US consumers concerned about lack of standardisation in driverless car legislation

Driverless cars are on their way, whatever speed they arrive, but according to a new study many US citizens are still concerned about various aspects of their safety.

The study from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which polled 1,005 adults living in the US, found more than three quarters opposed disconnection of vehicle controls such as steering wheels and brake pedals, while the vast majority saw concern with more general cybersecurity and safety legislation.

73% of those polled said they support the development of safety standards for new features related to the operation of driverless cars, while 81% said they supported cybersecurity rules to protect driverless cars from being hacked.

This is put alongside the Senate AV Start Act and the House Self Drive Act, two pieces of impending legislation which the report asserts do not do enough in these areas. Regarding safety standards, the report says, only ‘voluntary guidelines’ are issued for now, while both Acts have a demand that a ‘plan’ exists for cybersecurity, but no minimum requirements. “These poll numbers should be a bright, flashing hazard light to members of congress considering legislation that will set policy on driverless cars for years to come,” the press materials roared.

Other measures were given fierce approval from consumers. 84% said they supported uniform rules from the US Department of Transportation to ensure human drivers are alert in case they need to take control of the driverless car.

Yet this measure is a particularly interesting one given recent advancements from automotive vendors. Last week General Motors said it had submitted a petition to the US Department of Transportation to commence operating fully autonomous cars in a new service scheduled for 2019. In other words, the new vehicles, named Cruise AV, will have no steering wheels or pedals.

You can read the full report here (pdf).

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Australia sets regulations for driverless vehicle systems

Road traffic authorities in Australia have received the regulations they must comply with to roll out intelligent transport systems (ITS)

ITS support driverless vehicles by enabling vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-person, and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. Today’s regulations mark a key milestone towards mass rollout of driverless vehicles in Australia.

"ITS are expected to make roads smarter, safer, and cleaner through the use of communications technologies," says ACMA acting chair James Cameron. "The new Class Licence will facilitate the rollout of the latest transportation communications technology, putting Australia on par with other nations adopting ITS."

The 5.9GHz band has been made available for ITS usage in Australia as part of the Radiocommunications (Intelligent Transport Systems) Class Licence 2017 regulations.

An ITS station can be operated by a party with a Class License on the condition that it’s operated on a frequency, or within a range of frequencies, greater than 5855 MHz and not greater than 5925 MHz.

The power output must not exceed a maximum EIRP of 23 dBm/MHz and it cannot be operated within 70kms of the Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory. The station must also comply with ETSI Standard EN 302 571.

A key goal of the new regulations is to bring Australia in line with other major vehicle markets such as the United States and European Union. This regulatory alignment will aid with research and development, and the eventual rollout of driverless vehicles.

"Harmonising Australia's ITS arrangements with wider global developments means Australian motorists are more likely to enjoy the benefits of connected vehicles as they become available," ACMA said in a statement.

What are your thoughts on Australia’s new driverless vehicle regulations? Let us know in the comments.

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Driverless cars, AI and cryptocurrencies among key tech trends in 2018, says Telenor

A team of scientists and technology analysts at Telenor Research have argued that self-driving cars, AI, big data and cryptocurrencies will be key in the market in 2018. Following are some of the imminent technological trends laid out by the team:

Social media newsfeeds

With users posting less on Facebook, relevant information on newsfeeds has dropped, giving rise to paid content. Users are becoming more aware of ‘fake news’ that is seeping into their feeds.

Rules of agreement

The EU will update the General Data Protection Regulation in mid-2018 in several ways. Customers of any digital service are the owners of the data produced when using any service. The regulation strengthens how that data is protected for everyone, aiming to give control back to private users.

Cryptocurrency

Blockchain is, by design, resistant to modification. However, this also brings about the challenge of diversifying its practical applications: to create more varied and usable blockchain-based solutions, developers need to be able to modify it.

Augmented reality

The iPhone’s latest OS has built-in support for augmenting whatever its camera captures with additional information. It is said that there will be a surge in the number of apps with AR in 2018.

Additionally, the UK has been placed on top of an index ranking for the readiness of international governments for AI. Researchers at Oxford Insights say: “The UK is first in our rankings, reflecting its world-leading centres for AI research and strong technology industry. Although the UK has great starting conditions for AI development, it faces stiff competition from other countries seeking to be top of the global rankings.”

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AEye unveils iDAR advanced perception and planning for driverless cars

Aeye autonomous cars, Idar

AEye, a San Francisco computer vision start-up backed by Airbus Ventures and Intel Capital, has launched iDAR. The next generation vision technology offers advanced perception and motion planning for autonomous vehicles.

The majority of autonomous car manufacturers consider LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology a vital part of the self-driving fleets of the future. These laser scanners act as the ‘eyes’ for onboard computers, by building a 360-degree image of the world around the vehicle.

However, LiDAR technology is yet to be perfected. As well as being bulky, expensive and short in supply in a demand-heavy market, questions remain over its long-term future as the eyes of autonomous vehicles.

Despite working in tandem with computers, cameras and radar systems, it can struggle in adverse weather conditions; fog, rain and even dust interfere with LiDAR’s ability to build a comprehensive image of the world.

Read more: MWC 2017: The car in front is autonomous; or soon will be

Enter AEye

In a similar move to industry giant Velodyne, AEye has launched a second generation ‘solid state’ LiDAR system, which aims to solve these issues.

Its MOEMS (micro-opto-electromechanical system) LiDAR has been integrated with a low-light camera and artificial intelligence. The result, according to AEye, is vision hardware that can dynamically adapt in real-time to “deliver higher accuracy, longer range, and more intelligent information to optimize path planning software.”

AEye’s iDAR system does this by overlaying 2D images onto the 3D point cloud data captured by the LiDAR. The embedded AI then ploughs through thousands of computer vision algorithms to form efficient path-planning software.

“AEye’s unique architecture has allowed us to address many of the fundamental limitations of first-generation spinning or raster scanning LiDAR technologies,” said Luis Dussan, AEye founder and CEO.

“These first-generation systems’ silo sensors use rigid asymmetrical data collection that either oversample or undersample information. This dynamic exposes an inherent trade-off between density and latency in legacy sensors, which restricts or eliminates the ability to do intelligent sensing.”

With AEye’s intelligent sensing, he has said, iDAR can selectively revisit any chosen object twice within 30 microseconds. That equates to a 3,000-fold improvement. “This embedded intelligence optimizes data collection, so we can transfer less data while delivering better quality, more relevant content.”

Read more: Dell Technologies unveils new IoT strategy in New York

Mimicking the visual cortex at the ‘edge’ with iDAR

AEye’s iDAR system mimics a human’s visual cortex. It focuses on and evaluates potential driving hazards and relies on distributed architecture and edge processing to track objects of interest.

“Humans have an instinctive ability to respond to visual cues. By fusing intelligence within the data collection process, iDAR takes us a step closer to this instinctive response,” said AEye director of software, Jon Lareau.

“AEye’s iDAR is also an open and extensible platform, allowing us to integrate best-of-breed sensors to improve performance, increase redundancy and reduce cost. Most importantly, iDAR should help our customers streamline their development process and bring better autonomous vehicles to market, faster.”

AEye has also announced the iDAR Development Partner Program, a move that will no doubt be of interest to the many automotive manufacturers developing autonomous cars. The start-up plans to demo iDAR alongside its automotive product suite at CES 2018 in Las Vegas this January.

Read more: Autonomous driving will create $ 7 trillion “passenger economy”, says Intel

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Volvo to supply Uber with driverless car fleet

Volvo Cars and Uber join forces to develop autonomous driving cars

Uber and Volvo have extended their strategic partnership, with the Swedish automaker agreeing to supply tens of thousands of base vehicles to the ride-sharing platform between 2019 and 2021. 

The new non-exclusive agreement between Volvo Cars and Uber extends a working relationship that has been in place since August 2016.

Uber is currently testing driverless vehicles in Tempe, Arizona and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Among that fleet is a range of customized Volvo vehicles, as well as cars from manufacturers such as Ford.

The on-demand car service is combining Volvo’s self-drive hardware with proprietary artificial intelligence technologies. It’s expected that testing will ramp up following an estimated investment of close to $ 1.4bn on Volvo’s 24,000 XC90 sports utility vehicles, according to the Financial Times.

Read more: BMW to add Amazon Alexa to new cars from 2018

Age of disruption

“The automotive industry is being disrupted by technology and Volvo Cars chooses to be an active part of that disruption,” said Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo Cars president and chief executive.

“Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for AD [autonomous driving] ride-sharing service providers globally. Today’s agreement with Uber is a primary example of that strategic direction.”

“We’re thrilled to expand our partnership with Volvo,” said Jeff Miller, head of auto alliances at Uber. “This new agreement puts us on a path towards mass produced self-driving vehicles at scale.”

Read more: Ford boosts autonomous vehicle program with AI investment

Hurdles on the horizon for Uber

Aside from Uber’s licensing issues in major cities such as London, a court case at the end of 2017 could also have a bearing on the company’s ambitions in the driverless vehicle business.

A legal dispute with Waymo, a technology company owned by Google parent Alphabet, has arisen after the start-up claimed that Uber stole trade secrets to further its autonomous vehicle push. Waymo is seeking an estimated $ 1.9bn in damages and the case will be heard in court at the start of December.

And there are plenty of competitors seeking to perfect driverless technology. Among them are Ford, BMW, Google and Uber’s partner in this particular venture, Volvo.

At the same time as providing Uber with base vehicles, Volvo will use the same platform as part of its continuing autonomous car strategy. The manufacturer plans to release its first fully autonomous car in 2021.

Read more: Uber self-driving car program hits latest roadblock

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