Weekly Brief: Google waves goodbye to 2014 with first self-driving car prototype

Weekly Brief: Google waves goodbye to 2014 with first self-driving car prototype

In this week’s Brief: Google, LG Electronics, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, GM, The GENIVI Alliance, Daimler, Tesla, TomTom, the European Commission and European Parliament.

Welcome to 2015, the year the self-driving car takes over the world.

That’s the headline Google would have you believe anyway. The tech giant unveiled its first official prototype of its self-driving car a couple days before Christmas, calling it “the best holiday gift we could’ve imagined.”

The thing looks like the offspring of a VW Bug and a robot — picture here— with a fancy rangefinder atop its hood that helps the car create a detailed 3D map of its surroundings. A foam-filled front hood softens potential collisions with pedestrians and bikers, while the prototype includes a steering wheel and brakes on the inside, even though the final version of the car will have a start and stop button and nothing else for drivers to control.

Google says it’s ramping up street trials of its first prototype in Northern California in early 2015.

Sticking with autonomous vehicles, LG Electronics andMercedes-Benz announced that they’re jointly designing next-generation camera systems for advanced driver assistance systems. LG will harness Mercedes’ 6D Vision technology to explore improved driver state monitoring systems that can identify the driver’s biometric state and monitor and analyze the driver’s attention or drowsiness level. The two will also explore environment-perception cameras that can better detect obstacles in a car’s path.

In other news, BMW announced plans to launch a branded app store, the ConnectedDrive Store, that will allow BMW customers in the U.S. to purchase select ConnectedDrive services. Apps will range from a Concierge service to emergency response, maps and navigation. Past carmaker dalliances with personalized app stores haven’t proved all that effective (GM AppShop anyone?), but we’ll see what kind of interest the ConnectedDrive Store can drum up.

The GENIVI Alliancelanded a big fish in Daimler, which will become the Alliance’s 13th OEM member. GENIVI believes in standardizing the non-differentiating layers of the in-vehicle infotainment stack to make it easier for carmakers to adopt and integrate IVI features. Having on board one of the biggest producers of premium cars and the world's largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles in Daimler will certainly help the cause.

On the EV front, Tesla unveiled the Roadster 3.0, an updated version of its first car on the market. The latest updates mostly center around an improved battery pack, which gives the car a range of 400 miles — a 40-50% improvement over the original Roadster, whose battery was the first lithium ion battery put into production in any vehicle back in 2008. Much has changed in cell technology since then, said Elon Musk, noting that a non-stop drive from San Francisco to LA is now possible. Indeed, the company will be demoing just that in early 2015 to show off its new electric vehicle. Appointments for upgrading Roadsters will be taken this spring once the new battery pack finishes safety validation.

TomTomexpanded TomTom Traffic to Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and United Arab Emirates — four of the fastest growing markets for car ownership and production in the world. Traffic congestion is an issue in each emerging market as well, hence TomTom’s interest in helping drivers and supporting governments to better manage traffic flow.

Finally, the European Commission took steps to expanding the availability of real-time traffic information across Europe by adopting a new set of rules for disseminating real-time traffic data. The specifications require that road status and traffic data are made accessible via national access points that provide a single window and standardized format for the exchange of data. That’s not to suggest that deploying real-time traffic info services will become obligatory; however, when these services are already deployed in a Member State or will be deployed after the date of application of the new rules, the specifications will have to be followed. The ultimate goal: improved accessibility and interoperability of existing and up-to-date data across the EU.

Now that the specifications have been adopted, they will be transmitted to the Council and the European Parliament for their right of scrutiny. The Delegated Regulation will apply from 24 months after its entry into force.

That’s all for now. See you this week at CES!

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

Andrew Tolve is a regular TU contributor.


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