The most popular of the group (and the fastest) was the Roborace Robocar, a Formula E racer with futuristic styling and an NVIDIA DRIVE PX supercomputer dictating its every move. The racecar is capable of reaching 186 miles per hour without a driver.

The Mercedes-Benz IAA Concept appeared as well, a futuristic luxury car that can alter its bumpers and wheels based on its speed. NVIDIA describes it as a “Digital Transformer.” 

At the opposite end of the spectrum was the e.GO Mover, a Level 4 autonomous (no driver attention required) shuttle capable of transporting up to 15 people. Its compact design and self-driving system are the building blocks for creating a network of autonomous vehicles that extends well beyond private automobiles.

The NVIDIA BB8 self-driving car was there of course, a Lincoln MKZ that NVIDIA uses to test out new autonomous features. You can already spot a few of these cars commuting around New Jersey, California, and Germany.

NVIDIA also made sure to have some cars for people who prefer here and now, ones you can already purchase and drive around– or be driven around by. Guests could explore the 2018 Audi A8L and Tesla Model X equipped with NVIDIA sensors and DRIVE PX systems. The Audi A8 is a revolutionary car for the industry, as it is the first production car with Level 3 (eyes off) autonomy. 

Nvidia’s Drive PX Pegasus Is A Royal Flush For Self-Driving Cars – NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA)

The Auto segment of Nvidia (NVDA) is the smallest contributor in terms of quarterly revenue. It only contributed $142 million in Q2 FY18. The Auto segment can probably see a big spurt in growth when Nvidia starts shipping its Drive PX Pegasus next year. Drive PX Pegasus is Nvidia’s ambitious license-plate-sized in-vehicle datacenter-level processor intended for level 5 (or fully autonomous) robotaxis. There are now 25++ companies developing Nvidia Drive PX-based robotaxis.(Source: NVIDIA)

Anything that can help increase the quarterly revenue of Nvidia’s Auto business unit is an important matter that should be discussed here. To gauge just how important self-driving car technology-related products like the Drive PX Pegasus, read on Google’s (GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) billion-dollar legal suit against Uber allegedly receiving Waymo trade secrets.

The Drive PX Pegasus is 10x more powerful than the Drive PX 2 hardware. It can reportedly match the compute power of a 100-server datacenter rack. I consider this new hardware from Nvidia as the super-sized version of Intel’s (INTC) neuromorphic processor.

A little tweaking from Nvidia and Drive PX Pegasus can also self-learn like a human brain. Simultaneously, it can still deliver over 320 trillion operations per second compute performance without being tethered to the cloud.(Source: NVIDIA)

The Drive PX Pegasus could catapult Nvidia as the go-to processor supplier of the $38 billion/year ride-hailing industry’s adoption of robotaxis. Goldman Sachs also expects the ride-hailing industry to grow to $285 billion by 2030.

The Drive PX 2 Pegasus level 5 autonomous car processor can make Nvidia the enabler of some unicorn companies. The massive valuation of ride-sharing firms/taxi-hailing like Uber ($68 billion) and Didi Chuxing ($50 billion) can probably come true when they start augmenting their human-driven cars with Nvidia-powered robotaxis.

Nvidia can usher in the datacenter-in-a-car concept. Now that AMD is encroaching the high-end gaming/workstation GPU market with its Vega GPUs, Nvidia needs to work harder growing its Auto and datacenter GPU businesses.

Why I Am Optimistic About Robotaxis

Since Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) won’t have an equalizer to the Drive PX Pegasus, Nvidia can sell it at a high markup. After government regulators approve level 5 autonomous cars on the road, taxi fleet operators and ride-sharing companies will start using them. It is probably going to take 3-5 years before government regulators approve level 5 robotaxis. However, Nvidia’s surging valuation is already boosted by its potential role as the top supplier of semiconductor products for self-driving cars.

The three-year return of NVDA is more than 1,000%. Nvidia launched its Drive PX hardware/platform in March 2015. Nvidia priced its first Drive PX car processor at $10,000 and it still found acceptance. There are now more than 25 car manufacturers who work with Drive PX hardware. We have to conclude that the Auto segment is a contributor to the massive 3-year return of NVDA. No other company has matched Nvidia Drive PX’s level of acceptance among car manufacturers.

(Source: Morningstar)

Going forward, self-driving taxis can be better taxi-hailing service providers than human driven cars. More often than not, human drivers tend to burden me with stories about politics, their health, their family, their favorite TV shows and sports teams. I am ride-sharing to get from Point A to Point B. I do not need the additional aggravation of listening to another person’s ills/problems/thoughts.

If the travel time will take more than 30 minutes, I would prefer to nap rather than petty talk with a human driver. Robotaxis will assure me I won’t be driven around by chance by a sickly/DUI driver. Unlike a human driver, the Nvidia Drive PX Pegasus-based robotaxi won’t consider kidnapping or robbing its passenger.

Final Thoughts

The Gaming segment is currently the biggest revenue/profit generator of Nvidia. However, AMD will eventually take more market share in discrete gaming/mining GPUs. Nvidia developing more GPU products for Auto and datacenter is commendable. As far as I know, AMD still has no car-centric GPU in the pipeline.

As per released specs, the 500-Watt Drive PX Pegasus will come with 2 integrated Volta GPUs and 2 discrete post-Volta GPUs. The first Volta GPU, the Tesla V100 comes with 21 billion transistors, 5,120 CUDA cores, and 640 Tensor cores.

(Source: Wikipedia/Nvidia)

The Drive PX Pegasus is a stellar example of how far Nvidia has achieved in making its formerly gaming-only GPUs become in-demand for other enterprise-level, scalable applications. The rapid appreciation of Nvidia’s market cap over the last twelve months is because many investors believe in the future roles of GPUs in datacenter/deep learning and self-driving cars.

NVDA is a buy. According to the Artificial Intelligence-powered Relative Valuation Model of FundamentalSpeculation, NVDA is fairly valued.

(Source: FundamentalSpeculation)

FundamentalSpeculation derived a fair value of $182.74 for NVDA. It came about after FundamentalSpeculation’s AI computed the average valuation ratios of other companies with similar business fundamentals of Nvidia to get the Cohort Fair Value. After which, the Cohort Fair Value was modified with values derived from calculating the average valuation ratios of Nvidia’s peers in the Technology sector and Computer Hardware Industry.

Disclosure: I am/we are long NVDA, AMD, INTC, GOOG.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

NVIDIA unveils next-generation platform for fully autonomous cars

LONDON (Reuters) – Silicon Valley graphics chipmaker NVIDIA unveiled on Tuesday the first computer chips for developing fully autonomous vehicles and said it had more than 25 customers working to build a new class of driverless cars, robotaxis and long-haul trucks.

Deutsche Post DHL Group, the world’s largest mail and logistics company, and ZF [ZFF.UL], a top automotive parts supplier, plan to deploy a fleet of autonomous delivery trucks based on the new chips, starting in 2019, NVIDIA said.

The third generation of NVIDIA’s Drive PX automotive line, code-named Pegasus, is a multi-chip platform the size of car license plates with datacenter-class processing power.

Pegasus can handle 320 trillion operations per second, representing roughly a 13-fold increase over the calculating power of the current PX 2 line.

A single NVIDIA Xavier-class processor can be used for level 3 semi-autonomous driving, while a combination of multiple mobile and graphics processors would run level 5 full-scale driverless cars, the company said.

A level 5 vehicle is capable of navigating roads without any driver input and in its purest form would have no steering wheel or brakes. A level 3 car still needs a steering wheel and a driver who can take over if the car encounters a problem, while level 4 promises driverless features in dedicated lanes.

This dramatic improvement is a pre-condition for developing and testing future autonomous cars, experts said.

Shares of Nvidia were indicated 3.8 percent higher in pre-market U.S. trading at $192.37. The high-flying stock has gained 80 percent this year.

“NVIDIA is one step ahead. But you can be sure you can expect (rival chipmakers) Intel, NXP and Renesas not to be too far behind,” said Luca De Ambroggi, principal automotive electronics analyst with industry market research firm IHS Markit. 

U.S. computer chip giant Intel and its Mobileye automotive unit are working with German carmaker BMW and U.S. auto supplier Delphi on their own autonomous driving platform due out in 2021.

NXP has agreed to be acquired by Qualcomm to form the world’s largest auto electronics supplier. Japanese chipmaker Renesas is a has a strong presence in microcontrollers used to run key car functions.

NVIDIA’s automotive director Danny Shapiro said in an interview that many of the first 25 customers using the Pegasus platform would focus on robotaxis, which will be built without steering wheels or brakes and used only on dedicated routes. Bigger name automakers will announce vehicles running on Pegasus at their own product launches in coming months, he said.

MISSING PIECE IN DRIVERLESS PUZZLE

The Pegasus line will be available by the middle of 2018 for automakers to begin developing vehicles and testing software algorithms needed to control future driverless cars, NVIDIA executives told a developers’ conference in Munich on Tuesday.

The deal between Deutsche Post, ZF and NVIDIA will include future Deutsche Post StreetScooter delivery trucks. In Munich, the three partners are showcasing a prototype StreetScooter running NVIDIA Drive PX chips used to control sensors including six cameras, one radar and one lidar, or 3D laser camera.

Initial use cases will be for logistics vehicles on private roads within freight centers or for long-haul trucking in dedicated lanes, Shapiro said: “They are not replacing the drivers, but making the drivers more efficient and safer”.

For its current generation Drive PX2, NVIDIA has said it has 225 customers, including car and truck makers, Tier 1 auto suppliers, high-definition mapping companies, start-ups and research institutions. These customers can make use of PX2-class software when they upgrade to Pegasus chips, NVIDIA said.

These could encompass existing customers Tesla, including its latest Model 3. Others include Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) Audi A8, the first car to use Level 3 semi-autonomous driving features, Toyota Motor’s next-generation autonomous cars and Geely’s Volvo business.

De Ambroggi said NVIDIA’s Pegasus automotive platform was the first with the processing power for automakers to begin developing truly autonomous vehicles, which could be upgraded with software improvements ahead of actual roadway deployments.

But the analyst stressed that while Pegasus could find its way into mass-produced robotaxis running in defined lanes, these early fully-autonomous chips would likely only allow carmakers to develop prototypes ready for the driverless era.

Regulations, road-testing, nagging safety concerns – and questions about how power-intensive the new data-hungry chip platform will be – are likely to mean truly driverless cars for personal use won’t arrive until at least 2025, he said.

Reporting by Eric Auchard; editing by Mark Potter and Jason Neely

Electric powered jet firm Lilium gets $90M to make flying cars and trucks a reality

Why it matters to you

This kind of financial investment will ideally bring everyone’s dream transportation technique to market place that significantly sooner.

How significantly money would you throw at a firm promising to supply Jetsons-like flying cars and trucks? If you are anything like the venture capitalists associated with German aviation startup Lilium Aviation, the response is $90 million. That is how significantly they invested in a not long ago accomplished Sequence B funding spherical.

Among the the large-profile buyers are Chinese web big and financial investment company Tencent, non-public banking and asset administration organization LGT, and other folks. They joined Twitter co-founder and previous CEO Evan Williams and Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström as people with a vested desire in earning Lilium’s flying cars and trucks, well, acquire off. The $90 million delivers the complete financial investment in the firm to a lot more than $100 million — which is ideally sufficient to supply a sweet solution to the market place area in the not-much too-distant foreseeable future.

Previously in 2017, Lilium carried out a demonstration of its electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) jet at a non-public airfield in Bavaria. Managed remotely by a pilot on the floor, the two-seater prototype was able to execute a vertical takeoff, transition among its hover and ahead flight modes mid-air, and make a prosperous landing. In addition to this automobile, the startup is also operating on a 5-individual jet that will be able to journey at speeds of up to 300 km for each hour (186 mph) for 60 minutes on a solitary charge. To set that in standpoint, it implies completing the 19 km journey from Manhattan to JFK Airport in as tiny as 5 minutes.

It is this latter automobile that Lilium’s new windfall will predominantly go towards. “This financial investment is a greatly crucial move for Lilium as it enables us to make the 5-seat jet a reality,” Daniel Wiegand, co-founder and CEO, claimed in a statement. “This is the future stage in our rapid evolution from an plan to the generation of a commercially prosperous aircraft that will revolutionize the way we journey in and all-around the world’s towns. It can make Lilium 1 of the most effective funded electric aircraft assignments in the planet.”

The money will also assist expand the measurement of the team, which now stands at a lot more than 70. We guess we know the place to send out your résumé if you are looking to be a part of an revolutionary startup. Who appreciates, possibly they will even throw in a totally free flying car or truck as section of your gains package.




Candylab’s New Wooden Cars Swing Into the Prohibition Era

Five years ago, Vlad Dragusin began making wooden cars in the evenings and on weekends. At the time, he was an architect at the design studio Gensler, and the cars were just a hobby—a way to escape the real world obstacles inherent in designing buildings. “With architecture, it gets to the point where you’re spending this much time on other things,” he says stretching his arms wide, “and this much time on design.”

The cars, on the other hand, were pure design. Dragusin, who now creates them full-time for his company Candylab Toys, had a soft spot for the boxy muscle cars of the 1960s and ‘70s with their clean, blunt lines and bold colors. “See how simple these are?” he says pointing to a wooden car modeled after a Pontiac Firebird. “They’re just simple wooden blocks.”

Dragusin and his team spent the first four years of Candylab making variations of those muscle cars with an Airstream or tow truck thrown in. And then they hit a wall. “We knew we were going to do something different period-wise,” he says. “We developed [the muscle cars] as much as we could before it gets repetitive.”

The company’s new line of cars, called The Outlaws, is modeled after prohibition-era hot rods that have been souped up and redesigned for modern day. The automobiles, which vaguely echo Rat Rod car culture, are curvier than Candylab earlier designs, with an elongated body that tapers at the front and wheels that jut out. It’s speedy shape is harder to engineer than the typical muscle car, Dragusin explains.

Typically, a hot rod silhouette would be made from an injection molded plastic. But Candylab’s new line is made by shaving the wood on a router table to get a precise, compound curve. “It’s like sculpting,” Dragusin says. “You can only subtract with wood.”

By limiting itself to a single material for the body, Candylab loses some of the detail found on other toy cars. Instead of accessories, Candylab’s cars are defined by their overall shape. “For cars, silhouette is really powerful,” says Kaeo Helder, a designer at Candylab. Working with Dragusin, Helder looks at a model of a real car and then peels back as much detail as possible until they get to the essence of the form. Most of the time, this leaves them with a simple silhouette that echoes the original.

In the new line, all of the cars except for the tow truck use the same basic body shape. It’s a way to optimize manufacturing and give the line a cohesive identity. Cleverly, the team distinguishes the cars by flipping their wooden bodies upside down, moving the cab toward the front or back of the car, or painting on additional details like taillights. “Essentially we’re doing the exact same thing they [Rat Rod makers] did,” says Helder. “You chop it up, combine it, and and see what happens.”

The road beyond self-driving cars

Many autonomous vehicle discussions don’t go far enough in describing the impact the technology will have on behavior over time. We are concerned mostly with whether we’re talking about “hands on” or “hands off” the steering wheel, but at some point, confidence in the technology will grow and we won’t have to pay attention to the road or other cars at all as we ride. Then we can begin to consider how other areas of life, work, and travel can be supported by these evolving vehicles.

For example, when all riders are focused inward and the driving is handled by a sensor network, indicators like road signs, brake lights, and lane separators become unnecessary. If there are no human drivers, we won’t have a need for these visual guides.

By dividing the rollout of autonomous vehicles into stages, breaking down the component parts, and connecting it to other trends, we can reveal the most likely areas of impact.

Trucks, rides, and safety

Examples of self-driving trucks are already appearing, and a primary suggested benefit is that autonomous trucks will make roads safer. Rides for the elderly and others who are unable to drive is another clear early benefit of driverless vehicles.

Possible outcomes:

  • Rides for kids going to after-school activities, with in-vehicle monitoring for parents. An autonomous ride could become preferable to having a stranger in the driver’s seat.
  • Rides for homebound elderly and vision-impaired people, with in-vehicle monitoring and voice services. Amazon Alexa is already joining this part of the trend.
  • In-vehicle “Meals on the Way” services for riders become extensions of food service and delivery. This could also prompt in-vehicle packaging and storage innovation for such services.
  • Seat-surround airbag systems protect passengers independent of orientation.
  • Highways institute dedicated nighttime hours and lanes for self-driving trucks.
  • Continuous shipping, battery-swapping stations, and mobile-charging vehicles keep autonomous trucks on the road at all times.
  • New autonomous and manual vehicles transmit location automatically to provide system awareness to all cars on the road. This could improve the flow of traffic overall but presents some inherent security concerns.
  • Improved solar panel efficiency enables roof-charging for trucks and cars. This could extend travel time and reduce the need for charging stations.

Work and roads

As riding becomes the preferred way to travel, larger “travel pods” will become a natural extension of the growing shared-workspace trend. All visual indicators can be removed from the road and new elements moved inside the vehicle when the act of driving is handled by sensors.

Possible Outcomes:

  • Self-driving working pods for small-team domestic travel. This can reduce travel costs and increase continuity of work.
  • Mobile workspaces connect with shared workspaces.
  • “Sleep cars” become the new, less expensive way to travel short distances, reducing short-range air and train trips.
  • In-car video calling is standard for new self-driving vehicles.
  • Interior brand elements and lighting become more important as visitors and viewers are focused inward.
  • With awareness of approaching vehicles and traffic, intersection traffic lights become less necessary.
  • Night sensor driving reduces the need for streetlights on highways.
  • Road signs and lanes disappear, with roadway intelligence built into vehicles.
  • Highway lanes expand and contract automatically for high-traffic times.
  • Autonomous-only highways allow for much higher rates of speed.
  • Mobile and Wi-Fi networks installed in vehicles allow for dynamic moving networks.

Ownership, homes, and recreation

As people focus more on rides and less on cars, it will start to shift how we design and use areas of our homes and could start a shift toward “manual driving” as a recreational activity.

Possible outcomes:

  • Garages are hired out as self-driving car charging and storage stations.
  • Personal car insurance becomes less common as insurance is handled by driving services.
  • Recreational driving services appear for manual driving, leading to fewer car dealerships.
  • Specialized recreation areas appear for manual driving.
  • Street pickup area indentations at the curb in front of homes become the new driveway. Driveways and garages are no longer standard in home construction.
  • Self-driving tiny homes combine two growing trends.

Merging transportation modes

As these vehicles begin to look less like cars and more like transport pods, they can easily be seen as modular plug-in points for other modes of travel.

Possible outcomes:

  • Modular self-driving pods appear and can drop into Hyperloop tubes for traveling longer distances.
  • Modular vehicles can dock into homes, making travel easier.
  • Aircraft with docking bays for the seating pods from mobile driving units become available, increasing the efficiency of ticketing, boarding, and air travel.

Autonomous cars are not the only area that can be broken down into component parts and sequenced over time and trends. This kind of service and product decomposition can be a good way to look at strategic areas of focus and can reveal unexpected new products and services for companies to explore in any industry.

John Jones, senior vice president of design strategy at Fjord, design and innovation from Accenture Interactive

This story originally appeared on Medium. Copyright 2017.