The holidays are upon us, and so this month’s edition of your automotive news digest comes a bit early: I imagine we all would like to focus on other topics during Christmas and New Year’s.
Before that time is here, let’s dive right into what happened this month:
As you have probably heard, NVIDIA has been trying to acquire chip company ARM for the last year. Just when it seemed like a done deal, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an open competition watchdog has filed a lawsuit to stop the merger this month.
The FTC (and other regulators) worry that one-party ownership might lead to Nvidia “[using] its control over Arm to advance its own interests in emerging markets like data centers and autonomous vehicles, instead of working to ensure that all the companies […] can continue to do so on an equal playing field.”
However this suit will develop, it brings up an interesting point: In this day and age, high-tech has become such an integrated part of our daily lives that we might need to rethink how to regulate access to it (especially in times of strained supply chains). There’s already a movement lobbying to declare the internet a public utility and regulate it like electricity and water – and I suppose it’s indeed hard for most of us to argue that the internet is anything less than integral to our way of life. I wonder if we will see similar ideas come up in the hardware/software domains during this decade …
Honda unveils two key future safety technologies toward the realization of its goal for zero traffic collision fatalities by 2050 – via Green Car Congress
I found this a rather interesting look at Honda’s two-part strategy to eliminate traffic collision fatalities in automotive by 2050:
The 𝗜𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗴𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗗𝗿𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗿-𝗔𝘀𝘀𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗧𝗲𝗰𝗵𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗼𝗴𝘆 will focus on individual human drivers’ risk profile: Taking into account the results of Honda’s “original functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)-based study of the human brain and analysis of risk-taking behaviors”, the goal is to create a kind of safety profile unique to every driver and to predict (and mitigate) driver errors “based on information obtained through a driver monitoring camera and pattern of the driving operations.”
The 𝗦𝗮𝗳𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗦𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 𝗡𝗲𝘁𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸 𝗧𝗲𝗰𝗵𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗼𝗴𝘆 on the other hand focuses on “potential risks in the traffic environment, which are detected based on information obtained from roadside cameras, on-board cameras and smartphones” – and continuously aggregated into a comprehensive digital twin of traffic situations.
The latter sounds a little bit like science fiction at this point, but this is a long-term plan, after all: The goal is to analyze traffic scenarios and run possible simulations on how they might develop faster than they actually play out- with the goal of identifying (and mitigating) risks before they even occur. It reminds me of the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report, but with a less dystopian outcome. 🙂
Congratulations, Mercedes-Benz: The brand became the first to gain approval for a Level 3 self-driving series production function. Daimler will outfit its next-generation S-Class model with the traffic jam assist feature, which can take over control on certain highway routes (13 000 km to start with) when driving at speeds of up to 60 km/h.
Unlike Tesla, who have removed all medium- and long-range sensors other than cameras from their cars with a less-than-ideal outcome (see the look at the new Model Y review in last month’s blog), Daimler is not only keeping radar but also using a LiDAR sensor by French Tier 1 supplier Valeo in its hardware stack.
There’s been a debate for several years now about whether “full” autonomous driving (Level 4 or even 5) can be achieved via an evolutionary path, going from L2 to L3 and then continuously improving and upgrading the tech until it’s L4-ready – or if you need to find an entirely new, revolutionary path to develop an L4/L5 system. While that debate is far from decided, the pathway to an actual go-to-market which Daimler (as well as Honda) have now paved for themselves, could go a long way in gaining the public’s trust for more developments to follow – as well as that of shareholders/investors.
Inside Tesla as Elon Musk Pushed an Unflinching Vision for Self-Driving Cars – via The New York Times
Speaking of Tesla, the NYT came out with an worthwhile investigative piece this month: It casts a very unflattering light on Elon Musk’s promise of “Full Self Driving” and the way he is reportedly conducting himself and his company on the way there.
Quoting anonymous sources, including 3 people who were part of the project’s origin, there’s since been continuous friction between executives pushing for “Autopilot” and lofty promises surrounding it and engineers more cautious of what the system actually can and cannot do – as well as the potentially misleading and dangerous nature of its name and marketing.
With the NHTSA now officially probing Tesla for safety risks connected to their ADAS stack, this article is definitely worth reading (or listening to): both as a recap of the developments since Tesla’s FSD announcement, and as a behind-the-scenes look at how Time Magazine’s Man of the Year 2021 runs the company that made him the richest man in the world.
I hope you enjoy the read and wish you all the best for the holidays!
All the best