News from Tesla, Waymo, Cruise, Lynk & Co. and atlatec: your monthly automotive briefing
Another month over – and while Covid-19 seems to be flaring up again all over the world, it’s not the only news out there: The automotive industry, which was hit hard by the Corona crisis has produced some interesting news items this October. Here’s my personal overview of what stuck out:
European Safety Assessment Slams Tesla Autopilot for Its Inability to Keep Drivers’ Attention – via The Drive
This month, Tesla released the beta version of its “Full Self-Driving” system to a limited batch of paying customers. The resonance has been mixed and there’s lots of video and more out there, showing situations which FSD apparently handles well – or not. This article got a bit lost in the wake of all this – but I feel it emphasizes an underlying conflict of any self-driving tech relying on drivers’ attention: The better the self-driving performance and user experience, the less attention “drivers” will pay – and the less they’ll be prepared to take over in critical situations. Tesla’s user experience is apparently the worst at keeping drivers’ attention in auto mode, as per this recent NCAP analysis.
Bonus: I also recommend a look at this Twitter thread by Voyage CEO Oliver Cameron who took the time to analyze footage from one of the first test drives in detail.
Waymo, arguably a leader in the autonomous vehicles domain reached another milestone this month: The Google company will open up its driverless robotaxi service in Phoenix to about 1 000 app users, who can now request rides without safety drivers onboard. Remote operators will be on standby to take control of the vehicles if necessary, but Waymo expects little work for them.
Cruise can now test driverless vehicles on the streets of San Francisco – via The TechCrunch
Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, is not yet offering rides to the public but got approval by the Californian DMV “to test five autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel on specified streets within San Francisco.” This is the fifth permit for driverless testing after Waymo, AutoX, Nuro and Zoox and it comes with some restrictions: “The Cruise vehicles are designed to operate on roads with posted speed limits not exceeding 30 miles per hour, during all times of the day and night, but will not test during heavy fog or heavy rain, the DMV said.”
There’s an ongoing discussion about the ethics of these public-roads tests: On the one hand, companies are supposed to “verify vehicles are capable of operating without a driver” to get a permit, but on the other hand those tests are being conducted with the specific purpose to verify this in the first place – they are tests, after all. This has potential for further controversy, and further underlines the need for comprehensive, real-word-based simulation ahead of on-road operations.
This was relatively unnoticed news this month, but I find it worth noting because GEELY’s Lynk & Co. brand is attempting to redesign one of the basic fundamentals in automotive: The relation between car ownership and access to (car-based) mobility.
What Lynk & Co. is offering with the new “01” model is a built-in car-sharing platform, complete with mobile apps to unlock vehicles by phone etc. Individuals can take out a lease on a 01 (around 500 EUR a month, including service by Volvo dealerships) and then offer it for use via the platform – defining when it’s available and how much they want to charge to rent it out to other users, who don’t pay for vehicles/leases themselves. Sure, car sharing is nothing new – but if done right, this could bring a new level of convenience to the game which might really make a difference.
I find this move a) very brave, because it essentially means a commitment to sell less cars by GEELY and b) very innovative to come from an OEM because it doesn’t attempt to solve any and every mobility challenge by adding more, or better vehicles but instead truly treats mobility as a commodity. The new car – and service – will pilot in Amsterdam, arguably one of the major European cities which has done most to move away from traditional car ownership models.
It’s definitely one of the most frequently asked questions for us here at atlatec: “How accurate are HD maps”? It sounds innocent, but answering it correctly is rather complex. However, we feel that the question is important, both when it comes to safety in autonomous vehicle operations and regarding the validity of simulations based on real-world maps.
This month, we’ve therefore taken the time to answer the question comprehensively; taking a close look at what accuracy really means in the context of HD maps – and of course we’re also putting numbers to what atlatec achieves in this domain.
As a first this month, we took to Zoom to discuss some of these news items internally – and we recorded it: Tune in to hear what our CEO, Henning Lategahn thinks about the developments at Tesla and Lynk & Co. and for a some more explanation on the topic of HD map accuracy on our YouTube channel!
Also, as always: This monthly industry overview is also available as a newsletter – if you’d like to get it in your inbox, sign up here.