Autonomous Vehicles

Published on April 1st, 2015 | by Zachary Shahan

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Facebook Working On Electric Self-Driving Car, Facebook Employee Leaks To CleanTechnica

April 1st, 2015 by  


Ah, the Silicon Valley giants can’t stop competing. As you all know, Google has unveiled an electric, self-driving car that it is working on. Apple hasn’t made anything official, but even leaders in the auto industry now agree that Apple is working on its own self-driving (almost definitely electric) car.

Then, of course, there’s the new kid on the block — the hottest electric car company in the world. You all know the name, but you may not know or remember that Elon Musk said Tesla would be the first to bring an autonomous car to market.

markzuckerberg

Not our source. Just some dude with an Apple laptop.

Could Facebook stay out of the race? Of course not. However, we don’t know how far it is along with its electric self-driving car — enough to actually be in the race? Ahead? Or way behind?

A Facebook employee working on the project, codenamed “Movingbox,” spoke with CleanTechnica and revealed that there are ~200 people working on the project and Jeremy Clarkson has been consulting with the Facebook (er, Movingbox) team. There was no indication if he’s been consulting since being fired from Top Gear after punching a producer in the face, or if he came in before that. It could very well be part of his redemption effort.

The employee, who (of course) wanted to remain anonymous, also said that they were working with a Shelby Cobra for the testing. Quite a ride to play around with!

I couldn’t get any details on price or a timeline out of my source, but he said that there should be a major announcement from Facebook in exactly one year (April 1, 2016). Stay tuned… if we can’t get more out of our source before then.

In the meantime, best of luck! May the best Silicon Valley giant win!

Image: Mark Zuckerberg by Elaine Chan and Priscilla Chan (CC BY 2.5 license)






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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.



  • daniel

    April fools day joke. Right?

  • Lynne Whelden

    April Fools joke.

  • Marijan Rodin

    Generally speaking, autonomous car sucks – smart sytem that enables evading collision, that would be a good thing, but letting a robot to drive my car would equal to letting one to sleep with my wife. No , thank you guys, you do that with your wives, not mine. Bye, bye ..

  • Hans

    somewhat plausible, but publication date makes me suspicious.

    • mike_dyke

      Did you notice the tags Zach put on the article?

  • Benjamin Nead

    Two things I’ve noticed that many regular commenters here on
    Clean Technica like that are at complete odds with each other. . . .

    1) The self-driving cars (presumably electric)

    2) Cost-no-object ultra-high performance EVs

    The self-driving car is the ultimate nanny state item. It’s always going
    to be programmed to go the posted speed limit, not break the law
    and – until sloppy programming and/or hacking comes into play –
    purportedly safe as can be to both driver and those around it.

    The cost-no-object ultra-high performance EV is the outlaw machine.
    By it’s very nature it assumes the owner is going to drive like speed limits
    and basic traffic laws are designed to be defeated. Slower vehicles,
    bicyclists and pedestrians are potential easy prey.

    If I had to chose between the two I would probably drift towards the
    self-driving EV with the option of turning off the automation at will.
    I also don’t trust Mark Zuckerberg to design the automation system.
    Facebook is an open sieve in regards to security and the guy
    has consistently displayed a real arrogant attitude when it comes
    to privacy of it’s users.

    • Kyle Field

      Don’t forget FCEVs vs vs EVs 😀

      • Benjamin Nead

        Well, yes, but you don’t typically find someone who has equal passion in regards to both EVs and FCVs. Most typically like one type of vehicle and think the other is folly. But, curiously, there seems to be more than a few who think that a Tesla P85D or a BMW i8 could be just a little faster off the line but also want it to be autonomous drive.

        My point is that if you embrace the autonomous drive concept then you will be forced to give up the sort of out-of-control nature inherent in EVs that accelerate from 0 to 60 in the 3 second range and have top speeds approximately double a posted highway speed limit.

  • Vijay Kamat

    Autonomous vehicle sharing service…anyone ?

    Fuber = Facebook + Uber

    • Bob_Wallace

      Why not? Impromptu car pool. No need for the same 2, 4, 6 people leaving at the same time. Put in a request for a seat, start and destination. Let the system figure out how to serve you best.

      You could probably ‘ban’ some people. Hit a button on your smartphone and input “Do not put me in a vehicle with the person currently sitting in the right rear seat”.

  • Offgridman

    Hey Zach I know that with what has been coming out about the possibility of Apple doing a vehicle another silicon Valley company doing the same might seem to make sense. But I have to wonder if you haven’t been April fooled, especially with the next announcement supposedly coming on April fools day next year, or are you just trying to put one over on us?
    If they ever do come out with one not sure that I could make myself drive or ride in it, even with the Shelby connection. What are we supposed to, get driven around with our faces buried in a smartphone or tablet, occasionally looking up to push the ‘like’ button on the dash if the scenery is pretty or we see a cat doing something cute? 🙂
    Sorry, couldn’t help myself, saw a data analytics study today where the most shared type of video on Fbook isn’t any practical news either good or bad, but cute cat videos. 😛

    • I’ll provide a hint: this was a CleanTechnica exclusive 😀

      • Kyle Field

        Shenannigans! Doh! 😛

    • Kyle Field

      This was my first inclination as well. Still unsure…I’m a skeptic until they actually show their cards. Same with Apple. Google has the goods already 🙂

      • Offgridman

        Well it must be admitted that part of my skepticism came from a general dislike of Fbook. Tried it years ago and realized that if I wanted to get daily updates on the health and potty issues of the families pets it would be just as easy to move back in state with them. 😛
        Also with all of their security issues and general disregard for their users privacy is Fbook really the one you want in charge of your automotive network? Not me.
        Any possibility of these companies actually selling us cars is so far in the future anyways that even my youngest will be able to drive by then. And I will be old enough that I can just be the grouchy old curmudgeon and say that no way will I ride in one of these new fangled things.
        😀

  • Coley

    What is it with this self driving car business? You don’t want to drive? Hop on a bus/train/ taxi etc.
    Personally I wouldn’t want to sit in any type of vehicle that was being controlled by a computer without a human for primary/ backup control.

    • Bowd

      Why not?

      • Coley

        Age, Ive embraced most modern technology, but being driven around by a computer is a step too far:)

        • Bowd

          I get that. Would you change your mind one day if your ability to drive was impaired (eyesight, agility, etc)?

          • Coley

            If my eyesight, agility etc was impaired I would be even more reluctant to allow a computer to drive me around;)
            But things ( and people)change, perhaps people of my generation will embrace self driving cars but at a slower rate than those younger.
            Now,bring on the hoverboard, been waiting for that for years!

          • Bob_Wallace
          • Coley

            Amazing, didn’t realise it was so advanced.

    • Babam

      The buses or trains won’t pick you up from your residence or office nor drop you off in front of your work place or residence. Taxis are far more expensive than self driving cars. Now you know the other 90% why!

      • Coley

        God forbid that we are expected to walk a few hundred yards!
        EVs , yes, public transit, yes, but individual transport bubbles with the associated environmental costs? No way.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I think I’ll walk out to the road and wait for the bus. It’s only 3.5 miles.

          And maybe someone will start up a bus company out here in the next 100 years or so….

          • Coley

            Electric bike for that 3.5 miles bob, or to be really green,
            Can thi ride tandem lad?

          • Offgridman

            Sure, he will only have to spend ten grand or so to get one of those monster electric bikes out of Australia to be sure that it will do the 3.5 miles when there is a few feet of snow on the ground.
            But like with me we can wait on it until there actually is some bus service that isn’t 50-100 miles away. I am going to bet that their are some autonomous shared vehicles around before that happens.
            Or maybe we can hope that in 30-40 years when the millenials become the incumbent old fart politicians they will still have a conscience, so much as the rural electrification program brought power, the rural transportation program can make it possible for us country folk to get around without high costs.
            Just like the Fbook car, I’ll believe it when I see it.
            🙂

          • Bob_Wallace

            When these young whippersnappers get another 30-40 years on them they’ll start to understand the advantages of cars that drive themselves. And they’ll wonder why 20 and 30 year olds are so dense.

            Actually, the first time a millennial sits in the driver’s seat of a self-driving car in bumper-to-bumper traffic for a half hour they’ll figure it out.

            There’s the fantasy of driving a responsive car along winding road in the countryside or mountains. Which almost no one does with any regularity any longer.

            Then there’s the reality of sitting at the wheel spending time keeping ones car between the white lines while constantly monitoring to make sure no fool does something stupid.

            Highway and city driving? Absolutely no fun to be had there.

            Perhaps if you enjoy driving like the fool the rest of us have to be on alert for….

          • Offgridman

            Like you I am looking forward to everyone having autonomous cars or at least monitored driving like Tesla is starting to introduce. We are far enough out that it is still possible to enjoy a quiet ride while taking in the countryside……. until some fool busy looking at their phone pulls out cutting us off, or a kid in a rattle trap piece of crap passes us and its necessary to worry about what to do when it blows up in front of me. 😛
            When it becomes possible to have shared autonomous vehicles either single or multi passenger I will be all for it. Just not so sure that I would trust one that Fbook had control of. I keep imagining a Russian hacker getting into the network and making them drive into each other or have the car shut down in the middle of nowhere. 🙂

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m too old for extreme sports.

            You don’t know my ‘driveway’…. ;o)

      • Coley

        See my earlier reply re; walking.
        Just how much ‘convenience’ do people want !!

  • Joseph Dubeau

    “they were working with a Shelby Cobra for the testing.”
    Zach, do you mean Renovo Motors? http://renovomotors.com/

    Yesterday, Andy Palmer mention Aston Martin will be working with a Silicon Valley company on an all electric Rapide.
    I’m just wonder if it is also Renovo Motors.

    • Hmm, maybe, but I heard “Shelby Cobra,” but maybe that’s just because it was my favorite Hotwheels car as a kid.

  • mike_dyke

    Great article Zach – nicely written.

    Could be one way to update your location on Facebook automatically – The car does it for you!

    I also wonder what Facebook is going to announce this time next year 🙂

  • Jenny Sommer

    come on….people are not even commenting that.

  • Marion Meads

    We could double our productivity or facebooking time with self driving autonomous cars, not to mention, less distraction for our automatic drivers, and perhaps improved overall safety and fuel efficiency. Right now, we are wasting too much time in traffic commutes. When I used to work for Intel, my total commuting time is 6 hours, and I live only 28 miles away. Rush hour and driving alone in the lanes of despair.

    • Matt

      You could have biked in less time. 😉

    • Vijay Kamat

      I would like a minivan for the job, 6-7 people in an autonomous vehicles. Saving fuel, time and space on the road (HOV lanes benefits).

    • Very good argument. Must explain Facebook’s move 😉

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