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Flying Car to Touch Off 2020 Olympic Torch


    Toyota plans to amaze fans at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo with a show of its autonomous vehicles, carrying athletes between the Olympic village and sports venues around Tokyo Bay.

     And the most spectacular automated Olympics project of all is the Toyota-funded SkyDrive flying car that will light the Olympic torch.

     The Japanese non-profit volunteer group Cartivator originated the flying vehicle idea in a brainstorming session four years ago, won a design competition and then won assurance from the Toyota Group for funding of 42.5 million yen ($380,000) over the next three years to develop the SkyDrive vehicle.


Cartivator project leader Tsubasa Nakamura discusses a prototype of the flying car with other members of the Cartivator team.

(Photo courtesy Cartivator)



     Designed as a four-rotor flying car based on drone technology, the Skydrive will not need runways or roads. Plans call for it to hover less than one metre off the ground, using vertical take-off and landing technology.

      The Cartivator team consists of about 30 people from many professional backgrounds working to make mass production of the flying car a reality.

      Cartivator's mission is "Connecting dreams to the next generation through mobility," says project leader Tsubasa Nakamura.

      "We are developing daily to give people around the world a dream and excitement," said Nakamura. "Based on the funds received this time, we plan to complete a manned prototype by the end of 2018."


     Toyota is a sponsor partner for the Olympic Games through 2024, supplying vehicles, intelligent transport systems, urban traffic systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems.

      The partnership between the automaker and the International Olympic Committee is intended to deliver a mobility legacy in the host cities and countries.

      Welcoming Toyota as a sponsor in 2015, IOC President Thomas Bach said it's the first time that the Olympics has had a mobility mission. "It is in the spirit of the Olympic Agenda 2020 not just in terms of innovation but also in terms of sustainability in mobility."


     The public attention sure to surround the automated vehicles at the 2020 Olympics, and especially the dramatic flying car torch lighting ceremony, should help to overcome the reluctance of people unfamiliar with self-driving cars.

      "Toyota has worked on autonomous driving technologies for over 20 years with the aim of reducing traffic fatalities to zero as an ultimate goal, achieving smoother traffic, and providing mobility for all," said Ken Koibuchi, executive general manager at Toyota.


Before fully automated vehicles hit the market, many automakers are offering cars with some automated features such as adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance and blind spot warning systems.


Toyota's 2018 Lexus LS will offer the Advanced Safety Package, with the world’s first system to have Intuitive Pedestrian Detection with Active Steering within the lane. With this system, if a pedestrian is detected in the lane ahead and a collision is imminent, the LS is designed to automatically brake and steer around the person while staying in the lane.




Automated Cars Are Coming, But Where is the Market?


Deep learning, an advanced form of artificial intelligence and dynamic way of computerized decision-making, is driving change for autonomous cars and for the automotive and transportation industry, according to a report published by Netherlands-based professional services company KMPG earlier this year.


     The KPMG report projects that by 2030 a new mobility services segment including products and services related to autonomy, mobility, and connectivity will be worth over US$1 trillion globally.

      The KPMG report titled "I see. I think. I drive. (I Learn)," forecasts that the direct impacts of deep learning will revolutionize the nature of doing business for automakers.


Deep learning is a critical enabler of building a self-driving vehicle that can operate without human intervention. This vehicle must "see," "think," "drive," and "learn."


"Deep learning is accelerating autonomy faster than anyone could've imagined, and it has far-reaching implications for the industry and societal mobility as a whole," said Gary Silberg, KPMG's national automotive leader. "If a car can't learn, then it's still reliant on millions and millions of lines of code, with such complexity and ambiguity, that full autonomy wouldn't be achievable for many years to come."


But cars are learning quickly, much more quickly than the people who will eventually use them for transportation.


Waymo's fully self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan on public roads (Photo courtesy Waymo)



"Advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning and ultra-low latency cellular are accelerating the development of fully autonomous vehicles," says the International Telecommunication Union, an agency of the United Nations that coordinates telecommunication operations and services throughout the world.


Drivers considering buying an autonomous car may hesitate over security issues.


That concern could be eased by the outcomes of an ITU Workshop on Security Aspects of Intelligent Transport Systems in Geneva, August 28. There, experts will analyze the security demands of the communications technologies underlying connected, automated driving. Participation in the workshop is free of charge and open to all.


ITU standardization work is supporting the increasing integration of ICTs in vehicles with road safety and data security as its top priorities. Security and data protection will factor considerably into the reliability and safety of intelligent transport systems and their success in gaining users’ trust.


Yes, but what do vehicle users and owners actually think about autonomous vehicles?


New research from analysts at London-based IHS Markit on consumer preferences for full autonomy in new vehicles finds the technology is not yet popular among a broad audience.


Yet, the same audience ranked it among the features they would be willing to pay the most for in their next new vehicle purchase.


Responses from more than 5,000 vehicle owners intending to purchase a new vehicle within the next 36 months were reviewed in the survey, representing five key automotive markets – the United States, Canada, China, Germany and the United Kingdom.


Just 44 percent of all respondents indicated that full autonomy would be a desirable feature on their next car, the lowest rank of all of the technologies included in this subsection of the survey.


Yet full autonomy also showed up as the technology that consumers would be most willing to pay for.


Price points varied by country, but German respondents indicated they would be willing to pay $1,016 for full autonomy, nearly 20 percent more than the U.S. respondents, who averaged $780.


Car buyers in China are most likely to choose full autonomy in their next vehicle, with 72 percent of respondents reporting the desire for full autonomy as a feature in their next new vehicle. Many also were interested in related technologies, such as blind spot detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, highway autopilot and autonomous co-pilot.


“In terms of ADAS safety features like automatic emergency braking and blind spot detection, consumers wanted to see these features standard across the board,” said Colin Bird, senior automotive technology analyst for IHS Markit and co-author of the report.


“There is a large subset of consumers who are willing to pay for full autonomy features demonstrating that consumers see this more as a value-add rather than a necessary safety component, at least for now," said Bird.


Younger survey respondents were more comfortable with full autonomy than older drivers. Around 61 percent of Millennials and Generation Z respondents across all regions said it was a feature of interest in their next new vehicle.


Older generations are less comfortable with the idea, despite the fact that fully autonomous vehicles could revolutionize mobility for elderly people who can no longer qualify for a driver's license.


So, while the technology is advancing, much more needs to be done to educate the market and achieve closer integration with other markets such as insurance.


If vehicle insurance rates were based on how often consumers used self-driving features, consumers felt differently about it.

In China, 70 percent of respondents indicated they would be more open to self-driving features. Respondents in Germany were least likely, with just 32 percent reporting it would have an impact for them.


“Among new car intenders, ride-hailing services aren’t used as often as a daily commuting option. Instead, the research found that ride-hailing is used more often for weekend trips, errands, and vacations,” Bird said. “Interestingly, new car intenders are more likely to be drivers for hailing service companies like Uber and DiDi than they are to be passengers. This is particularly the case in the UK, Germany and Canada, which suggests there could be a lucrative sales model in these markets for automakers.”





Tata-Microsoft Team Offers India's Drivers Safety


A total of 238,562 people died on India's roads in 2013, the latest year for which statistics are available, or 16.6 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants of the country.


While not the worst record in the world - that belongs to African countries such as Burkina-Faso, where the rate doubled that of India in 2013 - it merits improvement.


Tata Motors, India's largest automaker, has made a deal with Microsoft to employ the software giant's connected vehicle technologies of artificial intelligence, advanced machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities on the global hyper-scale Azure cloud, to create a smarter and safer driving experience.


Guenter Butschek, CEO and managing director, Tata Motors (left) with Anant Maheshwari, president, Microsoft India,

announce their collaboration, to redefine the connected experience for automobile users in India.

February 16, 2017 (Photo by Jasmeen Nagpal courtesy Microsoft India)



Commenting on the partnership formed earlier this year, Guenter Butschek, CEO and managing director, Tata Motors, said, “With the aim to develop innovative and technologically leading products that excite customers, we at Tata Motors, understand the need for a connected ecosystem that can integrate into the digital lives of customers."


"We are using Microsoft’s connected vehicle technologies on Azure intelligent cloud to bring the digital lives of our customers into the cars they drive," said Butschek. "Making the most of fast-paced innovation cycle that Microsoft has to offer, we will create a fully connected and seamless driving experience for our customers.”


Microsoft Azure cloud computing technologies allow advanced navigation, predictive maintenance and vehicle-centric services, remote monitoring of car features, external mobile experiences and over-the-air updates.


Anant Maheshwari, president, Microsoft India said, “We are excited to partner with Tata Motors as they embark on a new journey of innovation with Microsoft Azure cloud. Using IoT, AI and machine learning technologies, we will provide vehicle owners in India and across the world with a safe, productive and fun driving experience.”


Tata believes drivers will find future scenarios like these to be useful.


- By unifying navigation data such as maps, weather, traffic, and parking, the car can deliver optimized routing and location to drivers.


- Based on their profile and location data, drivers can receive proactive point-of-interest, shopping and route assist recommendations.


- Pre-emptive service alerts based on vehicle health data will enable owners to avoid costly down time en-route on planned road trips.


- By capturing, analyzing and acting on live road conditions, vehicle owners will be able to increase safety, and optimize vehicle performance by avoiding roadblocks and rough terrain.


- Key vehicle settings can be updated remotely, over the cloud, using firmware over the air (FOTA) and software over the air (SOTA) update protocols. These enable cloud-based diagnostics and the ability to use insights from vehicle data to prevent warranty and recall issues and offer new services.


Butschek says, using Microsoft technology will empower Tata Motors to provide connectivity features on mainstream, mass-market vehicles at affordable prices.


  Whether India's drivers will find the safety promised by this technology remains to be seen.




Self-Driving Cars Will Race for Market Share


  Based on a study by Navigant Research

<> a list of companies working to bring autonomous cars to market in the next five years includes American, German and Japanese companies:


  • Ford, the Detroit-based automaker
  • General Motors, Detroit-based automaker
  • Renault-Nissan Alliance, the French-Japanese partnership
  • Daimler, the German automaker
  • Volkswagen Group, the German car manufacturer
  • BMW, the German automaker
  • Waymo, Google's self-driving-car project, partnered with Fiat Chrysler
  • Volvo, the Swedish automaker
  • Delphi, an auto electronics supplier
  • Hyundai Motor Group
  • PSA, the second-largest car manufacturer in Europe
  • Tesla, the California electric automaker
  • Toyota, the Japanese automaker
  • ZF, a German auto supplier
  • Honda, the Japanese automaker
  • Uber, the ride-hailing company, with trials in Pennsylvania and Arizona
  • NuTonomy,
  • Baidu, a Chinese internet company


Graph of miles driven by Waymo autonomous vehicles on public roads

since the project's inception in 2009 (Image courtesy Waymo)







By Sunny Lewis – Environment News Services