PowerHydrant is an early stage startup focused on applying the “smartphone dividend” to deliver 3D sensor based conductive autonomous fast-charging for Autonomous Vehicles and eMobility. Based in Boston’s Innovation District, PowerHydrant is a member of the MIT Startup Exchange and part of Autodesk’s inaugural Startups-in-Residence (STIR) group.
With a new “Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Hub”, the UK government is streamlining its efforts to become the leading nation in driverless mobility. The administration’s bold vision will intensify international competition.
The day before petitioning for divorce from the EU, the UK government outlined its vision for a national autonomous vehicle testing infrastructure, offering to reconcile flag-waving with openness to inward investment.
The new Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Hub, or ‘CAV Hub’, was introduced at a launch event in London on 28 March at Loughborough University’s Olympic Park campus. It will oversee an ‘ecosystem’ for autonomous vehicle testing made up of permanent facilities, initially part-supported by public funds but intended to be economically viable in the long term.
The coordinating CAV Hub will be funded from a £100 million fund for new connected and autonomous vehicle testing infrastructure announced by the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond last year. Jim Campbell, formerly of BMW, Land Rover and Worldwide Marketing Director of Bentley Motor Cars, introduced the new body at the launch, highlighting its mission to help enable the UK,
“to be the world number one for connected and autonomous vehicles.”
The CAV Hub is looking to build upon existing test centres and continue previous work on a (testing) code of practice, as well as in other regulatory frameworks such as insurance, cyber-security and data management. Campbell asserted that,
“government support is a big part of why people will want to come and work with our community in the UK – and it is getting noticed.”
With trials underway involving on-road real-life demonstrations in London by Nissan and by Volvo, plus research involving a nascent UK autonomous vehicle industry, including Jaguar Land Rover and several new entrants supported by earlier rounds of funding, Mr Campbell emphasised that non-UK operators are welcome to get involved so long as public money is used to support UK-based research.
A related announcement also made at the event was outline details of a funding competition to support the test facilities themselves, for which the UK government will offer up to £55 million to support three sites. These will be located in easy reach of Oxford, within the UK’s ‘automotive and technology heartland’.
Electric cars will be good for the planet and autonomous vehicles will reduce the number of road accidents. That much we know. But what other impacts will the coming automobile revolution provide?
First, a bit of managing expectations: without regulatory incentives, America’s electric car adoption looks like it will be slow to grow, and the first wave of autonomous cars might prove to be rather underwhelming. And while automakers and technology firms are indeed racing to reboot our cars—making these technologies seemingly inevitable—they are likely to take a while to get here.
What’s less certain is how they’ll change the world. Benedict Evans, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and no stranger to tech trends analysis, has published some thoughts on what he calls second- and third-order effects of the disruption that’s going to play out on our highways. And his insights describe a future made fundamentally different by the technologies.
Consider electrification. We know that losing the internal combustion engine will be good for the planet. But, as Evans points out, a lot will change when the supporting infrastructure for gas guzzlers disappears: many repair shops will be out of a job, because most car maintenance is focused around the motor. And gas stations no longer have a purpose, so what happens to the convenience stores that they contain—and the half of America’s tobacco sales that gas stations account for?
As for self-driving cars, every company involved in the nascent industry is keen to point out that autonomous vehicles will crash less frequently than those driven by humans. But the benefits of a car that can drive itself aren’t limited to moving folks from A to B: it can also go park itself somewhere usually considered too inconvenient for human passengers, ready to be beckoned when needed. That means that huge swaths of land in the hearts of cities, currently used as parking lots, could be repurposed—potentially upending the real estate market.
These are just a couple of the examples Evans provides, and there are far more to consider.
Currently, most of the attention on autonomous vehicles is focused on the technology that lets cars drive themselves. However, in the near future, the industry will need to broaden its focus to include what is arguably just as important: the passenger.
The Renault-Nissan Alliance has announced a partnership with autonomous vehicle services company Transdev which will see a fleet of self-driving Renault Zoe models hit the streets.
In a statement, the two automakers said that they will collaborate with Transdev to develop a modular transportation system that enables clients to book vehicles and for mobility operators to monitor and operate self-driving car fleets.
The partnership will start with fields tests in the Paris-Saclay business area and involve Transdev’s on-demand dispatch, supervision and routing platform.
Speaking about the deal, Renault-Nissan Alliance senior vice president of connected vehicles and mobility services, Ogi Redzic, said
“As the mobility services landscape keeps evolving, we have a great opportunity to offer innovative, connected mobility solutions for the evolving needs of our customers, fully aligned with our vision of a zero-emission, zero-fatalities society.
“Partnering with Transdev allows us to share our knowledge as leaders in electric vehicles, autonomous drive and connected-car technologies with one of the largest multi-modal mobility operators worldwide. Together we will develop an advanced driverless mobility system that will enhance existing public and on-demand transport systems.”
Self-driving car insurance and electric vehicle charge point measures introduced in Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill.
New insurance rules for self-driving cars and measures to improve provision of electric vehicle charge points will be introduced today (22 February 2017), as part of the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill.
It is hoped these measures will help the UK to become a world leader in these technologies by breaking down some of the barriers that could limit companies from testing them here.
Measures around insurance for self-driving cars will ensure better protection – a single insurance product for automated vehicles will now be able to cover both the motorist when they are driving, as well as the car when it is in automated mode. This will mean innocent victims involved in a collision with an automated vehicle will have quick and easy access to compensation.
Self-driving vehicles will allow the driver to hand full control and responsibility to the vehicle when technologies are turned on.
The measures follow a consultation by the Department for Transport on the issue of insurance for self-driving cars that closed in September 2016. The Secretary of State will be given the power to classify which vehicles are ‘automated’ and subject to the new insurance requirement.
Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, said:
Automated vehicles have the potential to transform our roads in the future and make them even safer and easier to use, as well as promising new mobility for those who cannot drive.
But we must ensure the public is protected in the event of an incident and today we are introducing the framework to allow insurance for these new technologies.
David Williams, Head of Underwriting, at AXA UK, said:
This is a positive step forward that provides clarity to insurers to ensure we design our products appropriately. It keeps protection of the general public at its heart which we hope will encourage early adoption of some really impressive technology.
The vast majority of accidents are caused by human error and we see automated vehicles having a massive impact, reducing the number and severity of accidents. As well as making our roads safer, insurance premiums are based on the cost of claims and therefore we expect substantially reduced premiums to follow.
Other measures set out in the Bill will mean easier access to infrastructure for electric vehicles. They could also ensure the right infrastructure is in place for the growing market for electric vehicles.
Motorway services and large fuel retailers could be made to provide electric charge points and hydrogen refuelling stations under planned new laws.
The measures could also make sure data about the location and availability of charging stations is openly available, and make it easier to use the different networks which are available. They follow a public consultation on measures to improve charging infrastructure.
John Hayes, Minister of State for Transport said:
If we are to accelerate the use of electric vehicles we must take action now and be ready to take more action later. I recognise that to encourage more drivers to go electric, the infrastructure needs to become even more widespread than the 11,000 charging points already in place and more straightforward. We are determined to do all we can to make electric vehicles work for everyone and these new laws will help make this a reality.
Speculation about the future of transportation, like common flu, appears to be contagious. Not a week goes by without another celebrity, business guru or executive predicting that future of transportation is electric.
That, you may say, is probable and not newsworthy. What is newsworthy is that many of the same people are predicting that the transition is likely to be at a pace much faster than many had expected.
In July 2016, for example, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson was quoted as saying that he suspected that 15 years from now every car on the road would be electric. Chances are that he made up the number – 15 years – without giving it much thought. One can also assume that he was talking about new cars sold in 15 years, not all cars on the road.
That, of course, is what makes Branson Branson. He was talking to CNN at a Formula E race, which he was attending to support the Virgin Racing team. He said,
“Formula E is pushing the boundaries forward into what will be the future. Fifteen years from now, I suspect every car on the road will be electric.”
He went on to elaborate:
“If governments set the ground rules — and they sometimes have to be brave and set positive ground rules — and for instance said, ‘more than 50% of cars must be battery-driven in 10 years and 100% in 15 years,’ we could make that happen. It will be great fun and really challenging to do. The cars would be much more efficient… and battery technology will get better and better.”
In the cutthroat world of technology, if you’re not first, you’re last. With this in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see tech companies and automakers clawing to be first in line to release self-driving cars.
Uber recently partnered with Volvo in a $300-million project that should result in a self-driving fleet as early as next month. But amazingly, a 3-year-old company called nuTonomy has beat Uber to the punch by launching the world’s first self-driving taxi in Singapore.
Cambridge, MA,-based nuTonomy has been privately testing self-driving vehicles in Singapore since April and is now allowing select residents in the city’s one-north business district to be driven around in its self-driving taxis for free. Customers will be able to summon one of nuTonomy’s self-driving taxis through the company’s app and will be picked up in a Renault Zoe or Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car modified for autonomous driving.
While the taxi will drive itself, an engineer from nuTonomy will ride in the vehicle to ensure that the car is operating properly and will take over if needed. There’s no word on how many self-driving taxis nuTonomy put on the road, but the trials take the company one step closer to launching its fully autonomous fleet by 2018.
The Wall Street Journal’s Jake Watts managed to get a ride in one of nuTonomy’s self-driving taxis and, while it went well, he claims human cabdrivers may not go extinct any time soon. According to Watts, the self-driving Mitsubishi lacked Tesla’s polish and was overly cautious. The car did a fine job of avoiding jaywalkers, parked cars, and pedestrians on the short drive, but hesitated often, which could gives riders motion sickness, Watts said.
nuTonomy CEO Karl Iagnemma will be speaking at Autoblog’s UPSHIFT 2016 conference on transportation technology on October 6 in Detroit.
As our urban transportation landscape becomes automated over the next decade, it could spark an electric car revolution.
Spend enough time around these early self-driving vehicles and you notice that nearly all are hybrids or pure electric vehicles. They include Ford’s automated Fusion, the similarly equipped Fusion hybrids that Uber is deploying in Pittsburgh, the Google cars bopping around the peninsula of northern California, the Chevrolet Bolts being tested in San Francisco and suburban Phoenix.
Today, hybrids, plug-ins and pure electrics are a marginal piece of the U.S. market, accounting for a scant 2.8% of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. through the first eight months of 2016, according to hybridcars.com.
But a decade from now, electric cars will appeal far beyond the granola-eating, tree-hugging, climate-change evangelizing base that has sustained them thus far. You may not own one, but you will have ridden in them. The change won’t be instant, but it will be steady.
So why will our autonomous future likely be an electric one?
First are the regulatory reasons, namely gas mileage requirements. Then there are engineering reasons — electric vehicles are easier for computers to drive. And, of course, ride-hailing services will increasingly make up a higher percentage of daily miles driven, and it will be easier, cheaper and safer to recharge an unmanned car than to gas one up.
“One of the biggest changes will be in the growing difference in cost of ownership between electrified and internal combustion engines,”
Ford CEO Mark Fields said last week, repeating his company’s pledge to spend $4.5 billion to introduce 13 new electric vehicle nameplates by 2020.
A competition, of sorts, between Silicon Valley and Detroit has been ongoing in the past decade for the engineering and computer programming talent needed to create the next generation of smart, connected and ultimately self-driving vehicles.
The two sides will likely have to work together — either through mergers and acquisitions or strategic partnerships — and electric cars will be the platform.
The federal government’s corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards will vary depending on the mix of trucks, SUVs and passenger cars a manufacturer sells, but a substantial portion of electrified vehicles will be needed to achieve the goals.
And then there are the engineering reasons.
“There are a lot fewer moving pieces in an electric vehicle. There are three main components — the battery, the inverter and the electric motor,”
said Levi Tillemann-Dick, managing partner at Valence Strategic in Washington, D.C., and author of “The Great Race: The Global Quest for the Car of the Future.”
“An internal combustion engine contains 2,000 tiny pieces that have to be kept lubricated and they break every once in a while.”
“Peak oil demand” is the new “peak oil supply” because of climate change and plummeting costs for electric car batteries.
It’s increasingly clear that we’re not going to move off of oil because we run out of supply. Rather, we’re going to move off of oil because it is both the economic and moral thing to do.
The research firm Bernstein notes that two “existential threats to the oil industry” exist — “climate change” and “advances in battery technology and computing power, which have resulted in a surge in interest in electric vehicles and autonomous driving.” They project the peak in oil demand could come as soon as 2030–2035: