Weekly Brief: Ford loads up Chariot for its rideshare ambitions

Well that didn’t take long. Two weeks ago, when Ford announced plans to deliver a fully autonomous vehicle for ridesharing by 2021, it raised the obvious question of, for whom? General Motors had already partnered with Lyft, Toyota with Uber, Volkswagen with Gett and Hyundai with Google. What other ridesharing ventures were out there?

Now we have our answer in Chariot, a fledgling ridesharing start-up that Ford acquired last week for an undisclosed sum. Chariot has a fleet of 100 Ford Transit shuttles and lets riders vote each day for which route those shuttles should take in and around the city. Destinations that receive the most votes get prioritised. The start-up currently operates exclusively in the San Francisco Bay Area but Ford says that it plans to rapidly expand the service to five more markets in the coming year and a half and to take the ridesharing service global after that. Along the way, they’ll start to turn those Ford Transit shuttles into self-driving vehicles to compete with the likes of Uber and Lyft. Game on!

In other news, Volvo and Tier 1 supplier Autoliv are creating a new jointly owned company dedicated to next-generation autonomous software. The company is yet to be named but we do know that it will be based out of Gothenburg, Sweden, and will develop advanced driver-assistance systems and autonomous drive systems for use in Volvo cars and for sale exclusively by Autoliv to all carmakers globally, with revenues shared by both companies.

The Association of British Insurers proposed a set of guidelines to govern how car insurance should work in the robot car era. Here’s their vision:

·        Drivers should continue to buy a single motor insurance policy to cover both manual and automated driving;

·        Insurers should have a new legal right to recovery, allowing them to get costs back from motor manufacturers, software companies or other parties in cases where the vehicle or technology was found to have been at fault;

·        Strict rules on what people can and cannot do behind the wheel need to be maintained and drivers will need absolute certainty about when they can safely allow the car to drive autonomously.

We’ll see what British lawmakers have to say in response.

Mercedes-Benz unveiled what it’s calling “The Vision Van,” an all-electric van with a fully automated cargo space and integrated delivery drones. The drones live atop the van and are at the ready to whisk any package from the cargo space off to a nearby destination. The Vision Van is the first prototype out of Mercedes’ new adVANce programme, which is dedicated to ushering vans into the digital era.

Add Lyon, France, to the growing list of cities piloting self-driving transportation. Lyon has put two self-driving mini-buses that carry up to 11 passengers into action, albeit on designated paths where they don’t have to interact with other traffic. The buses are manufactured by French company Navya. This news comes a week after Perth, Australia, put self-driving buses on the street, and two weeks after Singapore became the first city on the planet to pilot self-driving taxis. 

Microsoft is working with Mercedes-Benz to integrate employees’ business calendars into their cars. “In Car Office” will allow drivers to view their work calendars in the dashboard. It also will alert drivers about upcoming conference calls and automatically provide them with directions to their next appointment. The feature will debut across the Mercedes line-up in 2017.

Finally, the first autonomous Volvo XC90 trundled off the assembly line in Sweden last week. The car has both hands-off and feet-off capabilities and will be put to the test in Volvo’s Drive Me pilot come 2017. The pilot will involve regular families driving autonomous XC90s around Gothenburg, through designated autonomous zones, and providing feedback to Volvo so that the company can optimise the car’s functionality. Volvo will launch a similar pilot in London in 2017 and in a yet-to-be-named city in China.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry press releases.

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