Weekly Brief: JLR ramps up driverless and EV plans

JLR on hiring spree while Uber’s CEO pays the price of multiple PR gaffs, Andrew Tolve reports.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) will hire an extra 5,000 staff to boost its production potential in autonomous and electric powertrain technologies.

The BBC reports that the Coventry company said it would hire 1,000 electronic and software engineers and 4,000 workers across other sectors, including manufacturing. The majority of the jobs will be based in the UK, with recruitment taking place over the coming year.

The company will build its first electric vehicle, the I-PACE, in Austria. However, it has indicated it would prefer to make electric models in Britain if it receives sufficient support from the UK government.

JLR’s decision is informed by its ambition top have half of its new models available with electric powertrains by the end of the decade.

Meanwhile, after months of turmoil in the wake of technology theft allegations from Waymo among other PR gaffs, Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick announced that he would take an indefinite leave of absence from last week. In his time away he will continue to offer guidance and direct reports while he takes time to “work on myself”. Uber’s board of directors had been pressuring Kalanick to take a leave of absence before the announcement.

Uber’s board also voted to adopt changes recommended by former US Attorney General Eric Holder who had been investigating allegations of sexual harassment at Uber. The next day leaked audio revealed one of those board members, David Bonderman, making a sexist joke about how adding another woman to the board would only lead to more talking, not more doing. Bonderman promptly stepped down from his position.

The first mainstream, regular autonomous bus service will debut in Helsinki, Finland, this autumn. Dubbed RoboBus, the public bus line will have a carrying capacity of 12 and a set route and schedule (still to be announced) around Helsinki. Two driverless minibuses from self-driving bus company Easymile have been tested in real traffic conditions in Helsinki and other Finnish cities since summer 2016. These test runs will continue in Helsinki in summer 2017.

Xee, whose aftermarket solution turns any vehicle into a connected car, partnered with HERE to expand its location-based services. With HERE integrated into the XeeCLOUD platform, drivers will get instant insight into where they’ve parked, where they could refuel or have their car fixed and what’s around them at all times, whether it be places to eat or landmarks to visit.

IBM is the latest pilot partner to join BMW’s new CarData platform. CarData gives BMW drivers the option to share encrypted telematics data from their cars with third parties of their choice. IBM’s Bluemix application will facilitate this transaction by analysing data in real time and distributing it to businesses of interest to the driver. That could be an auto repair shop, for instance, or an insurance company. IBM says the first services via Bluemix will roll out in in autumn.

It’s Paris Air Show week, where a company called Neva Aerospace is set to unveil an all-electric flying car called the AirQuadOne. The concept car uses a combination of semi-dynamic electric turbofans and static thrust to achieve a vertical take-off, with a top speed of 50mph and a range of 20 to 30 minutes on a single battery charge. The company is also planning to make a hybrid model that can fly for an hour.

Before you laugh this off as just another pie-in-the-sky concept, consider that a Frenchman Bruno Vezzoli flew over the English Channel last week in a flying car called Pegasus by French start-up Vaylon. The vehicle is a souped up dune buggy with a paraglider propeller. Uber says it will have an on-demand vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) service on the road for testing by 2020.

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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