Autonomous Vehicles, LEAF and others...

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Baidu rolls out driverless taxi service in two Chinese cities
Chinese autonomous vehicle maker launches commercial driverless robotaxi services in Wuhan and Chongqing this week, when the government has released its first draft guidelines on the deployment of self-driving vehicles in public transport.
The driverless robotaxi service will run in government-designated areas in Wuhan and Chongqing, spanning 13 square kilometres and 30 square kilometres, respectively. Routes in each city will be covered by five Apollo 5th generation vehicles. ("YouTube removes video by Tesla investors using kids in FSD Beta test") was actually mentioned on NBC Bay Area news tonight.

"YouTube has removed a pair of videos from its platform which showed Tesla drivers conducting amateur vehicle safety tests using their own children in place of mannequins in the road or the driveway."

Makes some sense given that Tesla's HQ was in the Bay Area, Fremont plant is here and ditto for YouTube's HQ.
OldManCan said:
Related to this thread...

What are your thoughts? I also think for now vision based autonomy is no go. Tesla phantom braking situation perhaps could be eliminated if they had Lidar verifying the existence of vehicles in front. Similarly my Ring camera gets tricked to think there is movement when sun shimmers over the water it sees. Vision only based systems impacted due to heavy rain and/or mud on camera lens.

I think Lidar (or comparable non vision based tech) is critical to the success of safe autonomy on the roads. Will be interesting to see how the industry moves on this topic.

Seems like perhaps Tesla might be going back on their "Vision only" stance...
The Lidar issue is complicated. Yes, it could be essential for autonomous vehicle safety but the risk is damage to human and animal eyes. A laser beam, even a reflected laser beam, can burn a retina leaving permanent damage.

Obviously damage to even a few people’s eyes is a big problem. I get that autonomous vehicles could save a lot of lives by removing the dumbest drivers from the road, but even if there’s a net benefit, the people losing sight occasionally to lidar (when widely deployed) will definitely be on TV telling their terrifying story.

Lidar May Be Harmful To People & Cameras
8 Ways Waymo’s Autonomous Taxi Surprised Us on a Ride
When tiny hiccups can cause big problems without a human driver, we are a long way from self-driving cars as a common, convenient option
To what should be absolutely no surprise (and why I'm so against L2 ADAS), via IEVS:
IIHS Study Finds Drivers Use Automated Driving Systems Improperly

And by “improperly” the IIHS means they are being used as if they were actual, fully-autonomous systems, which they currently aren’t.

We’re sure you’ve seen your fair share of people sleeping behind the wheel of Teslas running on Autopilot, but those are just extreme examples of a problem that according to a new study is actually quite widespread. This apparently especially true for two specific automated driving systems, which are some of the most advanced on the market.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently told us that its researches surveyed drivers Tesla Autopilot, Cadillac Super Cruise and Nissan / Infiniti ProPilot Assist. It found that drivers of vehicles equipped with these semi-autonomous driving systems were more likely to do things other than drive while at the wheel (compared to people driving vehicles that don’t have such systems).

Based on its findings, the IIHS notes that around half of all Super Cruise users and 42 percent of Tesla Autopilot users deemed it okay to take their eyes off the road and perform other activities while the car drove on its own. Interestingly, also around 40 percent of those questioned said they triggered a lockout, which is when the vehicle will stop on its own after the driver fails to take control after repeatedly being prompted to do so.

The last time I tried doing this in an Autopilot-equipped Tesla Model 3, simply to see what the vehicle did, it took less than a minute from the first warning that steering input needed to be applied to the vehicle coming to a complete stop on its own, with its hazard lights flashing to potentially alert other drivers that you’re having a problem.

Some people try to trick the system through various means, so that it is tricked into thinking you are holding the wheel. In some older vehicles, you could jam an orange between the steering wheel prongs and the rim, and the pressure it exerted was enough to make the system think you were actually holding the wheel, thus allowing indefinite hands-free use of the system (which is not the way such systems are currently intended to be used and is very dangerous).

According to IIHS President David Harkey, “the big-picture message here is that the early adopters of these systems still have a poor understanding of the technology’s limits. But we also see clear differences among the three owner populations. It’s possible that system design and marketing are adding to these misconceptions.”

The study also found that Super Cruise and Autopilot users had a much higher propensity to take hands off the wheel while the vehicle was driving, leaving the driving to the computers, at least out of the three systems. Nissan ProPilot users seemed more conservative in this regard, although it may also have something to do with the types of people that end up in the driver’s seats of vehicles from these three quite different brands.

IIHS Research Scientist Alexandra Mueller noted that

These results from frequent users of three different partial automation systems once again drive home the need for robust, multifaceted safeguards. Many of these drivers said they had experiences where they had to suddenly take over the driving because the automation did something unexpected, sometimes while they were doing something they were not supposed to.

The broad acceptance of attention reminders and system lockouts suggests not only that they have the potential to make it safer to use partial automation, but also that they could be implemented more widely to help combat driver distraction in general.
Autonomous vehicle startup Argo AI is shutting down
Ford and Volkswagen invested billions into the company and will snap up Argo AI's tech.

Tesla faces U.S. criminal probe over self-driving claims, sources say
Some more info on Argo AI's shutdown, via Autoblog Green:
Amazon backed out of taking a stake in Argo; then it folded

Ford, VW shuttered venture after retailer’s interest waned Inc. emerged as a potential savior for Argo AI, the now-defunct startup backed by two of the world’s biggest automakers, before the deal fell apart because of a sputtering economy, concerns about control and flagging faith in fully autonomous driving.

The online retailer was prepared to invest several hundred million dollars into Argo last spring, according to people familiar with the matter who disclosed Amazon’s involvement for the first time. Amazon planned to use Argo’s self-driving technology to automate some of the electric delivery vans it’s buying from Rivian Automotive Inc., setting up a test fleet in multiple US cities.

Argo’s key backers — Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG — were eager to attract a third partner to Argo to help shoulder the high cost of developing self-driving technology, the people said. VW’s then-Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess even traveled to the US to meet with Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos earlier this year to discuss the deal.

The budding relationship soured as Ford and VW grew wary that Amazon would divert Argo’s talent and attention, said the people, who asked not to be identified revealing internal deliberations. The companies also struggled to come up a governance structure for how they would share control of Argo. Additionally, the retail giant was turned off by the high cost of Argo’s technology, one of the people said.

Without Amazon on board, Argo was unable to attract other investors and bolster its credibility to eventually go public. Ford and VW last month shut down Argo, which at one time was valued at more than $7 billion. . . .
Researchers say A.I. in connected cars eased rush hour congestion

'This is not autonomous driving. This is something we could realize very soon.'

As millions of people travel the interstates this Thanksgiving, many will encounter patches of traffic at a standstill for no apparent reason — no construction or accident. Researchers say the problem is you.

Human drivers just don't do a good job of navigating dense traffic conditions, but an experiment using artificial intelligence in Nashville last week means help could be on the way. In the experiment, specially equipped cars were able to ease rush hour congestion on Interstate-24, researcher Daniel Work said on Tuesday. In addition to lessening driver frustration, Work said less stop-and-go driving means fuel savings and, by extension, less pollution.

The professor of civil and environmental engineering at Vanderbilt University is one of a group of engineers and mathematicians from universities around the U.S. who have been studying the problem of phantom traffic jams after a simple experiment in Japan a dozen years ago showed how they develop. Researchers there put about 20 human drivers on a circular track and asked them to drive at a constant speed. Before long, traffic went from a smooth flow to a series of stops and starts.

“Phantom traffic jams are created by drivers like you and me,” Work explained.

One person taps the brakes for whatever reason. The person behind them takes a second to respond and has to brake even harder. The next person has to brake even harder. The wave of braking continues until many cars are at a standstill. Then, as traffic clears, the drivers accelerate too quickly, causing more braking and yet another jam.

“We know that one car braking suddenly can have a huge impact,” Work said.

Last week's experiment showed that a few cars driving slowly and steadily could have an impact as well, for the better.

The experiment utilized 100 cars that travelled in loops on a 15-mile section of I-24 from about 6 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. each morning. Working on the premise that if 5% of the cars on the road were acting together, they could lessen the prevalence of phantom traffic jams, the researchers equipped those 100 cars to communicate wirelessly, sending traffic information back and forth.

They also took advantage of the adaptive cruise control that is already an option on many new vehicles. This technology lets the driver set a car to cruise at a certain speed, but the car automatically slows down and speeds up as needed to keep a safe distance from the car in front. In the experiment, the adaptive cruise control was modified to react to the overall traffic flow — including what was happening far ahead — using artificial intelligence.

The cars’ decision-making occurred on two levels, Work said. At the cloud level, information about traffic conditions was used to create an overall speed plan. That plan was then broadcast to the cars, which used artificial intelligence algorithms to determine the best action to take. The researchers were able to evaluate the effect the connected cars had on morning traffic flow using a special 4-mile stretch of I-24 outfitted with 300 pole-mounted sensors. . . .

Last week's experiment built off one Work and his colleagues conducted in 2017 at the University of Arizona. That repeated the Japanese experiment, this time with a single self-driving car thrown into the mix. The self-driving car smoothed the flow of traffic so that there was 98% less braking. That led to a 40% increase in fuel efficiency and a 14% increase in distance driven.

Researchers are still crunching the numbers on last week's experiment, but Work said it "demonstrated that these jams can be reduced through the novel automated vehicle technologies we developed. It’s unquestionable that enhanced automotive technology can significantly reduce phantom traffic jams when implemented at scale.”

Still, he cautioned that the technology is not going to suddenly eliminate congestion.

“When there are more cars on the road than the road can support, there will always be traffic,” he said. "But this can make that congestion less painful.”
Germany approves Mercedes-Benz and Bosch driverless parking system for commercial use

Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) has approved the Mercedes-Benz and Bosch highly automated parking system for use in the P6 parking garage run by APCOA at Stuttgart Airport. This makes it the world’s first highly automated driverless parking function (SAE Level 4) officially to be approved for commercial use.

This process relies on the interplay between the intelligent infrastructure supplied by Bosch and installed in the parking garage and Mercedes-Benz automotive technology. Bosch sensors in the parking garage monitor the driving corridor and its surroundings and provide the information needed to guide the vehicle. The technology in the vehicle converts the information it receives from the infrastructure into driving maneuvers. This way, vehicles can even drive themselves up and down ramps to move between stories in the parking garage. If the infrastructure sensors detect an obstacle, the vehicle brakes and safely comes to a complete stop. Only once the route is clear does it continue on its way. . . .

In 2019, Mercedes-Benz and Bosch obtained the first special permit to operate Automated valet parking using development vehicles without human oversight in everyday operations in the parking garage of the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. The approval that has now been issued goes beyond this, allowing commercial operation with privately owned vehicles in the P6 parking garage at Stuttgart Airport.

The basis for the approval is a law that came into force in Germany in July 2021, which permits driverless driving in accordance with SAE Level 4 for motor vehicles. Application of this law to the parking system was implemented in close coordination with the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV) and the KBA. The AFGBV (autonomous driving directive), passed by the German Bundesrat on May 20, 2022, clearly specifies the criteria of the German road traffic act that Level 4 vehicles must satisfy.

The companies plan to roll out the driverless parking service in the APCOA P6 parking garage at Stuttgart Airport gradually. From the day it is released for operation, the first customers with S-Class and EQS models built since July 2022 whose vehicle variants feature the INTELLIGENT PARK PILOT service as part of Mercedes me connect, and who have activated this service, will be able to use the function at the P6 parking garage.

Once drivers have used their Mercedes me app to book a parking space in advance, they can leave their vehicle in a predetermined drop-off area. After all the passengers have exited the vehicle, the app starts the parking maneuver. The parking system checks whether the route to the booked parking space is clear, and that all the other technical requirements have been satisfied. If this is the case, drivers receive a notification in the app confirming that the intelligent infrastructure has taken control of the vehicle. They can then leave the parking garage. The vehicle starts automatically and finds its own way to its parking space. When the driver wishes to retrieve their car from the parking garage, they can summon it via smartphone command. Their vehicle then makes its own way to a predetermined pick-up area.
Toby said:
What will happen to the self driving market when potential buyers discover that these things will obey the speed limit?

I expect most won't care, as they'll be too busy looking at their phones, surfing the net, playing video games or sleeping. Which is what all too many of them are doing now, but with L2 DAS rather than L4 or L5 ADS.
GM expands the cities with autonomous taxis, Austin being city number 3.

I have to imagine this is creating some internal pressure at Tesla, as it shifts the narrative in terms of who is leading the self driving story.
Waymo driverless car brings San Francisco traffic to a halt during rush hour
Two companies race to deploy robotaxis in San Francisco. The city wants them to hit the brakes.
The city’s transportation officials sent letters this week to California regulators asking them to halt or scale back the expansion plans of Cruise and Waymo.
Toby said:
What will happen to the self driving market when potential buyers discover that these things will obey the speed limit?

That's an interesting point. I think GRA is right that people will just distract themselves with something else like they do on public transport.
Wakyak said:
Toby said:
What will happen to the self driving market when potential buyers discover that these things will obey the speed limit?

That's an interesting point. I think GRA is right that people will just distract themselves with something else like they do on public transport.

I am enjoying the heck out of the standard shipping Autopilot and Auto steer.

We set 5 over as default over posted speed. It's cool to feel it slow up and speed up when you going through different posted speed zones works very well.
GaleHawkins said:
Wakyak said:
Toby said:
What will happen to the self driving market when potential buyers discover that these things will obey the speed limit?

That's an interesting point. I think GRA is right that people will just distract themselves with something else like they do on public transport.

I am enjoying the heck out of the standard shipping Autopilot and Auto steer.

We set 5 over as default over posted speed. It's cool to feel it slow up and speed up when you going through different posted speed zones works very well.

That's really cool. Now how long before they can pin down and GPS the location of nearby cops to do the same? :)
Autonomous tech boom darling Embark goes belly-up, lays off hundreds

Embark Trucks lays off workers, explores liquidation of self-driving truck assets
Embark Trucks, the autonomous trucking company that went public in 2021 via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, is cutting 70% of its workforce and shutting down two offices. And the pain may not be over as CEO Alex Rodrigues noted in an email to employees that the remaining 30% of workers will focus on winding down operations.