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.


Google’s Waymo Unleashed—Driverless—in Phoenix

The first truly autonomous cars — vehicles that cruise the public streets with no one sitting behind the wheel to take over in case of emergency — have finally arrived. Wired.com reports that Waymo, which began life as Google’s self-driving car project, disclosed that it had let its driverless cars loose in parts of Phoenix, Arizona, with nobody in the front seats.

Members of the public taking part in a Waymo trial in the desert city in the US south-west will be able to summon the vehicles through a ride-hailing app “in the next few months”, the company said. Potentially one of the most disruptive new technologies, as well as one of the most hyped, driverless cars have been at the center of a race between big automakers and technology companies in the US, China and Europe. But while a number of groups are testing the technology on the streets with back-up drivers behind the wheel, most believe the advent of full autonomy is at least two years away.

Company employees have been climbing into the backs of its cars, choosing between three different routes, and letting the vehicle do the rest. The test, while limited to an unspecified area, is not a one-time ride or a demo but the start of a new phase for Waymo and the history of this technology. The company planned to expand it to the entire 600 sq m Phoenix region, he added, without giving a specific timeframe.

U.S. Government Announces Self-Driving Automobile Guidelines

With the revised guidelines, the U.S. eliminates the need for automakers to receive regulatory approval before deploying autonomous features. States will focus on licensing, registering, and insuring autonomous cars. The federal government handles issues related to safety and performance.

The guidance also revises “unnecessary” design elements from the safety self-assessment for autonomous cars.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao supported the administration’s choice to issue voluntary guidelines rather than laws. She said it was the right approach for technology that is constantly changing. Regulators retain the option to bar autonomous vehicles if they prove unsafe in the future.

The move is considered a win for automakers and manufacturers of autonomous technologies who want self-driving cars regulated at a federal level rather than having to deal with different requirements in different states. U.S. regulators are gearing up to issue an even newer set of guidelines surrounding autonomous cars, so we could see more changes soon.


Volvo’s Self Driving Car Has An Unusual Problem

It is unable to detect kangaroos. According to the Swedish carmaker, the hopping of kangaroos confuses the “Large Animal Detection system” that successfully identifies and avoids deer, elk and caribou. However, early testing in Australia revealed the automaton has trouble with kangaroos’ unique movements.

Volvo stated that this testing revelation was all just part of the process and does not pose a serious threat to the 2020 release date for a Volvo driverless vehicle. The issue, Volvo thinks, is that the LAD system uses the ground as a reference point, so the hopping confuses it, specifically making it hard for the system to judge how close the hopping animal is.

Volvo’s detection system was designed in Sweden, where it was tested in areas populated with moose before trials at a nature reserve in Canberra revealed the problem with kangaroos.

And this is an issue for Volvo to overcome as kangaroos cause more auto accidents than any other animal in Australia, causing about 90% of vehicle-animal collisions.

Volvo plans to release its first autonomous cars by 2020 and has pledged zero fatalities or serious injuries from all its cars by that time.


Self-driving cars saving lives

It is estimated self-driving cars could save 300,000 lives per decade in America. We are still years from seeing autonomous cars in the mainstream but there are estimates that by mid-century, there could be a lot of lives saved. TheAtlantic.com cites that in 1970 there were about 60,000 traffic-related deaths. This dropped to 32,719 in 2013 due to a shift in automobile safety.

Researchers estimate that fatalities could be reduced up to 90 percent by mid-century. In the meantime, while cars are adjusting, safety may go through a period of worsening. Of the sixteen accidents with Google’s fleet of autonomous cars, all were due to driver error … by others.

Volvo testing self-driving cars

The Volvo Car Group will release 100 self-driving cars on public roads in Gothenburg, Sweden. Endorsed by the government there, the “Drive Me” project aims to pinpoint the benefits of driving autonomously. It will give them insight to challenges they will face technologically as well as provide a way of receiving feedback from their customers.

The study will start in 2014 with the hopes of having the first cars on the road by 2017. The car will be developed on Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) and the first model will be the Volvo XC90 to be introduced in 2014.

The car will also feature autonomous parking. You can leave the car at the entrance and the car will park itself.

Joe Victor