It’s not difficult to understand why Toyota had reservations about bringing them onboard. And these concerns soon surfaced among automakers that second-guessed the wisdom of giving up valuable dashboard branding and—more importantly—driver data to the two tech giants.
This week, Toyota announced a comprehensive connectivity plan called the Mobility Service Platform that covers everything from car sharing to cloud-based analytics, and it’s being developed in-house by a creatively named subsidiary called Connected Car Company. “To guarantee the safety of the customer, the manufacturer must be the platform provider,” said Connected Car Company president Shigeki Tomoyama.
Instead of being tied to one or two dominant tech providers, Toyota is partnering with several different companies. It’s working with long-term partner KDDI, the Japanese telecom that has for years provided connectivity for the automaker’s G-Book telematics system. Its cloud services are provided by Microsoft, with which Toyota recently deepened its relationship, while the platform will run on the Automotive Grade Linux open-source software.
Toyota has already even joined with a rival automaker Ford to develop apps. And it’s clear that the automaker plans to leaves Apple and Google out in the cold and out of the car.
So what can we expect Toyota’s in-house connected car efforts to yield, and how will it differ or be better than CarPlay or Android Auto? While Toyota’s Entune infotainment system is one of the best available based on our tests, it still relies on third-party apps such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Yelp, which are common in many cars.
Last year, Toyota announced it would work with the Ford-developed SmartDeviceLink and the US automaker to develop in-house as well as third-party apps for its cars via a Toyota-supplied API. This not only would allow Toyota to supply apps similar to those used by CarPlay and Android Auto, such as for music and mapping, but also tap a car’s data, systems, and sensors to create features and functions that the Apple and Google smartphone-based platforms can’t.
For example, by tying into a car’s engine diagnostics, Toyota or a third party could develop an app that explains what a “Check Engine” light or other warning means and even set up service if required. And by tying into a car’s traction control system, an app could detect when a car hydroplanes on standing water or skids on a patch of black ice and send the info to other vehicles approaching the area.
Toyota isn’t alone in building up a tech bulwark against a potential incursion by Apple and Google. Renault/Nissan recently announced a similar connected car platform with Microsoft Azure, and this week Ford partnered with BlackBerry to develop software for the automaker’s connected vehicles. And last year, the three German luxury car rivals Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz circled the wagons to purchase the digital mapping company Here for $3.1 billion, in part to bring the mapping capability in-house, but also keep it out of the hands of Apple and others.
So while Toyota was the odd man out when CarPlay and Android Auto were first announced, its wait-and-see attitude and keeping its dashboards Apple- and Google-free could pay off.
Originally published by PCMag.com
The C3 Group’s 2016 Connected Mobility Summit at Dogpatch Studios on October 20 in San Francisco gathered the top thought leaders and stakeholders in connected mobility, and also attracted high-level media for a series of engaging presentations and panel discussions. Cutting-edge technology demos were on display that shed new insight into the monumental paradigm shift occurring in transportation and mobility.
Here’s a video highlight of the event. The C3 Group would like to thank our sponsors for their support, including Hyundai, Ford, Pioneer, HERE, Continental, AAA, Kelley Blue Book, Vinli, Gracenote, Bosch, QNX, INRIX and GetGeeked.
While “Intel Inside” has been the standard for PCs and other computing products, the chip giant has lagged lesser-known but more dominant automotive processor suppliers. Intel is hoping that will change with its new Atom E3900 chip, which comes in dual-core and quad-core configurations and is up to 1.7 times faster at computing and 2.9 times faster at graphics tasks
“Intel is really strong in other domains, such as PCs, consumer, and industrial,” said Luca De Ambroggi, principal analyst of automotive semiconductors with IHS Markit, in a recent interview. “But they only started to strongly invest in automotive I would say about four years ago. The way I interpreted this latest Intel announcement is that it’s mainly targeting the cockpit and dashboard, but they are clearly talking about [autonomous driving] as well,” he added.
And while Intel trails other chipmakers in automotive, Caviasca told me in a recent phone interview that since 2008 there’s been an Intel A3800 chip inside 30 different vehicles currently on the road. And he added that the company has secured $1 billion in design wins with its “software defined cockpit” platform.
Caviasca also noted that Intel recently announced partnerships with BMW and Mobileye to build a self-driving platform, and that suppliers like Delphi and Neusoft will use the E3900 in new vehicles. He also added that the E3900 chip will enable “machine learning and deep learning that can be transferred into the car.”
Caviasca said that the new chip will be available in Q1 of 2017 and Intel’s automotive “customers have samples.” But he added that it could take up to two years and it “will be more like Q1 of 2018” before the new chip is available in vehicles, given automakers’ extended product cycles.
In the meantime, the competition in the market just got tougher with the announcement last week that Intel rival Qualcomm is acquiring leading automotive chip supplier NXP, which itself swallowed up former competitor Freescale.
Originally published by Forbes.com
Combining voice assistance with artificial intelligence and consumer data is a hot tech trend, thanks to Amazon’s Alexa and her many “skills.” So it’s not surprising that General Motors will apply this same concept to the car to create what it’s calling a “cognitive mobility platform.”
The automaker teamed with IBM and its Watson voice-recognition technology for OnStar Go, which “will learn the driver’s preferences, apply machine learning, and sift through data to recognize patterns in their decisions and habits.” Then it will try to sell stuff to drivers who opt in.
“Marketers will offer services and suggestions that personally impact” car owners, GM said in a press release. Initial partners are limited to ExxonMobil, Glympse, iHeartRadio, Mastercard, and Parkopedia, but it’s easy to imagine other companies lining up to reach a captive audience in the car.
“On average, people in the US spend more than 46 minutes per day in their car and are looking for ways to optimize their time,” said Phil Abram, executive director of Connected Products and Strategy for GM. “By leveraging OnStar’s connectivity and combining it with the power of Watson…we’re looking to provide safer, simpler and better solutions to make our customers’ mobility experience more valuable and productive.”
GM added that it plans to “deliver personalized content through the dashboard and other digital channels to more than 2 million OnStar vehicles with 4G LTE connectivity by the end of 2017.”
And while some may find this creepy and an annoying intrusion into a car’s cabin, there are good reasons to let a chatbot ride shotgun.
Whether surfing social media, listening to streaming music, or watching video content, I’m already constantly bombarded by ads on my computer, smartphone, and TV. And it’s annoying that after booking a flight online I suddenly get ads from airlines in my Facebook feed—as if I’m ready to book another trip.
If OnStar Go can be smart about it and present good and services that are relevant to me and my location, I’m willing to give it a shot. GM gave several examples of the service employing contextually relevant information to solve a problem, like reminding a new dad to pick up diapers before going home or giving “a traveling foodie dining recommendations from celebrity chefs when driving in a new city.”
While I’m way past the diaper years (for my kids, not me), I wish I could be reminded to pick up coffee or milk on my way home, so that I don’t discover the next morning that I’m out and drive for my first cup of joe while half asleep. And how many times have you wasted time and fuel driving around looking for a place to eat?
But here’s where they had me. GM said “Watson Retrieve and Rank will even let a driver know that their order is ready for pickup at a nearby retail store and one of the store’s employees will load their purchases into the car.” You mean I don’t even have to set foot in a store? Sign me up.
Originally published by PCMag.com
If the $12-billion acquisition of Freescale by NXP last year created an automotive semiconductor giant, today’s announcement that Qualcomm plans to purchase NXP for approximately $38 billion produces a silicon colossus in the fast-growing connected car space. And it instantly vaults Qualcomm to the number-one position in automotive semiconductors.
Following the merger with Freescale in May 2015, NXP became the dominant automotive semiconductor supplier in quickly emerging areas such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and as well as for other key car components such as networking and powertrain. And because NXP has expertise in secure identification and mobile transactions, it also brings strong cybersecurity assets to the table as hacking becomes a concern with connected cars.
By contrast, even after an acquisition of Bluetooth and telematics chip supplier CSR in 2014, Qualcomm had a much smaller role in automotive. “Even before the acquisition of CSR, Qualcomm was way behind in automotive, at number 41,” said Luca De Ambroggi principal analyst, automotive semiconductors, with IHS Markit.
De Ambroggi said that “the acquisition complements the two companies. The mixture between traditional high-quality automotive processing components provided by NXP and the new frontier of applications coming from Qualcomm’s background in smartphones” makes for a powerful combination of core competencies, he added.
The acquisition of NXP not only gives Qualcomm instant clout in the automotive space, but also eases the San Diego company’s exit off the smartphone crazy train and the resultant revenue hits it took from a temporary loss of Samsung as a client and a general slowdown in device sales. “The NXP acquisition accelerates our strategy to extend our leading mobile technology into robust new opportunities,” Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said in a statement.
Rick Clemmer, CEO of NXP, said in an email that the combined company creates a “semiconductor industry powerhouse” that’s expected to have annual revenues of more than $30 billion. The acquisition still needs to approved by both company’s boards of directors and is subject to regulatory approvals but is expected to close by the end of 2017.
Originally published by Forbes.com
It’s a jungle out there on US roads. There’s a near-constant jockeying for position as everyone attempts to get where they’re going as fast as they can via overcrowded highways and streets.
In reality, drivers all exist somewhere along a spectrum, with the unnecessarily aggressive on one end, the overly cautious on the other, and the rest falling somewhere in between. Drivers are constantly processing information and anticipating what their fellow motorists may do based on a variety of factors, often without consciously thinking about it.
Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us size up other drivers based on their age, sex, race, and the vehicle they’re driving. For example, if you spot a young person driving an expensive sports car, you may deduce—based on your own attitudes and their actions—that they’re either a reckless ne’er-do-well or a timid teen out joyriding in their parents’ vehicles.
Most experienced drivers innately assess such situations, but they will soon have to contend with autonomous vehicles (AVs) being thrown into the mix. Like humans, AVs will have to react to the actions of other drivers, but also other drivers’ reaction to them. More aggressive drivers could take advantage of AVs’ hesitancy, while others may not know how to socially relate to robo-cars. Things could become really complicated, according to a recent study.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a study from The London School of Economics and Goodyear found that AVs could be easily bullied by more assertive drivers. But the survey also found that so-called “cooperative” drivers—those who “see driving more as a social activity and enjoy the interaction with other drivers on the road”—are actually more apprehensive about self-driving cars.
The survey’s “driving sociability” index used the common scenario of letting another driver cut in front of you—or cutting in front of another driver—as cars merge into a single lane as a gauge of whether someone would be considered more a “cooperative” road user. Ninety percent of those who landed in the top half of the driving sociability scale said they would never or only occasionally cut the line.
But of the more “combative” half, 42 percent, said that they would “sometimes, usually, or always” cut in on another driver. And aggressive drivers would feel even less remorse about cutting off an autonomous vehicle, while more social drivers may not know how to deal with a robo-car.
“If you view the road as a social space, you will consciously negotiate your journey with other drivers,” the survey said. “People who like that negotiation process appear to feel less comfortable engaging with AVs than with human drivers.
“By contrast,” the survey added, “the people more open to AVs are those who have a more ‘combative’ view of the road, who perhaps see AVs as easier agents to deal with on the road than other humans.” The more aggressive drivers who responded to the survey said they’re more likely to deal with self-driving cars the way they would with “learner drivers.” One respondent replied, “I’ll be overtaking [them] all the time because they’ll be sticking to the rules.”
The study also points out that it’s not only aggressive drivers who may try to punk AVs. Pedestrians and cyclists could also take advantage of the fact that AVs prioritize safety and dash out in front of them. And this could cause problems for AV developers in deciding how the robo-cars should react.
So AVs will not only have to learn the written and unwritten rules of the road, but also include in their calculations the body language, facial expressions, and the occasional … um, emphatic gesture of other drivers and road users.
Originally published by PCMag.com
From cars to computers, you generally get what you pay for, right? Not exactly.
As a new J.D. Power study reveals (and I’ve been saying for years), in-dash technology from mainstream automakers is as good as—if not better than—the tech from luxury car companies. “Overall owner satisfaction with new-vehicle technology averages 730,” the report says, which is not much lower than satisfaction among premium vehicle owners at 734.
I would venture to guess that most of these luxury vehicle owners only compared the in-dash tech in their car to that of other premium brands. If they evaluated it against non-luxury cars, they would probably be very disappointed. It’s also not just the technology itself, such as connectivity and number of apps. Tech in some luxury vehicles can be overly complex and more frustrating than systems in many mainstream cars.
“It’s not just how much technology you have in the vehicle, but how well it’s delivered,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction & HMI research at J.D. Power. “That has to be done right.”
In too many luxury vehicles, it’s not.
BMW’s iDrive and the Mercedes-Benz Comand interface are notably problematic (one recent and egregious example being the Remote Touch system in the 2016 Lexus RX 350). While the vehicle has a large 12.3-inch screen that’s logically laid out, the mouse-like Remote Touch controller makes getting around within it and selecting items, especially smaller ones, very challenging.
Lexus’s UX is also disappointing, particularly because that company has inluded “touch” controllers since 2010, and has yet to make them user-friendly. The luxury brand would be better off just ditching Remote Touch in favor of the practical and more user-friendly touch-screen interface used in several Toyota vehicles.
But at least Lexus and Toyota both have smartphone-based connectivity for streaming music and other content that doesn’t require a subscription. The mbrace2 system I tested in a 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 included Google and Yelp for local search, Facebook feeds, and other cloud-based content. But if you don’t pay Mercedes-Benz for connectivity, the cloud content goes away.
One example of this occurred several years ago. Just as Mercedes-Benz was proclaiming it would be the first automaker to use a stereo-vision camera on its flagship S-Class to spot potential accidents ahead, Subaru introduced its EyeSight system with almost identical technology on the not-so-luxurious Legacy and Outback.
Don’t get me wrong: There are huge differences overall between luxury and non-luxury cars when it comes to performance, comfort, and convenience features (massaging seats, anyone?). But the technology gap is very narrow. And it’s closing even faster now that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available in vehicles ranging from Volkswagen and Volvo, further leveling the playing field.
Originally published by PCMag.com
President Obama hasn’t had to drive a car for years: Being chauffeured in the presidential limo, aka the Beast, is part of the privilege of his position and for his protection. But he’s obviously been considering the implications of when most of us will be driven rather than driving ourselves once autonomous vehicle technology takes over.
And the president has been pondering not only the policy repercussions – the result of which is the U.S. DOT’s recently released guidelines for the technology that Obama has had an active role and voice in crafting – but also the ramification of robos-cars on society. “We have machines that can make a bunch of quick decisions that could drastically reduce traffic fatalities, drastically improve the efficiency of our transportation grid, and help solve things like carbon emissions that are causing the warming of the planet,” Obama said in a recent interview with Wired.
But while we know that autonomous technology has the potential to save lives, reduce traffic, lower fuel consumption and possibly eliminate parking hassles, self-driving cars can bring other benefits, such as lowering the cost of transportation for the economically disadvantaged. But it can also have negative consequences by eliminating jobs.
As part of its winning Smart City Challenge proposal, Columbus, Ohio, plans to use autonomous vehicles to connect its Linden neighborhood, where unemployment is three times the city average, to a nearby jobs center. Columbus also has an infant mortality rate four times the national average. So officials have earmarked funds for a program that provides expectant mothers in low-income areas with transportation options that could include autonomous vehicle so that they can get to medical facilities for prenatal care.
And since finalist cities Austin and San Francisco are struggling with affordability issues, both have emphasized using technology, particularly self-driving cars, to provide more cost-effective transportation options for low-income residents. “We’re the most economically segregated city in the country … and government is in part responsible for those challenges,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said. “We need to take a look at innovations to address those challenges.”
“The social compact has to accommodate these new technologies,” Obama told Wired, “and our economic models have to accommodate them. Otherwise, we may find that it’s disadvantaging certain people or certain groups.”
While the benefits of automated vehicle have been promoted, the drawbacks are beginning to be examined as well. Autonomous vehicles could mean job losses for millions of people who make their living driving everything from taxis to big rigs, for example.
More than four million Americans are employed as drivers, and there are around 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the U.S. alone, according to the American Trucker Association. The profession is a mainstay of the economy in many places, and the most common job in more than half of the states.
It’s also one of the last vestiges of stable middle class income for those without a college degree living in places where factory jobs have already been shipped overseas or eliminated by automation. An experienced trucker makes about $40,000 per year, and with overtime some can earn up to $70,000 a year with full medical coverage and other benefits.
But in the same way that automation has replaced human workers in industries ranging from manufacturing to medicine, many driving jobs could also disappear. Part of government’s role in regulating self-driving technology, Obama noted, is “making sure that the broad public … still feels as if their voices are heard, they’re represented, that the people in the room are mindful of a range of equities.”
He added that the government’s task is “making sure that the regulations themselves reflect a broad base set of values, because otherwise … we may find that it’s disadvantaging certain people, certain groups.”
Originally published by Forbes.com
Self-driving technology will bring lots of benefits. The most obvious is saving thousands of lives lost each year to car accidents that are largely caused by human error. Vehicle automation could also reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and the frustration of looking for parking. But as with any technologies, there will be adverse side effects and unforeseen consequences.
Like we’ve seen with other forms of automation, one of the first casualties could be kicking to the curb people who make their living driving, as machines replace humans behind the wheel. And truck drivers could be the canaries-in-the-coal mine indicators of how self-driving technology will affect jobs and the economy as a whole.
There are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the US, according to the American Trucker Association. Truck driving is a mainstay of the economy in many places, and the most common job in more than half of the states.
It’s also one of the last vestiges of stable middle class income for those without a college degree and in places where factory jobs have already been eliminated by automation or shipped overseas. An experienced trucker makes about $40,000 per year, and with overtime some can earn up to $70,000 a year, with full medical coverage and other benefits to boot.
But truck-driving jobs could be the first to go in a self-driving future. And vehicle automation will not only have a huge impact on trucking-driving jobs, but a ripple effect that extends past the trucking industry.
While self-driving cars get most of the headlines, autonomous big rigs could mean big savings for trucking companies. “Driver pay accounts for about 25 to 35 percent of the cost of truck operation,” noted a recent article by Singularity University.
And as with self-driving cars, it’s not a matter of if but when technology takes the wheel in trucking. Last year, Daimler showed off its first self-driving Freightliner big rig, although it added that the technology will require up to a decade of testing and need to rack up more than a million miles before its ready for public roads.
A consortium of trucking and technology companies in Europe have shown how automation can help form platoons of self-driving big rigs. And Otto, a self-driving truck technology start-up founded by former Google engineers and executives, was bought by Uber in August.
Automation won’t only affect truck driving jobs but many others. The millions of truck drivers out of the road have to stop to buy fuel, food and other services. And the hundreds of truck stops dotting the country’s interstates and dollars spent there that help support local communities could be hurt by automated big rigs.
According to The Detroit News, there are an additional 1.7 million people who drive taxis, buses, and delivery vehicles for a living, and automation will also impact these jobs. We’re already seeing Uber experimenting with self-driving taxis in Pittsburgh, though it has run into problems, and Ford has promised to have self-driving ride-sharing vehicles in services by 2021.
Truck driving jobs aren’t going away tomorrow. In fact, the trucking industry expects to see 21 percent more truck driving jobs by 2020 and a shortage of drivers. Higher demand than the supply of professional truck driver could also push pay higher for at least the next five years.
But the Singularity University article warned that “it would be false to pretend that in the much longer term, [automation] doesn’t reduce the number of people working as career truck drivers. This is one of many of the jobs today that will be modified or replaced by automation in the years to come,” it added, “and there is no stopping it.”
Originally published by PCMag.com
As the global population becomes increasingly urbanized, city leaders will have to find ways to prepare for the influx of people—and their cars.
Cities like San Francisco and London are bursting at the seams, and they have the sky-high rents to prove it. So reclaiming even a small portion of this space could provide much needed relief. Officials in both cities are considering how to use technology to clear the roads of cars and reduce the need for parking. A report from the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at University of California, Berkeley, found there are a billion parking spots in the US—four for every car in the country. When combined with car-centric infrastructure such as streets, 50 to 60 percent of a given downtown area is devoted to vehicles.
San Francisco’s Smart City proposal found that the city currently has 440,000 on-street parking spaces that take up an area equivalent to the city’s 1,000-acre Golden Gate Park, and would “still fill the floor space of 120 Transamerica Pyramids.
“Our plan,” the proposal added, “would phase in innovative technologies that allow us to repurpose public space currently under-utilized as parking into affordable housing, small parks and pedestrian amenities.”
An initial step would be to make ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft more ubiquitous and accessible and combine them with mass transit options. This would lessen reliance on street parking since rideshare vehicles typically are in motion and don’t park as often, the city said. And since ridesharing vehicles can accommodate multiple passengers, they also take up less space on the road.
“We can move the same amount of people with a tenth of the vehicles,” Timothy Papandreou, the former head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Office of Innovation,” told the Washington Post. “We’re not going to need to have all that excess road space.”
Phase one of the San Francisco proposal is to shift 10 percent of single-occupancy vehicle trips to public transit and ride-hailing services. To do this the city would partner with the University of California Berkeley and tech companies on initiatives, such as:
- Give people incentives to shift from driving their own cars to ridesharing, such as designating certain lanes for ridesharing only, and integrating other modes of transit such as car- and bike-sharing and public transportation into a single mobile app that combines routing, scheduling, and payment for all of these services.
- Making transportation alternatives more affordable for low-income residents and finding ways to lower the cost of ridesharing by deploying large passenger vans similar to the Bay Area’s Chariot service, which was recently acquired by Ford.
- Implementing self-driving electric vehicles that could be shared.
London has space and affordability issues similar to San Francisco, and a recent study by two British engineering firms envisioned how the city’s streets could be entirely redesigned for self-driving cars. It takes into account that autonomous cars would be shared instead of owned, and always on the road picking up and dropping off passengers or charging/refueling/parking in a few centralized locations.
Hence, autonomous cars would require much less street parking. They can also travel in closer proximity and can much be smaller, a la Google’s robo-pod car, than human-driven vehicles. This would allow city planners to reduce the width of streets or even cut back on the number of lanes without affecting travel times. The study concluded that London could gain another 15 to 20 percent of developable area “primarily due to the removal of almost all parking spaces, but also because of road space simplification.”
Of course, this utopian urban vision faces many challenges. It sounds about as far-fetched as flying cars did 50 years ago, and those have not yet come to fruition. It will be years if not decades before self-driving technology is reliable and safe enough to handle urban situations like pedestrians and bicyclists. And it will take at least as long before human driving is completely phased out—if it ever can be.
Originally published by PCMag.com