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Programmers and engineers at Google and the GM-Carnegie Mellon Autonomous Driving Collaborative Research Lab, among other institutions, are finding driverless cars are too good at what they do, and it's causing a crash rate double that of cars with human drivers. That is to say, a robot driver that obeys the law to the letter every time doesn't mesh so well with human drivers that don't do the same. For example, a driverless car will go the speed limit on a busy highway whereas everyone else will be going well above it, or be wanting to, thus increasing the probability of a crash. As well, the reflexes of a driverless car are better, which can catch a human off guard.
Though all crashes have been minor and none of them the fault of a driverless car, researchers are of course debating what to do about the situation. One possibility: programming the vehicles to behave more like humans and better fit into the "social game" (as Google describes it) that is driving, even if that means making them a little less lawful.
It looks like Google will be making a self-driving unit within its Alphabet company, according to "a person briefed on the company's strategy", reports Bloomberg.
Google's autonomous vehicles have clocked up over 1 million miles (or 1.6 million kilometers) on public roads throughout San Francisco, and Austin, Texas. These cities are where Alphabet (or Google, or whatever) will roll out their autonomous vehicles first, with an Uber-like service. The person that Bloomberg talked with asked not to be identified as "the plans are private". The new autonomous vehicles would be deployed in confined areas at first, such as "campuses, military bases or corporate office parks", according to Bloomberg's source.
One of Google's main goals with autonomous vehicles is to reduce traffic accidents, which claim around 33,000 lives every year in the United States alone. Back in September, Google and Alphabet co-founder Sergey Brin said that self-driving cars would first reach humanity as a form of service, saying that countless people could try the technology, and that having "the vehicle come back to us every day" meant that Google could update the machines at a much higher rate than consumer-owned autonomous cars.
It seems going all-electric is the way of the future for carmakers, with Hyundai entering the fold with its impending announcement of the Ioniq, it's first all-electric vehicle.
Hyundai will unveil the Ioniq next month, but the company is going to go about the announcement a little different - offering the Ioniq in multiple versions. Not only will there be an all-electric version, but Hyundai will offer a gasoline-electric model, as well as plug-in electric hybrid options, too. Hyundai says that this is the first time that a vehicle will be sold with three different environmentally-friendly powertrain options to choose from.
The carmaker is teasing that its Ioniq vehicle features "class-leading" aerodynamics with a "coupe-like" exterior design that minimizes wind resistance. Hyundai has also added that the Ioniq is made from environmentally-friendly materials throughout the interior, that continues the "elegant and clutter-free theme". Hyundai will debut the Ioniq in Korea next month, before it will go on display at the Geneva Motor Show, and the New York Auto Show in March 2016.
No longer limited to smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy and ASUS ZenFone, Corning has announced today in a press release that it will be supplying the windshields for Ford's new GT supercar. Described as the first production vehicle to utilize Corning's lightweight Gorilla Glass, this advancement will reportedly save over 12 pounds in overall vehicle weight.
Described by Hau Thai-Tang, group vice president, Global Purchasing, Ford Motor Company, as a great example of innovation for the automotive sector, he continued "The Ford GT will set new standards for innovation through performance and light-weighting, and we're excited about exploring other applications for this great new technology." Adding to this, Corning Incorporated chairman and CEO Wendell P. Weeks stated that "We believe lightweight, tough, optically advantaged Gorilla Glass for Automotive is a game-changer for the industry, and we're thrilled to work with Ford to bring it to market."
While these two companies have been in partnership for years in regards to emission control technology, this world's first adoption marks what could become a large ordeal for many high-class vehicles worldwide.
With the race now on for the first mass selling mainstream consumer electric automobile, Ford has announced it will be releasing 13 new green cars over the next five years, sitting alongside an impressive investment of $4.5 billion in researching its own "electrified vehicle solutions."
This investment and release schedule means that 40% of Ford's fleet of new cars should be electric by 2020, showcasing the biggest electric investment yet for this automotive company. Looking to capture the consumer market, Ford's new vehicles will reportedly come packed with fast charging technology, allowing for an 80% charge in 30 minutes time, looking to offer a 100-mile range.
With one of the biggest issues based around electric vehicles being that of charging times compared to filling up with gas at a pump, Ford hopes that this new direct current fast-charge technology will draw the mainstream audience towards what it has on offer. In addition to these charging capabilities, Ford also plans to install new instrument clusters, providing users with real-time power usage and customizable displays.
After a tumultuous year for Volkswagen, there are rumors that the German carmaker is set to unveil an EV concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
Volkswagen looks to be using a sexy futuristic design, with the electric vehicle sporting an awesome-looking illuminated grille and squinting headlights. We should see the full shape including some vintage cues from the iconic van, something that would include short overhangs, a wide D-pillar, and boxy overall aesthetic.
VW should be using the concept car as a way to push into the future, with Volkswagen's chairman set to unveil the EV during his keynote at CES on January 5, where he will focus on "the latest developments in electromobility as well as the next generation of connectivity".
Tesla gets all the headlines when it comes to electric vehicles, but Porsche will soon be competing in the all-electric vehicle race with its forthcoming Mission E sedan.
Porsche showed off the four-door Mission E concept vehicle in September, saying that the all-electric vehicle would have the equivalent of 600 horsepower. This will provide the Mission E car with 0-60 mph times of under 3.5 seconds, with a range of more than 310 miles. At these specs, Porsche's Mission E car will be slower than Telsa's more-than-impressive Model S P85D, which is rated at 762 horsepower - enough power to usher in 0-60 mph in less than 2.8 seconds (with Ludicrous mode enabled).
Mission E will feature an 800-volt charger that will charge up the all-electric vehicle to 80% charge in only 15 minutes. This is impressive, considering Tesla's vehicle takes nearly twice as long to get to 80%. Porsche also promises to build its lithium-ion battery pack into the floor of the car, just like Tesla does. Porsche's chairman of the executive board, Oliver Blume, says that the Mission E is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the sports car. We should expect the first vehicles to roll off the production line before 2020.
In the coming weeks, Uber is launching "SPOT", a technology it's using to more easily connect riders with their drivers, thereby cutting down wait times.
It works very simply: while waiting for pickup, you select a colour in the Uber app, and when your driver shows up, he'll have a glowstick-like device matching the colour you've chosen in his windshield. He'll also more easily be able to find you if you choose to light up your phone screen with the same colour.
Automaker Volvo and Microsoft have announced they will work together to help develop autonomous car technology, with collected data aimed at delivering "meaningful services."
"Technology will transform when it comes to autonomous cars, connectivity and the car buying process," said Bjorn Annwall, senior VP of marketing at Volvo, in a statement to CNBC. "We believe this will happen it's naturally the tech and automotive industry comes closer to explore this together. We are exploring a number of different collaborations."
Specifics related to how the two companies will work together were not released - but the idea of machine learning and finding a way to promote Volvo vehicles using HoloLens are two likely solutions. Consumers can expect to begin seeing "mixed reality" solutions starting sometime in 2016.
Korean automaker Hyundai expects highly autonomous vehicle technologies available by 2020, with full autonomous models available by 2030, according to company senior executives. Over the next five years, almost $10 billion will be invested by Hyundai to bolster its autonomous research efforts.
"Fully-autonomous vehicles are still some way off, and a great deal of research and rigorous product testing will need to be carried out to make the 'self-driving car' a reality," said Lim Tae-won, VP of the Hyundai Motor Central Advanced Research and Engineering Institute. "Kia is still in the early stages of developing its own technologies, and we are confident that the latest innovations - both partially and fully autonomous - will ultimately make driving safer for everyone."
Meanwhile, the Hyundai Genesis self-driving vehicle recently completed a three-kilometer series of test runs in South Korea - marking the first time the vehicle hit public city streets. The vehicle will be showcased next month, with the sedan supporting semi-autonomous solutions.