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Ford shifts its autonomous car program into a higher gear, announcing it will become the first automaker to test its self-driving cars at a new Michigan compound.

While the Detroit manufacturer has been working on both connected- and autonomous-car technologies for a decade, the new testing program at Mcity – a 32-acre faux metropolis in Ann Arbor, Mich. – reflects Ford’s recent move to upgrade its self-driving efforts from pure research to advanced engineering.

“We’ve been testing (autonomous) cars in the real world, but using a place like Mcity will allow us to refine our algorithms and better calibrate car sensors by repeating specific situations in a reliable way,” says Raj Nair, Ford’s vice president of global product development.

Mcity opened this past summer and is a joint project of the University of Michigan and the state’s Department of Transportation. Ford is one of a few large automakers contributing $1 million over three years to Mcity, which features storefronts, traffic lights, pedestrian zones and other real-world infrastructure to better train autonomous cars on how they need to react in a range of scenarios.

With the reality of streets humming with self-driving cars now more a matter of when than if, automakers and technology companies are looking for ways to accelerate their respective efforts.

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.

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3/23/2016, YNET News -- The autonomous car is coming to Israel: a steering team that includes representatives from various government ministries began on Sunday to work towards preparing the ground for the arrival of the revolutionary technology in Israel.

The Transportation Ministry said the team has been tasked with “designing a strategic plan for the move and creating a proper synergy between ministries for the purpose of properly preparing for the coming of the autonomous car.” The team is expected to meet regularly throughout the year to discuss opinions and examine various issues, including the ramifications on each ministry’s work.

The first discussion, held on Sunday, included 30 representatives from the Ministries of Transportation, Justice, Economy, Finance, and Environmental Protection, as well as the Tax Authority, Prime Minister’s Office, Electricity Authority, and the Office of the Chief Scientist.,7340,L-4781277,00.html

Tech Insider -- Taking a ride in a fully autonomous car may not be as far off as you think.

Autonomous cars are only about five to 10 years away from becoming mainstream, according to Gartner’s 2015 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, which was published Tuesday.

The research firm’s annual report places autonomous vehicles at the peak of its hype cycle, which is when expectations for the technology are often inflated and many companies are jumping into the space.

Last year, autonomous vehicles were still categorized as pre-peak on Gartner’s hype chart. And while the tech is still in its nascent stages, it’s move to forward in the cycle is significant. 

“While autonomous vehicles are still embryonic, this movement still represents a significant advancement, with all major automotive companies putting autonomous vehicles on their near-term roadmaps,” Gartner said in a press statement.

There’s no question there are plenty of players betting on driverless cars.

04/22/16, The Hill -- A new autonomous vehicle startup in Silicon Valley has received the green light to begin testing self-driving cars in California, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday., based in Mountain View, is the 13th company in the state to be awarded a license to test autonomous vehicles on California roads.

The Palo Alto-based Zoox Inc. was granted a license a few weeks earlier, according to the WSJ report.’s website says the company is focused on advanced artificial intelligence software, or “deep learning” that would allow the computer to teach itself how to make driving decisions, as opposed to programming every single move that a vehicle could make.

Autonomous vehicles have increasingly grabbed the attention of regulators as companies inch closer to production.

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