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FORD OUTLINES ITS SELF-DRIVING CAR STRATEGY: In a blog post on Medium, Sherif Marakby, Ford’s VP of autonomous vehicles, laid out the most detailed plan Ford has revealed publicly for how it will bring self-driving cars to market.
In short, Ford plans to develop and deploy self-driving cars for fleets of ride-hailing and delivery vehicles to capitalise on the growing popularity of both on-demand rides and online shopping. Ford, which has said that it wants to put a fully autonomous car on the road by 2021, will launch those fleets in cooperation with partners already operating in those markets. These fleets will likely come to market in stages, beginning in limited areas, before eventually being rolled out nationwide, Tech Crunch reports.
Marakby outlined how Ford plans to overcome some of the challenges associated with building and operating fleets of autonomous vehicles for on-demand rides and deliveries:
- Ford is investing in hybrid-electric technology that will keep its autonomous vehicles on the road longer between recharging. The success of autonomous ride-hailing, ride-sharing, and delivery vehicles will be measured by the time they spend actually delivering packages or providing rides for passengers, according to Marakby. In order to increase time in-service, Ford is looking into how it can improve the range of electric-hybrid batteries so they can be charged less often.
- Ford’s research team at Greenfield Labs in Palo Alto is working on new designs for self-driving cars. Vehicles today are designed around the need for a human driver, and removing the driver will open up new design features and functionality. This will give Ford — and other automakers — the opportunity to rethink the interior and exterior of a vehicle’s design to fit new use cases. For instance, a self-driving car designed specifically for ride-hailing could have new seating arrangements that maximise passenger capacity, while providing each passenger with their own charging outlets and touchscreens for playing media.
The post did not reveal any details about what Ford’s self-driving vehicles will look like, showing the company is still in relatively early stages of exploring the design of these vehicles. However, the company has a fairly clear vision for how to utilise self-driving cars to take advantage of new business models for carmakers. McKinsey predicted last year that on-demand mobility and other new digitally-driven services could create up to $US1.5 trillion in new revenue for the automotive industry in 2030. Capturing that revenue will require automakers to create a differentiated experience for passengers through new vehicle features and in-car services.
CONTINENTAL’S QUANTUM INVENTIONS ACQUISITION OPENS UP NEW REVENUE OPPORTUNITIES: Germany-based Continental, one of the world’s largest auto parts providers, is acquiring Quantum Inventions, a Singapore-based mobility data services company, for $US29 million Tech Crunch reports. This will open up new opportunities for Continental to use Quantum’s data management expertise to offer new services for fleets of connected and self-driving taxis, delivery vans, and other vehicles. That would give the company new opportunities for collecting recurring revenue from customers that buy its auto parts, while also building more loyal ties with those customers.
Quantum, which was founded in 2006 and counts 120 employees, specialises in managing data for navigation services for companies, consumers, and government agencies. In Singapore, the government used Quantum’s technology to help build a new Electronic Road Pricing system that determines the cost of tolls and parking fees. Quantum manages the data collected in the system to help find ways that the government can adjust tolls and fees to better manage traffic congestion. Additionally, the company helps with data collection and analysis for fleet management services, and in-car and mobile apps for mapping and navigation.
The acquisition will give Quantum access to Continental’s research and development resources and many partnerships throughout the auto industry. That should help Quantum develop its data collection and management platform faster. It could also help in creating new services to match changes in the auto market as semi-autonomous and fully autonomous technologies start to take hold. That could include routing and navigation services for self-driving taxis or delivery vehicles, or providing predictive maintenance for commercial fleets.
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TESLA LOOKS TO PERSONALISE DRIVER & PASSENGER EXPERIENCES: Tesla plans to move customer data regarding driver and car preferences to the cloud, potentially allowing drivers to instantly download their personal preferences to any Tesla vehicle, Tech Crunch reports. Those preferences could include seat and steering wheel positioning, in-car temperature, and navigation settings such as work or home addresses.
Moving customer data to the cloud could enable Tesla to provide a personalised driver experience for any consumer stepping into any Tesla vehicle. That could help Tesla launch a competitive car-sharing or ride-hailing service, a possibility that CEO Elon Musk alluded to in the second version of the company’s “master plan.” A user could rent a Tesla through a car-sharing app and have their seating or music preferences automatically uploaded to the car’s systems, instantly making them feel like the car is their own.
Tesla has been a leader in automotive cloud adoption, using the cloud for storing all kinds of vehicle information, as well as training its Autopilot semi-autonomous system. Storing customer and vehicle information in the cloud enables Tesla to share that data more quickly and easily among different devices, including its cars and its customers’ personal computers or mobile devices. Giving customers the ability to instantly share their favourite playlists or personal contacts across all of these devices seamlessly integrates the car into their digital lives. That, in turn, sets up Tesla to quickly launch engaging car-sharing or music streaming services. As other automakers explore launching their own digital services, they will likely follow Tesla’s lead and further their own reliance on the cloud.
In Other News…
- Walmart is expanding a grocery delivery pilot test it is running in collaboration with Uber to Dallas, Texas and Orlando, Florida. The partnership allows online shoppers to order groceries and have them delivered at their convenience. Online orders are collected and packaged by Walmart employees at store locations who then place a delivery request with UberRUSH‘s crowd-sourced delivery network. Walmart and Uber have been running the test program in the Phoneix, Arizona, and Tampa, Florida areas. Walmart has also been performing grocery deliveries with its own fleet of vehicles in Denver, Colorado and San Jose, California. Even though Walmart has been expanding its in-store grocery pickup service for online orders, grocery delivery gives it another convenient option for online grocery shoppers to receive their orders. Giving customers multiple delivery options can help Walmart keep its lead position in the US grocery market, even as more grocery spending shifts online in the coming years.
- IBM announced it is partnering with a consortium of major food brands and grocery retailers, including Dole, Nestle, Walmart, and Kroger, to develop blockchain applications for tracking food through their supply chains. Blockchain technology, which uses a network of computers to store transparent and immutable records of historical data, could help these companies improve their compliance reporting for food safety requirements. The technology would be useful for recording food shipments from their origin through processing and distribution facilities all the way to the final sale at a grocery store location. Companies could use such records for quickly tracing the origin of food contamination issues. Additionally, the record could also include data pertaining to the condition of the food while in transit or storage at a facility, including its temperature or if its packaging had been damaged or broken.
- Volkswagen debuted the I.D. CROZZ, a new concept for an all-electric crossover vehicle that will go into production in 2020. The vehicle will include an autonomous “I.D. Pilot” mode, and a full digitised control panel that is projected via augmented reality. Theoretically, that would allow drivers to monitor vehicle functions such as speed or engine temperature without taking their eyes off the road. Drivers could also potentially use gestures to adjust settings rather than trying to find the right button or knob. This could be a novel way to give driver’s more control over the car’s performance and functions without crowding the control panel with more buttons. As vehicle’s grow more digital and more complex, automakers will need to find new ways for drivers to interact with their cars’ systems, including through more sophisticated touchscreens, gestures, and enhanced voice control.
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