The Senate Is About to Approve Commercial Sale of Self-Driving Cars (But Not Trucks)

You will soon be able to ride home from your local car dealership in a car that finds its way there unassisted while you nap or read. That reality came a whole lot closer this week, with bipartisan agreement in the Senate on legislation allowing self-driving cars to take the the roads. The law is expected to come up for vote in the near future, and pass.

The House passed similar legislation, also with bipartisan support, several weeks ago. That legislation allows car manufacturers to sell up to 25,000 autonomous vehicles the first year they offer them. That will go up to 100,000 cars a year if the self-driving cars prove as safe as human-driven ones. And that’s not all. The Trump administration also helped out recently by issuing voluntary safety guidelines for autonomous cars and at the same time requesting that states avoid writing laws or regulations governing self-driving cars and possibly hampering their introduction.

The senators who arrived at the self-driving deal note that autonomous cars appear to be safer than human-driven ones. “Ultimately, we expect adoption of self-driving vehicle technologies will save lives, improve mobility for people with disabilities, and create new jobs,” said Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) in a joint statement. They may be right: When a Tesla owner died while his car was in Autopilot mode last summer, company founder Elon Musk pointed out that it was the first known Autopilot fatality in 130 million miles of driving, whereas there’s a human fatality for every 89 million miles of traditional driving.

But if cars with no one at the wheel will soon become a common sight, the same won’t be true of semi trucks. The Teamsters successfully lobbied for the House version of the bill to limit self-driving vehicles to 10,000 pounds or less. That could be a problem for the U.S. trucking industry, which was short an estimated 48,000 drivers at the end of 2015, a shortage that’s expected to grow to 175,000 over the next seven years. That will create enormous pressure to replace hard-to-find long-haul truck drivers with no-muss, no-fuss AI.

Tech

Ford, Lyft will partner to deploy self-driving cars

DETROIT (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co said on Wednesday it will collaborate with Lyft to deploy Ford self-driving vehicles on the ride services company’s network in large numbers by 2021.

Ford and Lyft teams will begin working together to design software to allow Ford vehicles to communicate with Lyft’s smartphone apps.

Ford self-driving test vehicles will be connected to Lyft’s network, but at first, customers will not be able to use them, Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president for autonomous vehicles and electrification, told Reuters. Ford will put human-driven vehicles on Lyft’s network.

He did not say when Ford and Lyft expect to offer the first rides in self-driving cars.

“We’re not building prototypes for the sake of building prototypes,” Marakby said, adding Ford intends to ultimately put thousands of self-driving vehicles in use.

Ford’s new Chief Executive Jim Hackett is scheduled to meet with investors on Tuesday to outline the Dearborn, Mich. automaker’s strategy for boosting profitability. Ford shares are down 1.65 percent so far this year, while Detroit rival General Motors Co’s shares have risen 15.6 percent, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV shares are up 71 percent.

Hackett’s plans to compete for revenue from mobility services, which include car sharing and ride-hailing, will be one area of focus for investors. The Lyft partnership fills in a piece of the puzzle.

Ford also is testing delivery services using self-driving vehicles and a van shuttle service. The self-driving vehicles Ford will deploy through Lyft will use software developed by Argo AI, a company in which Ford is investing $ 1 billion over the next five years.

The company has said it will invest $ 700 million in a factory in Flat Rock, Michigan, to make it capable of building electric and self driving vehicles.

Lyft has said it will offer an open platform for companies to deploy self-driving vehicles on its network, and has partnerships with self driving vehicle technology startup Drive.ai and Alphabet Inc’s Waymo self driving car unit.

GM has a 9 percent stake in Lyft, acquired for $ 500 million in January 2016. “Our relationship with GM has always been a non-exclusive relationship,” Raj Kapoor, Lyft’s chief strategy officer, told Reuters.

GM is also assembling the assets necessary to launch its own ride services using self-driving cars, building its Maven car-sharing unit and preparing to launch mass production of autonomous Chevrolet Bolt electric cars at a factory in suburban Detroit.

Reporting By Joseph White; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Ford Invests in Cloud Firm Pivotal in Self-Driving Car Push

Ford said Thursday it was investing $ 182 million (roughly Rs. 1,211 crores) into San Francisco cloud computing firm Pivotal as it deepens its work on …


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Google hires ex-Hyundai boss John Krafcik to head its self-driving cars, hints at Alphabet spin out

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Google announced Sunday that former Hyundai president and chief executive John Krafcik will be leading the Internet giant’s self-driving car project from the end of September.

The company, which recently announced it is breaking itself up under new parent company Alphabet, also hinted that the self-driving car unit is “a good candidate” to eventually be spun out.

For now, though, the project will remain under the Google X research division. In June, the company said that its driverless cars have autonomously driven over one million miles, and at the end of that month started road tests of its prototypes.

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The decision to hire Krafcik seems to be partly to do with his ideas around commercializing the technology, evolving it from more than just a super-cool but experimental project into a fully-fledged and viable business.

In a series of tweets Sunday, Krafcik said, “Yes, true: I’m joining the Google Self-Driving Car project in late September.This is a great opportunity to help Google develop the enormous potential of self-driving cars. I can’t wait to get started.”

“Self-driving cars could save 1000s of lives, give people greater mobility & free us from things we find frustrating about driving today,” he added.

Yes, true: I’m joining the Google Self-Driving Car project in late September.

— John Krafcik (@johnkrafcik) September 14, 2015

This is a great opportunity to help Google develop the enormous potential of self-driving cars. I can’t wait to get started.

— John Krafcik (@johnkrafcik) September 14, 2015

Self-driving cars could save 1000s of lives, give people greater mobility & free us from things we find frustrating about driving today.

— John Krafcik (@johnkrafcik) September 14, 2015

Earlier this year, Google asked artists to submit designs to display on its self-driving car prototypes, and more recently in July said that two accidents involving its vehicles were caused by human drivers of other cars. (Sounds about right.)

The company said in a release, “This is about getting ourselves ready for the future, so we can bring this technology to its full potential. The project is not becoming an Alphabet company at this stage, though it’s certainly a good candidate to become one at some point in the future.”

The project’s former head, Chris Urmson, is expected to move over to the vehicles technical development and software side, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Krafcik was most recently president of online car-shopping service TrueCar — clearly not a company lagging behind today’s Internet-connected world — as well as a chief engineer at Ford.

“We’re feeling good about our progress, so now we’re investing in building out a team that can help us bring this technology to its full potential,” a Google spokesperson told the WSJ. “John’s combination of technical expertise and auto-industry experience will be particularly valuable as we collaborate with many different partners to achieve our goal.”

Jeremy Alicandri, vice president of Habberstad Auto Group, took to Twitter to congratulate Krafcik: “This is super exciting! Google now has one of the auto industry’s best of the best on their team!”

Another user joked about how fast Krafcik has changed his Twitter profile’s background to an image of Google’s self-driving car. Google is now also included on his Twitter account, though not yet any specific title — something which may or may not be added in going forward.

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