Autonomous & Self-Driving Vehicle News: Waymo, Applied Intuition, MOIA, Apex.AI, Convoy, Volvo,Imagr, Continental, Commsignia & Mitsubishi Electric

In autonomous and self-driving vehicle news are Waymo, Applied Intuition, MOIA, Apex.AI,
Convoy, Volvo,Imagr, Continental, Commsignia & Mitsubishi Electric.

Waymo Rides via Uber in Phoenix

Waymo and Uber Technologies Inc. (NYSE: UBER) announced a new, multi-year strategic partnership to make the Waymo Driver available to more people via the Uber platform starting in Phoenix.

Since both companies were founded in 2009, Waymo and Uber have in their own ways each revolutionized access to mobility. Now, we’re partnering to bring together Waymo’s world-leading autonomous driving technology with the massive scale of Uber’s ridesharing and delivery networks.

This integration will launch publicly later this year with a set number of Waymo vehicles across Waymo’s newly expanded operating territory in Phoenix, and will include local deliveries and ride-hailing trips. Uber users will be able to experience the safety and delight of the Waymo Driver on both the Uber and Uber Eats apps. Riders will also still be able to hail a Waymo vehicle directly through the Waymo One app. At over 180 square miles, Waymo’s Phoenix operations are currently the largest fully autonomous service area in the world.

Applied Intuition & Embark Tech Merger

Applied Intuition, Inc., a tooling and software provider for autonomous vehicle development, and Embark Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ: EMBK), an autonomous trucking software company,  announced that the companies have entered into a definitive merger agreement. Under the agreement, Applied will acquire Embark in an all-cash transaction with an equity value of approximately $71 million.

Founded in 2016, Embark has built a robust autonomous software stack that uses machine learning methodologies for perception while relying on a safety-redundant compute system. Embark also developed a custom-built hardware platform optimized for autonomy and has performed extensive real-world testing and system deployment, with over 1.5 million miles of autonomous operations conducted on highways.

Applied aims to integrate Embark’s internal tools, data, and software assets to further improve its offerings for customers in the trucking and automotive industries. Embark plans to retire its fleet of test vehicles as part of the transaction. Key Embark employees are expected to remain to support Applied and expand the company’s suite of product offerings.

MOIA Relies On Apex.AI

On the path to a safe, autonomous future, MOIA relies on the expertise of software manufacturer Apex.AI. The ridepooling company is using Apex.AI’s operating system to develop its proprietary passenger management system for the autonomous-driving ID. Buzz AD ready for the market. MOIA will gain access to cutting-edge technology that will enable the company to automate much of its passenger interaction digitally. Since 2021, MOIA has been developing and testing an autonomous ridepooling service in Hamburg together with Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, which is to be available for public use after 2025.

The proprietary passenger management system carries out what are known as the ancillary driver activities of an autonomous mobility service. It is deeply integrated into the vehicle and, among other things, accesses the vehicle’s interior safety monitoring system, takes over the opening and closing of the doors or, if necessary, controls the various auxiliary functions in the vehicle interior, which ensure comfortable and safe use for all passengers at all times.

Convoy Partners with Volvo Autonomous Solutions

Convoy, a leading digital freight network, announced a collaboration with Volvo Autonomous Solutions (V.A.S.), a global leader in autonomous transport solutions, securing autonomous freight capacity for customers once it becomes available on select routes in Texas. Through this partnership, Convoy and V.A.S. aim to drive better efficiency into the supply chain while allowing shippers in Convoy’s network to take advantage of autonomous transport solutions and be a part of the industry shift.

The reservation program will use the hub-to-hub model. Convoy’s vast carrier network of small fleets and owner-operators will gain access to lucrative opportunities to deliver customer loads to the pick up hub in Texas, and then V.A.S.’ autonomous fleet will execute the long-haul to the next hub. A carrier in Convoy’s network would then deliver the load to its final destination.

“We are excited to add Convoy to our growing list of early reservation customers and work together to bring all the benefits of autonomous trucking technology to shippers on the Convoy network. This collaboration underlines the growing interest in autonomous technology as the industry looks for ways to increase freight capacity, improve efficiency and safety,” said Nils Jaeger, President of Volvo Autonomous Solutions.

Under the hub-to-hub model, autonomous trucks will operate on highways, providing continuous service between transfer hubs throughout the day and night. By improving the safety and efficiency of freight corridors, autonomous trucks will contribute to the growth of freight volume, increasing demand for truck drivers to deliver goods from the transfer hubs to their final destinations. This approach enhances the work-life balance of professional truck drivers by enabling local drivers to transition into short-haul jobs, granting them more time at home and improving their overall quality of life.

“We have great confidence in the transformative power of autonomous trucking technology to help tackle industry challenges,” stated Brooks McMahon, Chief Business Development Officer at Convoy. “By leveraging these trucks for highway segments and strategically scheduling loads during off-peak hours, we can minimize emissions, optimize fuel efficiency, and enhance the well-being of drivers. We’re particularly excited about how this model enhances the quality of life for small to midsize carriers who will support either leg of the transportation, but will be able to remain local more often and spend more time with their families. We are excited to partner with Volvo Autonomous Solutions in charting this new course and unlocking the full potential of autonomous trucks.”

Hesai Tech & CRATUS Partner

Hesai Technology (Nasdaq: HSAI), a global leader in lidar solutions, and CRATUS, a software solution integrator for lidar systems, announced a strategic alliance to develop autonomous warehouse solutions using Hesai’s groundbreaking safety-rated 3D lidar, the QT128. CRATUS has selected the QT128 as the lead sensor in its all-new lidar perception package for AGVs and AMRs.

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) have been used for many years in warehouses and manufacturing plants to accomplish a variety of material handling tasks. To date, these systems have mostly used 2D laser scanning devices which provide only a limited amount of perception data. Hesai’s safety rated QT model, with 128 laser channels, enables a multitude of new features for AGVs and autonomous forklifts.

QT128 has a 360 degree horizontal FOV, compared to 270 degrees or less from traditional devices. This eliminates AGVs’ blindspots completely, avoiding any potential safety risks caused by “not seeing”. QT128 has also obtained ISO 26262 ASIL B – Performance Level D Functional Safety Standard certified by TÜV Rheinland. Lidar certified by functional safety can detect potential risks in electronic systems, sending an alarm to the autonomous driving system and initiating protections. This allows AGVs to operate safely and more efficiently.

Compared to 2D lidar, which typically has only one laser channel, QT128 has 128 laser channels. This not only provides additional safety redundancy but also enables rich 3D perception data. In situations where a single laser fails or gets interfered with by strong light sources like sunlight, a 2D lidar-equipped AGV would lose visibility. However, with 128 laser channels, QT128 can continue to operate effectively, even in complex environments. This enhanced perception capability allows for various AGV applications, including outdoor operations and between-warehouse transfers.

CRATUS and Hesai will work together to release a series of drivers, middleware, and end solutions centered around the QT128 lidar sensor. These solutions will hasten the adoption rate of 3D lidar within the material handling sector and unlock new possibilities for robotic applications within the warehouse.

Imagry Integrated into Continental Autonomous Driving Platform

Imagry, a developer of mapless autonomous driving software solutions, announced that Continental will be integrating part of its technology in the Continental Autonomous Driving (AD) platform offering for passenger vehicles. The first feature introduced by Continental, autonomous parking, allows the vehicle to explore a parking lot, detect a suitable parking space, and park the vehicle all without the driver touching the steering wheel. Aniss Ouyeder, Head of Partnerships and Innovation at Continental Business Area Autonomous Mobility: “Imagry’s technology approach is a great add-on to Continental’s software stack solutions for assisted and automated driving. We are impressed by the talented and highly motivated Imagry team and we are looking forward to jointly realize new automated parking features.”

Imagry Uses a Location-Independent Autonomous Driving Model

Imagry software combines cutting-edge AI technology that captures and recognizes a real-time video feed with a deep neural network to make complex driving decisions instantly, based on current driving conditions. As such, the solution is mapless, i.e., not limited to pre-learned geographic areas. Over the last three years Imagry has been operating vehicles equipped with its autonomous driving software on public roads in the United StatesGermany, and Israel.

Integration Reflects Software-Defined Vehicle Industry Trend

The global automobile industry is moving from hardware-based design to software-centric electronic devices. The versatility of this new platform allows vehicle manufacturers to offer features such as autonomous valet parking as an add-on to their entire range of vehicles. Furthermore, OEMs will be able to deploy software features to the vehicle even after it has left the factory, using “over the air” (OTA) transmission for software updates.

How the Autonomous Driving Technology Works

Imagry’s autonomous driving motion planning technology will be used. The Motion Planning layer is a deep neural network that learns to drive by imitating human behavior, making motion planning decisions in real time. It extrapolates and generalizes by drawing on the learned behavior to navigate new roads independently, making complex data-driven decisions based on what it perceives in the moment. For the first phase of the autonomous valet parking feature, the driver must be in the vehicle, monitoring the surroundings and the car’s maneuvers. The driver decides when, and if, to engage the autonomous valet parking feature.

Different Countries Have Different Views of Autonomous Driving

Anew global survey by Asahi Kasei reveals major differences among the world’s four largest automotive markets in terms of brand loyalty, understanding of sustainability, and acceptance of purely battery-powered and self-driving cars. The usage scenarios of fully autonomous vehicles paint a picture of the mobility of the future.

In November 2022, the Japanese technology company Asahi Kasei and the Cologne-based market research institute SKOPOS conducted their fourth “Automotive Interior Survey” in the four most important automotive markets: Germany, China, the USA and Japan. 1,000 vehicle users with different income levels in each market answered questions about their purchasing behavior, understanding of automotive sustainability, as well as acceptance and usage scenarios for autonomous vehicles.

Brand loyalty globally continues to decrease

The results of the new survey show respondents in all four regions prefer to own a car also in the future. One in two respondents in Germany and the U.S. can imagine purchasing a new car; this proportion is significantly higher in China (79%) and Japan (62%). In contrast, not owning a car or using car-sharing services only is not yet an option for respondents in Germany (11%), the USA (3%) and Japan (4%).

In Germany, the USA and Japan, as in recent years, one in two vehicle users would choose a model from another brand when buying their next car. In China, 82% of the respondents would choose a car from another manufacturer. By comparison, in 2020 only 41% could imagine switching brands. The rapidly growing range of domestic brands in the world’s largest car market will further intensify the competition for customers’ favor in the coming years. In addition, the differentiation via price, drivetrain technology, as well as interior equipment and functions is becoming increasingly important.

Michael Franchy, Director of North American Mobility for Asahi Kasei America states “to address this challenge, OEMs need to partner with suppliers, who have expertise across interior, exterior and electrification, which will allow them to shorten development times and bring new features and functions to market quicker.”

Range and charging times are key when buying electric cars

58% of the respondents in China would consider buying a purely battery-powered electric car. In Germany, only 29% choose this option, in the USA (21%) and Japan (18%). Among potential EV buyers in all regions, range and charging time are important factors in the purchase decision. 39% of the potential EV buyers in Germany also look at the CO2 emissions during vehicle production. This shows the issue of sustainability is becoming more important and more complex in the purchasing decision process.

The understanding of sustainability is changing

Even with the transformation to a zero-emission vehicle the mission of achieving “sustainable mobility” is far from complete. The survey results show a “sustainable vehicle” is no longer just defined by the drivetrain technology, but also by the CO2 footprint in production, easily recyclable materials, or even the decarbonization of vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers. In short, sustainability and transparency along the entire value chain are also playing an increasingly prominent role from the customer’s perspective.

Heiko Rother, General Manager, Business Development Automotive at Asahi Kasei Europe comments: “The topic of sustainability is becoming increasingly complex and poses enormous challenges for the automotive industry. With our expertise in green hydrogen, CO2- and bio-based materials as well as the use of recyclates and recycling technologies, we want to achieve the goal of sustainable mobility together with our partners.”

Big regional differences in acceptance for fully autonomous vehicles

In the new survey, Asahi Kasei placed a special focus on the topic of autonomous driving. The results show that in Germany and the U.S. more than one in two respondents currently rejects the use of fully autonomous cars. In Asia, on the other hand, survey participants are much more open to the new technology: In China, only 10% of all respondents are against its use, in Japan 22%. In both countries, one in two respondents can even imagine buying a fully autonomous vehicle. Chinese manufacturers have caught up rapidly in electromobility in recent years. The customers’ affinity for new technologies favors rapid market penetration of innovations and might contribute to China taking a leading role in the field of “autonomous driving” as well.

There are also major differences among the markets with regard to the usage scenarios of fully autonomous vehicles. Displaying tourist information and reading/relaxing are highly popular among respondents in all regions, regardless of the type of vehicle ownership. About one in two car users in China would watch movies and series, in Japan only one in four. In a shared autonomous vehicle, one in two respondents in Japan would spend time sleeping, while only one in seven would work in the car. These different usage scenarios also give rise to new needs in terms of interior design.

As is already the case with conventional vehicles, easy-to-clean textiles and surfaces as well as easily adjustable seats are very important to respondents in all regions and regardless of the type of ownership of fully autonomous cars. Individualized interior lighting and a function for darkening the windows help with reading and relaxing. Fully rotating seats, on the other hand, play only a minor role, particularly in Germany, the USA and Japan.

Even in fully autonomous vehicles, a large proportion of vehicle users in Germany, the USA and China prefer to have a steering wheel and brake pedal for optional manual control – in Japan, one in two would. In Germany and the USA in particular, this option can help increase acceptance of autonomous vehicles.

Rother concludes: “Individual mobility and the car will continue to play a key role in people’s lives worldwide. Preferences in terms of usage scenarios and equipment indicate what the interior of increasingly autonomous vehicles may look like. This makes it more crucial than ever to focus on the customer, their wishes and the driving experience when developing new materials and technologies.”

Commsignia & Mitsubishi Electric Partner for V2X or AD & ADAS

Commsignia Ltd. and Mitsubishi Electric Corporation announced today that they have agreed to form a strategic partnership to deliver Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) technology combining Commsignia’s V2X solution and Mitsubishi Electric’s High-Definition Locator (HDL) technology in a V2X platform that will support the safety of autonomous-driving and advanced-driver-assistance systems (ADAS).

V2X is a key communication technology that is gaining growing acceptance in many countries where governments are considering allowing the installation and commercial use of V2X systems in automobiles. Through their new partnership, Commsignia and Mitsubishi Electric will aim at the early delivery of commercial V2X solutions capable of contributing to increasingly safe assisted and autonomous-driving solutions.

Commsignia’s V2X solution, which integrates communication software with security functions and application software, features an optimized software structure that ensures scalability for next-generation vehicles. Mitsubishi Electric is already mass-producing HDL systems that accurately determine vehicle locations based on proprietary high-precision positioning and mapping data for roads, lanes and other physical conditions in the vicinity of moving vehicles.

The combination of Commsignia’s V2X solution with Mitsubishi Electric’s HDL information is expected to realize systems capable of accurately detecting dynamic conditions in vehicle perimeters and greatly improving the accuracy of warnings of potential collisions. For example, even on sharp curves where vehicles ahead cannot be detected visually or by on-board sensors, the envisioned solution will use the precise positions of a driver’s vehicle and other nearby vehicles to confirm their respective lanes and accurately identify any risk of collision. In particular, the solution is expected to help reduce the incidence of false alarms and provide more timely valid warnings that give drivers additional time to react.