As usual, at the end of the month the atlatec team prepares for you a short overview of the automotive news that we found the most interesting. Enjoy the summary and make sure to watch our latest Zoom talk – it is already available on YouTube.
5,000 autonomous trucks [by TuSimple] will hit the roads in China in 2021” – via Jair Ribeiro/Medium
There has been a lot of news from China about robotaxi rollouts in the last few months; now comes a huge leap for autonomous trucks: TuSimple, a 4 year old startup has received approval for operating a fleet of 5000 fully self-driving trucks, without safety drivers on board.
This is also interesting news for investors in the space: TuSimple expects to turn a net profit of $300 million thanks to this move – while eyeing an IPO in 2021 that might lead to a $7 billion valuation.
Motional, the joint venture by Hyundai and Aptiv, will begin to offer driverless rides in Las Vegas, joining companies such as Waymo and Cruise. A “safety steward” (with somewhat unspecified responsibilities) will apparently be on board, but the permit issued by the state of Nevada allows for an empty driver’s seat.
An interesting detail is that operations are reportedly focused on “suburban residential areas”, which arguably make for a good use of AVs: Offering a bridge across the “last mile” gap between public transit stations and people’s homes might make more sense that deploying an ever-rising number of vehicles in city centers, where public transportation is usually at its best and most dense.
Speaking of public transportation: Why are we reading so much about autonomous trucks and robotaxis, but rarely hear of autonomous buses? Reasons behind that might be the challenge of navigating massive vehicles in dense, busy urban environments – but apparently New Flyer, North America’s biggest producer of buses feels up to that: Their first autonomous model, an electric Xcelsior, will begin testing in 2022.
There’s also advantages over other AV use cases according to New Flyer president Chris Stoddart: “One of the nice things is the ability to pre-map the routes, when you can run your vehicle around that route and pre-map it so that you have some redundancy and don’t have to rely completely on your various visual systems all the time […] When your average bus speed is only 12.5 mph that certainly helps.”
There’s lots of providers of tools for AV/ADAS simulation, and it mostly seems they’re sticking to their own devices, attempting to build the best solution they can independently of other players in the space. It’s a refreshing change to see some collaboration here, with AImotive and MathWorks integrating their “aiSim” and “RoadRunner” offerings:
This will apparently allow for an easy import of road models created in RoadRunner (formerly by VectorZero) into aiSim, an ISO 26262/ASIL-D-certified simulation platform. Since RoadRunner in turn provides the ability to import real-world OpenDRIVE HD maps (e. g. by atlatec), this might indeed make for a compelling toolchain, coupling access to realistic environment models with sophisticated virtual sensor simulation. If you happen to be using/trialing this solution, we’d love to hear some impressions!
We hope you enjoyed this issue. Stay tuned for the upcoming automotive news overview at the end of March. Get the overview directly to your mailbox – sign up for the atlatec newsletter.