Automotive Old Guard Leading the Race to the Future

Autonomous Fusion Hybrid research vehicle in Dearborn, courtesy Ford Motor Co

While Uber, Tesla & Google are getting most of the ink, WIRED magazine’s article Detroit Is Stomping Silicon Valley in the Self-Driving Car Race says:

IF YOU’RE BETTING on Silicon Valley stars like Google, Tesla, and Uber to free you from your horrorshow commute with autonomous driving technology, don’t. That’s the key takeaway from a new report that finds Ford—yes, the Detroit-based, 113-year-old giant—is winning the race to build the self-driving car, with General Motors running a close second. Renault-Nissan, Daimler, and Volkswagen round out the top five. Meanwhile, Waymo—aka Google’s driverless car effort—sits in sixth place, with Tesla in twelfth. Uber languishes in sixteenth, behind Honda and barely ahead of startup Nutonomy and China’s Baidu.

That may sound all kinds of wrong to anyone who has seen Uber, Waymo, and Tesla flaunt their tech, and regards Detroit’s old guard as ill-prepared for the robotic future. But it’s the state of the race according to Navigant Research, whose newly released “leaderboard” report ranks these players not just on their ability to make a car drive itself, but on their ability to bring that car to the mass market.

Ford and GM both score in the low to mid 80s on the technology front; it’s their old-school skills that float them to first and second place. They’ve each spent more than a century developing, testing, producing, marketing, distributing, and selling cars. Plus, each has made strategic moves to bolster weak points. Ford just dumped a billion dollars into an artificial intelligence outfit. It acquired ride-sharing service Chariot and invested in Velodyne, a company producing lidar, the laser scanning tech many argue is necessary for self-driving cars. GM scooped up self-driving expertise via a startup called Cruise, and partnered with Lyft to put the eventual result on the road.

Lots more in a great article from WIRED!

View the photo of an autonomous Ford Fusion hybrid bigger on Ford’s website.

More cars & autos on Michigan in Pictures.

Yesterday to tomorrow with Michigan automobiles

Low-Rider...

Low-Rider…, photo by Kenneth (Off/On)

Two interesting auto-related tidbits came across my desk in the last couple of days.

The first is from Deadline Detroit, and shows an excerpt from a 1917 newsreel with a Detroit Police Department driver-safety campaign trying to persuade drivers to slow down.

Fast forward to today and beyond with Michigan Senate approval of self-driving vehicle testing on Michigan roads. The Detroit News reports that (pending House approval):

Under the Michigan rules, a driver would be required to be in the driver’s seat at all times during testing to take over in the case of emergency. Manufacturers and suppliers would use an “M” license plate for automated vehicle testing. “Upfitters” of automated vehicles, such as Google, would be permitted to test vehicles along with manufacturers.

The action comes as the U.S. Congress is set to hold a hearing Tuesday on autonomous vehicles amid growing interest among automakers. They will hear from General Motors Co. and Nissan Motor Co. executives along with the Michigan Department of Transportation.

…The University of Michigan says that by 2021, Ann Arbor could become the first U.S. city with a shared fleet of networked, driverless vehicles. That’s the goal of the Mobility Transformation Center, a cross-campus U-M initiative that also involves government and industry representatives. Ann Arbor has been home to a 15-month-long ongoing study of 3,000 vehicles that are linked to one another in a test of technology to see if connected cars can help each other avoid crashes.

I love it when the perfect photo shows up at the perfect time! Kenneth took this HDR shot in Mustang Alley at the Woodward Dream Cruise. See it bigger and check out more in his HDR slideshow.

More automotive features on Michigan in Pictures.