Weekly Brief: Waymo green light to run driverless taxis in Arizona

The speculation is over. The era of commercial robot-taxis has begun. Andrew Tolve reports.
Taxi drivers beware, Waymo has just got the green light to start charging passengers for rides in its self-driving taxi service. The Arizona Department of Transportation ruled last week that Waymo will, henceforth, be considered a transportation network company just like Uber or Lyft in Arizona and thus is free to commercialise its taxi service, with no need for human engineers behind the wheel. Waymo says it will launch the service in Phoenix in 2018 with Chrysler Pacifica Minivans.

A lot of things remain unknown at this point, such as when exactly the service will go live, how large Waymo’s fleet will be and how much rides will cost but, without the need to pay drivers, expect cost to be significantly lower than an Uber or a Lyft. Riders will be able to book rides via mobile app or computer.

Meanwhile, Nissan is launching a robo-taxi trial in Japan called Easy Ride. The service will offer passengers free rides in exchange for filling out surveys about their experience. The service will only cover one route, between Nissan’s global headquarters and a nearby shopping centre. Using a dedicated mobile app, passengers can input what they want to do via text or voice and choose from a list of recommended destinations. Nissan is partnering with DeNA on the trial.

In other news, Uber launched its first new service in three years, a carpool platform called Express Pool. The service offers riders a discounted rate if they’re willing to walk a block or two to a pickup location and walk another block or two once they arrive at a shared drop-off. The pickup and drop-off locations aren’t pre-assigned, as with bus stops, but rather set in real-time by algorithms based on where the pool of riders are and where they would like to go. Express Pool is currently available in Los Angeles and San Diego, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Denver and Miami.

Audi is expanding its vehicle-to-infrastructure offerings with a new toll payment technology in its rear-view mirrors. The Integrated Toll Module, or ITM, will allow drivers to cruise through toll booths all around America and in parts of Mexico and Canada without ever stopping for a ticket. Think of it like universal EZPass, pre-baked into your vehicle. Audi says the ITM will debut on select models in the coming year.

Bosch has created a new Connected Mobility Solutions division to develop and sell digital mobility services. These will include vehicle sharing, ridesharing, and connectivity-based services for car drivers. The company is starting off strong. It’s already built out its division with 600 associates in Germany and has acquired US-based corporate ridesharing start-up SPLT. SPLT offers a platform that companies, universities, or municipal authorities can use to arrange ridesharing for their staff.

Daimler is integrating “self-healing” maps from HERE into its autonomous driving technology. HERE’s HD Live Map continually updates in near real-time thanks to sensor data that it receives from vehicles on the road. That means that any error can heal within seconds and any new development, like a lane closure or a pothole, can be added without manual intervention. Daimler also plans to integrate HD Live Map into several of its luxury lines, including the E- and S-Class.

Finally at the Munich Security Conference, nine companies banded together to sign the first joint charter for greater cybersecurity. The Charter of Trust delineates 10 action areas in cybersecurity where governments and businesses must both become active. It calls for responsibility for cybersecurity to be assumed at the highest levels of government and business, with the introduction of a dedicated ministry in governments and a chief information security officer at companies. It also calls for companies to establish mandatory, independent third-party certification for critical infrastructure and solutions. The signatories include Siemens,NXP Semiconductors,Airbus,Allianz,Daimler Group,IBM,SGS and Deutsche Telekom.
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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