Friday, July 19, 2013

Infographic about driverless cars

Courtesy of Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley from

I agree with all what is foreseen in below infographic. I would maybe add in whaht will change part:

  • Cities themselves will be redesigned (no more parking).
  • Elderly people will be able to stay longer at home before goind into retiring institutions.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Driverless cars vs Bureaucrats in Europe and USA

What is currently happening these last weeks around driverless car, show big differences between USA and Europe, on how to handle its introduction.

In the USA, various lawyers in several states made many proposals to push for driverless car adoption on their roads. But the US federal government, through the NHTSA tells everybody to stop and wait. Maybe, an additional driver license will be required to go driverless. This is schizophrenia for me: while driverless cars are supposed to require less competences, government is asking for more diplomas. Where are we going?

While during this time, Europe (namely Germany) knowing that its own bureaucrats might be even more annoying than Uncle Sam, decided to just ignore government and put driverless cars on the road without asking: Mercedes-Benz is putting the 1st driverless car this year. The catch is the car cannot be driverless more than 10 seconds, before it asks the driver to put back his hands on the steering wheel. We can expect these 10 seconds to become 20 seconds in 2014 or 2015, and then become minutes and then hours afterwards.
“How long end drivers are allowed not to pay attention to road” will be the most interesting thing to watch for the next 5 to 10 years and especially:
* environmental conditions allowing it.
* the price of the technical features needed.
* reliability.

But the major roadblock for driverless cars today in USA and soon in Europe when european bureaucrats will wake up, are the thousands of pages of laws stifling innovation and progress that will be enacted.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Driverless tractors in 5 years in Cendrecourt

This is a response to a previous post Driverless trucks before driverless cars . A few weeks ago I was discussing with a french farmer from Cendrecourt, a village located in the east of France. He just returned from the “Salon de l’agriculture” in Paris which the big annual convention for agriculture in France. In this convention every french region is here to advertize its specialties. It’s a must for french president to come in order to “caresser le cul des vaches” which translated into upper-french means “make sure you are appreciated by farmers and that they will vote for you in the next election”.

It’s also a place for companies such as John Deere to present their latest innovations. When he came back from the “Salon de l’agriculture” I asked my friend about automatization. I was already aware of machines that are completely automatizing cow milking. He thinks that in 5 years i.e. 2018, in Cendrecourt, there will be some fully automatized tractor for plowing and other tasks. In terms of using shared service, leasing and renting, most french farmers are already accustomed to this way of managing their equipment. For instance there are SLAs for most of their equipment. Most probably they will share this new driverless tractors as plowing could be done round the clock.

Farming world will jump directly to “step 3: shared driverless cars and transforming our way of life” before regular car users are still at “step 0: today’s self parking feature and Google cars”.

Note: To have a self driving tractor to autonomous plow a field, you have to do it manually once. Sometimes, depending on the soil you have to modify plowing depth when plowing a field, and you have to teach the tractor to do the same.

Note2: Driverless tractors can only operate in the same kind of “closed environment” as driverless trucks in mines

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Today auto manufacturers offer some financing, tomorrow will they enter insurance market?

In January 2013, A representative from Oregon drafted a law to enable driverless cars on state’s roads. Several other states had already allowed driverless vehicles on their roads, but the proposal had some very interesting points. One of them was the fact that the driverless car manufacturer had to be liable for no less than 5M$.

Today, a sizable part of car manufacturer’s margins are due to car financing, but insurance was not part of their business. Now they might be required to enter this insurance business. How will they do it?

As written in an other post, there might come a time when a driver licence is not required anymore to operate a driverless car. The only thing this operator will have to tell the car, is to where she wants to go, perhaps using a smartphone. In this scenario, it makes no sense for the car operator to be insured.

The Oregon law proposal says: “it’s the car manufacturer”. Let’s wait and see how this issue will be solved by the different stakeholders.

By the way, this is also going to be a huge change for regular insurers, if cars do not need to be insured anymore, because it’s a sizeable part of what the average Joe pays every year for insuring its belongings: car, house, medical care, etc...

Note: when a driver licence is not required anymore, the driver is not driving anymore, that is why we should call it an operator.

Monday, April 29, 2013

How did I buy a cheaper driverless car

The first commercialized driverless cars, will probably be “driverless” only on highway and traffic jams. They will need to be able to be both “manual” and driverless. In the following years or decades, fully driverless cars will be available. “Fully driverless” means that the car is able to drive from any point A to any point B completely autonomously with no need of any driver interaction except entering the destination.

When this point of fully autonomous cars is reached, maybe will it be possible for unlicensed driver to operate the driverless car (which means: just entering its destination). Unlicensed means not having any driving licence or driving education.

When driverless cars can be operated by unlicensed operators with a plain standard smartphone, why would driverless cars need a steering wheel, brake pedals, consoles displaying speed or rpms, etc...?

For sure this will have an impact on the price of the car...

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Year 2030: Tomorrow’s yesterday jobs due to self driving cars now on our roads

Year 2030: driverless cars and trucks are everywhere. We’ve reached step 3 i.e. everyone is able to operate a car with a smartphone and cars are shared.

There will be major impacts on the way cities are built with less need for parking space or the fact that public transportation use will be modified (can driverless cars be considered as public transportation as they are shared?).

This will also have a major impact on our lives and some jobs are going to disappear. Here is a non exhaustive list:

  • taxi drivers - are going to be replaced by (your) smartphone. In 2028 Apple launched a new App where you just need to tell where you want to go, with how many other passengers. Minutes later a driverless cab or minibus arrives and pick you and your friends up and seamlessly drive you to your final destination.
  • car dealers - are just disappearing, because remaining car manufacturers will sell cars directly to company similar to car renters, who will maintain them and make them available for end users on demand on a trip to trip basis.
  • auto insurer - In 2013, there were already some early signs from the government (Oregon at least) that said: “car manufacturers should have some liability for self driving cars accident”. Today, in 2030, car operator cannot be insured as he does not pass any driving exam anymore and has, thus, no ability, responsability and liability when driven by an autonomous car. Insuring a vehicle is just a nonsense. In addition, there will be less accidents. Car accident will be renamed as “software bug” and dying on the road will be renamed as “having a blue screen”.
  • driving professor (Europe only) - It’s going to be a week-end job like someone who teaches how to ride horse in 2013. Remember, no one will drive be cause she has to anymore, but we can imagine some people enjoying to drive a car on week-ends. In 2013, there were still a lot of people enjoying a horse ride, though, horse had not been used for daily use since decades in US and Europe.
  • truck driver - will disappear for the same reasons that taxi drivers are going to disappear.
  • road police - fining a robot does not make any sense. Fining car owner won’t make any sense either as they have no clue about driving. In 2030 car manufacturers will be fined instead... They are responsible for the software driving the car and its bug. In 2013 you are still responsible for the self driving car whether you drive it or not. At least in Texas (still a proposal).
  • car manufacturer - In 2030 cars will not be privately owned anymore. It will serve less as a social status. In addition to that, there will be less cars because vehicles will be shared. Car manufacturers won’t actually disappear, but they will compete on “cost of maintenance” not on style.

Next post soon on jobs that are going to stay but will see tremendous changes...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Driverless trucks before driverless cars

As of now, driverless cars cost more than regular cars because of the additional sensors and additional computer power needed to manage all these sensor’s data. It’s clear that the added cost will dwindle during the following years as driverless cars will become more “mainstream”.

This “driverless” added cost might, soon, not be so big anyway when considering a truck driven by a professional driver.

In a 1st step, a driver will have to be present, but the driverless functionality will be a great help for him. Legally, he might even be allowed to drive longer in the day, which would improve its productivity from its employer point of view. The overall balance between cost of driverless feature and improved productivity due to assisted driving would then very soon tilt in favor of driverless trucks.

In a ultimate step (step 3), a driver might not even be needed (technically and legally). At this stage we can expect driverless functionality to be well below a truck driver’s yearly cost.

Driverless trucks are most mature in Australia mines

Before having driverless trucks on our road, they will arrive very soon or are already there in controlled environments such as mines. In these “closed” environments V2V or V2I technologies make sense as opposed to regular highway.

Typically in Australia where Rio Tinto is using some Komatsu’s driverless trucks and Autonomous Haulage System—Komatsu's Pioneering Technology Deployed at Rio Tinto Mine in Australia.


Talking about another mining project in South Australia from Iron Road Limited:
Despite all he has achieved, Mr Scholz (Wudinna’s mayor) realises without the mine Wudinna faces an increasingly difficult future. "They will have driverless tractors within 10 years and if the trend continues we won't be able to sustain our community," he said.

Truck driver might not be a job with a great future anymore.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Different stakeholders, different "driverless cars" goals

Let’s list all possible good or bad reasons for driving a driverless car. Let’s also map them to the steps defined in a previous post: Driverless cars for the next decades in 4 steps

step 0: today’s self parking feature and Google carsstep 1: partially autonomous driverless carsstep 2: everyone can operate a driverless carstep 3: shared driverless cars and transforming our way of life
* eliminating accidents.
* relieving drivers from a tedious task.
* allow elders and kids to be transported without any driver.
* more traffic at the same time on roads.
* more fuel efficient driving.
* less cars in cities.
* getting the car tailored for the task you need.

step 1: partially autonomous driverless cars

From what can be read on the news the main goal of:
  • today’s drivers is to get relieved from the sometimes tedious task of driving, especially in traffic jam or on highways.
  • car manufacturers is about security:
    • Volvo’s vision: “no one is killed or injured in a new Volvo by 2020”
    • Continental foresee “a safer, more efficient and more comfortable future” due to driverless cars.
    • Mercedes, who will probably commercialize the first self driving car has no stated vision as far as I know.

It’s interessant to see that there are different goals between drivers and car manufacturers, but what does it means?

  • Do car manufacturers are aware of drivers’ goal?
  • Do acknowledging the fact that driving is boring, dangerous for car manufacturers’ business?
  • Do they want to aim their goal towards something more consensual?

What are the goals of governments?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Driverless car liability: how the government sees it

In response to a previous post about driverless car liability: Who will be liable when a driverless car accident happens? I was wondering, besides car manufacturers and insurers, how the government would answer.

 The answers are starting to come with the autorization for driverless driving in several US states.

 Here are the latests one from

March 2013 Texas and here:
State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, filed HB 2932 on Thursday to define “autonomous motor vehicle” and “autonomous technology” in the state’s transportation code. The bill would require that a licensed driver be held responsible for such a vehicle when it is in use, even if the car is operating without the driver inside it. It also directs the Texas Department of Transportation to set up rules for the use of such vehicles in the state, including minimum insurance requirements.

February 2013 Michigan / Detroit and here:

State Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, introduced the legislation Feb. 7. "My measure would help ensure that research and development expenditures and taxes related to automated vehicles stay in Michigan," he said.

Introduced by Sen. Mike Kowall (R) on February 7, 2013, to allow the operation on highways of an automated “driverless” vehicle for testing purposes, subject to narrow conditions. A human operator would have to to be present to monitor performance and intervene if necessary. Gov. Rick Snyder called for this in his 2013 State of the State address.

From The Detroit News:

February 2013 Wisconsin:

not many details available, except that "According to Risser (Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison), one thing that Wisconsin has that the Sun Belt states don't have is winter weather, which could be a selling point to carmakers trying to develop vehicles that can handle sleet, snow and ice.

Read more:"

January 2013 Oregon:

Oregon State Rep. Sara Gelser is attracting attention for a bill she’s sponsoring in the Legislature that could help clear the way for the testing and use of autonomous vehicles on Oregon roads. Here are 2 tremendously interesting points in bold

(3) The department shall adopt rules for the testing of autonomous vehicles .... The rules shall establish standards for equipment and for the performance of autonomous vehicles that the department determines are necessary to ensure the safe operation of autonomous vehicles on the highways of this state. The rules may limit the number of autonomous vehicles on the highways of this state, impose special license requirements for operators of autonomous vehicles and provide for revocation, suspension or denial of certification under this section.

(4) A manufacturer of autonomous vehicles must submit proof of liability insurance with
an application made under this section. The policy must be in an amount of not less than $5

The state of Oregon is going to decide what a driverless car is. It will have to build an expertise in this matter. What will happen if Oregon and California disagree? Do you have to go back in manual mode when you cross state borders?

The 2nd point is the beginning of the end for car insurance. This is the 1st step where it is not the driver anymore who is insured but the car manufacturer (read about step 4 of one of my other posts).

January 2013 Arizona:

But the proposal by Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, actually goes further, saying the person who puts the vehicle into autonomous mode is considered the driver "regardless of whether the person is physically present in the motor vehicle." 
"Imagine coming to work and you basically get to work, your car drops you off at the front door and … parks itself in the garage," he said. "Or, if you don't have money to afford a car, your car will drop you off there, like a time-share thing," driving itself to pick up the next client.

  January 2013 Colorado: law has been shelved until further notice :( lawmakers on the Senate Transportation Committee Tuesday remarked that the legislation is “ahead of its time.

The bill makes a legislative declaration and clarifies that a person may drive using a guidance system but requires the system to: 
! Safely operate in conformity with traffic law; 
! Have an override switch; 
! Return control to the driver when the driver steers, brakes, or uses the override switch; ! Show the driver whether the system is engaged; 
! Alert the driver and bring the motor vehicle to a stop unless the driver takes manual control upon detecting a system failure. 

A driver needs a license and insurance when using a guidance system. A driver may use a mobile phone, including text messaging, while using a guidance system. A driver of a motor truck or in a motorcade need not leave room for another vehicle to enter the space in front of the driver while using the guidance system.

Does it means that this vehicle has more right than others and need not to pay attention to other incoming cars?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Who will be liable for a driverless car accident?

Driverless cars will evolve from today’s self parking cars to fully autonomous cars in different steps as explained in a previous post “Driverless cars for the next decades in 4 steps”. This will have many impacts on auto insurers.

step 0: today’s self parking feature and Google cars
The fact that some cars can self park themselves do not have any impact on auto insurance, because though the car is self parking itself, it does it at a speed still controlled by the driver. So the driver is the main responsible for his car liability.

step 1: partially autonomous driverless cars
We’ve been told that Mercedes is going to sell a driverless car in 2013. But the car will be driverless for 10 seconds i.e. drivers will be allowed to have their hand off the steering wheel for a maximum of 10 seconds. As far as I read, the driver will still be liable if anything bad happens during the time he has his hands off the wheel.

For the following years, we can reasonably anticipate that these 10 seconds will become 20 then 30 seconds and even a minute. From here let’s ask a series of questions:

  • The biggest one being: “What is the limit from where drivers having an accident, when his car is in automated mode, will be able to attack the car manufacturer?
  • Who will decide what the limit is?
    • car manufacturers, government or insurers?
  • What if the US go for 35 seconds and europe for 25 seconds?
  • How do we prove that the accident happened while the car was in driverless mode?
    • Do driverless cars need some airplane like black boxes?

step 2: everyone can operate a driverless car
When everyone will be allowed to operate a driverless car, meaning telling it to drive automatically 100% from point A to point B, driverless car “operators” (I guess they are not “drivers” anymore) will not be liable for any accident anymore.

Who will be liable then for driverless car accident? Maybe the car manufacturer will be liable then. The car manufacturer will then transfer the fee to driverless car users. We can also imagine that driverless cars will now be leased and that they will be liable for any incident. Or maybe, will it be an auto repair shop responsible for car maintenance.

Most probably, will it be a mix of all those stakeholders.

Maybe, it won’t have any significant impact because driverless cars are supposed not to have any accident anymore...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Do driverless cars need V2V communication?

Several car manufacturers work on driverless cars. They explore some different ways of doing it. Volvo is one of the most advanced exploring V2V technology. V2V is an acronym for vehicle-to-vehicle communication. It’s about using some dynamic vehicle to vehicle wireless communications to have cars get extra informations from neighbour cars or from sensors on the road itself.

But Do driverless cars need V2V communication?

To establish communication, you need to be at least 2 and share a common way to communicate. There are plenty of road stakeholders with which V2V communication will not be possible. Even if all vehicles shared the same way of communicating, the wild boar crossing the road in front of your car will not be able to communicate with your driverless car, at least not in a wireless way.

And as a matter of fact, today, most the google car and the soon to be released new Mercedes do not rely on V2V but only or mostly on their sensors.

If V2V is to have a future, a standard has to be established as soon as possible, so all vehicle from different manufacturers can communicate between themselves. Why not making it a “chapter” of AUTOSAR?

But my guess, is that by the time a common V2V protocol is established, most driverless cars will be able to drive completely autonomously, and V2V won’t bring anything to the driverless cars world. Sensors such as cameras, lidars and others will do the job anyway.

My feeling is that V2V for driverless cars is a dead end.

But in a constrained limited environment like a factory or on airport premises, this can be a good solution. V2V would be not between vehicles but rather between vehicles and specially equipped roads with wireless beacons (called V2I Vehicle-to-Infrastructure).

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The revenge of faster horses

In 2012, a poll initiated by Bosch, asking about driverless cars acceptance among drivers stirred lot of comments last year: Majority of today’s drivers are not ready yet to be “driven” by automated cars.

Should this stop the effort of developing driverless cars? Probably not, if we remember 2 quotes from some famous innovators, and one from conventional wisdom:

  • Steve Jobs -- BusinessWeek, May 25 1998: "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."
  • Henry Ford: "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have asked for a faster horse."
  • A banker advising Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co: "The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is a novelty - a fad"

Maybe drivers not wanting to be driven by automated cars do not accept to just watch the car driving, but I guess most of them, will quickly find much more interesting things to do than driving, such as reading, talking on the phone, watching news... I guess no one likes to drive in traffic jams.

To reflect back on the 3rd quote, actually, “horse did stay”, except that nowadays most of the time riding horse is a leisure.

Maybe in a few decades, driving a car will be a weekend pastime only allowed on some closed loop. No one will be allowed to drive on standard road because it will be deemed much too dangerous.

Maybe, there will be more people riding horse on weekends than people driving cars. It will be then the revenge of the horse...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Driverless cars for the next decades in 4 steps

“Roma die uno non aedificata est” (Rome wasn’t built in 1 day)

Driverless cars will become reality during the following years or decades.

We can classify this evolution in 4 steps:

  • step 0: today’s self parking feature and Google cars
  • step 1: partially autonomous driverless cars
  • step 2: everyone can operate a driverless car
  • step 3: shared driverless cars

step 0: today’s self parking feature and Google cars

Technically cars can sometimes self drive themselves in a static environment for a reasonable price: When parking themselves. This is legally allowed worldwide because the driver still controls the speed at which self parking is occurring.

Technically cars can self drive themselves in all dynamic environments for an unreasonable price. This is legally allowed in some US states but a licenced driver needs to be present at the driving seat.

step 1: partially autonomous driverless cars

This step can be divided in several sub steps which are different only in the degree of involvement drivers will be required to have or freedom that they will have. It is the last step where technical issues are involved.

Next year’s Mercedes-Benz: having hands off the wheel for 10 seconds

Technically cars can self drive themselves in some dynamic environment for an “affordable?” price: on highways during stable conditions and in traffic jams. This may be legally allowed worldwide because the driver is allowed to not touch the steering wheel for 10 seconds maximum.

Why did Mercedes-Benz chose that the maximum allowed was 10 seconds and not 5 or 20 seconds? This question is triggering the next sub step.

1 minute (and more) free on highways and traffic jams

“How long end drivers are allowed (technically and legally) not to pay attention to road” will be the most interesting thing to watch for the next 5 to 10 years and especially:
  1. environmental conditions allowing it.
  2. the price of the technical features needed.
  3. reliability.

Driverless cars are autonomous during the entire highway part of a trip

End to end autonomous but car has both manual and self driving mode but a licenced driver is still required to be at the helm.

In the 2 last steps, no technical improvement happens anymore. These steps are about business and environmental changes.

step 2: everyone can operate a driverless car

This step will be reached when it will be not required to have a driving licence to operate a car. All technical issues have been solved.

As in previous step, maybe unlicenced driving will be allowed on some specific, secured, well known trips or when some specific conditions are met (i.e. at specific hours when overall traffic is light).

If driverless cars can be completely autonomous on all or most trips and operated by unlicensed driver, the several features of today’s cars are not needed anymore such as steering wheel, pedals, mirrors... Maybe the driving console can also disappear and the only device you need is a smartphone to enter the trip and poll the time of arrival.

step 3: shared driverless cars

Compared to previous steps, there is no technical improvement any more. Only cab companies are now allowed to own cars and have them maintained.

Shared usage step:

  • has little legal implication, except the driver becomes a mere passenger with no responsability
  • transforms the way car manufacturers, insurers, auto repairs and cab companies work and interact with each others.
  • transforms the way cities are organized

Cars are now as safe as trains. Liability has shifted from the driver to the car manufacturer. Auto insurance clients are no more end users but rather auto manufacturers, auto repair shops or and cab companies.
Parked cars no longer clutter streets and supermarkets parking lots.

You order the car you need for shopping at the local supermarket or for several hours vacation trip with the whole family.

To go shopping:
  1. A car that you ordered picks you at home and drives you to the supermarket.
  2. At the supermarket, you leave the car and it is then used by someone else or parked away.
  3. When you have finished your shopping, the same car or another ones comes picking you at supermarket exit and drives you home.

Everyone becomes James Bond in "Tomorrow never dies" where he drives a car with a remote.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

3 driverless cars trends in 2012

To initiate the 1st post of this blog, I reviewed many news coming from the web around driverless or automated cars. I will also develop most of these trends in further blog posts during the following months.

I singled out 3 trends or hot topics of the year 2012:

  • automotive manufacturers visions.
  • end user acceptance.
  • shortly analyzing which actors are leading the driverless car effort.

Automotive manufacturers communicating on driverless cars and putting this at the center of their strategy: Volvo, Continental and Mercedes.
Their visions:

  • “no one is killed or injured in a new Volvo by 2020”
  • Continental: “will drive us toward a safer, more efficient and more comfortable future”

Safety seems to be the common denominator for automotive manufacturers to develop the driverless car technology. In a later blog post we’ll review all the possible motives for building driverless cars.

A poll initiated by Bosch, asking about driverless cars acceptance among drivers stirred lot of comments last year: Majority of today’s drivers are not ready yet to be driven by automated cars. Should this stop the effort of developing them?

Who is leading the driverless cars effort?

My feeling is that Mercedes-Benz is leading the way towards a driverless future, even more than Google and other players because next year Mercedes-Benz plans to actually sell a new S class Mercedes that allows the driver to take their hands off the wheel for 10 seconds. These 10 seconds make the difference between research and applied science for everyone (I mean, those who are wealthy enough now to buy this car).

Players are german manufacturers (Mercedes, Continental), US with Google. Volvo is also a major player. Seems that China is also doing something (Driverless car completes 114km journey from Beijing to Tianjin.). What about french, japanese and other automotive manufacturers? As of today, they don’t seem to be very active.

Update: Japanese Komatsu has some driverless trucks working in a Rio Tinto's mine in Australia.