Rinspeed unveils Snap concept car at CES in Las Vegas, US

Rinspeed is a Swiss automobile manufacturer and tuning designer. It specialises in restoring classic cars, and tuning and modifying modern cars such as Porsches and Subarus. Since 1991, they have also designed exotic concept and special vehicles for the Geneva Motor Show and other car shows each year, but do not enter into production.

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Self-driving cars, stuffed full of short-lived IT components, will help solve the transport problems in urban areas in the foreseeable future – and not just there. To this end, Swiss powerhouse of ideas Rinspeed has designed an elaborate and unparalleled mobility ecosystem in its latest concept car, the “Snap.” Rinspeed boss Frank M. Rinderknecht makes the hardware and software, which is bound to be outdated quickly, part of the high-wear chassis (“skateboard“) – and separates it from the durable passenger safety cell (“pod”). From now on, they both will go their separate ways – whereby the pod can even be useful when stationary: it can be anything from a variable shopping pod or a spacious camping pod to a cozy cuddling pod and even provide a breathtaking, fully connected user experience for the occupants of the passenger cabin. The sky is here the limit for the possible applications.

The Swiss mobility visionary uses an ingenious trick to disentangle the different lifecycles of various automotive components: The skateboard carries the durable mechanical and the fast-aging IT components. They are recycled after a few years of intensive use once they have reached the end of their design life, while the much less stressed pod is able to remain in service for much longer, before it also must be sent to recycling. This benefits the environment, because it plays a significant role in conserving natural resources.

Almost as an aside, the innovative Swiss solve a problem that many know from the navigation systems in their own vehicles: they no longer find the way, because software and map data are outdated. What is merely annoying here can quickly become a safety issue in self-driving cars in the near future.

No question, when it comes to the Snap, the name really says it all, because everything fits together perfectly and can be snapped together. In keeping with a tried and proven tradition, the twenty-fourth concept car from Rinspeed was again designed at Swiss company 4erC and technically executed at Esoro. An extensive study of the Snap ecosystem conducted by EY shows its (virtually) unlimited possibilities. The electric vehicle – as always when Rinderknecht is at work – is chock-full of technical and visual finesse, contributed by a reputable network of global companies. The two steering axles along with the integrated electric powertrain come from ZF. They allow the Snap to turn practically on a dime and produce no emissions in urban traffic. The Snap runs on weight-optimized and stylish 7×18 Borbet alloy wheels shod with tires of size 225/35-18, which are optimized to minimize fuel consumption. By the way, all adhesive bonds in and on the Snap are realized with innovative adhesives from Sika Automotive.

Optionally, there is even a ‘personal assistant’ in the form of an autonomous, intelligent robot to accompany the occupants. It will also be happy to help with running errands, carrying purchases, or handle other tedious tasks.

The city runabout is brimming with sensors. For example, US company Gentex is contributing the Iris scanner for occupant detection and dimmable front and rear glass elements, which can also be found on the Boeing Dreamliner. The sophisticated Lidar sensors from Ibeo in Hamburg ensure that obstacles on the road are detected by means of real-time measurement of the light reflections. The Harman Autonomous Drive Platform that is part of the skateboard makes safely moving through city traffic possible. It uses the NXP BlueBox, a sensor fusion solution. In turn, the Smart Antenna, jointly developed by NXP and Harman, ensures safe communication to the world outside as well as a high-speed connection to the Harman Ignite Cloud Platform. With 5G, Car2X, radio tuner, BT, and WiFi, it covers the entire spectrum of wireless networking possibilities. Sprint, a leading US telecommunications company, is committed to ensuring stable networks. Moreover, with highly-sensitive pod recognition and its customized Smart Access solution, the chip giant NXP offers a broad range of technologies that show promise for the future. Europe’s leading business software company SAP contributes by enabling the digitized ecosystem through innovative technologies and software solutions in the areas of smart cities, connected health, connected mobility, and transportation. And TomTom provides HD maps for autonomous driving and navigation technologies that enable predictive driving for passengers’ comfort. Finally, the Israeli start-up Valens’s HDBaseT Automotive connectivity technology connection is responsible for the fast and secure transmission of even ultra-high-definition, high-resolution multimedia signals between the numerous vehicle components.

An innovative marketplace net from MHP allows custom use of the wide variety of pods and skateboards with a wide range of service providers. Also not commonplace for a concept vehicle: The transmission of data and information was independently and impartially tested and certified by Dekra, the globally operating testing and certification experts. And who supplies the electricity for all these consumers? It flows into the vehicle via the quick-charging cable with high-voltage technology from Harting based in the East Westphalian town of Espelkamp.

Harman developed the ‘True Level 5’ HMI, an operating concept perfectly tailored to the needs of changing passengers in a fully autonomous vehicle. The goal of the development: maximum possible individualization paired with optimal protection of personal data. To this end, there is three-level user authentication, depending on the desired personalization. A token unlocks the vehicle and customizes the displays. Personal cloud content is available after identification by face recognition. As a result, the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant knows the preferences and habits of each passenger and suggests, for example, a suitable restaurant for every passenger, depending on personal preferences. In addition, a third level of biometric identification is required if health data of the passenger are to be recorded and analyzed.

Each passenger has three displays at his disposal for interaction. Personal settings are selected with the ‘Personal Control Panel’ featuring an interactive control dial. Personal contents and messages are shown on the touch-controlled ‘Hover Tabs,’ which are brought into position by swiveling arms. Two large centrally placed screens provide route information and movie enjoyment. The Lexicon surround sound system with Ambisonics Escape signal processing delivers a unique audio experience with all applications.

The Snap uses six projectors to communicate visually with the outside world. Two of them use the windshield and the rear glass to send full-color messages to other road users such as ‘Right of way granted’ or ‘Caution, children.’ Four laser projections on the side windows are used for communication with boarding passengers. The necessary functional interlayers for all-round glazing come from the Japanese manufacturer Sekisui.

There is also a host of technical innovations in the appealing exterior of the Snap, which is more reminiscent of architecture than of automotive design. For example, from German lighting specialist Osram Opto Semiconductors, which installs digital license plates as well as the entire lighting system – including interior LEDs that emit ultraviolet light to render bacteria harmless and thereby improve hygiene. The front and rear panels as well as lighting elements in the rocker panels are multifunctional and can display multimedia contents. They come from US company Techniplas, a leader in the design and manufacturing of engineered products for mobility. The safe swapping of the pods is ensured by lightweight-design supports from Swiss Company Georg Fischer.

The wellness features of the interior play a vital role in self-driving cars. In this area, Rinspeed has for years rightfully relied on the innovative Swabian textile developers at Strähle+Hess, who work with

Dutch company Stahl, the world market leader for leather and man-made surfaces in automotive interiors. Functionality goes hand in hand with the discriminating design standard. The occupants relax on naturally soft leather from automotive leather specialist Bader. The storage systems from Dr. Schneider Unternehmensgruppe, some of which are even portable, offer optimal storage space complete with cup holders and wireless charging system. The portable storage compartment is a truly clever solution. Also able to convince is surface specialist Benecke-Hornschuch Surface Group with its groundbreaking and partially translucent materials used on seating areas, storage facilities, floor, and as side panels. With traditional Korean Sanggam printing for seats and trim, the South Korean upholstery fabric manufacturer Kolon sets accents in the interior. Now then, time to lean back and drink some fresh tea. That is another thing the Snap designers also thought of! Mint and strawberries for homemade and healthy infusion drinks grow in urban farming containers from Kostal.

Snap – rarely has a concept car more precisely described the problems an entire industry has with the different lifecycles of various car components – and offered up an interesting solution at the same time. Maybe something goes ‘click’ with many who will marvel at the new creation of Swiss mobility mastermind Frank M. Rinderknecht at the CES in Las Vegas and in spring of 2018 – in the backyard of the Swiss national so to speak – at the Geneva Auto Show. As always professionally staged by Saarland ad agency Vollmond.

Press Release

Velodyne Rolling Out 128-Laser Beam LiDAR To Maintain Driverless Car Vision Lead

https://goo.gl/s87nLG

Velodyne VLS 128 LiDAR
A street image created by Velodyne’s new VLS-128 LiDAR sensor, top, has 10 times the resolution of an image from its previous top-end unit, below.

Forbes: Velodyne, the top supplier of sensors that give self-driving cars 360-degree, 3D vision, is releasing a significantly enhanced laser LiDAR that can see further and with higher image resolution than anything currently available amid rising competition from startups touting cheaper or higher-quality sensors.

The tech company created by David Hall, who patented the first spinning LiDAR for driverless vehicles more than a decade ago, begins shipping initial units of its 128-laser beam VLS-128 in December, with production to expand in 2018. The sensor has at least 10 times the resolution of Velodyne’s previous top-end model and can see dark objects in a vehicle’s path as far away as the length of three football fields.

“We want to be able to see tire debris out on a road and then steer around it,” Hall told Forbes. “The current thinking is that’s about 300 meters, and it has to see something pretty black. We think we can do that with this device.”

Self-driving cars need artificial intelligence and cutting-edge computing power to understand and react to road conditions and surroundings. Just like human drivers, they also need to see. Cameras and radar are already standard equipment on many new vehicles, alerting drivers of pedestrians and nearby hazards they may not notice. But LiDAR’s ability to create detailed, somewhat ghostly “point cloud” images of surroundings – in virtually all lighting and weather conditions and at long range – makes it a vital tool for robotic cars.

Velodyne got a big head start in the optical sensor market when it supplied 64-beam LiDAR units to contestants in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, a legendary engineering competition that helped ignite the self-driving car revolution. Now its racing to complete a fully automated factory in San Jose to supply up to a million of the vision devices a year to auto and tech customers making driverless cars, which Halls expects to help drive down the cost of the exotic optical devices in the process.

Hall declined to discuss pricing for the new product, beyond confirming that initial units will cost several thousand dollars. Product refinements and mass production will lower the cost significantly, he said, without elaborating.

Waymo, Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving tech company, outfits its vehicles with long- and short-range LiDARs the company says it designed in-house. GM recently bought Strobe, a little-known LiDAR company in Southern California that is developing a highly low cost “chip scale” sensor, while Germany’s Ibeo is expanding its automotive LiDAR business. And since 2016, startups including AEye, Innoviz, Quanergy, LeddarTech, Luminar and Oryx Vision have announced funding deals and industry partnerships to get their sensors to market as quickly as possible.

So far, few of those companies are producing in high volume, while Velodyne will supply tens of thousands of LiDAR sensors to customers this year. To maintain its advantage, there’s also pressure to keep improving its products.

The new model “represents all of Velodyne’s learning from having built and deployed LiDAR sensors around the world for more than a decade,” said Chief Technology Officer Anand Gopalan. “Range and resolution are both critical, and we’ve tried to maximize both, maintaining a 360-degree field of view and a high frame rate. And as far at the long-range resolution goes, there’s nothing out there that matches the 128.”

128-post-128
The new VLS-128, right, has twice as many lasers and 10 times the resolution of the company’s previous high-end sensor, the HDL-64, left.

Alan Ohnsman covers technology-driven changes reshaping transportation. Follow him on Twitter. Have tips to share with Forbes anonymously? Click here.

Via: Velodyne

Drive.ai raises $50 million in new funding

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SAN FRANCISCO — Self-driving startup Drive.ai said on Tuesday it raised $50 million in a second round of funding as the Silicon Valley company prepared to deploy its technology in pilot vehicles later this year.

The company, one of a handful of startups building fully autonomous systems for cars, also said it had added to its board Andrew Ng, a prominent figure in the artificial intelligence industry.

Ng formerly led AI projects at Baidu and Alphabet’s Google. Ng is the husband of Drive.ai’s co-founder and president Carol Reiley, a roboticist.

The latest round of funding — led by New Enterprise Associates, Inc., GGV Capital and existing investor China-based Northern Light Venture Capital — came as investor interest in autonomous vehicles continued to intensify.

Drive.ai is aiming to build an after-market software kit powered by artificial intelligence to turn traditional vehicles operated by businesses into self-driving models.

The company said existing business fleets would deploy its kits in pilot tests by year-end.

Drive.ai plans to distinguish itself through the team’s expertise in robotics and deep learning, a subset of AI in which massive amounts of data are fed into systems until they can “think” for themselves.

Drive.ai, which received $12 million in an initial funding round last year, also named to its board the head of Asia for New Enterprise Associates, Carmen Chang.

Reblogged from Automotive News

 

Tesla Motors Master Plan in Elon Musk’s own words

“However, the main reason was to explain how our actions fit into a larger picture, so that they would seem less random. The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good. That’s what “sustainable” means. It’s not some silly, hippy thing — it matters for everyone.” – ELON MUSK

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Here’s what Elon Musk want to say about his Master Plan 

The first master plan that I wrote 10 years ago is now in the final stages of completion. It wasn’t all that complicated and basically consisted of:

  1. Create a low volume car, which would necessarily be expensive
  2. Use that money to develop a medium volume car at a lower price
  3. Use that money to create an affordable, high volume car
    And…
  4. Provide solar power. No kidding, this has literally been on our website for 10 years.

The reason we had to start off with step 1 was that it was all I could afford to do with what I made from PayPal. I thought our chances of success were so low that I didn’t want to risk anyone’s funds in the beginning but my own. The list of successful car company startups is short. As of 2016, the number of American car companies that haven’t gone bankrupt is a grand total of two: Ford and Tesla. Starting a car company is idiotic and an electric car company is idiocy squared.

Also, a low volume car means a much smaller, simpler factory, albeit with most things done by hand. Without economies of scale, anything we built would be expensive, whether it was an economy sedan or a sports car. While at least some people would be prepared to pay a high price for a sports car, no one was going to pay $100k for an electric Honda Civic, no matter how cool it looked.

Part of the reason I wrote the first master plan was to defend against the inevitable attacks Tesla would face accusing us of just caring about making cars for rich people, implying that we felt there was a shortage of sports car companies or some other bizarre rationale. Unfortunately, the blog didn’t stop countless attack articles on exactly these grounds, so it pretty much completely failed that objective.

However, the main reason was to explain how our actions fit into a larger picture, so that they would seem less random. The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good. That’s what “sustainable” means. It’s not some silly, hippy thing — it matters for everyone.

By definition, we must at some point achieve a sustainable energy economy or we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilization will collapse. Given that we must get off fossil fuels anyway and that virtually all scientists agree that dramatically increasing atmospheric and oceanic carbon levels is insane, the faster we achieve sustainability, the better.

Here is what we plan to do to make that day come sooner:

Integrate Energy Generation and Storage
Create a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works, empowering the individual as their own utility, and then scale that throughout the world. One ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app.

We can’t do this well if Tesla and SolarCity are different companies, which is why we need to combine and break down the barriers inherent to being separate companies. That they are separate at all, despite similar origins and pursuit of the same overarching goal of sustainable energy, is largely an accident of history. Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together.

Expand to Cover the Major Forms of Terrestrial Transport
Today, Tesla addresses two relatively small segments of premium sedans and SUVs. With the Model 3, a future compact SUV and a new kind of pickup truck, we plan to address most of the consumer market. A lower cost vehicle than the Model 3 is unlikely to be necessary, because of the third part of the plan described below.

What really matters to accelerate a sustainable future is being able to scale up production volume as quickly as possible. That is why Tesla engineering has transitioned to focus heavily on designing the machine that makes the machine — turning the factory itself into a product. A first principles physics analysis of automotive production suggests that somewhere between a 5 to 10 fold improvement is achievable by version 3 on a roughly 2 year iteration cycle. The first Model 3 factory machine should be thought of as version 0.5, with version 1.0 probably in 2018.

In addition to consumer vehicles, there are two other types of electric vehicle needed: heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport. Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year. We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.

With the advent of autonomy, it will probably make sense to shrink the size of buses and transition the role of bus driver to that of fleet manager. Traffic congestion would improve due to increased passenger areal density by eliminating the center aisle and putting seats where there are currently entryways, and matching acceleration and braking to other vehicles, thus avoiding the inertial impedance to smooth traffic flow of traditional heavy buses. It would also take people all the way to their destination. Fixed summon buttons at existing bus stops would serve those who don’t have a phone. Design accommodates wheelchairs, strollers and bikes.

Autonomy
As the technology matures, all Tesla vehicles will have the hardware necessary to be fully self-driving with fail-operational capability, meaning that any given system in the car could break and your car will still drive itself safely. It is important to emphasize that refinement and validation of the software will take much longer than putting in place the cameras, radar, sonar and computing hardware.

Even once the software is highly refined and far better than the average human driver, there will still be a significant time gap, varying widely by jurisdiction, before true self-driving is approved by regulators. We expect that worldwide regulatory approval will require something on the order of 6 billion miles (10 billion km). Current fleet learning is happening at just over 3 million miles (5 million km) per day.

I should add a note here to explain why Tesla is deploying partial autonomy now, rather than waiting until some point in the future. The most important reason is that, when used correctly, it is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves and it would therefore be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability.

According to the recently released 2015 NHTSA report, automotive fatalities increased by 8% to one death every 89 million miles. Autopilot miles will soon exceed twice that number and the system gets better every day. It would no more make sense to disable Tesla’s Autopilot, as some have called for, than it would to disable autopilot in aircraft, after which our system is named.

It is also important to explain why we refer to Autopilot as “beta”. This is not beta software in any normal sense of the word. Every release goes through extensive internal validation before it reaches any customers. It is called beta in order to decrease complacency and indicate that it will continue to improve (Autopilot is always off by default). Once we get to the point where Autopilot is approximately 10 times safer than the US vehicle average, the beta label will be removed.

Sharing
When true self-driving is approved by regulators, it will mean that you will be able to summon your Tesla from pretty much anywhere. Once it picks you up, you will be able to sleep, read or do anything else enroute to your destination.

You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost. This dramatically lowers the true cost of ownership to the point where almost anyone could own a Tesla. Since most cars are only in use by their owner for 5% to 10% of the day, the fundamental economic utility of a true self-driving car is likely to be several times that of a car which is not.

In cities where demand exceeds the supply of customer-owned cars, Tesla will operate its own fleet, ensuring you can always hail a ride from us no matter where you are.

So, in short, Master Plan, Part Deux is:

Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage
Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments
Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning
Enable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it

via: www.tesla.com

World Premiere: Mercedes-Benz Future Bus CityPilot

The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot made its first public journey on part of Europe’s longest BRT route (BRT = Bus Rapid Transit) in the Netherlands. This links Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport with the town of Haarlem. This almost 20 km long route is a real challenge for the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus, as it has numerous bends and passes through tunnels and across junctions with traffic lights.

What urban public transport will look like in the future is shown by the semi-automated city bus with CityPilot – it operates even more safely, efficiently and comfortably than conventional buses. Connectivity plus camera and radar systems with data fusion are catapulting the city bus into the future. Mercedes-Benz is showing this spectacular technology on an equally spectacular technology platform, the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot.

The technology of the CityPilot in the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus is based on that of the autonomously driving Mercedes-Benz Actros truck with Highway Pilot presented two years ago. It has however undergone substantial further development specifically for use in a city bus, with numerous added functions. The CityPilot is able to recognise traffic lights, communicate with them and safely negotiate junctions controlled by them. It can also recognise obstacles, especially pedestrians on the road, and brake autonomously. It approaches bus stops automatically, where it opens and closes its doors. And not least, it is able to drive through tunnels.

Just under a dozen cameras scan the road and surroundings, while long and short-range radar systems constantly monitor the route ahead. There is also a GPS system. Thanks to data fusion, all the data received create an extremely precise picture and allow the bus to be positioned to within centimetres. This already works in practice, as demonstrated by the world premiere of the CityPilot on an exacting route covering almost 20 km, with a number of tight bends, tunnels, numerous bus stops and involving high speeds for a city bus.

This semi-automated city bus improves safety, as it relieves its driver’s workload and nothing remains hidden from its cameras and radar systems. It improves efficiency, as its smooth, predictive driving style saves wear and tear while lowering fuel consumption and emissions. With its smooth and even rate of travel it also improves the comfort of its passengers.

via: daimler.com