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Just a day after Google was awarded a driver’s license for its self-driving car, the tech giant brought one of its autonomous Toyota Prius out to Washington D.C. in hopes to make driverless cars legal in the United States.
It appears that Google made its way to the nation’s capital in hopes to appeal to federal policymakers and to maybe convince some to take a ride in its self-driving Prius. We’ve already seen what it can do for a blind man, and Google’s main focus right now is to prove its benefits to lawmakers. For the most part, Google is confident in the technology developed in its self-driving cars, its biggest concern now is for the public to widely accept the benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road.
But of course, the U.S. government has been officially tight-lipped on the issue of autonomous vehicles with the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology stating that it had no knowledge of Google’s plans of operating its Prius out in D.C.
The state of Nevada has just become the first to issue a driver’s license to a car.
The vehicle in question is Google’s autonomous Toyota Prius, which company engineers have been testing on California roads for the past two years, logging 140,000 miles with just one traffic-incident. That accident, caused when a car driven by a person bumped into the back of the autonomous car, is just the sort of thing Google intends to dramatically reduce or even eliminate with its revolutionary technology.
The car uses video cameras as well as radar and laser sensors to “see” as well as impressive computing power to control the vehicle’s next function, adapting to a rapidly changing environment. During the entire testing process Google engineers have been on hand in the vehicle in case human intervention became necessary.
Google’s driverless car has been issued a red license plate, with an infinity sign on it next to the number 001.
While the first, Nevada may soon be joined by California, which recently introduced similar legislation to introduce autonomous driving to the state’s busy freeways.
It was only December of last year when Google earned patents for autonomous vehicles. Now, the technology continues to rapidly move ahead as automotive supplier Continental has commenced testing a semi-autonomous vehicle of its own that is more affordable and could be among the first licensed for use on Nevada’s designated public roads by months end.
Nevada is the first state to pass laws regulating driverless vehicles. To qualify for a special state license, engineers at Continental have built and driven a heavily modified Volkswagen Passat with its brake and steering controls removed and replaced with sensors to digitally read and interpret surroundings. According to engineer Ibro Muharemovic, the Passat has logged almost 10,000 miles of autonomous driving and during a more recent trip from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Brimley, Michigan, home of Continental’s development and testing center, more than 90 percent of the journey did not involve the use of hands and feet.
Unlike Google’s ambitions to create a sophisticated fully autonomous vehicle, Continental went along to develop an interim semi-autonomous option that could take over duties during stop-and-go traffic or extended stretches of highway, the least satisfying of driving conditions. However, Continental and Google’s endpoint is identical: to create a solution that will reduce accidents, congestion, and fuel consumption. Continental director of engineering systems and technology Christian Schumacher said, “We still have a long way to go, but the technology is amazing.”
According to Ravi Pandit, CEO of India’s global IT and engineering company KPIT Cummins, “There is a strong business case for an autonomous car that can drop you off or a cab without the expense of a driver.”
Despite the optimism, mass production semiautonomous cars are still a couple years away. The technology exists but the idea raises questions of liability, regulation, and public acceptance. NHTSA will begin a study of autonomous driving in August with a one-year pilot project in Ann Arbor, testing 3,000 cars with the ability to communicate with one another to avoid an accident. What’s more, in an event of a crash, the law has yet to resolve who is reliable or whether the occupants of an autonomous car are legally exempt from bans on mobile devices.
As for passenger anxiety, Ravi Pandit is confident that, “A car can see better than a human can, and the car responds faster.”
Engineer Ibro Muharemovic commented, “I was surprised by how well it worked.” Continental’s Volkswagen Passat is fitted with a stereo camera that can monitor speed-bumps or potholes as far as 220 yards away and adjust steering, braking, and acceleration accordingly. Muharemovic adds, “The driver is always in control and can override the system any time.”
If testing is successful and Continental is qualified for Nevada registration, a special red license plate will be provided to distinguish the driverless car. In the future, production driverless cars would receive a green license plate.
Check out video footage of Continental’s autonomous Volkswagen Passat driving itself below. Continue Reading…
Any car from 1996 and newer can have a real-time gas consumption meter thanks to an Android app, but you might not want to pay for it.
OBD Mileage is now available for Google Android smartphone users who want to watch their car’s mpg change during hill climbs, highway driving and schlepping around town. The developer says the app can display “55 different kinds of information,” hopefully that includes switching between kilometers and miles per gallon. Unfortunately, the program looks sketchy at best and costs a boatload.
The picture you see above is a shot of what OBD Milage looks like while running — you can be the aesthetics judge here. Not only that, but running the app requires a plug-in bluetooth device to bridge communication between your phone and car. The device recommended on the OBD website costs $99.99 and that’s on sale.
The app itself also seems to cost something, though the site doesn’t make it readily obvious how much you’re spending. Instead it says discomforting things like: “We use the Google wallet for the payment,” and “When you purchased the validity period, it is not possible for the refund even if there is any reason.”
The validity period is also more-or-less unexplained but it seems like a temporary license to use the program. Worse yet, uninstalling the app and changing your phone’s date and time both render your purchase void.
So much for customer service, it’s probably better to use the in-dash fuel gauge and avoid all the nonsense.
Driving a Chevrolet Volt could get even more guilt-free in the future as the company plays with ways to coax consumers into charging with renewable energy.
GM is partnering with energy company PJM Interconnection to send data via their OnStar cloud service, called the Advanced Telematics Operating Management System (ATOMS), to Volts that need to charge. The technology would notify drivers of renewable energy as it became available relative to their location.
There is also a smartphone app in the works to alert Volt owners of available energy when they aren’t in their car, though the overall project is still in the testing phase.
Those tests are being conducted on Google’s 17-vehicle “Gfleet” based out of their Mountain View, California headquarters. While renewable energy isn’t going to fuel your car any differently than a charge originating in a coal plant, it could help drive demand for more renewable sources.
By harnessing the hordes of anti-pollution diehards, comparatively tiny as they may be, GM might make a dent in promoting green energy beyond what selling their volt already can.
“This demonstration shows that in the near future customers will have a real signal of demand for renewable energy,” said Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president of planning and business development. “As customers configure their Volts to favor renewable energy for their charging cycle, this real demand signal will influence utilities to tap into renewable sources.”
There’s also a silver lining to the plan: peak wind power hours, according to PJM, fall between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., meaning those taking advantage of a renewable charge-source would be taxing the system during off-peak hours.
GM’s continued push toward promoting the Volt is a strong demonstration of their commitment to the car, despite the controversy that hounded it last year after a few cars spontaneously combusted days after crash testing. Extended range hybrids like the Volt offer a practical solution to ultra-high milage transportation without the range anxiety we felt while road testing the Nissan Leaf.
GALLERY: 2012 Chevrolet Volt
Mark Zuckerberg, the introverted king of social media, has his fingers in so many pies that it’s starting to look like he grew a few thousand extra hands.
To be fair, it’s not so much Zuckerberg having a hand in Mercedes as it is Mercedes integrating Facebook into their new cars. Nonetheless, the fact that it’s happening and that this isn’t the first instance, means Facebook is evolving far beyond anything other social media tools creators could have fathomed.
We published a story late last week that talked about Mercedes’ mbrace2 technology, but at the time there wasn’t as much information as there is after the company elaborated.
Since then we’ve learned that the cloud-based apps previously mentioned will include Google, Yelp and -you guessed it- Facebook.
Feel free to debate the merits of checking your friends newsfeed or status update in the comments below, wasn’t that part of why we all started buying smart phones?
Regardless, other manufacturers are doing it, and Mercedes insists their adoption of the technology is just representative of staying on the cutting edge. Aside from keeping up with your BFF’s latest relationship quibbles, mbrace2 will let you stay up to date on news and events via a real-time concierge service.
Some people might look at this and feel a pang of nostalgia for when cars ran on gas, got fixed with wrenches and had little more than a spare tire and owners manual packaged with it from the dealer. Then again, the allure of being constantly connected could prove to be a seller. Expect mbrace2 in the MY13 SL-Class.
Google is all about advancing technology in order to improve our world and lifestyle, and it appears that they also support any other company that’s pro-technology.
The massive search engine turned all-things technology firm was given the keys to the first Ford Focus electric vehicle off the assembly line.
It’ll be interesting to see if Google will be going domestic in continuing to develop their autonomous vehicle technology that’s currently taking place on Toyota‘s Prius. There’s probably a better chance that the electric Focus will be making its way as a Google Street View vehicle though, spying on us and taking unsuspecting photos without wasting a drip of gas or polluting our world.
The day that a fleet of self-driving electric vehicles with Google plastered across the side of them doesn’t seem so far off.
Google’s mission towards to mass market autonomous vehicles took another step forward this week when they were granted a patent for a method of controlling the self-driving car. The patent details how the vehicle can transition from being human-driven to autonomous mode.
The technology raises an interesting thought, where the car could transition to autonomous mode on a section of road that’s dedicated to self-driving cars. Obviously we’re quite a ways out from having all of our roads populated with autonomous vehicles, but by being able to recognize a bar code or a radio tag, a vehicle could switch modes safely – especially knowing that all the vehicles around it are using the same technology.
While a lot of people are skeptical as to why Google is even pursuing this endeavor, we believe in the sake of pushing technology forward, Google is doing everyone a favor. Google of course stands by their desire to ”help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time, and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use.”
Even cooler is the fact that the patent outlines how a vehicle could receive instructions from an Internet address over a wireless network. This could be pretty scary in the wrong hands, that’s for sure. We’re still waiting for the day that our Toyota Prius drives itself to a nearby McDonald’s while telling us the specials that it has for that day. Talk about the possibility of intrusive advertising.
An example of early adoption, Toyota Motor Sales launched its brand new “Toyota USA” page on Google+ on November 7, 2011.
Dave Nordstrom explains,” As a longtime Google partner, Toyota is pleased to announce our +Toyota USA Page. We are excited to expand our connections with owners, fans, advocates and Toyota associates in a unique environment that can be customized and personalized in ways that are important to us all, and we look forward to tapping into the diverse ways to build a rich, fun environment. Follow us and stay tuned for our forthcoming Google+ Hangout.”
While it may seem like Google+’s 40 million users are only a fraction the size of Facebook’s 800 million plus active users, Toyota’s early establishment into the new social hub from Google may prove to be a marketing and media boon in the future.
Well ahead of the curve, Ford has already established its Google+ page back in July.
Google isn’t alone in its plan to bring autonomous cars to roads near you. There is now at lest one other major player, with the National University of Defense Technology in China having built a self-driving project of its own.
Working with China’s First Auto Works, the university researchers took a Hongqi HQ3 sedan and fitted it with cameras, sensors, and a computer that enabled the vehicle to start, navigate and stop its way through a 154-mile trek without the help of a driver. Oddly enough, the technology doesn’t utilize GPS to figure out where it is or where’s it going but rather uses the cameras and sensors to obey speed limits, watch traffic and make lane changes. We’re still a little confused as to how the car knew where to go, or how to get there – or if they just simply put it on a busy freeway to go straight without incident.
The technology isn’t very advanced, however, as this autonomous vehicle can’t “see” at night and hasn’t quite logged the same number of miles Google has on their Prius models. But clearly when there’s a will, there’s a way and it’ll be interesting to see who else throws their name into the ring in battle autonomous car.
[Source: Cartech Blog]
If you live in America, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like to still favor Yahoo over Google. Over the recent years, Google has evolved from a search engine service to providing free email, navigation, maps, operating systems, image hosting, social networks…you get the picture. The technology that Google has created is, for the most part, beneficial to human kind, though some question the comapny’s practices of privacy and security.
Case in point, the residents of Japan weren’t very fond of Google’s Street View vehicles prowling their streets, snapping up photos and peeking into their homes. But now Google has found a more beneficial way of utilizing their Street View vehicles, aiding in Japan’s recovery efforts after their disastrous earthquake and tsunami.
Google has repurposed its Street View vehicles in Japan to help document the damage done and the reconstruction efforts that are being made to rebuild the devastated areas. And even though there are still plenty of skeptics on why Google is doing what they’re doing in Japan, there’s no denying that they’ve used the technologies they’ve developed to lend a huge hand in Japan’s recovery efforts.
[Source: PC World]
A state made famous on for its loose laws and even looser morality, you can now add another item to the list of things you’re allowed to do in Nevada: ride along in a driverless car.
Thanks to the passing of Bill No. 511, Nevada is the first state to allow Google’s autonomous cars. The vehicles aren’t permitted to operate on Nevada state streets yet, however, as the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles first must draw up the exact rules governing the cars.
The vehicles, which currently total a dozen Toyota Priuses and one Audi TT use laser range finders and video camera, as well as maps to guide their way. Driver’s just have to input a destination using a GPS system and the car will find its own way there.
Google has been lobbying the Nevada state legislature, claiming the vehicles will pollute less and cause fewer collisions (not to mention injuries and deaths) than vehicles operated by humans.
With the bill passed, Google is also lobbying to push through an amendment to current texting while driving laws, that would allow texting for those behind the wheel of a driverless car.
The change in the law in Nevada may also benefit Volkswagen, which recently showed-off a new Temporary Auto Pilot technology, that it claims is nearly production ready.
In a consistent effort to be, well, less evil (or at the very least sightly less malicious), Google is offering its employees free electric car charging at its Googleplex headquarters.
Google already offers an electric car sharing service called Gfleet, among other lavish employee perks that more resemble Scrooge McDuck throwing his wads of cash at his underlings than those of an actual company—free transportation, unexpected bonuses, and free food, just to name a few. Gfleet consists of 30 Chevy Volts, Nissan Leafs and Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids so far, and now Google is installing 150 “Level 1″ 110-volt chargers and 71 “Level 2″ 240-volt fast chargers.
The Level 2 chargers can ready a Leaf to 80 percent charge in about 3 hours. For Googlers that live farther from its Mountain View, California headquarters, this is an incentive to switch to electric transportation, or at least borrow one.
Apple has officially rejected any inclusion of DUI checkpoints in its iOS apps. In this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple updated its app store to prohibit applications informing users of DUI checkpoints.
This recent update was a result of a group of U.S Senators sending numerous letters of concern to Apple, Google, and RIM, asking the smartphone companies to remove and disable all apps that would inform users of DUI checkpoints.
Section 22.8 states:
Apps which contain DUI checkpoints that are not published by law enforcement agencies, or encourage and enable drunk driving, will be rejected.
Developers may be able to remove the DUI functionality from their apps, however most of the programs that identify law enforcement activity pertaining to checkpoints and speed traps are crowd-sourced, which means users submit the checkpoints themselves without app developers knowing what they’re identifying.
Could the motor city be turning into tech town usa? In a CNN Money special, Detroit’s automotive related technology boom is highlighted for its recent increase technology related jobs. Tech job openings rose 82% in Detroit, with companies like Google and Ford hiring engineers en masse.
According to the report, Google says this will be its biggest hiring year yet in Detroit. Furthermore, Doug Van Dagens, Director of Ford Conected Services Solutions, says there is a tech boom and his sector will be doubling in size over the next few years and tripling over a three year period.
Detroit tech workers make an average salary of $71,000 per year, less than Silicon Valley but above average for the auto industry. Several engineers are interviewed during the video, explaining how competitive the tech sector has become, how engineers are being enticed to stay and that a movement to rebuild Detroit is a driving force behind the recent hiring spike.
One engineer explains that there is significant potential within the city to flourish economically because the economy had crippled Detroit, however the city is developing significantly in the technology sector. Technology within the auto industry is becoming more efficient and competitive. Even though Detroit is not as big as traditional tech centers like Silicon Valley, this city is the central core in the Midwest for technology, growing financially and technologically at an astonishing rate.
[Source: CNN Money]
You already use Google to find things on the Internet. So it’s not surprising to hear that your car will be using technology developed by the search engine company to find its way around too.
Ford has teamed up with Google to develop a car that will be smart enough to know where you’re going and how best to get you there so you don’t get stuck in traffic. Using Google’s predictive algorithms (Prediction API), Ford wants to create a car that determines where you’re going by examining where you’ve been, thereby optimizing the performance of your car.
Here’s how it will work: Adding pattern-matching capability to existing cloud-based datasets, the Prediction API is able to predict probable outcomes for current events. The car would feature a setting that would learn from our behavior and adapt to it. Using this information, it will suggest a route and calibrate itself for ideal fuel mileage and performance.
“Once the destination is confirmed, the vehicle would have instant access to a variety of real-time information so it can optimize its performance, even against factors that the driver may not be aware of,” said Ryan McGee, a technical expert with Ford’s vehicle controls architecture and algorithm design division. “This information can ultimately be used to optimize vehicle performance attributes such as fuel efficiency and drivability.”
After secretly testing a fleet of autonomous cars in California, Google is now looking to shift driverless ‘driving’ into gear in Nevada, lobbying state officials to allow the vehicle to be legally driven on public roads.
To achieve their goal, and the dream of the projects creator and former Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun, Google has hired LAs Vegas lobbyist David Goldwater to alter existing Nevada state laws. Two key changes need to be made, the first would be a bill allowing for the licensing and testing of autonomous cars, while a second would then deal with issues of distracted driving, essentially allowing for the ‘driver’ of the car to text while driving as he or she really wouldn’t be in control of the vehicle anyway.
Thrun has been a vocal proponent of autonomous cars, claiming they would cut down on pollution and drastically reduce the number of road fatalities caused by human error.
Currently Google’s fleet of driverless cars totals seven and includes six Toyota Prius hybrids and one Audi TT. The cars are distinguishable by a large laser range finder on the roof, with other camera and radar sensors on the front and sides of the car.
Mapping out electric car charging stations onto an open source format like Google Maps seems like something totally self-evident, but the Department of Energy and Google are undertaking an official initiative to overlay EV charge points onto of a mapping application.
The project will be known as the GeoEVSE forum, and comprise of a database of 600 charging stations, which allows users to search by location, charger type and payment methods. Private companies like BestBuy are also getting on board, and the various entities involved hope that the project will help further public trust in electric vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure.
When the robot uprising comes, Sebastian Thrun will be accused of sympathizing with the androids. The Google engineer and leader of its driverless car project believes that by replacing the follies and foibles of human driving, its computer-controlled cars could save a million lives every year.
Apocalypse jokes aside, Thrun, a professor of computer science at Stanford University, became dedicated to the concept of saving lives when he lost his best friend to a car accident when he was 18. He discussed the implications that driverless cars could have at TED Talks, the conference for new ideas. In addition to saving lives, Thrun said, transport would be far quicker and more efficient, with less fuel wasted and a complete elimination of traffic jams. Humans in the future “will look back at us and say how ridiculous it was that humans were driving cars.”
Google’s automated cars have so far covered 140,000 miles in a variety of driving conditions, with nary an accident. Click the jump to see a Toyota Prius navigate the mean streets of Anytown, USA, and just imagine how much more time we can spend texting on our cell phones once the robots take over our daily commute. I for one welcome our new robot overlords!