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Uber is mapping UK roads ready for launching driverless cars

Uber is mapping UK roads ready for launching driverless cars

Uber is mapping UK roads ready for launching driverless cars

Uber has deployed a fleet of mapping cars on the capital’s streets in a bid to create its own Google Street View – allowing drivers and users to find the best pick-up and drop-off points as well as the best routes to avoid congestion.

The controversial transportation firm has already been mapping US roads in a similar way to Apple and Tomtom, it says, and is now looking to map London’s streets – with other UK towns and cities to follow in the coming weeks and months.

Writing in a blog post, Uber’s Brian McClendon, formerly head of maps at Google, said: “Behind every successful Uber ride is a technology many of us take for granted: maps. Mobile maps and GPS allow us to match you with the closest available driver, navigate the fastest path to your destination, and give you an accurate ETA. Accurate maps are at the heart of our service and the backbone of our business.

“Existing maps are a good starting point,” McClendon explains. “But some information isn’t that relevant to Uber, like ocean topography. There are other things we need to know a lot more about, like traffic patterns and precise pick-up and drop-off locations. Moreover, we need to be able to provide a seamless experience in parts of the world where there aren’t detailed maps — or street signs.”

The move could also help Uber’s fleet of driverless cars, which are already being trialled on public roads in Pennsylvania. A fleet of four autonomous Ford Fusions have been giving rides to customers with technicians on-hand to monitor the car’s behaviour and take over when required.

Experts have said that Uber’s ability to crunch huge amounts of data collected from the millions of miles covered by Uber drivers have helped put it ahead of carmakers in the race to launch the driverless car.

“Over the past decade mapping innovation has disrupted industries and changed daily life in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I started,” added McClendon. “That progress will only accelerate in the coming years especially with technologies like self-driving cars. I remain excited by the prospect of how maps can put the world at our fingertips, improve everyday life, impact billions of people and enable innovations we can’t even imagine today.”

Uber is also working with Volvo to launch a new autonomous car based on the same SPA platform as the XC90 and S90.

Volvo's partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Volvo's partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Volvo's partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Swedish car manufacturer Volvo has announced that it will work with ride-sharing company Uber as part of a $300 million project to bring driverless cars to the roads.

Volvo will produce a ‘base vehicle’ which it will sell to Uber. The tech transportation firm will then use it to trial its own autonomous technology – and Volvo will, at the same time, work on its own driverless systems.

Volvo Cars president and chief executive, Håkan Samuelsson, said: “Volvo is one of the most progressive and contemporary car makers in the world. It is a world leader in the development of active safety and autonomous drive technology, and possesses an unrivalled safety credibility.

“We are very proud to be the partner of choice for Uber, one of the world’s leading technology companies. This alliance places Volvo at the heart of the current technological revolution in the automotive industry.”

The new base vehicle is expected to be a modified version of the premium XC90 SUV.

Volvo has previously revealed plans to test its autonomous cars on London’s roads in 2017 – while Uber is already trialling the technology in the States.

Uber’s chief executive, Travis Kalanick, said: “Over one million people die in car accidents every year. These are tragedies that self-driving technology can help solve, but we can’t do this alone. That’s why our partnership with a great manufacturer like Volvo is so important.

“Volvo is a leader in vehicle development and best-in-class when it comes to safety. By combining the capabilities of Uber and Volvo we will get to the future faster, together.”

The technology could lead to Uber users being able to summon driverless cars for lifts, without having to rely on drivers.

It comes after Ford announced it would launch a high-volume autonomous car by 2021.

Volvo's partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Volvo’s partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Volvo's partnered with Uber to create a driverless car

Swedish car manufacturer Volvo has announced that it will work with ride-sharing company Uber as part of a $300 million project to bring driverless cars to the roads.

Volvo will produce a ‘base vehicle’ which it will sell to Uber. The tech transportation firm will then use it to trial its own autonomous technology – and Volvo will, at the same time, work on its own driverless systems.

Volvo Cars president and chief executive, Håkan Samuelsson, said: “Volvo is one of the most progressive and contemporary car makers in the world. It is a world leader in the development of active safety and autonomous drive technology, and possesses an unrivalled safety credibility.

“We are very proud to be the partner of choice for Uber, one of the world’s leading technology companies. This alliance places Volvo at the heart of the current technological revolution in the automotive industry.”

The new base vehicle is expected to be a modified version of the premium XC90 SUV.

Volvo has previously revealed plans to test its autonomous cars on London’s roads in 2017 – while Uber is already trialling the technology in the States.

Uber’s chief executive, Travis Kalanick, said: “Over one million people die in car accidents every year. These are tragedies that self-driving technology can help solve, but we can’t do this alone. That’s why our partnership with a great manufacturer like Volvo is so important.

“Volvo is a leader in vehicle development and best-in-class when it comes to safety. By combining the capabilities of Uber and Volvo we will get to the future faster, together.”

The technology could lead to Uber users being able to summon driverless cars for lifts, without having to rely on drivers.

It comes after Ford announced it would launch a high-volume autonomous car by 2021.

Driverless Ford Fusion Hybrid

‘Uber Ford’ to launch high-volume driverless car in 2021

Driverless Ford Fusion HybridFord has boldly said it will launch a fully autonomous car without a steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedal in 2021 – and the ride-sharing vehicle will be offered in high volumes.

The driverless car will have as significant an impact on society as the Ford moving production line did 100 years ago, said Ford president and CEO Mark Fields. Which is why the blue oval is determined to become the first carmaker offering a fully autonomous model in large numbers.

“We’re dedicated to putting on the road an autonomous vehicle that can improve safety and solve social and environmental challenges for millions of people,” said Field. “Not just those who can afford luxury vehicles.”

Take that, Tesla.

The autonomous Ford ride-sharing car will initially be a commercial project: it will be Ford’s Uber car, available for ride hailing and ride sharing in high volumes.

Ford says the autonomous car will be built to SAE level 4 autonomous operation, so-called ‘high automation’. This is one level down from the ultimate SAE level 5 ‘full automation’, which is why Ford is initially restricting the tech to ride sharing initiatives.

Retail availability of driverless Fords will likely follow: these would be SAE level 5 compliant.

The announcement comes as Ford doubles both its Silicon Valley team and doubles the size of its dedicated Palo Alto tech centre. It is already tripling its autonomous test fleet in 2016, making its fleet of 30 self-driving Fusion Hybrid models (the U.S. version of the Mondeo) the largest of any carmaker.

It will triple it again in 2017.

Under Ford’s Smart Mobility initiative, the firm aims to “be a leader in autonomous vehicles, as well as in connectivity, mobility, the customer experience, and data and analytics”.

Can you insure a driverless car?

Can you insure a driverless car?

Can you insure a driverless car?

As driverless cars are becoming ever-increasingly closer to reality,  specialist insurance company Adrian Flux has launched a policy specifically for cars with autonomous driving features.

The Modern Transport Bill, announced last month, extends compulsory cover to accidents where the car itself, rather than the driver, is at fault.

Although we’re some way off seeing cars capable of dealing with traffic and completing journeys without input from the driver, autonomous features such as self-parking are increasingly common.

This means, for example, if your car is parking itself and misjudges a space, resulting in crunched bodywork, your insurance will cover it – and may even pursue the car manufacturer for costs, rather than the driver.

But Flux’s driverless policy goes a step further than the autonomous cover provided by a standard insurance policy. Customers will be covered for loss or damage in the following scenarios:

  • If updates or security patches for things like firewalls, operating systems, electronic mapping and journey planning systems haven’t been successfully installed in the vehicle within 24 hours of the owner being notified by the manufacturer or software provider, subject to an increased policy excess
  • If there are satellite failure / outages that affect the navigation systems, or if the manufacturer’s operating system or authorised software fails
  • Where there is loss or damage caused by failing, when able, to use manual override to avoid a collision or accident in the event of operating system, navigation system or mechanical failure.
  • For loss or damage if your car gets hacked or an attempted hack results in loss or damage.

Adrian Flux general manager Gerry Bucke said: “As the UK continues to invest in driverless research in preparation for the growing market for autonomous vehicles in the near future, we wanted to help provide confidence and clarity around the ongoing debate of ‘who is liable?’

“We understand this driverless policy to be the first of its kind in the UK – and possibly the world. It’s a fantastic starting point for the insurance industry and the policy, like any other, will be updated as both the liability debate and driverless technology evolve.”

A Motoring Research investigation in 2014 found that most insurers weren’t prepared to insure cars with fully-autonomous technology.

At the time, LV insurance’s managing director Selwyn Fernandes told us: “Driverless cars are still in the early stages of development and the insurance industry as a whole will need to investigate how best to go about insuring them in the future.

“One of the key issues facing insurers at the moment is whether the liability will sit with the insurer or the car manufacturer should the car be involved in a collision.

“However, as many features, such as blind-spot information systems, have been designed to improve safety, customers who have automated systems built into their cars could see a reduction in their insurance premium as they are less likely to make a claim.”

Driverless cars, in the form of the Lutz Pod, are currently being trialled in the UK – and manufacturers including Nissan and Volvo are expected to launch driverless cars by 2020.

JLR Driving Towards Autonomy

Jaguar Land Rover rejects driverless cars label

JLR Driving Towards AutonomyJaguar Land Rover is developing autonomous car technology – but is not planning to use the ‘driverless cars’ description because the firm is not “looking at simply replacing the driver”.

Instead, says group strategy director Adrian Hallmark, its autonomous technologies will “give the driver more, not less. Future technologies will assist and enhance the driver” and help keen drivers just as much as uninterested ones.

> More car news on Motoring Research

“There is a big difference between an autonomous car and a driverless car,” said Hallmark. “We are doing both but we have no plans to replace the driver. We prefer to call it driver-focused autonomous technology rather than driverless technology.”

Because the autonomous tech will be constantly working in the background, the intelligent systems will be able to support the driver even when they’re in control, primed to help out in an emergency – a bit like stability control systems do today. An example of this is a connected car warning of a hazard around the next corner, making fast driving on twisting roads safer.

Autonomous off-roader

JLR will also take autonomous technology off-road, bolstering the 4×4 credentials of Land Rover. If drivers start to accept autonomous technologies, “they would not want this support to stop just because they have turned off the road,” says Hallmark.

If you use autonomous lane-keeping on a motorway, you should be able to use it for your entire journey, “even if this is via a rough track or gravel road.” JLR wants to make the self-driving car “viable in the widest range of real life on- and off-road driving environments and weather conditions”.

To assist in this, Jaguar Land Rover will begin real-world testing of autonomous technology on public UK roads to support its work at closed test tracks and off-road courses. This research and development work will again concentrate on the driver just as much as the technology.

“Our research and development will ensure drivers trust autonomous,” says Hallmark. The firm aims to develop autonomous cars that “are intuitive and mirror how the driver would react to a situation”.

JLR Over the Horizon warnings

Watch how JLR will use connected car tech

If cars can talk to one another, we’ll be safer and far less stressed, says Jaguar Land Rover

 

JLR autonomous roadwork assist

Jaguar Land Rover to start UK real-world autonomous car trials

JLR autonomous roadwork assistJaguar Land Rover will this year begin public road trials of ‘driverless’ autonomous vehicles as part of a four-year real-world test.

The news means JLR will beat premium rival Volvo in commencing a public-road UK driverless car trial – the Swedish brand confirmed earlier this year it’s beginning an autonomous car test in London from 2017.

> More car news on Motoring Research

The first JLR research cars will drive on a 41-mile autonomous car test route around Coventry and Solihull, with a fleet of more than 100 research vehicles eventually taking to public roads.

The test route will include both motorways and urban roads, initially involving trials of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications tech that’s going to help make autonomous cars viable.

Future test vehicles will become progressively more autonomous, even allowing driverless operation through challenging sequences such as roadworks.

JLR will also develop more comprehensive connected car tech that it says will allow streams of traffic to talk with one another, improving traffic flow and safety.

But the firm famous for its engaging-to-drive cars isn’t planning to let the machines take over entirely, stresses head of research Tony Harper. Drivers are “able to choose how much support and assistance they need”.

They may, he says, pick full autonomy in boring motorway runs or stressful traffic, but still take over to enjoy twisty backroads – even though “the new technology we are creating will still be working in the background to help keep them safe”.

JLR autonomous innovations

JLR Roadwork Assist

Jaguar Land Rover engineers have today revealed some key technology innovations they’re working on, that they say will not only help make autonomous cars safer, they’ll also be safer and more reassuring to live with.

  • Roadwork Assist: a 3D camera uses image processing software to decipher the road ahead. It can plot a route through fiddly sequences of cones, helping centralise the vehicle safely through narrow sections
  • Safe Pullaway: if the driver goes to accelerate but the car ahead hasn’t moved, brakes are auto-applied. Good for roundabouts where the car behind goes for a gap the one in front does not…
  • Over the Horizon Warning: uses radio communications to alert drivers about incidents over the brow of a hill; a stopped car beams a ‘Hazard Ahead’ warning to nearby vehicles
  • Emergency Vehicle Warning: reduces the stress of hearing sirens but not seeing the emergency vehicle by telling drivers which direction the vehicle is coming from and how far away it is

“Our connected car and automated technology could help improve traffic flow, cut congestion and reduce the potential for accidents,” said Harper.

“Proving the right information at the right time will enable better and safer decision-making, whether the car is driven by a human or is autonomous.”

Addison Lee autonomous car testing Oxbotica

Government asks Brits to help guide driverless cars

Autonomous drivingThe government is asking Britain’s motorists to have their say on how it should reform legislation to prepare for the roll-out of autonomous cars in the UK.

The consultation is open for the next nine weeks and is asking motorists for their views on two key pieces of legislation that need to change in order to accommodate autonomous cars:

  • The Highway Code, to account for remote control parking and motorway assist functionality
  • Car insurance law, to ensure motorists who have ‘handed control’ to self-driving cars will still be properly insured

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin wants Britain to be a global leader in embracing driverless car technology as it will “revolutionise the way we travel and deliver better journeys.

“Britain is leading the way but I want everyone to have the chance to have a say on how we embrace and use these technologies.”

The consolation is being launched now because the first wave of autonomous car technologies – so-called highly automated functionality – will start to become commonplace in the next few years.

This includes features such as remote control parking and motorway assist – similar to the Tesla autopilot function that drives the car and changes lanes on motorways.

The next stage is fully automated cars; the government believes these will start to launch in Britain from the mid-2020s. A key piece of legislation to resolve here surrounds car insurance; it will remain compulsory, even for ‘driverless’ cars, but will have extended cover for automated vehicle product liability.

In a nutshell, the government foresees car insurers paying out in the normal way but, if it’s the autonomous car that’s at fault, the insurer will then be able to claim back from the car manufacturer. The necessary changes will be introduced as part of the Modern Transport Bill, announced by the Queen in May.

Google self-driving Lexus RX hybrid SUV

Google cars to have assertiveness training

Google self-driving Lexus RX hybrid SUVGoogle cars are to be programmed with pushier, more assertive algorithms after engineers found the current logic unable to square up to less cautious humans. Read more