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Volvo plans to have 100 production ready autonomous vehicles ready to hit the road within the next couple of years, trying to beat Tesla, Google, and BMW to the punch. The company expects the pilot program, which will focus on drivers in Gothenburg, will be able to handle highway driving, local traffic, and potential emergencies.
The "Drive Me" test program will take place on 30 miles of public road, after Volvo fine tunes hardware and software needed to make autonomous driving a reality.
"We are entering uncharted territory in the field of autonomous driving," said Dr. Peter Mertens, senior vice president of Volvo, in a statement published by Business Insider. "Taking the exciting step to a public pilot, with the ambition to enable ordinary people to sit behind the wheel in normal traffic on public roads, has never been done before."
Nokia has 300 Here True vehicles traveling major international cities in an effort known as "reality mapping," which will be used by other companies. Here is currently utilized by Bing, Garmin, Yahoo, Oracle, and other major companies - and powers many built-in vehicle GPS systems.
The Nokia Here True cars use four high-resolution cameras that take 360-degree pictures about every 20 feet. The onboard GPS senor is able to identify the car's location within a centimeter, and a LIDAR system captures 700,000 points per second.
Nokia hopes that its new maps can help autonomous vehicles, which rely on cameras, sensors and custom algorithms to navigate roadways.
Autonomous vehicles are on the horizon, but drivers shouldn't expect to see fully self-driving vehicles immediately. Public roads and highways aren't yet set up to accommodate autonomous vehicles, so trying to figure out roadway infrastructure will be difficult.
It's going to take additional live driving research to work out a lot of the kinks that must be improved in the years to come. However, the auto industry has plenty of time to show off technological breakthroughs while winning over the public.
A survey from Carnegie Mellon University helps provide additional insight into the type of features drivers want to see from future self-driving technology. Seventy one percent of drivers want an autonomous vehicle to be able to adjust driving habits based on weather, while 57 percent hope self-driving cars are equipped with a driver fatigue warning.
The automotive industry is embracing change - and increasing pressure - from the number of technology companies interested in developing self-driving and connected car features.
Google, Sony, Apple, and other tech companies are interested in developing everything from their own vehicles down to software and hardware that can be used in next-generation cars. Google's public ambition to develop a self-driving vehicle has been noticed by automakers, interested in learning from the tech company's successes and failures.
"Google is pushing the theme of self-driving cars very strongly," said Volkmar Denner, CEO of Bosch, during a conference in Germany. "That's having a very positive effect for the entire automotive industry, because it enormously accelerates the pace of introducing drive-assist systems and semi-automatic functions."
Japanese electronics company Sony has invested more than $800,000 in ZMP, a Japanese startup company developing robotic cars, according to a report published by the Financial Times. ZMP will use the cash funds - and Sony's knowledge of image sensors - to help create autonomous vehicle solutions.
Sony has just a small share in automotive sensors, but hopes to use its CMOS sensor experience in smartphones and cameras to begin accelerating in the expanding market.
It will still take years of research, but self-driving vehicles are expected to become more commonplace by 2020 - and Sony wants to position itself as an industry leader when that time comes. Sony has found success with its PlayStation gaming unit, but has struggled declining revenue companywide, as other units lose steam to Korean and Chinese competitors.
It looks like Apple is not just working on its own autonomous vehicle, but it will be building the car, too. The rumors aren't coming from unreliable sources, either, with The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and now Reuters all chiming in.
The new information on Apple's super-secret vehicle project has the company not only building its own software platform for the car, but building the actual autonomous car, too. According to Reuters' sources: "Apple is gathering advice on parts and production methods... adding that Apple appeared not to be interested in combustion engine technology or conventional manufacturing methods".
When it comes to the iCar (that's what we're calling it until it's officially named) we should expect it to be an electric vehicle, so think of the best world's between an autonomous car and Tesla Motors' various electric vehicles. The world of automobiles is about to get very exciting.
Apple is reportedly working on self-driving vehicle technology, shifting hundreds of employees to work on an Apple electric vehicle. The "Titan" project is a major initiative as senior executives and workers would focus on connected technology and electric vehicle developments.
"They don't appear to want a lot of help from carmakers," Reuters was told by an unnamed industry source. "Fully automated driving is an evolution. Carmakers will slowly build the market for autonomous cars by first releasing connected and partially automated cars."
It's possible Apple may not actually want to go to production with the electric vehicle - where it would compete with Tesla and other automakers - but could license any technology developments to others.
More than half of drivers are worried about safety concerns related to increased connected services in vehicles, with 56 percent worried about navigation, search and mapping, according to a survey conducted by the deCarta mapping software company.
To provide an accurate - and safe - solution, using location based service (LBS) apps inside of vehicles would give drivers everything they need to determine their location, where they want to go, and how to get there.
"The most important thing to improve safety is to minimize the amount of touch interaction the driver has with the system, or even the amount of time the driver has to look at the map," said J. Kim Fennell, president and CEO of deCarta, in a statement to eWeek. "This means the navigation system should have smarter, clearer voice commands that can guide the driver audibly rather than requiring constant viewing of the route."
An Apple employee has teased some exciting news with Business Insider, that the company is working on a new project that would "give Tesla a run for its money".
Business Insider reports: "After writing about how the van could be used for a self-driving car, we got an unsolicited email from an employee at Apple about "vehicle development" at the company. Apple's latest project is too exciting to pass up," the person said. "I think it will change the landscape and give Tesla a run for its money".
We know that Apple employees have been moving over to Tesla Motors in droves, but now it's being reported that Tesla employees are coming back to Apple for this mysterious project, which sounds like a stretch. If Apple were working a self-driving car, it could be a big deal, but a self-driving car consists of many technologies that need to work together perfectly, on its first shot. We'll continue to report on this as it breaks.
While Uber continues to dominate the industry, it is still facing a very uphill battle with its various lawsuits, bans, privacy issues, bad PR and reports of even sabotaging competitors. This hasn't stopped Google from reportedly developing a competitor to Uber.
Bloomberg is reporting that Google's Chief Legal Officer David Drummond has teased that the Mountain View-based search giant could be working on its own Uber alternative. Uber executives have reportedly seen screenshots of a new ride-sharing application that Google is working on, something that is currently in use by select Google employees.
What better way to compete with Uber than with its own self-driving autonomous cars, that you could book through your smartphone? This could be the future, but there will be various legal problems Google (and other companies) will need to sort out. But for now, Google could unveil an Uber-like service, eventually replacing it with a fleet of autonomous vehicles.