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06/09/2017: FiveAI raises 26.8 million in funding to develop autonomous vehicles

British driverless car startup FiveAI has raised 26.8 million in funding, which it will use to develop its own self-driving cars - to be trialled in 2019.

The money was raised through a 14 million Series A financing round led by Lakestar Capital and the startup's existing investors, such as Amadeus Capital Partners. The rest of the money came from a 12.8 million grant from the UK government given to the StreetWise consortium, led by FiveAI.

FiveAI will use the funding to develop autonomous SAE level 4 self-driving technology, vehicles which are classified as having a high level of automation, as outlined on SAE's scale. It wants to provide a personal mobility service for individuals currently driving some or all of their daily commute.

The Streetwise consortium aims to deliver a safe driverless car service in London towards the end of 2019. The consortium is composed of companies such as the Direct Line Group and McLaren Applied Technologies. It aims to show how autonomous vehicles can reduce commuting costs, recover commuting time, cut accident rates, reduce congestion and lower emissions. The project is also partnering with Transport for London to tailor the service to public transportation needs.

FiveAI co-founder and CEO Stan Bolan said: "Cycling, walking, buses and trains offer a great service for most commuters, but some journeys are still being served by personal or individual transport. Initially we'll target these journeys with our shared mobility solution which will also pave the way for potential large-scale autonomous public transport in the future.

"In the short term, from day one of service launch the StreetWise project will increase public transport usage, reduce congestion and emissions, and make our urban areas more liveable for all."

Greg Clark, business and energy secretary, said: "Low carbon and self-driving vehicles are the future and the UK has a great opportunity to lead this technology revolution. The government is determined to ensure the UK becomes the go-to place for the development of the next generation of vehicles as part of our Industrial Strategy.

The Department for Transport revealed in August that it had set up a 8.1 million fund to go towards trialling driverless lorries on UK roads. The tests will involve linking up three HGVs through wireless technology and turn them into a convoy. The braking and acceleration will be controlled by the lead vehicle and researchers hope to understand how autonomous lorries can be better controlled.

01/09/2017: Samsung gets permit to test self-driving systems on Californian highways

Samsung has entered the self-driving car race, securing a permit to test autonomous vehicles on Californian roads.

The South Korean firm received the permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which has been revealed in an update of the department's list of companies approved for testing autonomous vehicles in the state.

There's currently very little information on what Samsung has planned for its work on driverless cars, for example whether it will make its own autonomous vehicles or provide technology to support the development and running of self-driving cars from other manufacturers. Nor is there any information on whether Samsung plans to create driverless car technology for consumer or commercial use.

Samsung has already created some test hardware with fellow South Korean firm Hyundai, however, adding AI modules and sensors to some of its cars, so there's a strong chance the tech firm could be planning to create an autonomous car platform which could be integrated into existing vehicles.

If Samsung does indeed start testing on Californian highways, there's a good chance its cars could metaphorically rub shoulders with other self-driving cars from the likes of Google, Nvidia and other companies testing autonomous driving systems.

29/08/2017: Domino's teams with Ford for driverless pizza delivery

Order a pizza from Domino's in Michigan and it could come via a driverless car - and you'll have to walk out of your house to the street to get your dinner.

The pizza maker and Ford have teamed up "to understand the role that self-driving vehicles can play in pizza delivery."

As part of that, for the next several weeks, customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan could get their pepperoni pizza order delivered via a Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle, but only if those customers agree to take part.

Customers that do will be able to track their dinner via GPS and receive text messages when the Ford approaches necessary as they'll have to go out to the car to fetch their pizza, a potential downside to driverless car deliveries, though the research vehicles will have a human at the wheel in case of problems.

"We're interested to learn what people think about this type of delivery," said Russell Weiner, president of Domino's USA. "The majority of our questions are about the last 50 feet of the delivery experience. For instance, how will customers react to coming outside to get their food? We need to make sure the interface is clear and simple. We need to understand if a customer's experience is different if the car is parked in the driveway versus next to the curb. All of our testing research is focused on our goal to someday make deliveries with self-driving vehicles as seamless and customer-friendly as possible."

Ford has long been working on self-driving cars, promising a fully autonomous model by 2021, and this isn't Dominos first foray into human-free delivery techniques, either. It's built its own food delivery robot and also teamed up with Starship Technologies for its delivery drones on wheels only two years after a 2015 prank for April Fool's that it was rolling out driverless delivery vehicles called "Domi-no-driver".

24/08/2017: Semi-autonomous lorries coming to UK motorways

The Department for Transport (DfT) has revealed an 8.1 million fund to improve the functionality of driverless lorries through trials on the UK's roads.

The trials will involve hooking three HGVs (heavy goods vehicles) up together with wireless technology, travelling as a convoy. All braking and acceleration will be controlled by the lead vehicle in the hope it will help researchers understand how autonomous lorries can be better controlled. A human driver will be onboard to take over the controls at any time.

"We are investing in technology that will improve people's lives," Transport Minister Paul Maynard said. "Advances such as lorry platooning could benefit businesses through cheaper fuel bills and other road users thanks to lower emissions and less congestion.

"But first we must make sure the technology is safe and works well on our roads, and that's why we are investing in these trials."

The trials will be run by Transport Research Laboratory, following a successful feasibility study that recommended a more in depth study was conducted to see whether it would be possible for platooning technology to be used in the future.

The three-stage trials on the UK's roads will begin in 2018. The first stage will concentrate on whether it would be possible for platooning to happen on a commercial basis on the UK's roads in the future.

"The trial has the potential to demonstrate how greater automation of vehicles, in this instance, HGVs, can deliver improvements in safety, better journeys for road users and reduction in vehicle emissions," said Jim O'Sullivan, Highways England Chief Executive.

"Investing in this research shows we care about those using our roads, the economy and the environment, and safety will be integral as we take forward this work with TRL."

23/08/2017: Apple changes up its plans for a self-driving car

Apple is developing a self-driving shuttle bus to take Apple employees from one building to another on its new Cupertino campus, it is reported.

The shuttle is likely to be a commercial vehicle which Apple will utilise to test its self-driving car technology, according to The New York Times, which spoke to five anonymous sources. The test vehicle project is called PAIL, which stands for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, which are the addresses of its main office in Cupertino, close to Palo Alto in California.

Apple's Titan project began in 2014 and the company took on employees who knew how to build cars, as well as long-standing Apple employees, the sources told the publication. These employees looked to redesign a whole car, creating everything from motorised doors to ensuring the car could do without a steering wheel or pedals.

Apple also worked on inventing new lidar technology as well as potentially using spherical wheels on the car, instead of round ones, potentially giving the car better movement.

Despite this, the project faced problems, as there wasn't a clear vision of what Apple wanted in a vehicle, the NYT said. Team members complained of "shifting priorities and arbitrary or unrealistic deadlines".

There was also a disagreement between Apple executive Steve Zadesky and Apple's chief designer Jonathan Ive. Zadesky wanted to design a semi-autonomous car, whereas Ive wanted to make it fully autonomous. There was even disagreement within the team on whether the car's OS, called CarOS, should be programmed with Swift, Apple's programming language, or C++.

Apple shifted the direction of its Titan project last year, the NYT said, and appointed another executive, Bob Mansfield, to oversee it. Mansfield decided to throw out the plans for developing a car and instead moved the focus of the project to self-driving technology.

He also laid off some hardware staff and decided to recruit people with knowledge in autonomous systems, instead of car production.

CEO Tim Cook said in June that Apple was building driverless technology, something which he viewed as very important. He then hinted that the autonomous tech is not limited to vehicle software, and is possible that it could expand into various different areas.

17/08/2017: Fiat Chrysler joins Intel and BMW in self-driving vehicle quest

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has joined Intel, BMW Group and Mobileye to develop a platform for self-driving cars.

The project has the ambitious aim of "developing a world-leading, state-of-the-art autonomous driving platform for global deployment".

Intel, which last week completed its acquisition of sensor-creator Mobileye, announced the memorandom of understanding between the companies, which they say will use each company's individual strengths and resources to achieve their goal. This will include bringing together engineers in Germany, and other unspecified locations, as well as using Fiat Chrysler's long-standing knowledge of the North American automotive industry.

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler, said: "In order to advance autonomous driving technology, it is vital to form partnerships among automakers, technology providers and suppliers.

"Joining this cooperation will enable [Fiat Chrysler Automobiles] to directly benefit from the synergies and economies of scale that are possible when companies come together with a common vision and objective."

Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, added: "The future of transportation relies on auto and tech industry leaders working together to develop a scalable architecture that automakers around the globe can adopt and customise.

"We're thrilled to welcome [Fiat Chrysler Automobiles'] contribution, bringing us a step closer to delivering the world's safest autonomous vehicles."

09/08/2017: The next public trial of government and industry-backed driverless pods is set to start in autumn and take place in the Greenwich Peninsula.

The Gateway project's autonomous pods are set to provide first and last mile transportation by connecting transport hubs with a number of different business, leisure and residential locations, as reported by Fleet News.

Fusion Processing, a company which specialises in creating radar and sensor technology, will provide the sensing and control equipment in the new pods. The pods themselves will be built by Westfield Sportscars, a car manufacturer that builds two-seater sports cars.

The vehicles will be based on the Heathrow Airport pod design but will be updated to be used in this new environment, according to the publication, and will be based at the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab in Greenwich.

Simon Tong, principal research scientist at TRL, told Fleet News: "With Fusion joining the team, Gateway is in a unique position to let the public interact with three very different autonomous control systems during our urban trials. Each of our autonomy providers - Fusion Processing, Oxbotica and Gobotix - are great British success stories, and together with Westfield, they represent the diversity of driverless expertise in the UK."

He added: "With Fusion, we look to build on all we have learned for our fleet of new driverless pods so that Gateway can conclude with a trial that will engage as many people as possible and hopefully amaze them at the same time."

The Gateway project has conducted a number of automated vehicle tests, including a project which tested last-mile automated deliveries. Later in 2017 it hopes to test autonomous valet parking.

The project provided autonomous pods in April so that members of the public could try riding in the first prototype, which were developed by Oxbotica. These were based around Greenwich too, carrying four passengers at a time through routes near the O2 arena and Greenwich.

Dr Graeme Smith, CEO of Oxbotica, said it was an amazing opportunity to take part in the Gateway Project. He said: "We wish Westfield and Fusion well as they take their product closer to a production phase."

Tong finished: "This is a really exciting time for the project. We're very grateful to Oxbotica for all they have contributed in helping us learn more about the complexities of operating a driverless pod in an urban environment.

Bobby Hellard

Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognize him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.