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Is This Lights Out For Traffic Lights?

Self-driving cars will change many things on the road, traffic lights just being one of them.

The century-old traffic light could be become extinct if autonomous vehicles become the most common form of automotive transport.

Traffic experts believe that a slot system — closer to how air traffic is routed — might work better for ground transportation than traditional lights once self-driving cars and trucks become ubiquitous.

That’s the finding of an international study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Swiss Institute of Technology and the Italian National Research Council.

Traffic intersections are complicated because different flows of traffic compete for the same space. Switching to a slot-based model could be simpler and more efficient, the study said.

“A slot-based system moves the focus from the traffic flow level to the vehicle level,” said Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab. “Ultimately, it’s a much more efficient system, because vehicles will get to an intersection exactly when there is a slot available to them.”

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Where Does Liability Lie With Self Driving Technology

 

When new technology is introduced new standards and rules need to be set. A proposal has made its way to the Florida State Senate that, if passed, would set new insurance requirements for drivers working with app-based transportation network companies — a product created very recently in response to the growing popularity of services such as Uber and Lyft. Measures like this are created to ensure victims of auto accidents can obtain compensation, as well as to protect the party at fault from financial ruin. While the matter of ride-sharing had a relatively straightforward solution, the oncoming shift to self-driving cars produces a tougher problem for the insurance industry and legislators alike .

Autonomous vehicles confuse the issue of liability. If two drivers of traditional cars get into an accident, the personal insurance policy of the party at fault will cover the property and bodily damages sustained by the victim. But what happens if the at fault vehicle was being operated by a computer? Presently, the answer is unclear. According to a report byBusiness Insider Intelligence, as much as 10 million cars will be outfitted with self-driving features by the year 2020. If true, this does not leave much time to come up with a solution to the liability issue.

“Somehow or another we need a mechanism to allow for compensation from auto accidents” says Marc Mayerson, a lawyer and adjunct professor of Insurance Law at Georgetown University. Mayerson adds, “In theory self-driving cars would not create negligence liability for the passenger/non-driver/owner of the car.”

For most drivers, liability coverage accounts for a large part of their auto insurance bill. Repairing physical damage to your own vehicle is a drop in the bucket compared to the risk of paying hospital bills or court fees when you injure another individual. Just as we’re beginning to see laws for ride-share insurance requirements emerge in states like Florida, similar requirements for personal policies have existed since as early as the 1920’s. In California, for example, drivers are required to carry at least $15,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, and $30,000 per accident. Plus, the state mandates a minimum of $5,000 property damage coverage.

If liability is taken out of the equation, it stands to reason personal auto insurance premiums for owners of self-driving cars would become much lower. At that point, who would shoulder the bill for liability? “One model would be to have the car manufacturer bear all the liability and impose that liability simply based on the autonomous car’s being a substantial cause of the injury,” Mayerson suggests. If an accident is the result of the computer’s failure, it becomes reasonable to assume the fault would then lie with the manufacturer.

Insurance costs being passed down to automakers aren’t necessarily good news for consumers, however. If the car manufacturers are facing increased operating costs due to liability concerns, they may make up for that by increasing the price of the vehicles. In other words, while autonomous vehicle owners may save money on their insurance policies, the cost may end up trickling down to the price of their new ride.

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Ford A New Part Of Commuting For Ford Drivers And All The Others

SAN FRANCISCO – This is a first step for car companies to be connected specially in commuting apps, opening the door for more.

Ford is making a big push to get intimately involved with the daily mobility needs of all motorists, regardless of whether they own a Ford automobile.

In April, the automaker will launch a smartphone app called FordPass that helps users with parking and other services, provides live assistants via chat or voice, and offers reward-based programs with partner companies. Although FordPass can be used by anyone, it offers the most benefits to Ford vehicle owners.

Ford also will roll out four new FordHubs that, much like interactive kiosks at events such as the North American International Motor Show, which opened Monday in Detroit, are designed to showcase the company’s various Ford Smart Mobility initiatives. They won’t be points of sale.

“We don’t just want to be in the vehicle business, we want to be in the connected relationship business,” Ford CEO Mark Fields told USA TODAY. “Anyone can make an app. This is more than that. It’s about a platform that has a digital as well as physical presence in the lives of anyone who uses transportation.”

FordPass is a bold and logical step from Fields. Since taking the reins in 2014, he’s been maneuvering his company to source new revenue streams in a transportation future powered by Millennials who typically see more value in car sharing than ownership. Fields has been particularly aggressive in pushing forward into autonomous cars — fleets of which may form the next great urban transportation network — and driver-assist systems, both of which he discussed at last week’s auto-tech-filled 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Ford executives say that the 18-month project leveraged deep dives into a range of digital branding successes including Amazon’s Mayday button (which summons a live consultant to a Kindle Fire screen), Burberry’s in-store digital runaway experiences (bringing apparel to life for shoppers) and Nespresso’s customer-centric strategy (which includes a mix of retail outlets and phone consultants).

Once FordPass launches, users can book and pay for off-street parking in advance. Partner companies will include ParkWhiz and Parkopedia. Using the app, another partner, FlightCar, offers the opportunity to rent out your vehicle for pay while you’re away on a trip. FordPass will be available first in the U.S. and Canada, followed by specific European markets as well as China and Brazil.

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Where Are Taxis Now Standing When It Comes To Uber

If you are in a rush, how do you get to work? Do you take a cab, a bus, uber? The answer to that question is changing drastically.

If San Francisco is any sign, taxi cabs around the world are in danger.

The city’s largest taxi company, Yellow Cab Co-Op, said that it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a December letter to shareholders obtained by the San Francisco Examiner. While regular taxi operations will continue, the company needs to restructure due to “serious financial setbacks” caused by mounting debt and competition from ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft.

The major problem? People just aren’t taking as many regular cab rides any more now that Uber and company present a solution that’s often cheaper and more convenient. “On an annual basis over 5 million passengers are transported in Yellow cabs,” Yellow Cab President Pamela Martinez wrote in the letter. “We used to have more and our goal is to get them back and even more.”

As Uber and Lyft recruit drivers with significant bonuses, as well as more flexibility in hours, the old taxi companies also aren’t able to retain the best drivers. “We need to have not just more drivers but drivers who are happy to be behind the wheel of a Yellow cab because we offer the best opportunity to make a living in a taxi,” Martinez continued.

Yellow Cab might be just the first domino to fall in ride-hailing’s global assault on the taxi business. Many local taxi companies have lobbied for legislation to protect themselves against Uber, but the startup worth more than $60 billion is hard to defeat. It is striking that Uber and Lyft together raised more than $3 billion in December alone, in the same month Yellow Cab admitted it would have to file for bankruptcy.

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Wishing For A White Christmas? Then The Best Snow Tires Will Come In Handy

Almost everybody has at one time experienced terrible driving conditions where they skidded on black ice or couldn’t see through the snowfall where snow tires allowed him or her to arrive safely.

Assuming you don’t read Suomi, the language of Finland that sounds like a mashup of Dutch and Klingon, there are few road signs you will understand when you’re 186 miles above the Arctic Circle. But one announcing that Murmansk, Russia, is 188 miles away gets your attention, reminding you just how far north you are. Murmansk is a Cold War relic on the Arctic Ocean—to Soviet submarine warfare what Cape Canaveral is to spaceflight. These days, the Russian Northern Fleet occasionally moors nearby.

Then another sign we can read pops up on the left: “Test World Oy.” Oh yeah, we’re here to test some winter tires. Murmansk will have to wait. We have a cold war of our own to deal with.

The Test World Mellatracks proving grounds is a facility that offers year-round testing on natural snow, as opposed to the man-made stuff. During winter months it operates like any other automotive proving grounds, but with frozen canals and snow-packed fields standing in for the concrete and asphalt you find at more-temperate venues. In early spring, Test World stockpiles snow, filling its two buildings with about two feet of packed, natural white stuff, enough to last the entire indoor-testing season. We headed up to the refrigerated covered complex in late summer, as we wanted this story to appear in time for you to take advantage of its findings for the winter soon to be upon us.

The Indoor 1 building is a 525-foot-by-52-foot pole barn of packed snow that includes a lane of Zamboni-maintained ice. Indoor 2 contains a 0.2-mile, 30-foot-wide squiggly handling ­circuit. Both buildings have cooling circuits in the floor and chilled forced-air ductwork. On our test day, the inside thermometer read -11, as in degrees Celsius, or 12 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Tesla May Have Competition From Their Former Employees

Multiple car companies continue to drive towards the finish line in the race to create the latest and most advanced electric car available, but there now is a late comer to the race that might change things up.

Faraday Future, a mysterious electric car startup taking shape in Nissan’s former U.S. sales office in Gardena, said it plans to sell its first vehicle in 2017 and is looking to make a $1-billion investment in a factory.

The company founded by former Tesla Motors employees said Wednesday that it was eyeing several locations, including California, Georgia, Louisiana and Nevada, but is keeping the source of its development funds and ownership secret.

“There is a significant investor who has an international profile and wants the company to stand on its own merits before making the association,” said Stacy Morris, Faraday’s spokeswoman.

The company, which has about 400 employees, sees itself as a rival to Palo Alto electric car company Tesla.

Its leadership team includes Nick Sampson, the head of vehicle and chassis engineering for the Tesla Model S; Dag Reckhorn, a former Tesla senior manufacturing executive; and several engineers and designers who worked on BMW and General Motors electric cars.

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Stanford Creates DeLorean That Drives Under Robot Control

PALO ALTO, Calif. –We may not have hover boards and robots as waiters but we are half way there to the future we predicted in Back To The Future II.

Despite the wishful thinking of the 1989 science-fiction film “Back to the Future Part II,” in which scientist Dr. Emmett Brown and all-American teenager Marty McFly ride a time-traveling DeLorean DMC-12 forward by 30 years to Oct. 21, 2015, those futuristic gadgets still haven’t become a reality. (No matter what Lexus says.)

But on Tuesday, on the eve of what has become known as “Back to the Future Day,” Stanford University researchers unveiled a self-driving DeLorean that can burn rubber under robot control, suggesting the future might not be so dismal after all.

The car, nicknamed Marty after Michael J. Fox’s character in the film, does doughnuts with near-flawless precision. The researchers ultimately want Marty to drift around corners better than any human race car driver, because if self-driving cars are able to function at the limits of grip, they may be able to avoid crashes in extreme scenarios.

“We aren’t literally envisioning roads full of automated vehicles that can produce clouds of white tire smoke,” said Chris Gerdes, the Stanford professor who led the project, “though that would be cool.”

At an event Tuesday evening hosted by special effects guru Jamie Hyneman, co-host of the Discovery Channel TV show “MythBusters,” Stanford released a video of Marty filmed at Thunderhill Raceway Park north of San Francisco.

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How Can Your Car Help You To Drive

Car companies, now focus on helping drivers increase their driving experience by adding more features to their new automotive creations, but few drivers know what each and everyone of them are, if they were not mentioned in the commercial how will you know they are there.

While automakers are spending billions of dollars loading up their vehicles with technologies of all kinds, many owners are not using them and would rather use their smartphones instead, according to the first-ever J.D. Power 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report.

The market research firm found that at least 20 percent of new vehicle owners have never used 16 of the 33 technology features that DrIVE measured. For the consumer, this means they are paying for something they are not using, said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction & HMI research at J.D. Power.

The report looked at driver experiences with in-vehicle technology features during the first 90 days of ownership and was based on responses from more than 4,200 owners and lessees of 2015-model-year vehicles.

Features that owners did not use

43 percent—In-vehicle concierge feature such as OnStar.
38 percent—Mobile connectivity, such as a factory installed Wi-Fi hot spot.
35 percent—Automatic parking system, which aids in either parallel or perpendicular parking with limited interaction by the driver.
33 percent—Head-up display.
32 percent—Built-in apps such as Pandora.

“Tired and impatient, car buyers just want to get out of the dealership, often without becoming fully oriented with all of their new car’s features,” says Tom Mutchler, Consumer Reports’ automotive human factors engineer. “But many high-tech features aren’t immediately obvious or intuitive, especially when trying to decipher their use for the first time when driving.”

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Automakers Are Unable To Go Further With Connected Vehicles Until They Are No Longer Able To Be Hacked

Connectivity in an automotive makes it easier for the driver but also creates certain risks as well.

 

Connected vehicles hold tremendous potential for improving road safety while simultaneously reducing energy consumption and road congestion through data sharing over the next 10–15 years.

 

Unfortunately, that potential may never be realized unless there is a dramatic change in the way automakers and suppliers handle cyber security. The recently revealed security vulnerability in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) products with Uconnect telematics systems demonstrates some of the flaws in the current landscape.

 

Wired.com recently ran a report highlighting a flaw in the Uconnect telematics system discovered by noted white hat security researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek. The pair worked out how to remotely connect to the vehicle’s cellular modem, a key component of Uconnect and all other telematics systems. From there, they were able to access a port in the vehicle network that provided entry to vehicle control systems, including steering, braking, and other functions. The article noted that Miller and Valasek notified FCA and waited until a fix was developed before publicly disclosing the flaw. So far, so good.

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New Strategy For Car Makers, Share The Bare Minimum With Tech Companies

Will the advancements in technology and automotive decrease in pace once car makers continue to share the bare minimum of information to get the results they desire.

Carmakers are limiting the data they share with technology partners Apple and Google through new systems that link smartphones to vehicle infotainment systems, defending access to information about what drivers do in their cars.

Auto companies hope that the vehicle data will one day generate billions of dollars in e-commerce, though they are just beginning to form strategies for monetizing the information. Apple and Google already make money from smartphone owners by providing a variety of products and services, from digital music to targeted advertising, and connecting phones to car systems will almost certainly extend their reach.

But as infotainment systems such as Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto become more widespread, auto companies hope to keep tech providers from gaining access to a wealth of potentially profitable information collected by computer systems in cars.

Some auto companies have specifically said they will not provide Apple and Google with data from the vehicle’s functional systems — steering, brakes and throttle, for instance — as well as information about range, a measure of how far the car can travel before it runs out of gas.

“We need to control access to that data,” said Don Butler, Ford Motor Co.’s executive director of connected vehicle and services. “We need to protect our ability to create value” from new digital services built on vehicle data.

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