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Bloomberg -- Google’s self-driving car technology is attracting top U.S. automakers, as Ford, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors talk with the company while laying the groundwork for a future with autonomous cars.

Ford Motor Co. and Google are discussing working together, including in a joint venture to build cars using Google’s technology, said a person familiar with the talks who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

That follows comments in October from Mark Reuss, product development chief for General Motors Co., that the automaker was “very interested” in exploring ways its manufacturing skills could complement Google’s system. Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, has said repeatedly the past few months that his company wants to work on autonomous driving with technology companies such as Apple Inc. and Google.

“We are entering the era of the technology and software-defined vehicle,” said Thilo Koslowski, a vice president in the automotive practice at Gartner Inc. “You’re just seeing the auto industry recognize the importance of that.”

Automakers are getting close to Google as they consider using the search giant’s technology to add brains to their vehicles, instead of building their own rival systems. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, Koslowski said.

“Some Silicon Valley companies would like to do everything themselves, but it’s really the car companies that understand the automobile,” he said. “On the same side, a lot of technology companies have expertise on their side, which is interesting to the automotive companies.”

Read the rest of the story here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-12-22/google-attracts-top-u-s-automakers-with-self-driving-technology

Washington Post -- A new patent describes a system to react to pedestrians and display the vehicle’s intent to pedestrians. (U.S. Patent & Trademark Office)

The doors of Google’s self-driving vehicles are currently decorated with art work. There are sunsets, flowers and parks. But the warm nature scenes may eventually have competition for that real estate from an unlikely source — utilitarian traffic signage.

Google received a patent Tuesday detailing how a self-driving vehicle would determine if pedestrians were likely to cross a street, plan its next move accordingly, and then notify the pedestrians of its intent. Since the cars are being driven by a computer, a pedestrian can’t count on a hand signal or eye contact from a passenger to know a vehicle is waiting for them.

The patent describes using electronic screens mounted on the side of the vehicle — including potentially the roof, hood and rear of vehicle — to tell a pedestrians if it was safe to cross. The displays might show a stop sign, a traffic sign, or just text. The car might react by coming to a complete stop, slowing down and yielding, or maintaining its speed.

The patent also suggests some other options. A speaker on the outside of the vehicle might call out alerts, such as “coming through” or “safe to cross.” Perhaps most interesting is the potential use of a robotic hand and eyes to gesture at pedestrians and make them aware that the car “sees” them.

Sadly, no sketches of the robotic arm or eyes are included in the patent. Google initially filed for the patent in September 2012. The system is similar to one Nissan showed off last month, in which a screen on the dashboard shared messages with pedestrians.

Read the rest here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2015/11/27/google-patent-reveals-how-its-self-driving-cars-may-communicate-with-pedestrians/

Entrepreneur -- Say goodbye to Google. Say hello to Alphabet.

Google Inc. says it is creating a new operating structure under a newly formed umbrella company it is calling Alphabet Inc. Co-founder and current CEO Larry Page will lead the new company, while Sergey Brin, the other co-founder, will serve as president.

Google itself will be an operating unit and get a new CEO: Sundar Pichai, who had been running Android and Chrome. 

It's not just a name change, but a reorganization of the company. In a blog post announcing the change, Page said they wanted a "slimmed down" version of Google, with other businesses, such as Life Sciences and the Calico biotech unit to be their own operating companies. Each unit, Page suggested, would get its own CEO.

Page sought to position the move as a further move toward the technology-driven disruption and innovation he, Brin and Google have all long espoused. "We did a lot of things that seemed crazy at the time," Page wrote. "Many of those crazy things now have over a billion users, like Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome, and Android. And we haven’t stopped there. We are still trying to do things other people think are crazy but we are super excited about."

Yet, the move positions Google as far more traditional than disruptive. Many companies have found that a conglomerate model -- which is essential what Alphabet will be -- helps manage the overall company better by putting key executives in charge of the underlying companies, leaving the top management to focus on making the company work as a whole.

Indeed, Page, in his blog post, said as much. "In general, our model is to have a strong CEO who runs each business, with Sergey and me in service to them as needed," he wrote. "We will rigorously handle capital allocation and work to make sure each business is executing well."

Read the rest of the story here: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/249432

CNET -- Every month, Google releases a report detailing the goings-on (PDF) of its autonomous fleet. To Google's benefit, the updates are usually light on dramatics -- after all, the company's spent good money to keep its cars from getting into accidents. But bad things occasionally happen, and although November was a relatively easy month, the car is still learning.

Currently, Google's self-driving-car family includes 23 Lexus RX450h hybrid crossovers and 30 of the company's own gumdrop-shaped prototypes. Most are located in Mountain View, California, but a dozen are off in Austin, Texas, as well. Its fleet averages between 10,000 and 15,000 autonomous miles per week.

The most notable event from the last month was a widely publicized traffic stop, when police pulled over one of Google's prototypes for driving 24 miles per hour in a 35-mph zone. The company noted that its fleet is capable of both hearing sirens and seeing flashing lights and that the cars are programmed to pull over or drive much more cautiously when emergency vehicles are approaching.

Its cars are still learning in other ways, as well. Google devoted part of its report to explaining how the company's self-driving fleet is learning to make right turns on red, a maneuver that's not always easy -- or legal. The cars are now creeping forward to get a better look at oncoming traffic, but its sensors are still capable of monitoring sidewalks, crosswalks and other vehicles at the same time.

Read the rest of the story here: http://www.cnet.com/news/google-self-driving-cars-november-report/

April 26 (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's Google unit, Ford Motor Co, Volvo Cars and two ride-sharing companies said Tuesday they are forming a coalition to urge federal action on self-driving cars.

The coalition, which also includes Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft, is "to work with lawmakers, regulators, and the public to realize the safety and societal benefits of self-driving vehicles."

The group said David Strickland, the former top official of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will serve as the coalition's counsel and spokesperson.

"The best path for this innovation is to have one clear set of federal standards, and the coalition will work with policymakers to find the right solutions that will facilitate the deployment of self-driving vehicles," Strickland said in a statement.

Sweden-based Volvo Cars is owned by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.

12-19-2016, Business Insider -- Google announced it was spinning out its self-driving car unit into an independent company called Waymo on Tuesday.

The tech giant has been working on autonomous technology longer than anyone in the game. It first announced the project in 2009 under Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford professor lauded as the founder of the self-driving car.

The concept of building a robot car was so bizarre at the time it prompted Fiat Chrysler to launch a peculiar attack ad in 2011:

"Hands-free driving, cars that park themselves, an unmanned car driven by a search-engine company? We've seen that movie. It ends with robots harvesting our bodies for energy."

Well, times have changed. Now Fiat Chrysler supplies Pacifica minivans for Waymo. Major automakers like General Motors and Ford are also investing in self-driving cars.

But even though Google has been in the self-driving car space longer than anyone else out there — before it was even considered a legitimate space like it is today — it's getting lapped by the competition.

Google may know what it's doing when it comes to refining self-driving car technology, but it has been totally lost when it comes to bringing a product to market.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Jalopnik, May 17, 2016 -- Google announced a huge wave of updates with practical new features and plans for its Android Auto car interface system, including the ultimate dystopian future-reality fear of your phone completely encompassing your car.

That last part actually isn’t that bad. At today’s Google I/O conference, Android Auto got a few big updates as well as a chance to preview the future of the automotive interface in the form of a Qualcomm-modified Maserati Ghibli.

The modified Maserati included a new vertical-layout 4K screen, pictured above like you’d find in Tesla’s offerings, with a digital readout running a specialized interface model called Android Auto N. Also synced up to the Android phone was an HD instrument panel screen, displaying instructions alongside speed directly in front of the driver. The benefits of a more-integrated interface like this opens the doors to vehicle controls like temperature and technical readouts like speed, gas mileage, fuel levels, etc. The best part is that the Qualcomm system would be open-source, so if you wanted to boot up Apple CarPlay instead (and it had the functionality for it) you’d be able to.

Now, that’s the future. The present updates and new features for Android Auto honestly have me finally sold on the feature. Before you had to own an Android Auto compatible car to plug your phone into and use the interface, but the updates fix that.

First up, you can now use Android Auto without actually connecting it to the car’s interface. Many people were surprised to learn that they couldn’t run Android Auto’s simpler interface design while driving just using the phone. Why not making the benefits of a minimal-interaction interface available at all times? Well now it is! 

The second major update is wireless connectivity for Android Auto. The current system requires the phone to be physically plugged into the car, taking up that coveted charging port. Later this year Android Auto users should be able to connect to the car’s interface via WiFi, as long as your car offers a hotspot to connect to.

Read the rest here: http://jalopnik.com/google-just-made-android-auto-even-better-1777460412

Technology Review -- “Where would you like to go?” Siri asked.

It was a sunny, slightly dreamy morning in the heart of Silicon Valley, and I was sitting in the passenger seat of what seemed like a perfectly ordinary new car. There was something strangely Apple-like about it, though. There was no mistaking the apps arranged across the console screen, nor the deadpan voice of Apple’s virtual assistant, who, as backseat drivers go, was pretty helpful. Summoned via a button on the steering wheel and asked to find sushi nearby, Siri read off the names of a few restaurants in the area, waited for me to pick one, and then showed the way on a map that appeared on the screen.

The vehicle was, in fact, a Hyundai Sonata. The Apple-like interface was coming from an iPhone connected by a cable. Most carmakers have agreed to support software from Apple called CarPlay, as well as a competing product from Google, called Android Auto, in part to address a troubling trend: according to research from the National Safety Council, a nonprofit group, more than 25 percent of road accidents are a result of a driver’s fiddling with a phone. Hyundai’s car, which goes on sale this summer, will be one of the first to support CarPlay, and the carmaker had made the Sonata available so I could see how the software works.

CarPlay certainly seemed more intuitive and less distracting than fiddling with a smartphone behind the wheel. Siri felt like a better way to send texts, place calls, or find directions. The system has obvious limitations: if a phone loses the signal or its battery dies, for example, it will stop working fully. And Siri can’t always be relied upon to hear you correctly. Still, I would’ve gladly used CarPlay in the rental car I’d picked up at the San Francisco airport: a 2013 Volkswagen Jetta. There was little inside besides an air-conditioning unit and a radio. The one technological luxury, ironically, was a 30-pin cable for an outdated iPhone. To use my smartphone for navigation, I needed a suction mount, an adapter for charging through the cigarette lighter, and good eyesight. More than once as I drove around, my iPhone came unstuck from the windshield and bounced under the passenger seat.

Android Auto also seemed like a huge improvement. When a Google product manager, Daniel Holle, took me for a ride in another Hyundai Sonata, he plugged his Nexus smartphone into the car and the touch screen was immediately taken over by Google Now, a kind of super-app that provides recommendations based on your location, your Web searches, your Gmail messages, and so on. In our case it was showing directions to a Starbucks because Holle had searched for coffee just before leaving his office. Had a ticket for an upcoming flight been in his in-box, Holle explained, Google Now would’ve automatically shown directions to the airport. “A big part of why we’re doing it is driver safety,” he said. “But there’s also this huge opportunity for digital experience in the car. This is a smart driving assistant.”

CarPlay and Android Auto not only give Apple and Google a foothold in the automobile but may signal the start of a more significant effort by these companies to reinvent the car. If they could tap into the many different computers that control car systems, they could use their software expertise to reimagine functions such as steering or collision avoidance. They could create operating systems for cars.

Google has already built its own self-driving cars, using a combination of advanced sensors, mapping data, and clever navigation and control software. There are indications that Apple is now working on a car too: though the company won’t comment on what it terms “rumors and speculation,” it is hiring dozens of people with expertise in automotive design, engineering, and strategy. Vans that belong to Apple, fitted with sensors that might be useful for automated driving, have been spotted cruising around California.

Read the rest of the story here:

http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/538446/rebooting-the-automobile/

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