Tag Archive for: driverless roundup

This is a guest post from Steve Neemeh, LSS President and Chief Solutions Architect, LHP Engineering Solutions. It originally appeared on the LHP blog. LHP is a partner of Jama Software

Self-driving vehicles are coming. There’s a certain sense of inevitability. Mentions appear almost daily in the news with players such as Tesla, Uber, Google/Waymo, and Apple spending millions on development. Yet the public is uncertain of the value and safety of such vehicles.

If autonomous vehicles (AVs) are to find acceptance, the industry must produce vehicles worthy of trust. The characteristics on which trustworthiness depends, and the path for trustworthy AV development, are described below.

Figure 1- Mckinsey & Company Self-Driving Vehicle Revolution Exhibit

The Value of AVs

Just because such vehicles may be possible, is this evolution a good (or, the right) thing to do?

If implemented correctly and carefully, the move to fully-autonomous vehicles can provide real gains for society.

Highway safety – Automakers and civil engineers have made great strides in past decades in reducing highway injuries and deaths. Today’s cars include crumple zones, airbags, collapsible steering columns, and anti-lock brakes. Roadways have improved-traction surfaces, energy-absorbing barriers, and better signage and alert systems. The driver, however, remains the largest contributor to highway fatalities in the U.S. with 30% due to excessive speed, 30% from driving under the influence, and 16% attributed to distracted driving.

In the AV world, vehicles do not suffer from a human driver’s inattention, bad attitude, or inebriated operation. Instead, vehicles are under constant electronic guidance, in continual communication with the supporting infrastructure (e.g. GPS), and in a perpetual state of monitoring surrounding vehicles, obstacles, and environmental conditions. Vehicles, as a group, maintain proper positions and adequate spacing, resulting in significantly fewer injuries and deaths.

The functional safety standard ISO 26262 is a critical component of automotive development. Jama Software and LHP have teamed up to give developers an overview of the standard, and highlight its recent changes.

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Traffic flow and roadway capacity – Highways and city streets can be expanded only so much to accommodate growing populations. AVs can make better use of available roadways.

In slow-moving traffic, human drivers tend to be selfish and jam too tightly together (“If I leave three car lengths open, everyone will pull in front of me”); yet, that space is exactly what is needed to allow more freedom to enter a freeway and to change lanes. AVs take the emotion out of driving decisions. On open, flowing highways, the safe following distance for human-operated vehicles could be reduced by a factor of five or more for AVs in close communication, thereby allowing more vehicles per mile.

Energy consumption – With communication between vehicles, the need to brake by one AV could be signaled to those nearby, allowing the group to slow as a whole and avoid the accordion effect which afflicts human-driven cars. This sort of coordinated action enables smoother transitions in speed and better energy usage.

Transport availability – Though services such as Uber and Lyft can provide door-to-door transportation for those unwilling or unable to drive, they do not always fit the situation. AVs can carry young teenagers to their destination without parents worrying about the integrity of a service driver. For people with physical limitations (blindness; health problems; physical disability), the AV can provide transport that is both familiar and appropriately outfitted to suit any special needs.

Simple convenience – The AV eliminates the need to drive. Passengers work or socialize as the vehicle moves along. Shoppers step out at the front of the store while the vehicle searches out a parking space on its own.

Public Response

Though today’s consumers recognize the potential advantages of AVs, they are still cautious. Recent surveys (in 2017 and 2019) by the American Automobile Association showed that 55% of U.S. drivers feel that most cars will have the ability to self-drive by 2029. Yet, today, over 70% fear riding in a self-driving car and 54% feel that their safety is at risk if sharing the road with AVs. In a 2017 survey, insurer AIG found that over 70% of U.S. respondents had concerns about AV security (hackers taking control of vehicles) and privacy (loss of personal data).

As with previous technological evolutions, AVs cannot be pushed on the public; instead, people must find enough comfort to accept or even demand new devices, especially when their safety is involved.

Elisha Otis installed the first passenger elevator in 1857. It was more than a decade before potential passengers exhibited significant trust even though early elevators were manually controlled by a human operator who opened and closed the doors, put the car in motion, and brought it level with the floor where people were to exit. The driverless elevator was created in 1900, yet it was the 1940’s before it started to see wide acceptance.

Trust in elevators was built slowly with the addition of various devices intended to ensure safety (springs and latches that would catch a falling elevator; interlocks on doors preventing opening onto empty shafts) and comfort (a soothing voice issuing from speakers to calm the nervous rider). 

Could collaborating with competitors boost autonomous vehicle development? Read our blog post.

Building Trust

Self-driving cars will likewise require demonstrations of safe operation, time, and familiarity to find trust and acceptance.

The process has already begun with the current rollout of driver assistance features such as lane departure warnings, adaptive headlights, and collision avoidance systems. Continued incremental steps will further enhance driver/passenger confidence in the technology’s abilities.

Another stage may be demonstration of AV performance in closed environments such as providing public transportation at airports or on a university or commercial campus.

A good user interface may also help. Studies at Intel, Stanford, and Northwestern University all suggest that trust is improved by visual or audio feedback. Passengers find more faith in the AV’s competence if the vehicle advises why it is taking specific actions (such as voice announcing that the vehicle is slowing for a pedestrian).

Unfortunately, trust is hard-won and easily lost. Two high-profile fatal accidents in 2018 involving self-driving technology raised immediate concerns in the minds of the public and governments.

Vehicles Worthy of Trust

To avoid such incidents and maintain growth in public acceptance, the makers of AVs must build systems that are worthy of trust.

This autonomous evolution is much more complex than previous technological advancements. AVs must be able to detect and respond to numerous factors including obstacles, traffic signals, and weather conditions. Humans can distinguish between a tumbleweed and a child entering the road. Humans can contend with other vehicles which might or might not be self-driving. However, autonomous systems are much better at optimizing the driving experience to vastly increase efficiency and safety. For example, the safest distance for following a vehicle is where the second one is nearly touching the bumper of the one in front of it. This level of driving accuracy cannot be achieved reliably with humans but may well be within the realm of possibility for autonomous systems. However, it is an enormous undertaking to place such responsibility and discretion into an electronic system with expectations of safe, lightning-fast, dependable decisions.

This AV trustworthiness requires holistic consideration of five characteristics:

Safety – Ensures that a system operates without unacceptable risk of physical injury or damage to the health of people.

Security – Protects a system from unintended or unauthorized access, modification, or misuse.

Reliability – The ability of a system or component to perform its required functions under stated conditions for a specified time duration.

Resilience – The ability of a system or component to maintain an acceptable level of service in the face of disruption. The main purpose of resilience is to prevent or at least reduce any serious impact of a disruption to the system by damage or loss of operation.

Privacy – Protects the right of individuals to control or influence what information related to them may be collected and stored and by whom and to whom that information may be disclosed.

Figure 2 – Industrial Internet Consortium Security Model

These elements are generally considered as separate specialties, but should be engineered and managed as one integrated discipline because, if one piece is compromised, the overall integrity and trustworthiness of the system are undermined.

Convergence, Standardization, and Legislation

Work is progressing on each of the five characteristics to varying degrees but, unfortunately, in independent silos and in somewhat disparate directions. Though initial divergence is common with new technologies, the industry must begin to converge and standardize.

The airline industry and railroad systems both have strict standards and regulatory bodies. Automated highway vehicles must reach the same level. Currently, the industry has reached no agreement on conditions, abilities, or baselines that must be in place before an autonomous/connected vehicle is placed on the road.

A Fortune 100 semiconductor company is navigating the growing complexity of autonomous vehicles with modern requirements management.

Read the story.

A start has been made. ISO 26262 (Road Vehicles – Functional Safety) defines a process that will lead to high quality (trustworthy) results IF and only IF the industry can define the boundaries and requirements to be achieved. In autonomous driving, the variables and scenarios may number in the billions and are potentially non-static if artificial intelligence is used in design.

In addition, two new standards are under development:

  • ISO 21434 (Automotive Cybersecurity) which builds on, and works in concert with, SAE J3061 (Cybersecurity Guidebook for Cyber-Physical Vehicle Systems)
  • ISO/PAS 21448 (Road Vehicles – Safety of the Intended Functionality, or SOTIF) that attempts to provide guidance on design, verification, and validation measures to avoid risks resulting from functional insufficiencies and foreseeable misuse.

If the industry cannot move itself to effective standardization, the combined action of litigation, liability, and/or government regulation will likely intervene. This has happened before. In Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe at Any Speed”, his 1965 commentary on the automotive industry’s lackadaisical approach to safety caused a public uproar which led to the passage of seatbelt laws across the U.S. For AVs, a lack of convergence and standardization could likewise lead to design by legislation.

Figure 3 – The convergence of safety and security standards

Ecosystem for Trustworthy AV Development

LHP Engineering Solutions provides expertise to the automotive industry on topics including embedded controls, telematics, and data analytics. LHP has defined an ecosystem consisting of seven necessary focus areas that, if pursued together, will place the development of autonomous vehicle technologies on the right track regarding safety, standardization, and automation.

AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture) – Founded in 2003, AUTOSAR is a “worldwide development partnership of vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, service providers and companies from the automotive electronics, semiconductor and software industry.” The association aims to standardize the software architecture for automotive electronic control units. This creates the opportunity to automate software testing which should result in improved software quality and reliability.

Functional Safety – Safety in autonomous driving is of the utmost importance and is key to trustworthiness. Functional Safety relates to a system or its components operating correctly in response to inputs, including the detection, mitigation, and/or correction of malfunctions.

Cybersecurity – Trustworthiness cannot be realized without a strong foundation in cyber security. Though systems may be designed for safety, resilience, and reliability, the public may experience havoc and hazards if those systems are compromised by a malicious series of attacks. Cyber security provides the basis for assuring the integrity of the safety, reliability, resilience, and privacy characteristics of automotive systems.

Model-Based Development – Simulation of on-road vehicles scenarios is essential to validation of self-driving vehicles. Developing software to simulate real-life environments allows testing to be done on the computer rather than on the road.

Application Lifecycle Management – ALM encompasses the methods and processes through which software is developed, managed, and controlled. A well-defined ALM system ensures that the development team is efficiently working toward a common goal and that the end user receives software suited for the purpose intended.

Test Systems – With millions of lines of code in AVs, establishment of automated testing systems and processes will be crucial considering the safety-critical environment.

Analytics – Vehicles communicating with each other and back to the design team will produce large amounts of data. Analytics incorporates the storage and interpretation of data and identification of consequential patterns.


Mankind can gain value from AVs, but only if the public perceives that the benefits outweigh the costs and potential hazards. Trust will be central to public acceptance.

To gain that trust, the industry must understand the characteristics of trustworthiness and should align on an ecosystem that can produce vehicles worthy of trust.

Please contact LHP Engineering Solutions, a Jama Software partner, for more information on how it can help your organization prepare for the future of the automotive industry.

ISO 26262 is an evolving standard for automotive development. Read how recent changes to the standard impact traceability, risk management, validation & verification in this joint white paper from Jama Software and LHP, “The Impact of ISO 26262 on Automotive Development.”

Autonomous Vehicles

Automakers continue to look toward the bright future of autonomous vehicles, but some are perhaps rightfully prioritizing safety over expediency.

GM originally planned to roll out thousands of self-driving electric cars this year through its subsidiary Cruise Automation. Those plans have been pushed out, however, as the company pursues further testing.

And while autonomous vehicle developers continue to put functional safety at the forefront of development, major players are also acknowledging that the public’s perception of the safety of driverless vehicles is critical. Recently, Waymo and AAA partnered to educate young people on the safety advantages of self-driving technology through its “Let’s Talk Self-Driving” program.

Meanwhile, ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft continue to gradually roll out test vehicles in certain markets. Uber plans to begin testing self-driving cars in Dallas, Texas, in early November 2019, and Waymo intends to make up to ten Chrysler Pacifica self-driving cars available to Lyft users in Phoenix, Arizona.

One exception in the shift in the autonomous vehicle marketplace is Tesla. CEO Elon Musk continues to predict the arrival of full Level 5 automation by the end of 2020, but he’s never been one to fear going out on a limb.

Learn how Jama Software worked with TÜV SÜD on our ISO 26262 certification process, and how you can lower the costs and risks of complying with functional safety standards, by watching our webinar.

Autonomous Vehicle Technology Moving Freight

With 71% of US freight moved by truck and a persistent shortage of drivers, many in the trucking industry look forward to at least Level 2 and Level 3 technology improvements. Many Level 2 and Level 3 technologies simply improve features such as automated braking and lane guidance.

Increased automation could also mean greater efficiency. Truck drivers might be able to operate trucks for a longer period of time, and trucking companies can eventually save fuel and driver costs by “platooning” autonomous trucks

While questions still abound regarding the potential for autonomous vehicle technology impacting the job market for truck drivers, many in the industry welcome the coming automation. With a predicted driver shortage of up to 175,000 drivers by 2026, autonomous vehicle technology could help take the pressure off of a short-staffed industry.

Currently, Daimler, Tesla, and Volvo all have AV trucks and prototypes in development.

Learn more about ISO 26262 and automotive electronics development.

Other Applications of Autonomous Vehicle Technology

Even if fully automated, Level 5 autonomous vehicles are still some time away from deployment across the general population, autonomous vehicle technology is still advancing on a smaller scale.

Refraction AI, a Michigan start-up, aims to make food delivery services automatic with its three-wheeled REV-1 vehicle. The 4-foot tall, 32-inch wide robot is designed to operate in a bike lane at maximum speeds of about 12 mph.

Another startup, Starship Technologies, recently announced plans to expand its autonomous delivery service for food and groceries to 100 college campuses over the next two years.

Private sites show great promise for the growth of the autonomous vehicle industry. Planned communities, university campuses, and industrial and government sites have significant advantages for autonomous vehicle technology. The sites are smaller and easier to map and offer lower traffic densities and speed limits, making autonomous vehicle technology inherently safer.

Read our white paper about how one Fortune 100 semiconductor company is meeting the challenges of autonomous vehicle software safety with a compliance-ready solution that streamlines the development of products that adhere to relevant functional safety standards. Download: “Driving Compliance with Functional Safety Standards.”


Caption: Hyundai MOBIS showcases its latest infotainment and cockpit experience at CES 2019. Photo courtesy of Hyundai MOBIS.

Autonomous vehicles and related technologies were once again in the spotlight at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Here’s a roundup of some of the more notable announcements.

Nvidia and Mercedes-Benz Collaborate on Next-Gen Vehicles

Chipmaker Nvidia announced that Mercedes-Benz has selected the company to help realize its vision for next-generation vehicles.

In front of a crowd at CES, Sajjad Khan, Mercedes-Benz executive vice president, and Jensen Huang, Nvidia founder and CEO, outlined their plans for next-generation cars supported by artificial intelligence (AI) and the new breed of mobility products they will enable.

Nvidia is “creating a computer that defines the future of autonomous vehicles, the future of AI and the future of mobility,” Huang said at CES. The system will provide self-driving capabilities and smart-cockpit functions that will replace dozens of smaller processors inside current cars.

The partnership between the companies builds on a long-term collaboration. At CES 2018, the pair unveiled the cockpit of the future, Mercedes-Benz User Experience, which “infuses AI into everyday driving.” The feature is now included in seven car models and nine more are being added this year.

Hyundai MOBIS Introduces New Autonomous Driving Technologies

Automotive supplier Hyundai MOBIS introduced several new autonomous driving, eco-friendly, intelligent lighting, and infotainment and cockpit experience technologies.

Among the new innovations from the company are Virtual Touch Technology, interior infotainment controls capable of recognizing a driver’s gestures in the air instead of requiring a touch-screen. For example, in one given scenario, a driver could watch a movie on autonomous driving mode and use tap gestures in the air to select other movies or adjust the volume.

Another feature is Emotional Recognition Technology, an AI platform that automatically categorizes a driver’s or passenger’s emotions and alters the interior ambiance of the vehicle accordingly, catering to various moods while sharing the emotions of drivers or passengers in nearby vehicles also equipped with the same technology. The company says this can help avoid potential accidents among disengaged or distracted drivers.

In other lighting news, Hyundai MOBIS showcased its latest Communication Lighting concept. Communication Lighting uses an “Indicating Lighting Zone” to indicate when an autonomous vehicle is operating in self-driving mode. It includes a Communication Lighting Zone that uses LED, digital boards, headlamp projection and sound to communicate with nearby pedestrians and vehicles during a variety of driving scenarios. The company says it’s developing the concept to reduce the number of accidents related to use of autonomous vehicles.

Lastly, Hyundai MOBIS unveiled Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology that generates electricity by combining hydrogen injected with fuel and oxygen, to power a vehicle that emits only pure water.

Udelv Unveils Latest Self-Driving Delivery Van

Udelv introduced the latest model of its Newton self-driving delivery vans and announced strategic partnerships with Walmart, Baidu, Marubeni and others.

The newest model of Newton is an advanced autonomous delivery van (ADV) that is the result of close collaboration between Udelv and Baidu, which also released its latest open autonomous driving platform at CES, Apollo 3.5.

Udelv says it will continue to leverage future versions of the Apollo platform modules to create its own autonomous driving algorithms for a variety of delivery applications. Already, Udelv’s first generation ADV model has successfully completed more than 1,200 deliveries in the San Francisco Bay Area for multiple clients, according to the company.

Daimler Rolls Out Enhanced Automated Truck

Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) announced what it says is the first SAE Level 2 automated truck in series production in North America. Level 2 automation means the truck can perform lateral (steering) as well as longitudinal (acceleration/deceleration) control.

Automating acceleration, deceleration and steering reduces the likelihood of human error and collisions, the company says. The new technology in the trucks can also enhance driver experience by making the task of driving easier, and thereby improving comfort, DTNA says.

The company’s expertise in automation is backed by affiliate Daimler Trucks, which announced at CES that it’s investing more than half a billion dollars and creating more than 200 new jobs in its global effort to put highly automated trucks — those at SAE Level 4 — on the road within a decade.

Author Bob Violino is a freelance writer who covers a variety of technology and business topics. Follow him on Twitter.

The expansion of autonomous driving technology is surging, and new information on companies like Alphabet and Apple signal what we can expect in the years ahead.

Waymo’s California DMV Application Reveals New Technology Details

In April, California’s DMV began accepting applications for testing fully driverless cars. As of now, according to IEEE Spectrum, just two companies have applied so far: Alphabet’s Waymo and U.S./China startup JingChi.ai.

Through a public records request, IEEE got a hold of Waymo’s application to the DMV and it had a trove of interesting information. For starters, Waymo is asking for permission to test 52 fully driverless vehicles, all of which are Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans. For comparison, JingChi — the other company that has applied for the same permit in California — is shooting to just test a single vehicle, according to IEEE.

The DMV also necessitated that applicants outline some operational elements of their driverless vehicles. According to IEEE, Waymo says its cars are capable of navigating a majority of roads and parking lots, and speeds of up to 65 mph. They can also endure fog and light rain, but should the vehicles hit anything too intense, such as a monsoon or snow, they’ll typically pull over to the side of the road. (We’re guessing that’s to wait out the conditions.)

Another eyebrow-raising bit is how Waymo driverless vehicles interact with emergency services. Aside from yielding to ambulances, for instance, if a Waymo car gets approached from behind by a police car with flashing lights, the vehicle has the capability to pull over, unlock its doors, and roll down a window so the officer can safely approach and then communicate with Waymo’s remote support team. There’s also some details about how law enforcement can completely disable the vehicles, if necessary.

If you’re interested, head on over to IEEE to check out their full report, as it’s an extremely interesting read.

How Does an Autonomous Vehicle Navigate Unmapped Roads? Like This.

Many of us rely on some sort of mapping software, typically on our phones, to get us around these days, and driverless cars are no different. And that’s part of the reason why companies are testing driverless vehicles in urban and suburban areas, as they provide ample access to mapped roads.

But what if a driverless car needs to venture off into the many miles of a country where Google or Waze hasn’t meticulously mapped? Whether the roads are unpaved, unmarked or just way out in the backwoods, some researchers at MIT believe they may have the answer for when an autonomous vehicle needs to navigate these areas.

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), in a collaboration with Toyota Research Institute, has created MapLite, which is a framework that enables self-driving cars to navigate roads they’ve never seen before without relying on 3-D mapping technology.

According to MIT, MapLite uses GPS data and a number of sensors that observe conditions on the road for autonomous vehicles. When tested on unpaved roads in Massachusetts, MapLite reliably detected the terrain more than 100 feet in advance.

“The reason this kind of ‘map-less’ approach hasn’t really been done before is because it is generally much harder to reach the same accuracy and reliability as with detailed maps,” CSAIL graduate student Teddy Ort told MIT News. “A system like this that can navigate just with on-board sensors shows the potential of self-driving cars being able to actually handle roads beyond the small number that tech companies have mapped.”

Check out the technology in action below:

Apple Doubles Its Fleet of Self-Driving Cars

Apple is pressing the gas on its stable of autonomous vehicles.

Mac Reports has learned that Apple now has 55 self-driving test cars in California, which is up from 27 earlier this year.

That leaves Apple with the second largest fleet of self-driving cars in the state, behind GM Cruise which has a whopping 104. There’s not a lot of reliable information on what the notoriously secretive Apple has planned for the driverless car space, but any area where the Cupertino-based company is involved draws immediate interest.

To be clear, Apple’s permit to test self-driving cars in California still requires a driver to be present in the vehicle, unlike the applications from Waymo and JingChi mentioned earlier. Given Apple’s aggressive rate of scale right now in the autonomous vehicle space though, we wouldn’t expect them to be too far behind.

March was another intense month in the world of autonomous driving, with some critical safety setbacks, government feedback and advancements — like the London GATEway pods (pictured above). 

Fatal Accident Involving Driverless Vehicle Prompts Safety Questions

Earlier this month, a self-driving Uber vehicle with a human backup driver inside was on a test run outside Phoenix when it struck and killed a pedestrian who was crossing the road.

In response, the state of Arizona — which had been an incredibly fertile ground for driverless vehicle experimentation in recent months — took action by suspending Uber’s privileges for testing driverless vehicles. Even before the accident though, Uber’s driverless technology appeared to have issues.

As the New York Times reports, Uber was struggling in Arizona to meet its target of 13 miles per needed intervention from the human driver onboard. For comparison, another self-driving car company, Waymo, said that in tests on roads in California last year, its vehicles went an average of around 5,600 miles before an intervention was needed. There’s also news from Reuters that Uber potentially reduced the number of LIDAR sensors on its vehicles when it swapped out its fleet in 2016.

As local police officials and investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board analyze the Uber accident, hopefully their findings will help other autonomous vehicle companies strengthen their safety technologies as well. It’s been reported Uber has already reached a settlement with the family of the woman killed in the crash.

Trump Administration Signals Ease on Self-Driving Car Restrictions

On March 1, a U.S. Department of Transportation “Listening Summit” around development of regulations and policies related to autonomous vehicles was held in Washington, DC. The meeting was attended by representatives from auto manufacturers, technology companies, road safety advocates and policy makers, and featured remarks from the likes of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

While there’s still a variety of questions about how autonomous vehicles will be regulated, in a summary of the event (which you can watch here), The Verge reports that UDOT did provide an abundance of answers.

“If the government was at all nervous about the coming revolution in driverless technology, it didn’t show,” The Verge says, adding that “all guidance would be completely voluntary, and anything that could be perceived as a mandate or a requirement was dismissed as an impediment to innovation.”

Still, UDOT did say to expect the release of updated federal guidance, dubbed “AV 3.0,” for manufacturers and states seeking to deploy self-driving vehicles as early as this summer.

London’s Slow-Moving Pods an Interesting Addition to Self-Driving Public Transportation

For the past year, the city of London has been trial-testing driverless shuttles, nicknamed “pods,” using a mix of public and private funding. As opposed to self-driving cars, these pods — born out of an effort called the GATEway Project — have been described as being more capable of navigating the windy streets of Europe.

One of the goals of the endeavor is to gain a better understanding of the public’s acceptance of, and attitudes towards, driverless vehicles, according to the GATEway Project. To that end, members of the public are participating, being shuttled around a small stretch of cycling path that, according to The Register, “features an unpredictable mix of cyclists, pedestrians, dog walkers, width constraints, sharp bends, dodgy surfaces and different lighting levels.”

Despite the variance of obstacles, The Verge notes, London’s pods have been reliably safe, which may have something to do with their composition. They’re round, with no hard edges, and they don’t move faster than 10 m.p.h. There’s also an engineer always onboard who can take control in the case of a crisis.

With no steering wheels, the pods were created by British companies Westfield Sportscars and Heathrow Enterprises, and are powered by Fusion Processing technology that combines GPS with radar and LIDAR. This allows the pods to detect and navigate objects in their path and operate at night and in adverse weather conditions.

While the pods wouldn’t necessarily be a reliable way to zip around cities quickly, one of the potential use cases is that they could serve as shuttles to other forms of mass transit.

Learn how a Fortune 100 semiconductor company is meeting challenges and functional safety standards for its automotive-related technologies with an integrated and compliance-ready solution in our white paper, “Driving Compliance with Functional Safety Standards for Software-Based Automotive Components.”

One month removed from the announcements at CES, competition in the autonomous vehicle space continues to intensity, as government regulators search for answers and philosophers ponder the technology’s sense of morality.

US DOT Autonomous Car Summit March 1

One of the biggest question marks around the deployment of driverless cars on American roads has been how the government will regulate the technology. As of now, advancements have been moving so fast they’ve essentially made a variety of current auto regulations and laws obsolete.

Perhaps hoping to clear up some of that uncertainty, the US Department of Transportation recently announced an autonomous cars summit on March 1, where auto manufacturers, tech industry leaders and US policymakers will gather to hash through some of these challenges.

Among the big focal points will be addressing policy proposals that could quicken the launch of autonomous vehicles on public streets. Given the fevered rate at which companies are already working on this technology, it’s not clear if this conference could actually speed up development even more.

What the summit could do, however, is create a timeline greenlighting these vehicles for public use, which would then help hasten consumer adoption (which, as we’ve pointed out before, is a major goal that even LeBron James has been called in to assist).

While the Trump administration has said to expect new regulations for autonomous cars to be announced this summer, current safety standards around the technology were written with the belief that a human driver would be present in the vehicles.

Given that the vision for companies like Lyft is to launch fleets of completely self-driving, ride-hailing cars into urban, American streets within the next couple years, hopefully this conference will tackle the idea that the only humans inside these vehicles will be the passengers.

Elon Musk Calls Out LIDAR Again

The race to develop and perfect self-driving cars is so expansive, fast, and relentless, it’s almost unlike almost anything else currently happening in product development. In other ways though, it still maintains the hallmark of American innovation: competition.

While no two companies are developing autonomous vehicles the exact same way, one of the common ingredients for many organizations is the use of LIDAR technology — an advanced laser sensor that offers a 360-degree view around the vehicle, enabling the self-driving system to anticipate potential road hazards and perform appropriate reactions.

As is so often the case, Tesla has been an exception. During an earnings call earlier this month, Tesla’s founder and CEO, Elon Musk, reiterated a stance he’s made in the past: LIDAR isn’t necessary for autonomous vehicle development.

“In my view, it’s a crutch that will drive companies to a local maximum that they will find very hard to get out of,” Musk said, according to The Verge. He added, “Perhaps I am wrong, and I will look like a fool. But I am quite certain that I am not.”

In Musk’s view, LIDAR is too expensive and bulky for Tesla’s self-driving creations. Instead, Tesla’s autonomous vehicles will rely on cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors. Time will tell which company wins the LIDAR debate, but Musk has never been one to bow to conformity.

Philosophers Creating Ethical Algorithms for Self-Driving Cars

Underneath all the technological advancements for autonomous vehicles lies some significant questions about their impact on our society.

Not just about the various scenarios they’ll introduce into our culture (naps, movies and videogames while you roll down the highway!) but also some deeper ideas about morality as well.

For instance, what happens if a driverless car in a major city loses control and has to make a choice between putting the vehicle’s passengers in danger or perhaps harming pedestrians? How should the vehicle be programmed to respond to events where there is no good outcome?

With the backing of the National Science Foundation, a small team of philosophers is working with an engineer to write algorithms targeting some of the toughest ethical theories driverless cars will face.

Assuming all lives are equally weighted, there’s definitely some debate over which theory is correct for given situations.

“We might think that the driver has some extra moral value and so, in some cases, the car is allowed to protect the driver even if it costs some people their lives or puts other people at risk,” Nicholas Evans, a philosophy professor at UMass Lowell who is working on the study, told Quartz. “As long as the car isn’t programmed to intentionally harm others, some ethicists would consider it acceptable for the vehicle to swerve in defense to avoid a crash, even if this puts a pedestrian’s life at risk.”

Once the algorithms are finished, Evans is hoping to share them for collaboration purposes with companies creating autonomous vehicles.

Learn how a Fortune 100 semiconductor company is meeting challenges and functional safety standards for its automotive-related technologies with an integrated and compliance-ready solution in our white paper, “Driving Compliance with Functional Safety Standards for Software-Based Automotive Components.”

There’s no question autonomous vehicle technology was a prominent theme at CES 2018 in Las Vegas.

Between partnership announcements by major auto manufacturers and driverless technology makers, Toyota introducing a driverless vehicle for autonomous business applications, AAA working on unified safety criteria for driverless vehicles and even autonomous taxis shuttling attendees up and down the Strip, this year’s CES cemented the fact that the age of driverless vehicles is upon us. Here’s a look at some of the biggest announcements.

Toyota Unveils e-Palette, an Autonomous Mobility Platform

One of the more interesting innovations in the autonomous vehicle space introduced at CES was Toyota’s e-Palette. Part shuttle, part mobility platform, it can be adapted for a wide range of mobile business applications, including everything from restaurants and food delivery, stores and hotels or even hospitals.

The all-electric, driverless e-Palette was previewed at CES, with its official debut slated for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics games.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda told reporters ahead of its CES event that the technology is part of the automaker’s plans to transition from an automotive company to a mobility company. He said a fleet of the vehicles can be combined to create on-demand malls, medical clinics and festivals, according to ZDNet, saying the e-Palette will form “on-demand cities.”

Toyota has already formed an e-Palette Alliance, with early partners including Amazon, Uber, Pizza Hut and Mazda.

Nvidia Announces Driverless Vehicles Partnership with Uber, Volkswagen and Baidu

Chipmaker Nvidia seems intent on making its mark on the autonomous vehicles landscape, announcing a cross-continental partnership with Uber, Volkswagen and Baidu to use its chips and technology to power the artificial intelligence behind existing and planned fleets of self-driving cars.

Uber has been looking into self-driving technology possibilities since 2015, and will use Nvidia chips as the brains behind its self-driving vehicle fleet, both companies announced at CES this week, according to CNBC. The Volvo XC90 SUV’s Uber used in early testing was powered by Nvidia’s graphics computing technology, which it also uses for its existing self-driving freight trucks and cars.

The Volkswagen partnership will implement Nvidia’s Drive IX platform, which includes features like facial recognition, gesture controls and even a voice assistant. Volkswagen says it plans on using the software as an “intelligent co-pilot” to assist drivers.

Nvidia will also collaborate with Baidu — essentially the Google of China — to design production-ready, AI-based driverless vehicle systems based on Nvidia’s Drive Xavier platform in the large Asian country.

Aptiv’s Driverless Vehicles Shuttle CES Attendees Around Vegas

Using software provided by Lyft, technology company Aptiv kitted out a fleet of BMW 5-series sedans with self-driving capabilities, including Lidar, to use as taxis for people attending CES. The cars could be hailed with a smartphone app, and once inside, the passenger could choose from a list of pre-selected destinations using a tablet.

The event made for a real-world beta test for the technology, which the company says will be ready for commercial use by 2019. But CES wasn’t just a flashy demo. Aptiv representatives told Automotive News they plan to keep the fleet active in Las Vegas even after the event concludes, adding Sin City to its roster of locations where its auto-taxis operate, which currently includes Boston and Singapore.

Currently, the number of autonomous taxis operated globally by Aptiv stands at 60, but Automotive News reports it has plans to expand that number to 150 by the end of 2018.

AAA Partnering with Torc Robotics to Make Self-Driving Cars Safer

The American Automobile Association (AAA) announced at CES a partnership with self-driving technology company Torc Robotics to develop a series of safety guidelines for self-driving cars that can be followed industry-wide.

The goal is to establish a unified set of standards that automakers can use to ensure consumer safety and public trust in the technology as it continues to gain momentum, even as 75% of Americans say they’re skeptical of self-driving cars, according to Engadget.

AAA will test self-driving cars on public roads to gather data that it can use to create the criteria, which can then be applied to every company working on driverless vehicle technology. It’s an attempt by the association that has long championed driver safety to move into the 21st century and transform its business model with the changing automobile landscape.

Image courtesy Alexis Georgeson/Tesla Motors

It seems like every day companies make news by unveiling the latest in autonomous driving technology. Here are some recent updates as the world of self-driving vehicles keeps cruising…

Tesla Unveils Electric, Semi-Autonomous Truck 

With great fanfare, Tesla pulled back the curtain on its long-anticipated electric semi-truck in November, igniting questions about the future of the trucking industry.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk was on hand at the flashy unveiling of the Tesla Semi in Hawthorne, California, which promises 500 miles of range on a single charge, semi-autonomous enhanced autopilot included as a standard feature, and an eye-popping five-second 0-60 mph speed.

The hulking behemoth features a futuristic, streamlined look both inside and out, with the interior more resembling a minimalist jet cockpit than a standard truck cab. The interior is clad with screens that show the truck from various angles through the use of exterior mirror-mounted cameras, which Tesla says are used in support of its autonomous driving capabilities.

Tesla has not shied away from introducing technologies that disrupt long-established industries, and its electric semi truck follows that trend. The smaller, 300-mile range version of the Semi will cost $150,000, while its larger, 500-mile capacity Semi will set you back $180,000.

The unveiling raises inevitable questions about whether autonomous or semi-autonomous trucks will up-end the freight industry, with many wondering what effect it will have on human truckers’ jobs.

GM, Cruise on Pace to Launch Self-Driving Ride Hailing Service by 2019 

GM and Cruise are gearing up to launch their self-driving car service in dense urban centers as soon as 2019, according to GM President Dan Ammann on a recent investor call.

Cruise has been evolving its self-driving technology since 2013. In that time, the San Francisco-based company has quickly become a vanguard in the automotive space. Its 2016 partnership with GM has so far resulted in three generations of test cars that promise to yield the autonomous ride-hailing service of the future.

San Francisco and New York have been the main test markets so far, and Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt said during the investor presentation that it’s aggressively preparing for an initial launch in the Bay Area as its first major commercial market.

Cruise says it will focus on large urban centers first, rather than smaller markets. It’s approaching rolling out the technology with an eye toward scalability, noting that it’s capable of launching in multiple cities simultaneously.

Velodyne Announces Its Most Powerful LIDAR Yet

 Leading manufacturer of laser sensors for autonomous vehicles, Velodyne, recently announced the VLS-128, which the company says will have twice the range and three times the resolution of its previous version. Anand Gopalan, Velodyne’s CTO, says it was designed to pave the way to fully autonomous Level 5 functionality.

Achieving true Level 5 has long been the goal of self-driving technology makers, as it represents true autonomy — able to match or exceed the performance of human drivers under any circumstances.

LIDAR is at the heart of most self-driving cars. It’s a sophisticated laser sensor that provides a 360-degree view around the vehicle, enabling the self-driving system to see potential road hazards and decide how to react.

The high resolution and range offered by the VLS-128 enables autonomous vehicles to make critical decisions faster and with greater accuracy than its predecessors, which is critical for safe driving at high speeds.

Velodyne’s newly unveiled LIDAR packs all of that power into a smaller package, and represents a big leap forward toward truly autonomous driving.

Intel Wants to Make the Self-Driving Experience More Entertaining

Driving yourself around requires your full attention and monopolizes your vision, but what will you do to keep occupied when relaxing in a car that drives itself?

Intel envisions a future where passengers of driverless cars have access to a wide range of entertainment options to while away the hours spent as a passive passenger. In-cabin movies, games in the car and even immersive VR and AR experiences are just some of Intel’s plans, it recently announced at the 2017 LA Auto Show.

The chipmaker says it is partnering with Warner Bros. to develop entertainment options, some of which sound pretty darn cool — like an Augmented Reality experience that turns the car into the Batmobile and the outside world into the streets of Gotham City.

No word yet on when Intel plans to roll out these features, but it will certainly be something to watch, and sounds like an exciting addition to the autonomous vehicle passenger experience.

Denver Readying Driverless Shuttle, Aiming for 2018 Launch

The Colorado capital has been testing the EZ10 driverless shuttle on designated test roads, and hopes it will be ferrying commuters to their offices as soon as next spring.

The shuttle, manufactured by French developer EasyMile in partnership with Panasonic, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Regional Transportation District (RTD), was demoed just this week at the RTD station before excited and supportive local and state officials. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper even designated the test day, Dec. 4, as “Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Day”.

The hope is that shuttles like the six-passenger EZ10 will one day serve as a “last mile” option for commuters, bringing workers the final stretch between public transit stations and their paces of work. The shuttle is driverless, contains no steering wheel or seatbelts, and uses cameras and LIDAR systems.

There was even a bit of unexpected drama during Monday’s test run, as the shuttle suddenly stopped during the one-fifth of a mile test. In a truly Western twist, a tumbleweed rolled into the path of the shuttle, causing its sensors to apply the brakes.

Panasonic’s executive vice president of strategic innovations, Jarrett Wendt, told The Denver Post that there is a lot of work to do before the shuttle is ready to be deployed for passenger use, but says the stakeholders are resolute to bring it to fruition.

Further testing is planned for a two-mile stretch of road near Panasonic Denver, and it could begin testing on the highway next year.

Recent updates from the race to conquer the future of driverless vehicles…

Autonomous Shuttle Program Hits Public Streets

A federal agency has granted California’s Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) permission to start the final stage of testing for an autonomous shuttle pilot program on public roads.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approved CCTA’s third phase of testing of 12-passenger autonomous shuttles at a small business park, Bishop Ranch, in San Ramon. ­

Created by a French company called EasyMile, the electric, low-speed, driverless shuttles — which don’t have a steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator or operator — will share the roads with pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles.

Testing is slated to start next year, and it’s worth noting that, during this phase, the general public will not be allowed on the shuttles. Instead, only testers and evaluators from various employers within Bishop Ranch will have access.

Ultimately though, the shuttles are meant to get passengers from a transit station to their final destination, so navigating a business park like Bishop Ranch is a good exercise, CCTA officials tell govtech.com. CCTA is said to be the first in the country to devise and implement an autonomous vehicle and transit pilot program, so this marks an exciting step forward.

In related news, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles says completely autonomous vehicles, those without backup drivers, could be on the state’s public roads as early as summer 2018, according to The Mercury News.

GM Acquires Driverless Technology Startup

General Motors has acquired Strobe, a California-based startup that develops laser-based sensors called LIDARS. According to the New York Times, LIDARS create high-definition images for vehicles operated by computers. Strobe will now team up with GM’s Cruise Automation to continue making major strides in autonomous driving.

In a blog post, Cruise’s CEO, Kyle Vogt, wrote about the impacts of the Strobe purchase. He noted that LIDARS have been a big bottleneck in the process of developing autonomous vehicles. Having Strobe onboard will significantly improve the capabilities of the company’s autonomous vehicles, Vogt writes, especially when it comes to cost and expanding autonomous ride-sharing services.

As for how LIDARS operate within autonomous vehicles, Wired has a good explainer: “The technology works by firing millions of laser beams every second, and measuring how long they take to return after bouncing off objects as far as 200 meters away. Unlike cameras, LIDAR systems don’t rely on ambient light, and have no problem distinguishing, say, a tree from its shadows. Collecting a million data points or more a second, it sees with far more precision than radar.”

Nvidia’s New Supercomputer to Boost Automated Driving Power

One of the biggest manufacturers of computer graphics cards, NVIDIA, says it’s created a new, powerful computing platform for driverless vehicles.

Dubbed “Pegasus,” the system can power Level 5, fully driverless automobiles “without steering wheels, pedals or mirrors, and interiors that feel like a living room or office,” NVIDIA says. Capable of delivering more than 320 trillion operations per second, the new system’s Level 5 autonomy status is a pretty incredible feat.

As The Verge notes, even with all the driver-assisted technology in cars today, no commercially available vehicle currently on the road ranks higher than a Level 2.

Nvdia, which is a current Jama Software customer, says Pegasus will be available to NVIDIA automotive partners in the second half of 2018.

LeBron James and Intel Work to Build Trust in Driverless Cars

As Intel noted earlier this year, the future of self-driving transportation could result in a $7 trillion annual revenue stream. Among all the complex challenges companies producing autonomous vehicles need to overcome before then, though, has nothing to do software or hardware.

Right now, the notion of stepping into a car without a driver, and entrusting it to navigate you somewhere — anywhere — safely sounds like a gamble. So, building public trust in autonomous vehicles is crucial.

That’s one of the reasons why Intel is turning to the best basketball player on the planet, LeBron James, to help generate confidence in driverless vehicles via an advertising campaign, according to Business Insider.

Check out the first Intel ad with James below.