Ex Google engineers resent Nuro auto-delivery vehicle

Silicon Valley startup Nuro.ai raised $92 million to create a working prototype of its ‘R1’ vehicle, which the company says will never seat a human inside. The low-speed car is fitted with panels in its side that open via an app to reveal its cargo, and Nuro claims it could have a road-legal fleet ready by 2022.

The smartphone app will give a code that pops open the vehicle’s side hatches, so customers can fetch their items. It will also let customers know when the vehicle is nearby, so people know when to head outside for collection.

Nuro said it is even considering using facial-recognition cameras as part of its delivery process.

Based in Los Angeles, the firm has already received a testing permit from the California DMV and plans to start public road trials later this year. The R1 is around the height of a saloon but only half as wide, stretching about as long as a Smart car to give it a boxed shape. Its skinny size gives it a 3 to 4-foot (90-120cm) ‘buffer’ so other vehicles and pedestrians can maneuver safely around it, according to Nuro. The R1 is a ‘Level Four’ fully autonomous vehicle, meaning it does not require human instruction for most situations, relying instead on high-definition mapping.

It navigates the roads using self-driving sensors including cameras, radars, and a spinning ‘lidar’ unit on its roof.

Founded by ex-Google engineers Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, the software for the vehicle was built from scratch over the past year-and-a-half.


Musk/Tesla’s Bold New Financial Plan

Tesla Inc. released a new compensation plan for Chief Executive Elon Musk on Tuesday, with payments dependent on massive increases in the electric car maker’s stock market value.

The announcement comes as Tesla prepares to report 2017 financial results that are expected to include massive cash losses. The new pay plan is similar to Musk’s current arrangement, the crux of which is this: The higher Tesla’s stock price goes, the more Tesla stock Musk gets.

The eye-popping part: The new plan envisions the Palo Alto company’s value skyrocketing. It sets market value targets in 12 increments, starting at $100 billion and topping out at $650 billion. (The company’s current market value is about $59 billion.)

If the stock hits none of the milestones, Musk would get nothing. It’s unclear how much the financial rewards will motivate Musk, who already is a billionaire and by all indications isn’t in it simply to get rich. The company sees itself not simply as an electric car manufacturer, but rather, as it said Tuesday, as the “world’s first vertically integrated sustainable energy company.”

Ferrari 488 “GTO” Photo Leaked!

The only thing missing from the substantial Ferrari 488 ‘GTO’ leak was a picture of the car itself. Well, that’s now been rectified via their image, which is currently doing the rounds on social media.

The quality is questionable, but it is pretty certain it’s the new, more hardcore version of the 488, sporting a radically redesigned front end and a generally cool vibe.

The front bumper, front bonnet, rear spoiler and rear diffuser will all be made from carbon fiber The new image gives us a much better look at the reshaped bonnet, with a deep vent referred to in the leaked presentation as an ‘S-duct’.

Other interesting details include side blades just in front of the front wheels, and an aggressive new side skirt design. Oh, and it does – of course – have some rather prominent white racing stripes.

Thanks to last week’s leak we also know that the 20-inch wheels are 40 per cent lighter than the GTB’s, while the V8 engine is said to be derived from the one found in last year’s 488 Challenge racing car. The redeveloped body includes an active rear wing, contributing to a 20 per cent improvement in aerodynamic efficiency.

You’re looking at something that has “the highest racing technology transfer on a street homologated Ferrari,” so make no mistake – this is one of the most serious cars Maranello has ever bolted together.

What a NAFTA Renegotiation Could Mean for Car Prices in the US

The Trump administration wants 85% of the parts in every car sold in North America to come from the region. Under the current NAFTA trade pact between the United States, Canada and Mexico, about 62% of the parts in a car must come from North America.

Additionally, of the parts sourced from North America, Trump’s team wants 50% to be sourced in the United States and the rest in Mexico and Canada. Mexican and Canadian leaders say this is a deal breaker.

According the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), If the U.S. were to enact a 35 percent tariff on light vehicles imported from Mexico, CAR estimates the sales impact would be 450,000 units lost in the United States. That 35 percent tariff is what the Trump Administration would apply to vehicles not meeting their content and manufacturing requirements.

According to IHS|Markit, 1.8 million vehicles produced in Mexico during 2016 were exported to the U.S. market. Moving that amount of manufacturing requires capacity that many experts say simply doesn’t exist in the States, and the alternative for automakers would be to look to spread that capacity to other countries. They would then pay the Trump-stipulated 35-percent tariff, which would add between $5,000 – $15,000 to the sticker price on new cars – and result in the cratering of the automotive business.

Carmaker Alliance Sets Up $200 Million Start-Up Fund

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance is setting up a $200 million venture fund to invest in new mobility tech startup, according to reports (Reuters). The fund will be 40% financed by Renault, 40% by Nissan and 20% by Mitsubishi.

The new mobility tech fund due to be unveiled by Chief executive Carlos Ghosn at the CES tech industry show in Las Vegas next month will allow the auto alliance to move fast on acquisitions ahead of their competition.

Consumers’ new habit of favoring specialized vehicles designed for very specific needs instead of the all-purpose cars of today will lead to a decline in private-car ownership. The increasing speed of innovation, especially in software-based systems will further increase demand for upgradeability in privately used cars. Connectivity, alongside autonomous technology, will further allow cars to become a platform for passengers to use their time in transit freed up to productive activities.

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi fund is being set up as a Dutch-registered joint venture headed by Francois Dossa. Renault has made investments including Marcel, a car-sharing platform based out of Paris, and Jedlix, a Dutch smart vehicle-charging technology maker. Renault’s investment arm took control of failed on-demand taxi-hailing app Karhoo to relaunch the business under new management.

Hitler’s 770 K Grosser Benz to be Auctioned Early in 2018

Adolf Hitler’s 1939 Mercedes-Benz 770 K Grosser Offener Tourenwagen is going to auction in Scottsdale, Arizona next month.

The touring car is one of five surviving Offener Tourenwagens used by the Fuhrer and his staff. A 7.7-liter inline eight-cylinder engine powers the completely restored Mercedes. It is capable of speeds over 100 mph and features bucket proof glass and armor plating. According to Worldwide Auctioneers, the U.S. Army seized this vehicle in 1945 and it was later used by U.S. Military Police stationed in Le Havre, France. Eventually, it made its way to the United States was was donated to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which used the car in parades.

The Third Reich motorcar has previously been on display at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, prior to that it was featured at the Chicago Historical Antique Automobile Museum in Highland Park, Illinois. Worldwide says a total of 88 W150 Grosser Mercedes 770s were built until 1943 and Erich Kempka, Hitler’s chauffeur, ordered this 770K in 1938. The auctioneer also states that 10% of the sale price of the car will be donated and used to educate how and why the Holocaust happened and how to effectively prevent such similar atrocities in the future.

The auction will be held on January 17.


Fiat Chrysler in Settlement Talks Over Diesel Emissions

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will take part in settlement talks with lawyers representing vehicle owners suing the automaker over excess diesel emissions in Washington on Oct. 12, a court-appointed settlement adviser said Wednesday.

In May, the U.S. Justice Department sued Fiat Chrysler, accusing the company of illegally using software that led to excess emissions in nearly 104,000 U.S. diesel vehicles sold since 2014. It also faces numerous lawsuits from owners of those vehicles.

German auto supplier Robert Bosch GmbH, which develops diesel vehicle systems, has also been sued by U.S. vehicle owners and will be part of the settlement talks next month, settlement master Ken Feinberg said in court.

In July, Fiat Chrysler won approval from federal and California regulators to sell 2017 diesel vehicles after it came under scrutiny for alleged excess emissions in older diesel models.

Fiat Chrysler lawyer Robert Giuffra said in court the company remains confident it can use updated emissions software in the 2017 vehicles as the basis of a fix to address agencies’ concerns over 2014-16 diesel vehicles.

Regulators have said Fiat Chrysler diesel vehicles had undisclosed emissions controls that allowed vehicles to emit excess pollution during normal driving. The company has denied wrongdoing, saying there was never an attempt to create software to cheat emissions rules. Fiat Chrysler’s emissions case came after Volkswagen’s diesel emissions violations prompted increased industry scrutiny.


BMW to Build New Proving Ground

Representatives of the BMW Group, the Czech government and the Karlovary Vary region announced construction of a new proving ground today in Prague. The roughly 500-hectare property will be developed in Sokolov in the Karlovary Vary region, close to the German border town of Waldsassen and about two-and-a-half hours’ drive from the BMW Group’s main development site, the Research and Development Centre (FIZ), in Munich.

BMW will invest over 100 million euros ($118 million) on a test track for self-driving and electric cars in the Czech Republic, as it expands its foray into alternative driving technologies.

The new BMW proving ground, which will create several hundred jobs, is slated to go into operation early in the next decade. Total investment will be in the three-digit million-euro range.

Dr. Herbert Grebenc, BMW AG, Human Resources, Senior Vice President Real Estate Management, Corporate Security, stated at the announcement in Prague: “The BMW Group is at the vanguard of technology. As an innovation driver, we aim to offer customers the best, most emotional mobility experience and create digital connections between people, vehicles and services. At the planned proving facility in Sokolov, we will continue to advance ground-breaking topics, such as electrification, digitalization and automated driving – for example, through safety-testing for assistance systems.”

Projects at the 500-hectare (1,200-acre) Sokolov site near the German border, picked out of 82 potential locations, will include the testing of driver-assistance and braking systems, Grebenc said.


Musk upbeat about the future of artificial intelligence

When it comes to AI, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO has strongly urged caution recently. But, on Thursday, Musk also confirmed that Tesla is developing its own artificial intelligence software and hardware as the company continues its push toward a future of autonomous driving. What’s more, Musk is confident that his own company’s work on AI will be fruitful, as the CEO boasted about the products’ potential at a machine learning conference in California yesterday.

Talking about the work of Jim Keller, Tesla’s vice president of hardware, Musk said at the conference: “Jim is developing specialized AI hardware that we think will be the best in the world,” according to CNBC. Tesla currently uses chips supplied by Nvidia to power its Autopilot hardware, but Musk’s announcement signals a move away from the partnership.

Musk also reportedly predicted that it will only be two years until fully autonomous driving is available with the new Tesla-developed AI systems, and that the technology will be “an order of magnitude better than humans” within three years, according to Salesforce scientist Stephen Merity, who was at the conference on Thursday and tweeted parts of Musk’s conversation.

Musk was also busy this week stoking competitive fires with regard to his plans to transport humans to Mars with SpaceX rockets. On Thursday, Musk responded to a boast from Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who predicted that the first person to set foot on Mars would arrive in a Boeing rocket. Musk, who has been vocal about his desire to reach Mars and even colonize the Red Planet, responded to Muilenburg in a tweet that said, simply, “Do it.”

Source: https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/elon-musk-says-tesla-making-062700270.html

GM Sets Its Sights on Autonomous Taxi Service

The Wall Street Journal reports that General Motors aims to launch a public ride-sharing service across several cities that uses fully self-driving cars by 2019, potentially becoming the first traditional car maker to deploy autonomous technology at scale in the real world.

Describing self-driving cars as “the biggest thing since the internet”, the company said it eventually expected to make profit offering rides to the public for as little as $1 a mile. Car makers are racing to develop self-driving cars to use in fleets of robo-taxis in order to tap into a potentially lucrative new market and gain first-mover advantage in an industry that McKinsey says will be worth $1.5tn by 2030.

Huge hurdles remain before any manufacturer can roll out vehicles in the real world, both in developing the technology and in convincing regulators to permit vehicles without human drivers to operate alongside motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Companies seeking to operate driverless ride-sharing fleets also face stiff questions over how to make profits from such a cost-conscious service, which also sees them move beyond their traditional skills by running a network that matches customer demand with available cars, and is likely to see carmakers themselves assume significant costs such as vehicle depreciation.

GM said it had not yet decided whether to offer its own service or use a partner such as Lyft, the ride-booking app in which GM invested $500m during 2015. But in setting a 2019 start date, the car maker has claimed a lead over some of its closest competitors.