Weekly Brief: Intel plan to test driverless kit to suit any vehicle

Another titan of Silicon Valley is getting serious with self-driving cars. Andrew Tolve reports.

With its newly minted $15.3Bn (£11.75Bn) acquisition of Mobileye in hand, Intel announced last week that it's building a fleet of fully autonomous (Level 4 SAE) vehicles for testing in the US, Israel and Europe. The first vehicles will be deployed later this year in Arizona, where Waymo and Uber self-driving cars are already being piloted and the fleet will scale to more than 100 vehicles in the coming year.

Intel's end goal is to develop an agnostic autonomous vehicle technology that can be deployed no matter a vehicle's geographic location, brand or body type. To that end, Intel's initial fleet will include multiple car brands and vehicle types, all built around a core “car-to-cloud” system that combines Mobileye's computer vision, sensing, fusion and mapping competencies with Intel’s expertise in open compute platforms, data centre technologies and 5G communication.

Intel didn't stop there. The company also teamed up last week with Toyota, DENSO, Ericsson and NTT to create the Automotive Edge Computing Consortium, an alliance for automotive big data. The companies plan to work together to create better ways to handle the massive data volume that connected and self-driving cars are starting to generate. The consortium plans to create new network designs and develop best practices in the hopes of making better maps with real-time data and better advanced driver assistance systems. The consortium plans to add more partners in the coming months.

In other news, General Motor's self-driving car start-up Cruise has launched an autonomous ride-hailing service in San Francisco called Cruise Anywhere. The service has been active for a month already but is operating in a stealth beta mode with its only riders being Cruise employees. Cruise Anywhere is much like Uber or Lyft; it connects riders with available rides via a smartphone app and taxis them to their desired destination. The vehicles in the pilot are Chevy Bolt EVs souped-up with self-driving sensors.

General Motor’sridesharing platform, Maven Gig, expanded its service to Los Angeles and announced plans for further expansion across the US to Boston, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. this autumn. Maven Gig allows members to earn money by driving for multiple apps in the so-called “gig economy,” delivering groceries and shepherding people around town for apps like GrubHub, Instacart, Roadie, Uber and Lyft. Gig drivers have access to various GM vehicles, including the Bolt EV, for flat weekly rates.

Forget smartkeys, in the near future you'll just need your smartphone. Korean automotive supplier Hyundai Mobis unveiled an app that turns any smartphone into a smartkey so long as the phone supports near field communication (NFC). All drivers have to do is enter a password, hold the phone up to the door and it unlocks. They then place the phone on the car’s wireless charging pad and press the start button. Hyundai Mobis is planning to mass produce the product starting in 2019.

Masternaut launched a new telematics device that allows fleet managers to track additional vehicles on an à la carte basis. Even though short-term hire vehicles account for 20% of fleets, they aren’t usually equipped with telematics due to installation costs and logistical challenges.The new M300 answers this problem as a self-installed track-and-trace device that can be quickly added, removed or switched over to another vehicle without the cost of an engineer. The M300 data will appear in Masternaut Connect.

Finally, SAP integrated a new payment platform called Pay.Car into its SAP Vehicles Network. The platform, which is designed by Tantalum, will allow drivers to pay for services with one click. Pay.Car stores financial details securely and provides customers with a combined, easy-to-read bill for all the services used. The partnership will kick off with one-click parking payments and expand to other connected in-car services.

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

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