August 10th, 2017 News of the Day: Tesla Looks to Test Self-Driving Trucks in Nevada, Major Uber Investor Files Suit Against Ex-CEO, Autonomous Shuttle Being Tested at San Jose Airport

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【Summary】August 10th, 2017 News of the Day:

Original   Eric Walz  ·  Aug 10, 2017 1:59 PM PT
author: Eric Walz   

Tesla Looking to Test Self-Driving Trucks in Nevada

Tesla Inc is developing a long-haul, electric semi-truck that can drive itself and move in "platoons" that automatically follow a single lead vehicle, and is getting closer to being tested, according to an email discussion of potential road tests between the car company and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), seen by Reuters.

Meanwhile, California officials are meeting with Tesla on Wednesday "to talk about Tesla's efforts with autonomous trucks," state DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez told Reuters.

The correspondence and meeting show that Tesla is putting self-driving technology into the electric truck it has said it plans to unveil in September, and is advancing toward real-life tests, potentially moving it forward in a highly competitive area of commercial transport also being pursued by Uber Technologies Inc and Alphabet Inc's Waymo.

After announcing intentions a year ago to produce a heavy-duty electric truck, Musk tweeted in April that the semi-truck would be revealed in September, and repeated that commitment at the company's annual shareholder meeting in June, but he has never mentioned any autonomous-driving capabilities. Tesla has been a leader in developing self-driving technology for its luxury cars, including the lower-priced Model 3, which it is beginning to manufacture.

Several Silicon Valley companies developing autonomous driving technology are working on long-haul trucks. They see the industry as a prime early market for the technology, citing the relatively consistent speeds and little cross-traffic trucks face on interstate highways and the benefits of allowing drivers to rest while trucks travel.

Some companies also are working on technology for "platooning," a driving formation where trucks follow one another closely. If trucks at the back of the formation were able to automatically follow a lead vehicle, that could cut the need for drivers.

An email exchange in May and June between Tesla and Nevada DMV representatives included an agenda for a June 16 meeting, along with the Nevada Department of Transportation, to discuss testing of two prototype trucks in Nevada, according to the exchange seen by Reuters.

"To insure we are on the same page, our primary goal is the ability to operate our prototype test trucks in a continuous manner across the state line and within the States of Nevada and California in a platooning and/or Autonomous mode without having a person in the vehicle," Tesla regulatory official Nasser Zamani wrote to Nevada DMV official April Sanborn. He made no reference to any dates for potential road tests.

No companies yet have tested self-driving trucks in Nevada without a person in the cab. On July 10, Zamani inquired further to the Nevada DMV about terms for a testing license, an email seen by Reuters shows.

California DMV spokeswoman Gonzalez said that Tesla had requested a meeting on Wednesday to introduce new staff and talk about Tesla's efforts with autonomous trucks. She said that the DMV was not aware of the level of autonomy in the trucks.

Tesla declined to comment on the matter, referring Reuters to the previous statements by Musk, who has discussed the truck in tweets and at the annual shareholder meeting.

Nevada officials confirmed the meeting with Tesla had occurred and said that Tesla had not applied for a license so far.

Baidu to Test Autonomous Cars at GoMentum Station

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CONCORD, California — Chinese search engine firm Baidu plans to test autonomous vehicles at GoMentum Station on the on the former Concord Naval Weapons Station property.

"The opportunity to test our vehicles at GoMentum Station will ensure that we're putting only the safest autonomous driving vehicles on public roads," Baidu Intelligent Driving Group senior director Jingao Wang said in a statement.

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"Its ability to offer mixed road conditions and various scenarios in a secure environment will provide our Apollo open autonomous driving platform with valuable data to further advance its technologies."

The 5,000 acre (2,023 ha) GoMentum Station is a former naval weapons depot and the nation's largest secure testing facility in the United States for self-driving technology, according to the Contra Costa Transportation Authority which manages the site. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation selected GoMentum Station as one of only ten autonomous vehicle proving grounds in the country.

Since the testing facility opened in 2014, EasyMile, Honda and Mercedes Benz have tested self-driving vehicles and shuttles at the facility, which includes nearly twenty miles of paved roadways, tunnels, parking lots, freeway underpasses, railroad crossings and streets laid out like a city grid.

Autonomous Shuttle Being Tested at San Jose Airport

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Silicon Valley's busy San Jose International Airport is testing an autonomous shuttle. The airport is now evaluating autonomous vehicles and how they can transport customers within its parking lots and around the terminals. The tomato red driverless autonomous shuttle is being tested by the French company Transdev, who is the current airport shuttle operator.

Transdev's shuttles currently operate in 32 airports across the U.S. and the company has been providing shuttle services under contract to airports for 25 years. Transdev is now operating Autonomous Vehicle (AV) passenger shuttles in multiple cities in Europe.

Based on the success of these programs, the company has formed the Transdev Autonomous Vehicle Group to expand AV pilots and programs to North America, including the one in San Jose. A key goal is to integrate AV solutions as a new form of shared-ride mobility.

Benchmark Capital Sues Uber Co-Founder Travis Kalanick for Fraud

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Benchmark Capital, one of Uber's earliest investors and largest shareholders, is suing Uber co-founder and ex-CEO Travis Kalanick on claims of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract. It's an unusual and dramatic move in Silicon Valley to see a venture firm sue one of the executives it backed.

The filing alleges that Kalanick made "material misstatements" and hid crucial information about company problems from the board in order to attain more power there.

It specifically claims, "Kalanick intentionally concealed and failed to disclose his gross mismanagement and other misconduct." Among other things, it calls out "Kalanick's personal involvement in...an Uber executive's alleged theft of the medical records of a woman who was raped by her Uber driver in India."

The suit revolves around a June 2016 decision by Kalanick to increase the size of the board by 3 seats, from 8 to 11. Kalanick named himself to one of those seats after stepping down as CEO earlier this year.

Benchmark now says they never would have allowed the expansion if they'd known about widespread allegations of sexual harassment within the company, and the pending conflict with Alphabet subsidiary Waymo over the alleged theft of trade secrets related to self-driving cars.

What Benchmark wants, the filing suggests, is to boot Kalanick from the board and Uber management for good, while kicking the number of board members back down to 8 total. The firm is also seeking "an award of related damages caused by Kalanick's fraud."

Earlier today, Uber's first employee and original CEO, Ryan Graves, stepped down as the company's senior vice president of global operations, but announced that he will maintain his board position there.

For now, Kalanick holds 10% of stock and 16% of voting rights in Uber, while Benchmark has 13% of stock and 20% of voting rights. The ride-hailing pioneer was valued around $70 billion in its last funding round, but is now reportedly considering selling shares at a price that would value it at $40 billion to $45 billion.

2018 Acura RLX Has 3 Motor Hybrid Powertrain

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Acura will roll out its newly designed 2018 RLX sedan during the Monterey Car Week that incorporates similar changes made to the smaller TLX sedan and MDX crossover SUV. Among the changes is the new signature diamond pentagon grille design which is incorporated into a new front clip that features a more sculpted hood surface. Other upgrades include new wheel designs, LED taillights, dual exhaust tips and a gloss black rear diffuser.

As the division's flagship sedan, the 2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid is equipped with a 3-motor hybrid powertrain that incorporates a 3.5-liter V6 to put out a combined 377 horsepower driving all four wheels. This all-wheel drive system is similar to the hybrid setup used in the NSX supercar.

This 3-motor system significantly improves acceleration with low-end torque, increases fuel efficiency and enhances handling. On NSX, the engine and electric motor power the rear wheels, with twin electric motors operating front wheels. This arrangement is reversed on our other Sport Hybrid models.

The standard RLX drives the front wheels with a 310-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, which is now mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Those models also benefit from rear-wheel steering to sharpen handling and improve the vehicle's low speed maneuverability.

"This redesign of the 2018 Acura RLX is transformational, creating road presence and styling that better reflect underlying performance capabilities of the vehicle," said Jon Ikeda, Acura vice president and general manager.

In addition to a high level of standard equipment (the Sport Hybrid includes premium Krell Audio, surround view camera, heated/ventilated front seats for starters), the RLX also benefits from the AcuraWatch suite of driver assists. The newest feature is Traffic Jam Assist that works in conjunction with the adaptive cruise control's low-speed follow function to keep the car in its lane and at a safe distance from the vehicle in front. The other driver assists in AcuraWatch include lane keeping and departure warning, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.

The 2018 Acura RLX will be offered in three new colors and has upgraded cabin materials and touchpoints, including redesigned seats with contrast piping and stitching and a new Espresso color scheme. Pricing and the official on-sale date will be announced later.

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