The Eastern Chinese city of Wuhu wants to be the first city in the world to embrace autonomous driving.  The city views robot vehicles as a much more efficient way to transport people and goods. Chinese hi-tech firm Baidu has unveiled a five-year plan to let driverless vehicles range freely around an entire city. The plan will see autonomous cars, vans and buses slowly introduced to the city. The first phase of the trial would last about three years and would involve restricted areas in the city where buses, mid-size vans and cars would be tested. After three years, the areas of the city in which the autonomous cars can drive will be expanded and the service will be commercialised to allow some of the three million inhabitants of Wuhu to use it. After five years the entire city will be open to the driverless vehicles which will mix with human-driven cars, trucks and buses.

NAVYA has developed the first autonomous pure electric vehicle in the world that people can actually buy and use. (see photo above)  The ARMA can carry up to 15 passengers at a time and is already transporting over 1,100 people per year over the 220 hectare ( 540 acre) EDF Nuclear Plant at Civaux, France.  The ARMA debuted in 2015. It can travel up to 45 kilometers per hour and battery life lasts from 5 to 13 hours.

According to Ryan Peterson, CEO of Flexport, a US hi-tech firm that provides web-based international freight forwarding: “No technology will automate away more jobs—or drive more economic efficiency—than the driverless truck.” The international freight forwarding industry is a $100 billion market. A big part of the cost of moving freight by truck is the driver’s wage—but drivers are limited by government regulation in how long they can drive each day. Autonomous trucks would reduce the driver cost while doubling the truck’s productivity. In addition, robots would obey the local speed limits, something that driver’s not often do. Peterson estimates that with the introduction of autonomous trucks as many as 1.6 million trucking jobs could be lost as well as all the jobs at highway truck stops and restaurants that rely on the trucking business.

Market research firm, Frost & Sullivan, is not so sanguine about driverless trucks. In a report last August it projected that Level 4 automation, meaning no driver in the cab, is “way out there.” Frost and Sullivan thinks there will be no such trucks on the public highways by 2025, and only 300 by 2035. And the projection for Level 3 technology is just 3,160 trucks  within 10 years, although that total surges to almost 41,000 by 2035.

Ottomotto, a new startup US company formed by veterans of the Google car project, is planning to provide self-driving technology to today’s long-haul trucks. The company plans on retrofitting existing trucks rather than putting self-driving systems into new ones. Currently it is working with three Volvo trucks. Since government regulations require drivers to rest every so often, this problem could be eased if drivers could lounge in the back of the cabin while the long haul trucks cruise the highway unattended.

The Canadian city of Montreal will have 1000 electric car charging stations by 2020. The plan starts with 50 charging stations being available in the downtown core of the city starting this summer and will have 120 by the end of the year. Most of these stations will be located on sidewalks next to parking spots. To encourage electric car sharing, the city also said only electric vehicles will be eligible for universal parking permits used by car-sharing services like Car2Go and Communauto by 2020.

The German government has set aside €600 million for an electric vehicle-purchasing program. The money is to be shared by buyers of EVs and automakers. The money applies to electric vehicles priced less than €60,000, which would exclude some Tesla models but include Mercedes and BMW. Buyers of a pure electric vehicle are eligible for up to a €4,000 rebate, while those purchasing a plug-in hybrid can get up to a €3,000 rebate. In addition, people who buy pure electric cars will not have to pay tax on those cars for 10 years. The program expires in 2019. Germany has also set aside €300 million for the installation of additional level 2 and level 3 EV charging infrastructure.

ABI Research expects electric vehicle revenue to reach $58 billion in 2021, five times more than last year’s result. The revenues will come from the sale of electric cars and electric bikes which can fold and fit into the trunk of a conventional car. Using these bikes, drivers will be able to park their cars at dedicated spots at the entrance of a congested city, and then continue their trip to work, shopping or recreation.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,