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November 14, 2017 News of the Day: Ford's Head of Self-Driving Says Computing Power is the Key to Autonomous Driving, Mercedes-Benz is Opening its 6th North American R&D Lab in Seattle

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【Summary】November 14, 2017 News of the Day

Eric Walz    Nov 14, 2017 3:14 PM PT
November 14, 2017 News of the Day: Ford's Head of Self-Driving Says Computing Power is the Key to Autonomous Driving, Mercedes-Benz is Opening its 6th North American R&D Lab in Seattle

Ford's Head of Self-Driving Says Computing Power is the Key to Autonomous Driving

DETROIT — Sherif Marakby, the head of Ford's electrified and self-driving vehicle development, said one of the big challenges in developing fully autonomous vehicles is having enough computing power to support them.

"It's pretty significant," Marakby said Monday at a conference hosted by the Original Equipment Suppliers Association. "It's going to be one of the fundamental enablers to getting autonomous vehicles to operate in just about every environment. To go from Level 4 to Level 5 -- the ability to drive anywhere in any condition -- requires sensing technology, but it also requires computing technology."

Ford plans to introduce a Level-4 self-driving vehicle in 2021. It's expected to operate within previously mapped geofenced areas for commercial purposes such as ride-hailing or package delivery.

But once Level 5 vehicles, which can operate outside geofenced areas, hit the road, Marakby said the vehicles will need to be able to compute large amounts of data related to their surroundings. That can happen both on board the vehicle and in the cloud.

Marakby's comments Monday echoed CEO Jim Hackett, who said last week that Ford was in the "business of computing." Hackett has described Ford's work as developing "smart vehicles for a smart world."

Ford is in the process of adding modem connectivity to all of its models by 2019. It's also working to allow vehicles to communicate with one another and roadside infrastructure.

Marakby on Monday also offered hints at where Ford might deploy its self-driving vehicles —in U.S. cities with relatively good weather.

Mercedes-Benz is Opening its 6th North American R&D Lab in Seattle

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The Mercedes Benz R&D Lab in Silicon Valley, in Sunnyvale, California

SEATTLE — Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America (MBRDNA) will be opening the doors to their sixth R&D lab this fall. Located in downtown Seattle, the software teams will focus on cloud computing to expand and enhance connected car functionality in Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

Sajjad Khan, Head of Digital Vehicle & Mobility at Daimler said about the expansion, "Mercedes-Benz is constantly striving for best products and customer experiences world-wide, that means also delivering connected and intelligent solutions which are based on state-of-the-art technology – that, and the respective experts, is what we'll find here in Seattle."

Headed by Mike Dosenbach, who has worked for more than 10 years in Seattle with a broad experience and network to the software industry. "We believe Seattle is the right spot to attract the best cloud talent for us," said Mike. "As the first OEM with a lab for Cloud Development in Seattle, we commit to this area and see the new office as a long-term investment."

Mercedes-Benz' global network of Research and Development facilities is kept continuously up-to-date. 25 locations in 11 countries are vital in mastering the challenges of the future, to anticipate and recognize customers' demands, and to act flexibly and quickly. Fascinating products, and state-of-the-art technologies and innovations can be delivered in shorter development time.

MBRDNA is headquartered in Silicon Valley since 1995, with key areas of autonomous driving, advanced interaction design, digital user experience, machine learning, consumer research, and the company's Lab 1886 Incubator.

In Redford, Michigan, the R&D center's focus is on powertrain and eDrive technology, in Long Beach, the E-Mobility Group helps to shape the future of the North American market for hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric vehicles. The Testing and Regulatory Affairs Division in Ann Arbor and the Advanced Vehicle Design in Carlsbad complete the competence center.

Together, all 500 developers, technicians, engineers and designers at each location will take on the challenges of creating the next generation of intelligent vehicles.

STRATIM Details its Platform to Support Car Sharing Services, Including GM's Maven

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General Motors' Maven car-sharing service has grown significantly since its launch in 2016, with help from STRATIM, the company has made sure the service's vehicles are always fueled, clean and road-ready.

STRATIM, based in San Francisco, is a fleet management software startup that is looking to meet the anticipated need for timely vehicle service and maintenance as transportation moves from private ownership to a shared mobility model.

The company's software, which is used by Maven, Ford Motor Co.'s Chariot, and at least 50 other mobility services use, tracks vehicle diagnostics and matches cars in need of maintenance with service centers.

"It's a tough logistical challenge to take care of Maven cars spread out over San Francisco and Chicago," said Stratim CEO Sean Behr. "Our platform helps them do that in an easy way."

Stratim works by collecting real-time data from a vehicle's telematics device, written and photographic reports from hired drivers, such as those in Chariot's on-demand shuttle service, and users who report damage via a service's app, such as Maven's car-sharing users. If any of these data sources indicate a vehicle needs fueling, cleaning or repair, Stratim sets up an appointment and arranges for the service with the company's preferred service provider.

Stratim, founded in 2016, works with 50 mobility services in 20 cities, tracking more than one million vehicles. The company is growing rapidly. In the third quarter of 2017, the platform coordinated 160,000 service transactions, up from 16,000 in the first quarter of this year.

The firm is now officially out of stealth mode. To avoid direct competition and work out early bugs, tech startups typically operate in "stealth," or out of public view, during the first stages of company development. Once the company has established a business model, funding and partnerships, it will begin publicly advertising and growing its customer base.

The market for mobility services is expected to grow even faster as manufacturers begin to deploy shared self-driving mobility services, such as Google affiliate Waymo's driverless ride-hailing service.

"It doesn't matter how good a self-driving car is if it has a flat tire," Behr said. "Every day that a car isn't able to pick up passengers is a day of lost revenue."

Self-driving technology is expected to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, as consumers opt for more shared rides, but increase the amount of miles individual vehicles drive — up to 75 percent, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. Morgan Stanley estimates that Waymo alone could account for 1 percent of global miles driven, or 195 billion miles, by 2030.

But until self-driving vehicles hit the road, Stratim is keeping busy ensuring mobility services still in need of human drivers are up and running. "The good news for us is that a lot of companies aren't thinking about back-end logistics," Behr said. "It's something they all need to partner on."

Visteon Partners with American Center for Mobility, Driving Development of Autonomous Vehicles

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VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, Mich., — Visteon Corporation (NYSE: VC), a leading automotive electronics supplier, is joining forces with the American Center for Mobility (www.acmwillowrun.org) in Southeast Michigan to support the development and testing of connected and automated transportation technologies.

With a $5 million strategic investment, Visteon is the first Tier 1 automotive supplier to join as a Founder-level sponsor of the Center.

The American Center for Mobility is a world-class nonprofit, testing and product development facility at the historic Willow Run site in Ypsilanti, Michigan, dedicated to leading the safe development of automated technologies and vehicles onto America's roads.

"We are proud to be associated with what promises to be the premiere national facility for mobility and advanced automotive testing and product development," said Visteon President and CEO Sachin Lawande. "The Center is ideally positioned to fulfill the need to further develop, test and validate new connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technologies that offer great promise for the nation's transportation system. Teaming with ACM will help advance our own autonomous driving platform while bringing significant benefits to consumers, transportation users and transportation operators."

Lawande added:  "Working with the Center provides Visteon a unique opportunity to create and test technologies for automated vehicles in a safe and controlled environment that mirrors conditions on roads and highways where these technologies ultimately will be applied."

Visteon intends to use the Center to test and validate technology related to its DriveCore™ artificial intelligence-based autonomous driving platform, which the company will introduce at CES® 2018 in Las Vegas.

John Maddox, president and CEO for the American Center for Mobility, said: "We are thrilled to have Visteon as a Founder, as they embody the spirit of business collaboration and technical innovation that is our core mission. Partnering with automotive technology leaders such as Visteon, along with the State of Michigan and other organizations, is instrumental in putting self-driving cars on America's roads safely."

Focus areas for Visteon's testing and validation at the Center include, autonomous driving algorithms, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology and functionality, integrated with autonomous driving, sensor technology and security protocols.

Construction is well underway at the ACM. To date, $108 million needed to fully fund the advanced test bed has been secured, and additional private investment announcements are expected soon.

Visteon joins other ACM Founders AT&T, Toyota, Ford and Hyundai, which announced their support of ACM earlier this year.

Located on 500-plus acres at the Willow Run site, the Center will be a purpose-built facility designed for testing, education and product development. It will enable safe validation and self-certification of CAV technology, and accelerate the development of voluntary standards and workforce education programs, leveraging Michigan's renowned mobility expertise.

The nationally designated proving grounds will include a myriad of real-world environments with the ability to test under varied, yet controlled conditions. Its driving environments and infrastructure will include a 2.5-mile highway loop, a 700-foot curved tunnel, two double overpasses, intersections and roundabouts.

The first phase of the project is on track to be open for testing in December 2017. Other phases including ACM headquarters and convening center, and other real-world environments are slated to open in stages through December 2019.  

ACM is a joint initiative with the State of Michigan, founded in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., University of Michigan, Business Leaders for Michigan and Ann Arbor SPARK.

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