7 Autonomous Vehicle Bonus Stories

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Despite the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a lot of news in the auto industry about autonomous vehicles. Here are 7 recent stories that couldn’t quite catch their own headline here on CleanTechnica but which seemed worth noting.

Image courtesy DiDi.

1. Didi Chuxing (DiDi) recently raised $500 million for an autonomous driving subsidiary. DiDi has been working on this tech since 2016, and then spun off an independent company for it in August 2019. I’m not sure why, but DiDi doesn’t name this company in the press release. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the fundraising round.

Image courtesy DiDi.

“Currently, DiDi has open-road testing licenses in Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou in China, as well as California in the U.S., including one of the first licenses in Shanghai to pilot manned autonomous mobility services. DiDi’s autonomous driving business is working with Xiaoju Automobile Solutions, DiDi’s one-stop auto solutions platform, and DiDi Finance to explore next-generation integrated mobility solutions, including smart charging networks, fleet maintenance service, as well as insurance programs for autonomous fleets.”

2. Underwriters Laboratories & SAE International team up on autonomous driving standards. The two organizations, each of which work on developing industry standards, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to combine forces on developing autonomous vehicle standards. They’ve agreed to the following goals:

  • Promote communication between the two organizations;
  • Avoid duplication of work efforts where possible;
  • Increase knowledge of each other’s standards development activities;
  • Facilitate the participation of stakeholders in each other’s standards development efforts;
  • Identify and undertake joint standards development initiatives;
  • Improve existing co-development / co-publication efforts; and
  • Explore opportunities for collaborative agreements with other standards development organizations.

3. 5G is seen as an essential for China’s autonomous driving road map. A useful summary of the somewhat long article in the South China Morning Post is as follows:

  • Industry studies have concluded that 5G can reduce the high cost of on-board equipment by shifting some computing power off vehicle
  • While the optimistic outlook sees large-scale adoption of autonomous cars by 2030, there is still no consensus on what the implementation will look like

4. Refraction AI has autonomous delivery bots rolling around on the streets of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Specifically, the cargo bot known as REV-1 can deliver up to 80 pounds of groceries, food, or medicine within a one-mile radius of its home base, and it is currently delivering groceries in this trial phase.

“REV-1 can operate in both car or bike lanes and is designed to operate in all weather conditions. It has a top speed of 12 mph. Once REV-1 has arrived at a customer’s home, a notification is sent so the items can be retrieved from the cargo bay,” Autoblog summarizes. Watch the video below for visualizes of REV-1 on the job.

Image courtesy Waymo.

5. Waymo gains $750 million in funding, bringing 1st external funding round to $3 billion. That’s right — $3 billion has been invested into Waymo from outside of Alphabet.

Investors in this initial external round include: Silver Lake, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Mubadala Investment Company, Magna International, Andreessen Horowitz, AutoNation, Perry Creek Capital, Fidelity Management and Research Company, and T. Rowe Price Associates.

Image courtesy Nuro.

6. Nuro can now test autonomous vehicles in California, joining several other self-driving vehicle companies that have permission to test on California roads.

Image courtesy Nuro.

“Nuro, which raised $940 million from SoftBank Vision Fund last year, is allowed to put two of its low-speed electric R2 delivery vehicles on public roads in parts of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the agency that regulates autonomous vehicle testing in the state,” TechCrunch writes.

Image courtesy Nuro.

“The driverless permit allows the vehicles to operate at a maximum speed of 25 mph and only in fair weather conditions on streets with a speed limit of no more than 35 mph, the DMV said Tuesday. The permit covers nine cities, including Atherton, East Palo Alto, Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Woodside.”

Image courtesy Karma Automotive.

7. Karma Automotive recently unveiled a Level 4 electric autonomous van. First of all, yes, Karma Automotive still exists. Secondly, here are some of the details on the self-driving electric van:

“Karma’s new L4 E-Flex Van is powered by the NVIDIA DRIVE AGX Pegasus™ autonomous vehicle computing platform, which achieves an unprecedented 320 trillion operations per second of deep learning. It’s built on a scalable architecture, with two NVIDIA Xavier™ processors and two Tensor Core GPUs. This energy-efficient, high-performance AI computer runs an array of deep neural networks simultaneously for safe, highly automated and fully autonomous driving. The L4 van’s software platform and sensors suite are supported by WeRide, which covers full 360-degree FoV (Field of View) and provides precise, real-time localizations powered by multiple sensors including LiDar, radar, camera, GNSS and INS.”

Furthermore: “Karma’s E-Flex Platform can be configured up to 22 different ways, including installation of SAE L4 technology on both BEV and EREV platforms.” Additional components that can be included with the L4 E-Flex Van are:

Scalable Output Onboard Charger (for fast battery charging) I-shaped Battery Pack / BMS / Control Unit, etc.
Bi-directional Charger Karma Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) Inverter
Engine-agnostic Extended Range
1-4 motor flexibility REV
Karma Silicon Carbide (SiC) Inverter
Dual Motor & Quad motor powertrain (affects cargo hauling abilities) Advanced EE System
Flat Battery Pack + BMS 5-Star NCAP Ready

Have you seen any other big — or at least somewhat notable — stories on autonomous/self-driving vehicles that we’ve missed here on CleanTechnica?

Any thoughts on which of these companies — if any of them — will lead the self-driving vehicle market, especially when it comes to eventual mass deployment and profits? Nuro? Waymo? Didi? Refraction AI? Stay tuned to CleanTechnica to find out.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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