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August 29, 2017 News of the Day: Renault and Nissan Partner with Dongfeng on EVs in China, Ford and Domino's Launching Self-Driving Car Pizza Delivery

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【Summary】August 29, 2017 News of the Day

Original Eric Walz    Aug 29, 2017 3:31 PM PT
August 29, 2017 News of the Day: Renault and Nissan Partner with Dongfeng on EVs in China,  Ford and Domino's Launching Self-Driving Car Pizza Delivery

The Renault-Nissan alliance is expanding its push into China, teaming up with Dongfeng Motor Group Co. on its first locally designed electric vehicle as emissions rules tighten in the world's largest car market.

Renault SA, Nissan Motor Co. and Dongfeng established a joint venture to develop a battery-powered model based on a small sport utility vehicle platform developed by the French-Japanese alliance, the companies said Tuesday. The vehicle is due to hit showrooms in 2019.

Automakers are accelerating electric-vehicle investment in China to meet stricter environmental rules set to take effect in major markets. Starting next year, carmakers that fail to meet fleet-based emissions and fuel-economy limits could face fines under China's new cap-and-trade framework.

Last week, Ford Motor Co. said it will explore setting up a venture with Anhui Zotye Automobile Co. to produce EVs. In May, Volkswagen AG received approval for partnership with Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group to produce electric cars. Daimler AG and BMW also have electric car brands under their partnerships with BYD Co. and Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd., respectively.

Renault and Nissan each hold 25 percent of eGT New Energy Automotive Co., with Dongfeng Motor owning the rest, the companies said. Renault-Nissan spokeswoman declined to provide details on investment for the venture, which started operations in July.

Dongfeng is a long-time partner of the French and Japanese companies and currently makes Kadjar SUVs with Renault and Teana sedans with Nissan in China. Dongfeng will produce the electric vehicle at a factory in Shiyan, Hubei province.

While Nissan's Leaf is assembled in mainland China and sold as the Venucia e30 since 2014, the new EV — which the company has said will cost about $8,000, will be the first model the alliance designed from scratch in China. The Japanese carmaker has struggled to sell the Leaf mainly because its price is too high compared with most locally made Chinese EVs. As part of its repositioning, Nissan this month sold a subsidiary that produces batteries for the Leaf to Chinese private equity firm GSR Capital for about $1 billion.

Dongfeng has actively partnered with international carmakers. The Wuhan, Hubei-based manufacturer acquired a 14 percent stake in PSA Group in 2014 and makes SUVs and sedans for the French company's Citroen nameplate. Dongfeng also partners with Honda Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp.

Sales of battery-powered vehicles rose 34 percent to 204,000 units in the first seven months of 2017, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

The Chinese government plans to increase the annual output of new-energy vehicles -- its term for battery-powered cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles -- to 2 million units by 2020. Such automobiles are expected to make up more than one fifth of the total sales by 2025, according to the latest auto industry plan released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Ford and Domino's Launching Self-Driving Car Pizza Delivery

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ANN ARBOR, Mich., — Domino's Pizza, the recognized world leader in pizza delivery, and Ford Motor Co. are launching an industry-first collaboration to understand the role that self-driving vehicles can play in pizza delivery.

As part of the testing, researchers from both companies will investigate customer reactions to interacting with a self-driving vehicle as a part of their delivery experience. This research is important as both companies begin to examine and understand customers' perspectives around the future of food delivery with self-driving vehicles.

"As delivery experts, we've been watching the development of self-driving vehicles with great interest as we believe transportation is undergoing fundamental, dramatic change," said Patrick Doyle, Domino's president and CEO. "We pride ourselves on being technology leaders and are excited to help lead research into how self-driving vehicles may play a role in the future of pizza delivery. This is the first step in an ongoing process of testing that we plan to undertake with Ford."

As Ford builds out its business enabled by self-driving vehicles, conducting research with companies, like Domino's, will be crucial to ensuring that the technology is applied in ways that enhance the customer experience. With a plan to begin production of self-driving vehicles in 2021, Ford is taking steps to design a business to meet the needs of both partner companies and their customers.

"As we increase our understanding of the business opportunity for self-driving vehicles to support the movement of people and goods, we're pleased to have Domino's join us in this important part of the development process," said Sherif Marakby, Ford vice president, Autonomous and Electric Vehicles. "As a company focused on the customer experience, Domino's shares our vision for a future enabled by smart vehicles in a smart environment that enhance people's lives."

Over the next several weeks, randomly-selected Domino's customers in Ann Arbor will have the opportunity to receive their delivery order from a Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle, which will be manually-driven by a Ford safety engineer and staffed with researchers. Customers who agree to participate will be able to track the delivery vehicle through GPS using an upgraded version of Domino's Tracker. They will also receive text messages as the self-driving vehicle approaches that will guide them on how to retrieve their pizza using a unique code to unlock the secure Domino's Heatwave Compartment inside the vehicle containing the pizza.

"We're interested to learn what people think about this type of delivery," said Russell Weiner, president of Domino's USA. "The majority of our questions are about the last 50 feet of the delivery experience. For instance, how will customers react to coming outside to get their food? We need to make sure the interface is clear and simple. We need to understand if a customer's experience is different if the car is parked in the driveway versus next to the curb. All of our testing research is focused on our goal to someday make deliveries with self-driving vehicles as seamless and customer-friendly as possible."

Ford and Domino's completed preliminary testing of the delivery process using the vehicle in self-driving mode at Mcity, the simulated urban environment on the University of Michigan's campus. The city of Ann Arbor also has been supportive of the testing process.

"I'm delighted that Ann Arbor continues to be at the forefront of autonomous-vehicle research," said Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor. "While it's pizza delivery today, my hope is that collaborations such as this will enable even more innovations tomorrow."  

Torc Robotics Partners With NPX Semiconductor on Self-Driving Systems

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Torc Robotics, a company focused on autonomous vehicles, just completed a cross country trip demonstrating its capable self-driving technology. Now, the company has announced that it is teaming up with leading auto industry chip supplier NXP Semiconductor on self-driving systems. Torc is using NXP's radar-specific chips to boost 360-degree imaging and offer real-time info about a vehicle's surroundings to its self-driving systems.

The Torc and NXP partnership will push efforts on behalf of Torc to deliver SAE Level 4 and Level 5 autonomy to the consumer vehicle market. The partnership will also extend beyond a simple supplier/supplied relationship, as both will work together to test new types of radar tech in autonomous system deployment.

Torc's team is focused on commercial, industrial and military markets. In June, it unveiled its consumer platform plans, and two Lexus RX SUVs it's been using for testing on public roads.

The goal for Torc is to help automotive OEMs and top-tier suppliers negotiate the new landscape of self-driving, with guidance gleaned from their own experience, and with hardware and software platforms to fill in the gaps in existing automaker autonomy programs.

WABCO Signs Agreement with Nexteer Automotive

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WABCO Holdings Inc. (NYSE: WBC) has signed a long-term cooperation agreement with Nexteer Automotive, a global leader in intuitive motion control, headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan. WABCO and Nexteer will collaborate to develop and supply active steering systems for medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles using Nexteer MagnaSteer Actuation Technology.

WABCO Vehicle Control Systems is an American provider of electronic braking, stability, suspension and transmission automation systems for heavy duty commercial vehicles.

WABCO and Nexteer will integrate MagnaSteer's proven technology with Sheppard's suite of power steering gears, which has set the industry standard for heavy-duty commercial and specialty vehicles. The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter 2017.

"This cooperation agreement marks another key milestone as WABCO advances toward enabling self-driving commercial vehicles," said Jorge Solis, WABCO President, Truck, Bus and Car Original Equipment Manufacturers Division. "We have a clear line of sight on the fundamental technologies - such as active steering, active braking, electronic stability control and other advanced driver assistance systems - which will enable significant intermediary steps on our industry's path to realize fully autonomous driving."

Full dynamic control of commercial vehicles is necessary to progressively achieve the industry's vision of autonomous driving, especially in large trucks. The acquisition of Sheppard and the cooperation agreement with Nexteer are key capabilities toward providing lateral control through active steering, which is a cornerstone that complements WABCO's leading technologies in longitudinal control through active braking, stability and suspension controls.

Nexteer's MagnaSteer is precision engineered for flexibility as a modular design. This breakthrough active steering solution will make vehicles safer and more comfortable to drive compared with conventional steering gears. At the same time, active steering enables further advanced driver assistance systems with steering correction, lane keeping and lane centering functionalities, among other advancements.

"We are excited to partner with WABCO," said Brian Darling, Product Line Executive, Nexteer Automotive. "Our industry-leading MagnaSteer will be fully integrated into the strategy of this industry leader on an exclusive basis in the medium- to heavy-duty commercial truck market to create opportunities for further growth."

Toyota Creates "Connected Technologies" Group to Advance In-Car User Experience

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PLANO, Texas — Toyota Motor North America today announced the decision to form a new group focused on delivering industry-leading user experiences and new technologies for its Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

Leveraging the company's new "One Toyota" structure, the newly formed "Connected Technologies" group will have approximately 100 positions and will include members from Toyota's existing teams working on connected vehicles, information systems, and research and development.

Combining Toyota's various strategy, planning, development, engineering and operations for connected service and hardware systems, will help advance and personalize the in-car technology experience for customers. The transition to the new group will start immediately.

"In-car, connected vehicle technology is a high priority for us because its impact on the customer experience is becoming an increasingly important factor in their purchase decisions," said Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America. "Thanks to the new One Toyota structure, we are removing barriers among our North American teams that work on connected vehicles to create a more cohesive and empowered team to listen to and create an ever-better connected car experience for customers."

Connected Technologies will be based in Plano, Texas. "Our new team will double-down our efforts on connected vehicles so we can provide our Toyota and Lexus customers a more human experience," commented Zack Hicks, CIO of Toyota North America. "Connected vehicles are the next step in a personalized driving experience, emphasizing your preferences as a driver thanks to better technology, improving the customer's ownership experience over time."

Connected vehicle technology includes one or more connections to the Internet, such as via smartphone or satellite. There are two areas of experience that are focused on — driver-centric and car-centric.

Driver-centric content, like internet-connected radio, cloud-based content, and apps, help personalize the driver's car ownership experience. The other, car-centric content, offers companies like Toyota the opportunity for remote vehicle diagnostics, over-the-air software updates, cyber-security, and vehicle relationship management. The market for connected vehicles is growing rapidly as increased Internet speeds and products become more widely available.

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