Tag: car

Red tape stalls German driverless cars

3ecde1af5cbac6ae39dea6274262646bGerman car makers have been tied up with red-tape over driver-less car technology.

German auto-manufacturers have moaned that domestic laws limit their efforts to test the appropriate software for self-driving vehicles on public roads and this means that that US competitors, such as Google, are ahead when it comes to developing software designed to react effectively when placed in real-life traffic scenarios.

In December, Google unveiled a fully-functioning prototype of its Self-Driving Car which it plans to start testing in California this year.

Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen CEO said: “We are currently testing at our research facilities, some of them in the United States. The question is: do we only test these cars on public roads in the United States or can we also do it in Germany. Not enough has been done.”

Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have all revealed prototype driverless vehicles which can be tested on German roads – however currently they are not legally allowed to test the cars with a distracted driver, i.e. emailing or texting in a moving car on public roads.

Nvidia installs $10,000 computer in car

reddit7Chipmaker Nvidia introduced a $10,000 computer that it says will allow cars to learn the right and wrong reactions to different situations.

Basically they think it can work out what to do from experience rather than a rigid set of pre-defined situations. If this is applied to the roads of Italy this will mean that your car will never leave the garage and will simply quake with fear.

Jen Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia claimed that real driving is not about detecting but a skill of learned behaviour.

Talking to the company’s GTC 2015 conference in San Jose, Huang said his Drive PX computer was based on two of the company’s Tegra X1 processors and will crunch video from up to 12 cameras.

Over time the computer should learn, for example, to slow down for dogs and water buffalo crossing the road but not jam on the brakes for a coke can.

Today’s commercial autonomous systems are largely related to detecting when cars stray from their lanes or preventing collisions. Several fully self-driving cars have been developed as part of research projects, but they rely on highly detailed maps and are generally restricted to operating in controlled environments.

A DARPA project already proved the learning technology on a lower level, said Huang. A small autonomous robot was fed with 225,000 images of a backyard. When it started out, the robot ran straight into an obstacle, but after analyzing the images, it managed to successfully scoot around the yard without hitting objects, figuring out for itself how to get around.

While it is not really designed for the great unwashed, Nvidia thinks its Drive PX will find a home in the R&D departments of car makers.

One proponent of autonomous driving, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, said the most difficult part of realizing the technology was at speeds between 10- and 50 miles per hour.

“It’s fairly easy to deal with things that are sub five or 10 miles per hour, you just make sure it hits nothing” said Musk, who was speaking alongside Huang at the event.

“From 10 to 50 miles per hour in complex suburban environments, that’s when you can get a lot of unexpected things happening. Once you’re above 50 miles per hour, it gets easier again.”

An additional element of Drive PX will ensure that actions learned in one car are shared with others, which should mean that cars will start to recognise bad drivers and get out of their way.
Nvidia didn’t say which auto makers would be using the platform, which will be available from May, but did say that it’s already receiving enquiries from car companies about the technology.

 

Car industry can’t do computer security

jalopyWhile every tech company and its dog is trying to slam their technology into cars, it is starting to look like the automotive industry can’t cope with the need for security.

A Dallas law firm has filed a lawsuit against three major automakers claiming they have failed to take basic measures to secure their vehicles from hackers.

The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California by attorney Marc Stanley, is on behalf of three vehicle owners and “all others similarly situated”. It alleges that the cars are open to hackers who can take control of basic functions and endanger the safety of the driver and passengers.

“Toyota, Ford and GM have deliberately hidden the dangers associated with car computer systems, misleading consumers,” Stanley said in a statement.

But the case is bringing to light problems which may bedevil the car industry in the future. After all if they are having problems with the security on cars now, how are they going to manage when autodriven vehicles are in charge.

Modern cars and light trucks contain less than 50 separate electronic control units (ECUs) — small computers connected through a controller area network (CAN) or other network such as Local Interconnect Networks or Flexray.

New high tech cars will contain shedloads of them, and if hacked could be driven by hackers into walls or other cars.

The court case claims that the car companies are also habitually secretive about these sorts of problems – something that does not bode well if you are sitting in the back of a self drive taxi.

“Disturbingly, as defendants have known, their CAN bus-equipped vehicles for years have been (and currently are) susceptible to hacking, and their ECUs cannot detect and stop hacker attacks on the CAN buses. For this reason, defendants’ vehicles are not secure, and are therefore not safe,” the lawsuit states.

Last year, at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, two industry experts released a 92-page report revealing “the 20 most hackable cars.”

DARPA reported that the defect represents a “real threat to the physical well-being of drivers and passengers.” Before releasing its study, DARPA shared its finding with car manufacturers so they could address the vulnerabilities, “but they did nothing,” the lawsuit states.

Apple poaches staff to get new tech

How-to-Poach-Eggs_725x408After years of enforcing an illegal cartel which forced staff to stay with it, Apple is now going the other way and poaching staff in a way to get new technology, a court was told.

Electric-car battery maker A123 Systems has sued Apple for poaching top engineers to build a large-scale battery division.

The Tame Apple Press does not question the legality of the move, but just has become all moist about the fact that the iPhone maker may be developing a car.

The court heart how around June 2014, Apple began aggressively poaching A123 engineers tasked with leading some of the company’s most critical projects, the lawsuit said. The engineers jumped ship to pursue similar programs at Apple, in violation of their employment agreements.

These agreements are in place to stop big companies like Apple from gaining access to technology they have not developed.

“Apple is currently developing a large-scale battery division to compete in the very same field as A123,” the lawsuit read.

A123 Systems has not been doing very well. It filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and has been selling off assets.

The engineers who left were of such calibre that the projects they had been working on had to be abandoned. One of the five defendants, Mujeeb Ijaz, of helping Apple recruit among its ranks.

“It appears that Apple, with the assistance of defendant Ijaz, is systematically hiring away A123’s high-tech PhD and engineering employees, thereby effectively shutting down various projects/programs at A123,” according to the lawsuit.

They are doing so in an effort to support Apple’s apparent plans to establish a battery division that is similar if not identical to A123’s, in competition with A123.”

Apple has been carrying out similar programmes at LG Chem, Samsung SDI, Panasonic, Toshiba  and Johnson Controls Inc.

A123 presented evidence from one of its partners SiNode Systems that “confirms that his work on behalf of Apple is at least substantially similar (if not identical) to his work at A123.”

 

 

Apple wants to build legendary nightmare

Titans were nightmare monsters from Greek legend.

Titans were nightmare monsters from Greek legend.

The dark satanic rumour mill has manufactured a hell of a yarn which claims that Apple wants to get into the automotive industry and make self-driving cars named after legendary nightmares. 

Apparently, the numbers people have looked up the numbers and concluded that there is a gap in the market for outrageously priced cars which need to be replaced every year because some ridiculously trivial “update” has been added.

Of course the news has not come from Apple,  it is leaving that announcement to its unpaid press officers – or journalists, as they like to call themselves.  Steve Jobs wanted an iCar so apparently it will happen.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has hundreds of people working on a top secret project: an electric minivan.   Apparently, this job is “massive” and is codenamed Titan – named after the godlike beings who tried to destroy the world.

The project is expected to last years, and it’s entirely possible that Apple will say “sod this for a game of soldiers” lets go back to making expensive toys.

However for the next 20 years you can expect lots of sittings of cars which the Tame Apple Press will try to convince you are the prototype.  Gizmodo, for example said

“Recently, a janky-looking Dodge Caravan outfitted with what appears to be self-driving car technology has been spotted around the Bay Area. However, it’s worth noting that that minivan might just be doing work for Apple Maps.”

So in other words, every souped up van a reporter sees for the next 20 years might be Apple’s self-driving van.  We are not sure that we can put up with it.

Nvidia puts high-end graphics in car

indy1909Nvidia unveiled a new processor aimed at powering high-end graphics on car dashboards as well as auto-pilot systems.

Before the Consumer Electronics Show, Nvidia Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang said the Tegra X1 chip would provide enough computing for automobiles with displays built into mirrors, dashboard, navigation systems and passenger seating.

“The future car is going to have an enormous amount of computational ability,” Huang said. “We imagine the number of displays in your car will grow very rapidly.”

The Tegra X1 has twice the performance of its predecessor, the Tegra K1, and will come out in early 2015, Nvidia said.

A platform combining two of the X1 chips can process data collected from up to 12 high-definition cameras monitoring traffic, blind spots and other safety conditions in driver assistance systems, Huang said.

The chips can help detect and read road signs, recognise pedestrians and detect braking vehicles before you do.

Nvidia has been struggling to compete against larger chipmakers like Qualcomm in smartphones and tablets and thinks that its Tegra mobile chips will be better off in cars and is already supplying companies including Audi, BMW and Tesla.

In the third quarter, revenue from Tegra chips for automobiles and mobile devices jumped 51 percent to $168 million. While this is not bad it is a Fiat 500 to Nvidia’s Mac Truck of total revenue of $1.225 billion.

 

European car sales plummet to 20-year low

beemerEuropean car sales have gone off a cliff yet again. Reuters is reporting that the first half of 2013 was the worst for carmakers in two decades and it seems to be getting worse, as sales in June dropped 6.3 percent. 

With record unemployment in Europe and youth unemployment over 50 percent in some EU countries, the figures are hardly surprising.

The industry is also facing a host of other problems  and overcapacity is one of them. Fiat and Peugeot seem to have gotten the worst of it, dropping 13.6 and 10.9 in June respectively. 

It’s hardly surprising, as both outfits are running on fumes and selling outdated hatchbacks – both the 308 and Bravo are long overdue for replacement, along with the venerable Punto. The plucky Peugeot 208 is off to a good start, though.

Ford was an exception with a 6.9 percent rise in sales and the Volkswagen Group is still hanging in there, thanks to a fresh range of hatchbacks based on the new MQB platform. However, Audi was down 8.9 percent.

Car registrations in EU and EFTA countries fell 6.7 percent last month to 6,436,743, the lowest monthly total since 1993. IHS Automotive believes the market has bottomed out, but it’s still too early for anything resembling a recovery. In a recent interview BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer said things probably wouldn’t get better until at least the middle of 2014.

Even the mighty German market, which bucked the negative trend in recent years, shrank 4.7 percent in June. Sales in France and Italy dropped 8.4 and 5.5 percent respectively and we don’t even want to mention Spain and Greece.

However, Britain soldiers on with the sixteenth straight month of gains. Sales in June were up 13.4 percent, which is rather surprising.

Ctrack pushes European markets

Shane_TrackingOnline vehicle tracking outfit Ctrack is expanding its European operations and appointed a new manager to drive the push.

Richard Lane has been named as the company’s new European distribution & partnerships manager.

Ctrack currently has distribution operations in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain and Portugal to complement its owned operations in Germany, France and Benelux.

The new management role requires Lane to find suitable partners in countries where Ctrack currently does not have a presence.

In a statement, the company said it is is keen to take advantage of untapped vertical markets such as insurance telematics.

Lane was previously responsible for channel sales within the UK & Ireland. He joined Ctrack having spent four years at Cybit, and subsequently Masternaut, responsible for developing and managing its reseller programme.

John Wisdom, European managing director of Ctrack, commented said that Lane had been responsible for extending the reach of the business within the UK by establishing an effective partner and reseller network.

“We are looking to use his proven expertise to take advantage of opportunities that exist in new European markets to maximise the growth of the business across the region,” he said.