Weekly Brief: Real world driverless testing could be banned

ACM believes that we should test and validate self-driving tech before we unleash it on public roads. Andrew Tolve reports.

In the wake of two fatal accidents in the last two weeks involving self-driving technology (Uber in Arizona and Tesla in California), some regulators are beginning to wonder if we should require autonomous vehicles to pass a rigorous test before allowing them onto public roads. Enter the American Centre for Mobility (ACM), which opened its doors last week in Michigan for this very purpose. Housed at a World War II bomber plant, ACM allows companies to test self-driving and connected cars across a range of real-world environments and infrastructure, including a 2.5-mile highway loop, a 700-foot curved tunnel, two double overpasses, intersections and roundabouts.

It’s similar to “Castle,” the fake city that Google built in the Central Valley of California, where Waymo has been testing its cars for years and which has given the tech giant a clear advantage over competitors. ACM allows everyone to get in on the action. In addition to testing and validating, ACM will serve as an incubation lab for new mobility solutions. To that end, it announced last week that Microsoft will serve as its exclusive data and cloud provider. The two are collaborating to design a cloud-based data management and analytics platform (DMAP) solution to collect, store and analyse data from tests conducted at the centre.

In other news, as Michigan preached caution, California pushed full steam ahead with autonomous-tech-friendly regulations. Already one of the most welcoming places on the planet for self-driving cars, the state’s Public Utilities Commission introduced a new proposal to allow ride-hailng companies to pick up and transport passengers in robo-taxis with no backup driver behind the wheel. Companies would have to hold a testing permit from the DMV for 90 days before they could start picking up passengers, they would have to provide regular reports of their rides and they wouldn’t be able to commercialise the services – at least not yet. The Commission will vote on the proposal next month.

London scored a new ride-sharing service in ViaVan, a joint venture between Via and Mercedes-Benz Vans. ViaVan is introducing a fleet of professionally chauffeured vans in Zones 1 and 2 of London, where passengers will be matched in real time with other riders headed their way through the ViaVan app. London is ViaVan’s second city after launching in Amsterdam last month.

Porsche Digital purchased a minority stake in Israeli start-up Anagog, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) software to anticipate customer needs and desires. The technology is integrated directly into smartphone applications and is currently used in about 100 different apps. It allows data analysis to happen right on the device, thus allowing the apps to anticipate customer behaviour without requiring users to share their private data. Anagog hasn’t been integrated into automotive apps yet but Porsche sees an opportunity as did Daimler when it invested in the company last month.

Traffic signal provider Trafficware and software firm SWIM.AI partnered up to launch TidalWave, a live streaming traffic information service powered by machine-learning and edge computing. The service analyses, learns and predicts as data is created and, thus, can deliver granular traffic data at a resolution of hundreds of milliseconds, at a fraction of the cost of central cloud-hosted learning and prediction.
Finally, the Gold Coast of Australia can now lay claim to the first precinct of 5G-enabled Wi-Fi hotspots in the world. Australian telecommunications service provider Telstra turned on the hotspots last week. Gold Coast locals and visitors get to use free broadband while Telstra gets to evaluate 5G technology. Telstra plans to test a connected car in the precinct as well with the Intel 5G Automotive Trial Platform, allowing it to get real results on 5G mobile performance and ensure network readiness.
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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