Posts Tagged ‘google’

Motor Monday: Autonomous Vehicle Update

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Two weeks ago the state of Virginia announced that 70 miles of their public highways would be open to autonomous vehicles for testing. They join California, Nevada, Florida, Michigan and Washington DC in accommodating the new technology, and trusting the owners not to cause havoc. We figured it was a good time to give everybody a quick review of where we are with driverless cars today. For those new to the game, autonomous vehicles (AVs) are cars which can drive themselves around town, with no input from a human. You sit down, set your destination and sit back to absorb the reality that you’re doing something only Batman and cheesy action stars have done in movies. While there are more than half a dozen manufacturers in the game right now, including Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Tesla, it’s tech giant Google at the forefront.

Google recently began releasing reports on the status on their autonomous car project with began in 2009 with modified Priuses. The latest report mentions that they’ve accumulated nearly 3 million kilometers on their test vehicles since the program’s inception, over half of which were in their autonomous mode where the safety driver does not touch the controls except in the case of emergencies. Over the last 6 years Google reports they’ve been involved in a dozen collisions, all of which were the fault of outside drivers. Three million kilometers and zero at-fault accidents? Good luck finding a human with that track record. That said, they may not be completely blameless. Some California residents are claiming the cars don’t drive “normally”. One blogger says they “drive like your grandma”, moving from lights slowly, leaving humongous gaps and, most importantly here, braking at the slightest hint of an obstacle. This means that an intersection which looks clear to a human may not look clear to the Google AV, causing the AV to brake unexpectedly and get rear-ended. Now obviously nobody is blaming the AV for getting rear-ended, but it highlights the fact that you can’t just have a car that stays in its lane and doesn’t run people over in order to be successful. Until we get used to everybody driving like a grandma, having cars that act like the humans around them will contribute to safety.

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Android Auto Expected To Launch In February 2015

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First of all, I just wanted to say that Android Auto and CarPlay are both going to be great departures from the antiquated systems from automakers which are obsolete the day the vehicle rolls off the production line. Both third party systems get the benefit of being perpetually updated with the latest features, and as owners upgrade their phones the processing power of their vehicle infotainment systems also gets a boost. This is because on both Android Auto and CarPlay, the phone does all of the processing. The vehicle’s infotainment system simply hands off control to Android Auto, or CarPlay depending on what phone is connected to the cable.

While this flexibility is great, it can sometimes result in a less than ideal user experience. For example, in the Hyundai Sonata demo vehicle, if you are in navigation mode and now want to listen to the radio, the system has to exit back out to the Hyundai system where you can choose the station you want to listen to and then jump back into Android Auto to return to your navigation. A more elegant system would be to have both systems running simultaneously without the need to switch between the two interfaces. For users that will stay inside of Android Auto however, the strict design guidelines do provide a consistent user interface throughout all of the apps. It looks like Google is taking a page out of Apple’s playbook here with a more “closed” system, at least on the design restrictions.

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Google Announces CarPlay Competitor, Android Auto

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Hardly a secret, aside from the name, Google has finally announced its in-car infotainment system it had been working on as part of the Open Automotive Alliance. The OAA is a group currently consisting of 28 automakers and 16 technology partners whose stated goal is “making technology in the car safer, more seamless and more intuitive for everyone.” The new in-car infotainment system will be called Android Auto.

Some of the automotive partners include Audi, Acura (and Honda), Chevrolet, Infiniti, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru and Volkswagen. Noticeably absent are a couple luxury automakers BMW, and Mercedes-Benz both of which are Apple CarPlay exclusive for the time being. Time will tell if one or both of these guys will make the jump to Android Auto. While not an OAA member, the Mercedes-Benz CarPlay introduction has been delayed so it could be the result of adding support for Android Auto in their Comand Infotainment system.

Android Auto when it arrives will essentially be an extension of the Android device. Everything you as the driver interact with on the system is actually still powered by your Android device. The display is simply streamed (or casted in Google speak) to your vehicle’s display. If you’re familiar with Google Now, you’ll feel quite at home with Android Auto as that is how Google provides bite-sized contextual information to the driver. As with Google Now, Android Auto will be heavily voice-based providing quick, easy access to apps, navigation and even text messaging. One key difference over CarPlay is that Google will be providing an SDK for Android app makers while Apple has decided to keep their system a bit more closed.

So when will we start to see cars with Android Auto? Google says later this year as automakers release their 2015 model year vehicles. Audi sent out a press release shortly after the Android Auto announcement at Google I/O stating that vehicles with Android Auto will be coming out this fall.

Update: Android Auto Release Date February 2015


Google The Car Manufacturer, Builds First Self-Driving Car

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In our last progress report on Google’s Self Driving Car project we highlighted some of the new technology Google has added to its fleet of self-driving cars, but this week Google unveiled its very own self-driving car designed and built from the ground up to be an autonomous vehicle.

Unlike the retrofitted vehicles that Google has used in the past, their new self-driving car has no gas or brake pedals. In fact there is no steering wheel either because as Google puts it, “we don’t need them!”. On the inside of the vehicle, there is simply a start/stop button and a screen to display a map with navigational information. The autonomous vehicle seats two people with plenty of room for storage, or pets (including service animals). The vehicle will initially be limited to 25mph while Google completes additional tests with an initial fleet of about 100 vehicles. If proven successful they plan on expanding the autonomous vehicle program by testing with select partners in California.

Check out a video of it in action after the break!


Google’s Self Driving Cars Learning New Tricks

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To some, Google’s self-driving cars are a huge technological break-through while others think they’re an accident waiting to happen. The truth is, whether we want to believe it or not, Google’s self-driving cars are likely better drivers than all of us. They never get tired, or distracted and are looking in every direction at all times. For skeptics, Google has been working to improve the software in their cars and have released an update video to showcase some of the new tricks they have learned. With the ability to track hundreds of objects (both moving and stationary) the self-driving car navigate itself through what looks to humans as a chaotic and random street in a predictable and controlled manner.

The software is now able to detect gestures made by cyclists who may be indicating their intent to turn and respond accordingly. Check out the video after the break to see other common everyday scenarios that the Google self-driving car can navigate through.

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Ford Most Googled Car Company in 2012

In 2012, there were over 1.2 trillion searches made on Google in 146 languages. Well, technically there were even more but Google filtered out spam searches and any repeated searches. Each year Google releases a report of sorts on the search trends on its search engine called Zeitgeist. I sifted through the 2012 Google Zeitgeist report for automotive related content and this is what I found.

Ford remains the most searched for car brand on Google for the second year in a row. Only three other automakers made the list two years in a row: Nissan, BMW and Jeep who were second, third and fourth respectively in 2011 but dropped to sixth, seventh and eigth (and strangely enough remain ranked in the same order) for 2012. Rounding out the top three for 2012 are Honda in second, and Toyota in third. Ford’s luxury marque, Lincoln also made the list in fourth while Toyota’s luxury marque, Lexus dropped off the list for 2012 after making it last year.

See the Top 10 Most Googled Car Companies


Google launches ‘Street View’ charm offensive

U.S. Internet giant Google Tuesday launched a charm offensive for its controversial “Street View” navigation service, aiming to soothe the privacy doubts of a sceptical German public.