December 1, 2017 News of the Day: GM's Autonomous Bolt Shows its Prowess in San Francisco, Apple Rumored to Be Testing Self-Driving Cars in Arizona

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【Summary】December 1, 2017 News of the Day

  Eric Walz  ·  Dec 01, 2017 3:19 PM PT
author: Eric Walz   

SAN FRANCISCO —  GM released a self-driving General Motors Bolt on the streets of San Francisco at a media event this week where the car easily maneuvered around pedestrians, traffic cones, other cars, and even a food truck.

On Tuesday, GM's self-driving unit, Cruise Automation, conducted its first field testing of a Cruise-enhanced Bolt with a 15-minute, 2.2-mile (3.5-km) ride through San Francisco's crowded hilly terrain. During the drive, the Bolt passed 117 pedestrians, 4 cyclists, and 129 vehicles crossed the Bolt's path without incident.

Throughout the trip, a host of obstacles was met, such as crossing pedestrians, double-parked vehicles, and construction areas. No obstacles were hit.

As for potential troubling spots, the Bolt failed to react more assertively to certain driving situations and obstacles. During the trip, the Cruise's sensors sought to look for a clear path, stopping completely when approaching traffic cones and double-parked cars with several restarts. However, a food truck presented a more formidable challenge, stopping the car for a full minute before a safety driver took control of the vehicle to pass to stopped taco truck.

This effort makes the first time General Motors allowed public test rides for non-employees. Last August, GM rolled out Cruise Anywhere, an Uber style ride hailing app accessible to 10 percent of General Motors' Cruise employees.

These employees were offered Bolt rides anywhere in San Francisco between the hours of 7 am and 11 pm. It was also an opportunity for General Motors to show off the technology to investment analysts covering the automaker's progress.

In 2016, General Motors purchased San Francisco based Cruise Automation, a self-driving software firm, for roughly $1 billion to accelerate its autonomous vehicle development. Currently, Cruise works as an independent unit within GM's Autonomous Vehicle Development division.

Founded in 2013 in San Francisco, Cruise Automation is an early developer of autonomous vehicle technology, specifically an aftermarket kit that outfits regular cars with autonomous driving capability.

Other acquisitions and partnerships by GM, including a $500 million investment in Lyft and the purchase of Strobe, a LiDAR developer, signal a commitment towards a 2021 goal of launching a range of self-driving electric vehicles.

Apple Rumored to Be Testing Self-Driving Cars in Arizona

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PHOENIX — Phoenix, Arizona is a great place to test self-driving cars. With strong support from Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, combined wide streets and warm weather, it's not surprising that Phoenix has become a hotbed for autonomous driving development.

Waymo, Uber, GM, Intel and others companies have set up shop and are working on autonomous driving technology in the area. Waymo just launched a driverless chauffeur service there in the world's first public trial using no back-up drivers. Now Apple is reportedly working in the region.

Several sources close to the company believe Apple is leasing the former Chrysler Fiat proving grounds in nearby Yucca to work on its autonomous technology.

Apple has been recruiting test engineers and technicians from various other proving grounds in the state, and indicated that its goal is testing self-driving systems, Jalopnik reported this week, citing a source "familiar with the matter."

The Chrysler grounds were sold to a housing developer in 2005, and later annexed by the City of Surprise, but went undeveloped for years. In September of 2016, the city signed a development agreement with the site's owner, SFI Grand Vista LLC, which said it intended to lease the grounds to a firm called Route 14 Investment Partners LLC.

Route 14 was given the green light for "all prior and current experimental and proving ground uses," Jalopnik noted, and turns out to have been incorporated in Delaware in 2015, registered under the Corporation Trust Company. Apple has a dropbox at the CTC's main office.

The grounds are said to provide a variety of driving conditions, such as a speed oval and different grades and surfaces, including places where wet weather could be simulated. Some parts simulate crosswalks and intersections — essential in preparing for real-world driving.

Apple has already started limited road tests of modified Lexus SUVs in California. The Arizona facility may be offering a chance to test technology both in controlled conditions and away from the public eye.

EPA Rates the Tesla Model 3 With a 310 Mile Range

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The Tesla Model 3 at the Los Angeles Auto Show This Week

Tesla's Model 3 has a confirmed range of 310 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That figure applies to the optional long-range version of the Model 3, and is close to what Tesla claimed for the car in July. The newly released EPA rating makes the Model 3 one of the most efficient passenger electric vehicles on the market.

The EPA's range is used as the advertised figure for electric vehicles that are sold in the US. The 310-mile range is an estimate of the number of miles the vehicle should be able to travel in combined city and highway driving from a full charge. That's 131 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe) for city driving, 120 MPGe on the highway, and 126 MPGe combined.

Achieving this range comes with one caveat, is cost more than the Models 3's $35,000 base price. The standard version of the Model 3 comes with 220 miles of range.The long-range version will cost $44,000, the automaker says. Production on the standard version is not expected to begin until sometime in 2018.

Fisker and Hakim Unique Group Team up to Create an Autonomous Shuttle

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Automotive design icon and electric vehicle industry revolutionary, Henrik Fisker and Fisker Inc., will team with prominent entrepreneur, Wang Qicheng and the Hakim Unique Group on a vision for more integrated smart city systems – starting with electric, autonomous shuttles from Fisker Inc.

Created as part of an alliance with China's Hakim Unique Group, the Orbit has been designed to become the "world's most appealing autonomous shuttle for smart cities."

The companies confirmed the Orbit is a fully autonomous electric vehicle and the first deliveries are slated to occur by the end of 2018. As part of the agreement between the two companies, Fisker Inc. will be responsible for designing and developing the vehicle while the Hakim Unique Group will handle its marketing and operations in Asia.

In a statement, Henrik Fisker said "The combination of our breakthrough automotive technology, design prowess and unique vantage point as industry revolutionaries – and Jack's [Hakim Unique Group chairman Jack Wong] truly integrated vision of smart cities – is powerful. I am very excited about making the impossible, possible with intelligent urban ecosystems – starting with the development of one of the world's most forward-thinking and uniquely designed electric, autonomous shuttles: The Fisker Orbit."

The development comes on the heels of Fisker Inc. news on the launch of its EMotion luxury electric sedan, Fisker scientists filing patents on solid-state battery technology and more electric vehicle technology breakthroughs.

Digital Mapping Company HERE Acquires Advanced Telematic Systems

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LONDON — Digital mapping company Here plans to acquire Advanced Telematic Systems (ATS), a Germany-based company that provides "over the air" software updates for connected and autonomous vehicles.

The deal, whose terms were not disclosed and which should close in early 2018, would strengthen Here's position as a provider of location and cloud services for self-driving cars that could hit the road in large numbers within a few years.

"The acquisition of ATS is a hugely important strategic investment for us to complement our portfolio as a premium automotive cloud provider," said Ralf Herrtwich, senior vice president of automotive at Here Technologies.

Here was sold by Nokia to automakers Audi, BMW and Daimler in 2015 for more than $2 billion and functions as a research lab for the carmakers as they seek to counter competitive threats from other automakers and technology firms. Last December, China's Tencent purchased a 10 percent stake in HERE as well.

HERE's mapping technology competes with Alphabet's Google Maps and Dutch rival TomTom. The company makes 3D digital road maps to centimetre-scale precision which many technologists say is necessary to realize fully autonomous cars.

HERE is the largest provider of digital maps for the automotive industry. The company spent $760 million on R&D in 2016, or around 55 percent of its sales of about $1.4 billion, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.

Over-the-air technology, or OTA, is in increasing demand as companies developing cars as digital devices and autonomous vehicles seek to keep their technology updated and user experience fresh.

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