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Waymos self-driving trucks and minivans are headed to New Mexico and Texas



Waymo said Thursday it will begin mapping and eventually testing its autonomous long-haul trucks in Texas and parts of New Mexico, the latest sign that the Alphabet company is expanding beyond its core focus of launching a robotaxi business.

Waymo said in a tweet posted early Thursday it had picked these areas because they are “interesting and promising commercial routes.” Waymo also said it would “explore how the Waymo Driver” — the company’s branded self-driving system — could be used to “create new transportation solutions.”

Waymo plans to mostly focus on interstates because Texas has a particularly high freight volume, the company said. The program will begin with mapping conducted by Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

The mapping and eventual testing will occur on highways around Dallas, Houston and El Paso. In New Mexico, Waymo will focus on the southern most part of the state.

Interstate 10 will be a critical stretch of highway in both states — and one that is already a testbed for TuSimple, a self-driving trucking startup that has operations in Tucson and San Diego. TuSimple tests and carries freight along the Tucson to Phoenix corridor on I-10. The company also tests on I-10 in New Mexico and Texas.

Waymo, which is best known for its pursuit of a robotaxi service, integrated its self-driving system into Class 8 trucks and began testing them in Arizona in August 2017. The company stopped testing its trucks on Arizona roads sometime later that year. The company brought back its truck testing to Arizona in May 2019.

Those early Arizona tests were aimed at gathering initial information about driving trucks in the region, while the new round of truck testing in Arizona marks a more advanced stage in the program’s development, Waymo said at the time.

Waymo has been testing its self-driving trucks in a handful of locations in the U.S., including Arizona, the San Francisco area and Atlanta. In 2018, the company announced plans to use its self-driving trucks to deliver freight bound for Google’s  data centers in Atlanta.

Waymo’s trucking program has had a higher profile in the past year. In June, Waymo brought on 13 robotics experts, a group that includes Anki’s  co-founder and former CEO Boris Sofman, to lead engineering in the autonomous trucking division.

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Find a cheap flight with these top apps, both of which are on sale



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Image: pexels

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Automotive IQ Guides: Electric Vehicles



Faced with tightening emissions standards, especially in Europe and China, the automotive industry is rapidly scaling-up its eMobility efforts.

In so doing manufacturers have a raft of technologies they can call upon:

  • Mild hybrid electric vehicles (MHEV)
  • Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV)
  • Plugin hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV)
  • Battery electric vehicles (BEV)

But which architecture is best suited to the task?

Each of these solutions has its own challenges and benefits, which automakers need to weigh up within the context of constantly evolving emissions standards, customer acceptance and corporate strategy.

What electric cars do manufacturers bring to market? Hybrid cars versus electric vehicles

The current production forecasts show that many carmakers are abandoning their ‘technology neutrality’ approach as they embrace electrification. The top 29 OEMs have announced plans to invest more than $300bn in scaling up xEV production over the next 10 years.

And with the new 95g/km per vehicle CO2 emissions having come into force in Europe on January 1, 2020, many manufacturers are turning to the 48V mild hybrid technology to help them meet the new regulations.

Why opt for 48V mild hybrid technology?

The 48V MHEV has several advantages over other electrification strategies:

  • The system is relatively simple and cost effective to engineer or even retrofit to existing platforms – especially if a belt-starter-generator (BSG) is fitted in the P0 Topology
  • The architecture offers good cost versus benefit returns, with between 12 to 20 percent emissions savings possible
  • The technology is scalable – from P0 to P4 to meet specific cost and emissions strategies
  • Using higher powered starter generators, such as the 48V 30kW BSG Continental announced in 2019, the MHEV can achieve limited electric-only driving, opening up the possibility for the MHEV to become a fully-fledged HEV

While sales are expected to grow by as much as 40 percent per year, there remains a question mark over the architecture’s viability past 2025 when emissions limits are set to be reduced by a further 15 percent. And with Volkswagen’s ID3 electric car entering the market at under €30,000, consumers may very well opt for this full electric vehicle option instead.

Nevertheless, there may be a respite for the technology. With pricing that could be as low as $9,000, Valeo has developed a full-time 48V EV, the Double 100, that may create a sustainable, novel niche in congested cities such as those found in China.

Surprisingly, in China, where the government is driving BEV volumes, the hybrid electric vehicle market has seen the most growth over the past year – even though in Europe HEV sales remain stagnant.

Sales of Japanese brands’ hybrids increased by about 30 percent in 2019 to more than 220,000, making HEVs one of the fastest-growing market segments, according to the China Passenger Car Association.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. have increased overall sales on the back of this architecture in a market that has fallen almost every month since June 2018.

Consumer support of Hybrid Electric Vehicles is based on familiarity

Although HEVs, with their costly hybrid powertrains and short electric-only driving range, might not be the first choice for manufacturers desperate to meet emissions targets, they do have the support of the consumer.

This support is due to the fact that, although the vehicle is electrified, it does not require charging and for all intents and purposes operates as a traditional fossil-fueled vehicle. The HEV was also the first electrified powertrain to reach significant volumes, and has gained user trust thanks to its increasing familiarity.

While the consumer may appreciate the familiarity offered by the HEV, the limited electric-only range is problematic. The solution lies with increasing the electric capacity of the powertrain and enabling charging of the higher capacity batteries, thus creating the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

The PHEV is integral to manufacturers’ electric vehicle strategy

PHEVs appeal to consumers who regularly drive longer distances, as well as single-car owners. They may also find a growing market in the rising number of cities that plan to ban ICEs in the city center.

Sales growth for PHEVs in most markets will be slower than that for other xEVs, hampered by the higher cost of the larger capacity batteries. Nonetheless, many OEMs will maintain a two-track BEV-PHEV strategy, with some markets continuing to incentivize PHEVs while building out their electrified vehicle infrastructure.

According to a 2020 report on electric vehicles by Boston Consulting Group, battery-powered electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids will capture almost a quarter of the market by 2030; up from the previously projected global market share of about a fifth.

In the US alone, almost 40 percent more people are considering a PHEV, and 20 percent more considering a BEV, in 2018 than in 2010.

However, as charging infrastructure improves and consumers’ anxiety over range and time to charge recedes, the BEV will surpass both the PHEV and HEV to become the dominant electrification technology leading up to the next decade.

Manufacturers and governments adopt creative solutions to the challenges faced by battery electric vehicles

There are four key elements driving the BEV market, each influenced by a number of variables in a complex matrix that is often highly regionalized:

  • Technology
  • Compliance
  • Industry perspective
  • Customer perspective

Frequently cited as one of the key factors dissuading consumers from adopting EVs in greater numbers is the initial cost to purchase – often discussed in terms of pricing parity with ICE-powered vehicles.

This is being addressed at all levels by manufacturers, suppliers and governments. In the short-term, government subsidies seek to make BEVs more affordable thereby boosting the economies of scale to the point where the technology becomes self-sustaining.

The impact incentives have on EV sales was well demonstrated when the Chinese government cut incentives in 2019. The reduction of EV subsidies, by more than 60 percent in June 2019, triggered a drop of 1.2 percent in annual sales of BEVs, to around 972,000 units, over the 2018 volume.

With the battery pack making up anything from 25 to 50 percent of the total cost of a BEV there has been an industry-wide drive to slash prices.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s annual report released in January 2020, from 2010 to 2019 lithium-ion battery-pack prices have decreased from $1,100/kWh to $156/kWh – a decline of 87 percent. From 2018 to 2019 alone, prices dropped by 13 percent.

The report also suggested that the key $100/kWh could be achieved as soon as 2023. At which point it is theorized that cost parity with ICE-powered vehicles will be possible. Although a report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Energy Initiative argues that the $100/kWh cannot be achieved even by 2030.

Based on battery raw-material prices alone, MIT’s cost analysis indicates that a midsize battery-electric vehicle with a range of 200-plus miles will likely remain upwards of $5,000 more expensive to manufacture than a similar ICE vehicle through 2030.

Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure and its limitations

Another commonly cited drawback to BEVs is the availability of infrastructure related to the limited range and lengthy charge times of earlier electric cars.

To date, charging has required the vehicle to be physically connected to a charging station. However, there are several companies working on inductive charging, which allows vehicles to recharge their batteries without the need to plug in. It also has the ability to charge on the move – so drivers can be continually topping up as they travel, which would eliminate range anxiety.

In January 2020 Renault announced its INCIT-EV project that aims to encourage the development of electromobility in Europe. This initiative includes induction-charging trials that are scheduled to start in the second half of 2022. These trials will evaluate:

  • A dynamic induction charging system for the urban environment
  • A dynamic induction charging system for long-range and suburban applications
  • A charging hub in a car park for car-share vehicles
  • Low voltage bidirectional charging (for two-wheeled vehicles as well) and dynamic charging in taxi lanes located at the airport and central station in Zaragoza, Spain

Induction, also known as wireless charging, is capable of high power transfer with impressive efficiency. Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have been able to transmit 120 kW over 150mm with a 97 percent efficiency.

General electrified and electric vehicle adoption trends that could play out leading up to 2020

The type of electrification and adoption curve for electric vehicles vary by market, depending primarily on total cost of ownership (TCO), including the price of the vehicle, the number of miles (or kilometers) driven and local fuel and electricity costs.

However, with a combined 50 percent share of the worldwide auto market, China and Europe play a significant role in shaping global EV trends. The short-term direction in the US is unclear as policy differences between the current administration and the State of California have yet to be resolved.

Furthermore, mass-market smaller vehicles such as B-segment superminis and C-segment family-sized hatchbacks, will likely adopt hybrid powertrains over expensive electric vehicle platforms as a more effective mainstream strategy. However, this could change should the battery-pack costs dip below the $100/kWh.

Due to the cost, ICE and hybrid vehicles are also likely to dominate major emerging markets across Asia, Middle East, Latin America and, eventually, Africa for years to come. Cost will remain king in these lower per capita income markets, which will probably extend the life of ICE and hybrid-powered vehicles.

In an environment where regulatory transition is creating upheaval in the industry it is important that industry professionals avail themselves of the latest information regarding electrification and electric vehicle trends, thus Automotive IQ will be offering the following events specific to the topic:


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Automotive IQ Guides: Autonomous Cars



After the initial euphoric predictions of mass adoption of self-driving cars by 2025, the industry, regulators and consumers are taking a step back as the enormity of the challenges comes to the fore. 

As far back as 2018, the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies placed Level 4 self-driving car technology – as defined by SAE J3016 – firmly on course to the “trough of disillusionment.”

Level 5 meanwhile was still making its way to the “peak of inflated expectations” – placing both a good ten years away from the “plateau of productivity” where revenue is generated and the technology gains acceptance.

By 2019 the needle hadn’t moved much. With Level 5 autonomous vehicles now at the peak and Level 4 still on the slope of disillusionment.

While the technology is maturing rapidly, there have nevertheless been several incidents in recent months that highlight the AV’s challenges in moving up the curve and becoming a widely accepted form of transport.

Recent events expose the challenges self-driving tech must overcome

For AVs to gain acceptance in the marketplace, the technology needs to be seen as safe and reliable – having been developed, tested, verified and validated in a rigorous manner with transparent processes that have a sound, logical basis.
Several real-world glitches, during testing and even daily driving, have highlighted some of the traffic conditions AVs are not particularly good at:

  • After an autonomous Ford Focus stalled and blocked the traffic during a December 2019 Winter City AV competition in Moscow, several following self-driving vehicles were unable to work their way around the stoppage. Unlike humans, these cars were unable to ignore physical road markings because they were not trained to do so
  • Although strictly speaking Tesla’s Autopilot is classified as a Level 2 system there have been several highly publicized incidents involving vehicles in self-driving mode – none of them proven to be system malfunctions, but rather due to the difficult identification of edge-cases
  • While the results of the NTSB’s investigation into the Uber self-driving car that crashed into Elaine Herzberg on March 18, 2018, in Tempe, Arizona, laid no blame at the door of the AV technology itself, it did highlight the importance of driver engagement – particularly when carrying out tests on public roads

Against the backdrop of the potential benefits that self-driving cars hold for societies, regulators and the extended industry are coordinating and stepping up their efforts to ensure the safe but accelerated rollout of AVs.

What are the challenges facing self-driving car manufacturers and regulators as AVs take to the roads?

The global driverless car market is projected to grow from $54.23bn in 2019, to $556.67b by 2026, at a CAGR of 39.47 percent, according to Allied Market Research.

What is more the UN believes that self-driving vehicles could reduce the 1.3 million global road fatalities by up to 94 percent.

However, in achieving this, the industry faces several challenges:

  • Standards and regulatory frameworks across the globe are fragmented and largely undefined
  • User confidence is low
  • The technologies are mostly unproven in real-world testing
  • Getting the first self-driving vehicles without traditional safety equipment like a steering wheel or pedal box on the road remains some time away

Of these, possibly the most pressing challenge is to formulate standards and regulations that govern not only the technology, but also how autonomous vehicles are tested and operated on public roads.

Without government permits, testing self-driving cars on public roads is almost universally illegal. The Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, an international treaty that has regulated international road traffic since 1968, stipulates that a human driver must always remain fully in control of and responsible for the behavior of their vehicle in traffic.

What standards, rules and laws are being considered to regulate autonomous vehicles?

European and North American countries including the US, Germany, UK, and Netherlands were pioneers of self-driving vehicle licensing, and have introduced regulations for self-driving cars on public roads and issued many autonomous testing permits.

Asian countries have caught up and have been enacting similar legislation over the last four years.

According to a study by AI Technology and Industry Review publicist, Synced, the global regulatory landscape looked like this in 2018:

In an attempt to ease the regulatory burden, in January 2020, the White House and the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) released a draft federal guideline on autonomous vehicles: ‘Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies: Automated Vehicles 4.0’ (AV 4.0).

AV 4.0 seeks to establish federal principles for the development and integration of automated vehicles, consisting of three core focus areas:

  • Prioritize safety and security
  • Promote innovation
  • Ensure a consistent regulatory approach

It also outlines ongoing Administration efforts supporting AV technology growth and leadership, as well as opportunities for collaboration including federal investments in the AV sector and resources for innovators, researchers, and the public.

While a clear regulatory framework establishes a homogenous environment for the operation of AVs, companies developing autonomous technology are also moving to formulate industry standards to promote safety:

  • In 2019, representatives from 11 companies including Aptiv, Audi, Baidu, BMW, Daimler, Infineon, Intel, and Volkswagen joined forces to write a wide-ranging whitepaper titled “Safety First for Automated Driving.” The group promotes the design of safety features into the automated driving function, while encouraging the validation and verification of the performance of robotic functions in a wide range of operating conditions.
  • On 7 November 2019, the International Telecommunications Union announced the formation of a focus group called ‘AI for Autonomous and Assisted Driving’, to develop performance standards for AI systems that control self-driving cars.

According to Greg McGuire, associate director of the Mcity autonomous vehicle testing lab at the University of Michigan, safety regulations and standards for autonomous vehicles are absolutely critical for public acceptance of the new technology.

Hopefully the heightened efforts of regulators and actors within the industry will pay dividends, because at the moment consumer acceptance of AVs in most regions is waning.

Consumers around the world express mixed sentiments when it comes to self-driving cars

In a 2019 survey of 5,500 consumers and 280 executives from leading organizations, the Capgemini Research Institute sought to gauge users’ sentiment pertaining to driverless cars, with some interesting results.

Asked what emotion describes how they felt about self-driving cars, 59 percent said “anticipation” and 52 percent said “surprise” – but 48 percent sensing “fear” with 43 percent expressing feelings of “loss of control/helplessness.” Only 32 percent said “trust” with 28 percent replying “confidence.”

Markus Winkler, vice president, global head of automotive at Capgemini, said in an interview with Automotive News in May 2019: “The consumer is very influenced by what’s in the media. You have peaks of excitement when an announcement comes out at events like CES, but at the same time, accidents and other incidents also affect the consumer.”

According to a 2020 Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study, global perception regarding the safety of self-driving vehicles remains stalled since last year, with India and China actually reversing sentiment.

Additionally, more than half of consumers in India and the United States are concerned about the idea of autonomous vehicles being tested in areas where they live.

While consumers are, rightfully, concerned about the safety of real world road tests of self-driving cars, it remains the only way to develop and hone the technology en route to mass deployment.

The testing of autonomous vehicles has come a long way, but still driverless cars have many more miles to cover

An important milestone in autonomous self-driving history was set in February 2020 when a modified Nissan Leaf completed a 370km journey autonomously – the longest and most complex trip ever made by an autonomous vehicle in the UK.

Equipped with eight LiDAR sensors, seven cameras and a forward-facing radar, feeding information to six electronic control units, the autonomous EV made the journey from Cranfield in southern England to Nissan’s Sunderland factory in the northeast, alongside conventional motorists on country lanes and motorways.

However, although this journey was remarkable because of the fact that the vehicle was not geo-fenced, it only covered 230 miles. According to a 2016 Rand Corporation study, to demonstrate that fully autonomous vehicles have a fatality rate of 1.09 fatalities per 100 million miles with a 95 percent confidence level, the vehicles would have to be driven 275 million failure-free miles.

With a fleet of 100 autonomous vehicles being test-driven 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at an average speed of 25 miles per hour, this would take about 12.5 years.

Although nowhere near that mileage, by January 2020 Waymo’s fleet of autonomous cars had accumulated a total of 20 million miles on public roads in 25 cities – up from 10 million miles only a year ago. What is more, in training these vehicles, the company has driven tens of billions of miles through computer simulations.

Despite the importance of these tests in developing and validating self-driving technology these vehicles retained safety components that users are familiar with – the steering wheel and brake pedal. True Level 5 autonomous driving is expected to do away with these entirely.

The first driverless vehicles without a steering wheel are set to take to the roads

In a decision more than a year in the making, in January 2020 NHTSA granted a request by self-driving delivery company Nuro for an exemption from the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that require steering wheels, brake pedals, windshields and mirrors to be fitted to all road-going vehicles.

The company will be permitted to produce and deploy as many as 5,000 of its R2 autonomous electric delivery vehicles for a period of two years.


In another development, GM and Honda-backed Cruise recently unveiled the Origin (above), a driverless vehicle that can accommodate up to six people.

According to Dan Ammann, CEO of Cruise Automation, the self-driving Origin could save the average urban resident up to $5,000 a year and operate continuously for up to a million miles.

“It’s our mission at Cruise to make autonomous car technology as safe as possible and get it deployed as rapidly as possible, so that we can have the impact of saving millions of lives that are lost on the road,” said Ammann, who estimates that the autonomous ride-sharing and delivery logistics markets are $5tn and $2tn opportunities, respectively.

So, notwithstanding the many challenges faced by manufacturers in rolling out self-driving vehicles in significant numbers, it is important that the technology reaches the market sooner rather than later.

Researchers from RAND Corporation claim that deploying cars that are just 10 percent safer than the average human driver will save more lives than waiting until they are 75 percent or 90 percent better.

It is therefore important that industry professionals keep abreast of the latest autonomous vehicle trends and technologies, thus Automotive IQ will be offering the following events specific to the self-driving car:


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