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Automaker Ford embraced technology and semi-autonomous functionality in vehicles, and looks ahead to full self-driving vehicles. The company may not be the front runner to release a self-driving car, but is moving forward with its own research.
Ford is developing autonomous vehicles, but isn't as worried about trying to be the first company to market with a self-driving vehicle. Instead, Fields is pulling from founder Henry Ford's visions of trying to "make things accessible to everyone."
"Even now, semi-autonomous features are the building blocks for full autonomy," Fields said in an interview with Fortune. "When you look the breadth of semi-autonomous features that we have in our vehicles, we're in a leading position there.
Responding to increasing demand of driver-assistance and connected technologies, Audi will work with Chinese company Baidu to increase features in vehicles. Supporting smartphone and tablet connections inside of vehicles is opening the door to new business agreements between automakers and tech companies.
"We are now taking our next big step in China," said Rupert Stadler, CEO of Audi, speaking during a shareholder meeting. "The virtual and real worlds are merging."
It's a clever strategy by Baidu to consolidate its power in the Chinese Internet market, as automakers look for new tech companies to work with. Using the Baidu CarLife system, Audi will be able to provide faster data transmission into vehicles, while also providing GPS, infotainment, and other wireless functionality.
Chinese company Baidu has partnered with German automaker Daimler, in an agreement that will bring additional connected functionality to Mercedes-Benz vehicles available in China. The announcement was made during CES Asia, currently underway in Shanghai, China.
The use of Baidu software in Mercedes-Benz vehicles will allow car owners to sync their smartphone or tablet with the vehicle's dashboard - providing streaming music, online maps, and additional Internet services. There was no word which models would receive Baidu software, or when they would be available to consumers.
There are more automakers and tech companies forging relationships, as Bluetooth, wireless Internet, infotainment, and other services become more common in vehicles.
Testing of driverless big rig trucks could travel on Route 83 from Mexico through the United States to Canada, with a feasibility study currently underway. The additional travel corridor would allow grain, food and other supplies to make the multi-national journey while relieving logistical stress on trains.
The appeal of driverless trucks would make it safer due to no worry of driver fatigue, even though a human truck driver would be available to take over as needed. Self-driving truck technology was recently approved in Nevada, with other states interested in seeing results from the trials.
"We're hopeful that, working with the Canadian government, the Mexican government, the United States, we can create some kind of automated way... (to) streamline that process of border crossings," said Marlo Anderson, of the Central North American Trade Corridor Association, in a statement published by the Canadian Press.
It looks like Mercedes-Benz and Qualcomm will team up to help study wireless electric vehicle recharging functionality, in addition to helping wirelessly recharge smartphones. It could be possible to wirelessly charge devices such as smartphones and tablets, which are increasingly utilized via connected technologies now included in higher-end cars.
"It's important that we remain on the cutting edge of technology and continue to deliver unparalleled experiences to our customers," said Thomas Weber, board member of the research and development team at Daimler, in a statement published by Reuters. "With this in mind, we are eager to jointly explore possible fields of future cooperation with an internationally leading tech firm like Qualcomm."
There is a race among automakers to work with tech companies, helping push the boundaries of vehicle software, telecommunications - and overall connected functionality. German automakers are especially eager to embrace technology in luxury cars, which should continue trickling down to more affordable vehicles.
Continuing its domination, ride sharing giant Uber is testing out its self-driving car on the streets of Pittsburgh. The car itself had "Uber Advanced Technologies Center" on the side of it, making it stand out even more.
Uber announced plans of testing out its self-driving car technology back in February, where it was going to be working with Carnegie Mellon University to build a new facility in Pittsburgh for research into mapping, vehicle safety and autonomy technology. Uber spokesperson Trina Smith has said that part of Uber's early research into mapping, safety and autonomy systems was test driving the new self-driving vehicle.
The ride sharing company has come out and said that the model snapped on the streets of Pittsburgh, was in fact not a self-driving car, after all.
As more connected cars hit the open roads, there could be increased data competition for vehicles, smartphones, tablets and other connected tech in vehicles, according to reports. Over the next 10 years, machine-to-machine (M2M) connections will increase from 250 million in 2014 up to a whopping 2.3 billion by 2024, according to Machina Research, the M2M data communications research firm.
"In terms of overall data volumes, connected cars don't present much of a problem," said Matt Hatton, founder and CEO of Machina, in a statement to Reuters. "But network resource management is not based on total traffic volume - it's based on particular cell sites during peak times of network use."
Growing numbers of vehicles utilize a wireless network already, and that number will be around 20 percent by 2020, according to the Gartner research group. Cellular data demand during high volumes of traffic is expected, and will be difficult to deal with - as the infrastructure continues to develop down the road.
Autonomous vehicles will seemingly take over the open road one day, but no one is really sure when that will begin. However, passengers will no longer have to worry about fighting gridlock traffic, it's possible commute distances to and from work will increase.
The free time will allow passengers to get work done, play on social media, or just relax while they commute - and it's possible travel distances could reach around 180 miles each way, according to recent predictions. For example, someone with an autonomous vehicle could leave their home in Vermont at 7:30 AM and arrive at a midtown Manhattan office at 9:00 AM, depending on the road infrastructure for autonomous vehicles.
Autonomous vehicles could change all of that in the coming years: Current standards indicate most people live about 30 minutes away from where they work, regardless of how they travel to and from the office.
The auto industry has a lot of new and exciting breakthroughs, with much attention focused on autonomous vehicle research and connected cars. However, a growing number of companies are trying to produce flying cars that could be just a couple years away.
Moller International, PAL-V, AeroMobil, and other companies want to manufacture and sell flying vehicles by 2020 - and the race is on. Of course, consumers have heard this type of talk before, with numerous roadblocks causing research and development delays.
There are numerous regulatory issues that must be addressed, and that alone could take years. It's going to be a continued battle for manufacturers to prove that their vehicles are fit to drive on the road - and take to the sky.
The fight is on to provide content to connected cars, with AT&T reportedly preparing exclusive content that can be streamed to mobile devices. The videos, music and games could be available by the end of 2015, with AT&T already working with eight automakers.
AT&T is working with Ford, General Motors, Audi and others, interested in providing Internet connectivity in their newer vehicles.
"It's no different than being able to hook onto a Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere and get access to content you already subscribe to and get unique content that you could only get in the back of the vehicle," said Chris Penrose, SVP of emerging devices at AT&T, in a statement published by Reuters.