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News, knowledge, and insights for the automotive industry.

Who's On First? GM Sets 2019 Driverless Debut Date

The automaker is up to bat against federal approval. General Motors recently submitted a federal safety proposal to put the first market-ready, self-driving car on public roads in 2019. The car, which would have no steering wheel or gas pedal, must be approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Current regulations assume the need for a human driver, and convincing NHTSA that GM's Cruise AV matches can match the safety levels of a human-driven car will be no small feat. If GM wins federal approval, it would also need to pioneer approvals in most states.

DOT Calls for Comment Cards on Automated Vehicle Policy

This is one survey request you might want to open. This week, the US Department of Transportation published several notices for public comment involving automated cars, trucks, buses, and light rail.

Car Sales Head Down New, Uncertain Road

As 2017 came to a close, so did the auto industry’s sales streak. Manufacturers reported a decline in domestic new-vehicle sales, breaking seven straight years of growth in the car sales industry. The decline in the American market is expected to continue in 2018, and may force carmakers to trim production and find new ways to entice customers. To read the article from the New York Times, click here.

Machine Learning Tech Levels Playing Field in Autonomous Competition

Neural networks driving autonomous vehicles—a giant leap for self-driving cars and a big question for regulators. Machine learning technology at Aurora Innovation is being taught how to mimic decisions made by human drivers, allowing the year-old startup to rapidly build and improve autonomous vehicles. The tech is also allowing the fledgling company to compete with the biggest players from the automotive and technology industries, nabbing partnerships with Volkswagen Group and Hyundai.

Toyota Showcases Third Gen Autonomous Test Rig

And the third time seems to have charmed critics. Toyota Research Institute has released details about Platform 3.0, which is built on a Lexus LS 600hl hybrid luxury sedan, and will officially debut the autonomous research vehicle at CES 2018. Platform 3.0 presents a sleeker, more consumer-friendly design that hides several unattractive elements of the previous model. The hardware also received an upgrade that is expected to enhance both performance and production.

Startup Aurora Restarts VW Engineering Reputation

Moving on and moving up. Volkswagen AG and Hyundai Motor Co. have both announced partnerships with Aurora Innovation, a self-driving startup with a focus on machine learning led by ex-Googler Chris Urmson. The industry particularly noted the Aurora-VW partnership as the company works to leave diesel and Dieselgate behind and move toward battery-powered, self-driving cars. Through this partnership, VW is expected to speed up the process of developing a driverless ride-sharing vehicle fleet in cities.

Test Track: Autonomous Edition

Big Auto’s take on the Epcot classic is open for business in Michigan. The American Center for Mobility, a 500-acre test track for autonomous cars, welcomed its first participants, Visteon Corp. and Toyota Motor North America, last week. The facility, which features a 2.5-mile highway loop, a 700-foot curved tunnel, two double overpasses, intersections, and roundabouts, is intended to become a global hub for future mobility technologies and bringing safe self-driving cars to public roads.

Leader of the Pack: G.M. Unveils Its Driverless Cars, Aiming to Move Ahead of the Competition

Previously reluctant to show the autonomous vehicles it is developing, General Motors now wants to signal its progress in getting them to market. For more than a year, General Motors has tantalized investors with plans to build its future around self-driving cars. It has regularly announced big investments and progress reports, but the company has kept its prototype vehicles largely under wraps — until now. G.M.

Lyft Wants to Be a Part of It, New York, New York

Is Silicon Skyline the next Silicon Valley or Silicon Beach? Lyft is opening a New York City office, and while the company did not confirm they would be bringing autonomous cars to NYC’s famous traffic, some of its engineers in the Big Apple will be working on self-driving technology. The company also noted that the diversity of New York’s neighborhoods and urban layout makes it an ideal place to test out its technology. Other employee focus areas will be infrastructure and marketplace efforts.  

Automakers Streamline and Save Today to Spend on Self-Driving Future

A couple million dollars saved is a few technology advancements earned. Identifying and reducing day-to-day costs on the traditional side of the automaker business is set to fund the more futuristic innovations in the industry. Focusing on strong performers in mass-market vehicles like trucks and sports-utility vehicles, companies like GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler recently reported strong earnings in their core business. These earnings are expected to be critical in financing efforts for electric and autonomous offerings.