Category: Automotive

June 11, 2019 Off

Over 1,400 self-driving vehicles are now in testing by 80+ companies across the US

By Jill T Frey

In a talk at the Uber Elevate Summit in Washington, D.C., today, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao shared a total overall figure for ongoing testing of autonomous vehicles on U.S roads: More than 1,400 self-driving cars, trucks and other vehicles are currently in testing by more than 80 companies across 36 U.S. states, plus DC itself.

This puts some sense of overall scale to the work being done to test and develop self-driving car tech in the U.S. For context, note that California, one of the first states to have implemented AV testing on public roads, currently has 62 companies registered to perform testing — which represents a significant chunk of that 80-plus figure provided by Secretary Chao.

Chao also shared that there are more than 1.59 million registered drones currently in the U.S., of which more than 372,000 are classified as commercial, with more than 136,000 registered … Read the rest

June 11, 2019 Off

Tesla’s shareholder meeting: How to watch and what to expect

By Jill T Frey

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is expected to take the stage Tuesday for the company’s annual shareholder meeting following a volatile year that saw swings between profitability and wider-than-expected losses, production goals met and deliveries milestones missed, and a securities fraud charge, and subsequent settlement, with the SEC.

The board, like the company it governs, has also undergone changes in the past 12 months. In December, Tesla appointed two independent board members, Oracle founder, chairman and CTO Larry Ellison and Walgreens executive Kathleen Wilson-Thompson. Four months later, Tesla announced in regulator filings, that was reducing the board by more than one-third, to seven directors. Brad Buss, Linda Johnson Rice, Steve Jurvetson and Antonio Gracias will not stand for re-election once their terms end.

Like its earnings calls, Tesla shareholder meetings are rarely boring. If the past is a guide, the event will be run like an informal town hall … Read the rest

June 10, 2019 Off

Google Assistant comes to Waze navigation app

By Jill T Frey

Ever since Google acquired Waze back in 2013, features from each have been slowly making their way back and forth between it and Google Maps — and today Waze gets a big upgrade with Google Assistant integration, which means you can use the smart voice companion within the app.

Google Assistant in Waze will provide access to your usual Assistant features, like playback of music and podcasts, but it’ll also offer access to many Waze-specific abilities, including letting you ask it to report traffic conditions, or specifying that you want to avoid tolls when routing to your destination.

Google has done a good job of rolling out support for Assistant in its own Android Auto in-car software, and even brought it to Google Maps on Apple’s competing CarPlay system earlier this year. The benefits of having Assistant work natively within Waze are many, but the number one might be … Read the rest

June 10, 2019 Off

Review: The stunning 2019 Audi Q8 has a deal-breaking flaw

By Jill T Frey

The 2019 Audi Q8 is the shape of the future. It’s beautiful as it successfully merges the look of a sports sedan with the shape of an SUV. It has flowing lines, crisp angles and just the right look on and off the road. Inside, it’s comfortable though a bit smaller than the name suggests. And under the hood, Audi paired a capable V6 engine with a 48-volt battery, creating a mild-hybrid setup that supposedly helps with fuel economy.

Yet after spending a lot of time in the Q8, I found it backwards. Most crossovers provide the comfort of a sedan with the utility of an SUV. This one has the rough comfort of an SUV with the limited utility of a sedan. Worse yet, driving the Q8 around town can be a frustrating experience.

I spent a couple of weeks in the new Q8 on a road trip from … Read the rest

June 10, 2019 Off

Fiat Chrysler partners with Aurora to develop self-driving commercial vans

By Jill T Frey

Aurora, the autonomous vehicle technology startup backed by Sequoia Capital and Amazon, has struck a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to develop self-driving commercial vehicles.

The partnership will focus on integrating Aurora’s technology into FCA’s line of Ram Truck commercial vehicles, a portfolio that includes cargo vans and trucks. The deal could extend to FCA’s Fiat Professional brand as well, TechCrunch has learned.

The deal with Aurora aims to specifically develop and deploy self-driving commercial vehicles that could be used by any third party with a delivery-to-consumer need. For instance, once Aurora’s technology is integrated into its commercial vans, FCA could sell them to a third-party logistics company — like say, Amazon — that intends to use autonomous vehicles for deliveries.

Neither company disclosed financial terms of the deal.

The high cost of developing and bringing technology such as electrification and autonomous vehicles to market has prompted automakers, including FCA,

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June 7, 2019 Off

On the road to self-driving trucks, Starsky Robotics built a traditional trucking business

By Jill T Frey

More than three years ago, self-driving trucks startup Starsky Robotics was founded to solve a fundamental issue with freight — a solution that CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher believes hinges on getting the human driver out from behind the wheel.

But a funny thing happened along the way. Starsky Robotics started a regular ol’ trucking company. Now, nearly half of the employees at this self-driving truck startup help run a business that uses the traditional model of employing human drivers to haul loads for customers, TechCrunch has learned.

Starsky’s trucking business, which has been operating in secret for nearly two years alongside the company’s more public pursuit of developing autonomous vehicle technology, has hauled 2,200 loads for customers. The company has 36 regular trucks that only use human drivers to haul freight. It has three autonomous trucks that are driven and supported by a handful of test drivers. Starsky also employs a … Read the rest

June 7, 2019 Off

Audi proves two little screens are better than one big screen

By Jill T Frey

I’m spending some time in the new Audi Q8, and the car company equipped the crossover with its latest infotainment system. I love it, fingerprints, dust and all.

The grimy screens are part of the story. I could have cleaned up the screens for the photos, but I thought it was essential to show the screens after a couple of weeks of use.

There are two screens placed in the center stack of the Q8. The top one features controls for the radio, mapping system and vehicle settings. The bottom screen is for climate controls and additional controls like garage door opener and the vehicle’s cameras. Both have haptic feedback, so the buttons feel nearly real.

Both screens are tilted at the right angle, and the shifter is built in a way that provides a handy spot to rest your wrist, steadying it as you hit the screens.

Car companies … Read the rest

June 6, 2019 Off

Zoox co-founder Jesse Levinson is coming to TC Sessions: Mobility

By Jill T Frey

Autonomous vehicle startup Zoox has a history of keeping its progressive plans to itself. But that’s starting to change.

The venture-backed company that is creating ground-up fully autonomous electric vehicles is ready to share a bit more about its tech, strategy and plans. And who better to talk to than co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson, the person who oversees the company’s software, artificial intelligence, computing and sensing platforms.

We’re excited to announce that Levinson will join us onstage at TC Sessions: Mobility on July 10 in San Jose. TechCrunch will discuss with Levinson the tech that is driving the company’s autonomous vehicles, recent changes at Zoox — including its new CEO Aicha Evans, challenges facing the company and its deployment plans.

Levinson is among a group of insiders who participated in early government-backed competitions aimed at pushing the development of autonomous vehicles. While completing a computer science PhD … Read the rest

June 5, 2019 Off

Google offers new treasure trove of air quality data to researchers

By Jill T Frey

Google has employed its network of street-view vehicles to also measure street-level air quality in recent years, through an initiative it calls “Project Air View.” Today, it’s making available to scientists and researcher organizations more of the resulting data from that ongoing initiative. The company is releasing an updated version of its air quality data set that includes information collected with partner Aclima’s environmental sensors gathered between 2017 and 2018.

The combined data cache includes info from the SF Bay and San Joaquin Valley area, originally starting in 2016, along with the additional two years’ worth of data for those areas as well as for other parts of California, and other major cities, including Houston, Salt Lake City, Copenhagen, London and Amsterdam.

All told, Google’s mapping data set for air quality now includes info covering more than 140,000 miles and 7,000 hours of combined driving time spanning 2016 through 2018. … Read the rest

June 5, 2019 Off

Review: The 2019 Bentley Continental GT is beautiful, excessive and totally worth it

By Jill T Frey

The Bentley Continental GT is iconic. The vehicle has long stood for excess and opulence, and I knew that going in. I expected the Continental GT to be over-engineered and capable of high-speed thrills. And it is, but there’s more.

The tester I’m driving costs $279,000. Of course it’s beautiful and fast and dripping with technology. It’s a Bentley. Inside and out, at high speed or low speed, the latest Continental GT exceeded all my expectations.

The machine glides over the road, powered by a mechanical symphony performing under the hood. The W12 engine is a dying breed, and it’s a shame. It’s stunning in its performance. This is a 200 mph vehicle, but I didn’t hit those speeds. What surprised me the most is that I didn’t need to go fast. The new Continental GT is thrilling in a way that doesn’t require speed. It’s like a great set … Read the rest