Fully autonomous Teslas are getting closer to reality. Yesterday, the electric carmaker announced that all new vehicles will come with extra hardware to support “full self-driving capabilities,” and this morning, the company posted a video showing exactly what that hardware can do.
The self-driving software is not finished and has yet to be approved by regulators, but the four-minute clip is nonetheless impressive, showing a Tesla leaving a garage, driving across town, and finding its own parking spot — all autonomously. There is someone sat in the driver’s seat, as per current legal requirements, but they never touch the wheel. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who posted the clip to Twitter, notes that the car is even smart enough to driver past a disabled parking spot, knowing it’s not allowed to park there. He also highlighted the car’s summon function:
When you want your car to return, tap Summon on your phone. It will eventually find you even if you are on the other side of the country
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 20, 2016
All of this technology is a long way from being implemented, but it does raise some interesting questions. Like, what happens if you summon a Tesla on your phone then get on a train — will the car follow you round indefinitely, or will it only drive to the initial summon location? And when is someone going to mod this function so owners can whistle to call their Tesla, like summoning a horse in a video game? It’s all to come.
Frantz Lasorne, co-founder of Visionaries 777, discusses how his company brings products to life using virtual and augmented reality, the launch of the car configurator and his outlook for the industry. He speaks to Bloomberg’s Rishaad Salamat and Haidi Lun on “Bloomberg Markets.” (Source: Bloomberg)
Two weeks ago some fellow tech investors and I took a trip to Amsterdam for a large conference on the future of computing, hosted by Nvidia. The company has emerged as one of the leaders in graphic processors, a technology being adopted by companies behind the machine learning revolution. One thing that struck us all was just how much of the conference was devoted to the automotive industry.
Surely other industries could share the spotlight? Especially given that only six percent of Nvidia’s revenues are expected to come from automotive this year, compared to a whopping 56 percent from gaming. So why spend so much time on cars?
One simple reason is that Europe is still the home of many of the world’s car manufacturers. Volvo, Renault, and Audi were all there as both speakers and potential customers for the new Nvidia kit. But underneath the slick auto-demos in the keynote is an industry in flux. Nvidia, and other similar suppliers, know that they have the opportunity to claim a whole new level of relevance in the automotive market, as software and automation eats the car.
2015 and 2016 have been crazy years for the industry. Car manufacturers and their suppliers have been scrambling to consolidate and to snap up exciting startups.
So far, the total value of automotive-supplier deals in 2015 and 2016 has been $74.4 billion. Comparing this to the $17.7 billion annual average that we saw in the previous 10 years, it is clear that something has changed. The number of transactions valued at $500 million or more rose to 18 in 2015 — three times the average for the previous 10 years – and there have been 11 such deals in 2016 so far.
It’s not only the volume of acquisitions that raises eyebrows, but the car manufacturers are acquiring different kinds of companies.
The auto suppliers have been gearing up on software. Continental acquired Elektrobit’s automotive software division in 2015 for $665 million. Similarly, Harman International Industries acquired two software companies in 2015, paying $780 million for Symphony Teleca and $170 million for Red Bend Software, which produce connected devices and over-the-air updates. The same goes for Intel, which acquired two companies this year, Yogitech and Itseez, for their advanced assisted driving software, robotics, and autonomous machines division.
The manufacturers are doing the same. General Motors bought Cruise Automation for $1 billion in 2016; while Toyota hired the full 16-person team from Jaybridge Robotics, and plowed $1 billion into the Toyota Research Institute. Uber paid $680 million for Otto in the same year that the startup was founded, allegedly to gain access to the pool of former Google, Apple, and Tesla staff that Otto had hired.
Defence and fear is at the heart of most of these acquisitions. Even though the incumbents are globally established brands, they fear the loss of influence that might unfold over the next decade.
The squeeze is coming from all directions. Car companies once “owned the consumer.” They built brands that stood for safety, performance, and sex-appeal. They still do. Their long-held position at the top of this chain allowed them to push liability and warranty claims to their suppliers and control their distributors. This is all changing. New operators are stealing their consumers, and changing their expectations.
Uber, Didi, and Lyft are new brands in transportation, but they play by very different rules to companies like Volkswagen, Mercedes, and BMW. In the new world order, they control coordination and hold the brand, while car manufacturers become their hardware suppliers.
A similar squeeze is coming from below. Since Henry Ford’s Model T, innovation has come from big car brands building cheaper cars, with better engines and smoother curves. Nowadays the innovation that drives the market comes from software and electronics. Software in cars now runs in 12-24 month cycles (similar to that in smartphones), and 90 percent of innovations and new features come in the form of software and electronics. This is increasingly where the value lies: 10 years ago the cost of electronics and software contributed to 20 percent of total costs of a car – today that has risen to 35 percent.
On top of this, traditional car makers are getting direct competition from Tesla, Apple, Google, and Baidu, who are tearing up the rulebook on what a car company looks like, coming in with huge pedigree in software and data. Short product-cycles and a software-focus is second nature for these companies, and if they can introduce these into the automotive industry, the incumbents will find it hard to keep up, especially when it comes to the advent of autonomous driving, whenever that might be.
Traditional car manufacturers are convinced that the race for automation will play a key part in determining their position in the market for the coming decades. What is clear is that they cannot get there alone. The deep-learning elements needed for self-driving will need to come from outside. Startups like the recently acquired Cruise Automation, Five.ai, Drive.ai, and Adasworks will join the race alongside more established suppliers like Nvidia, Delphi, and Autoliv. Assisted driving pure-play MobilEye is also well positioned to succeed.
The immediate future of the automotive industry will be very different from the past. We will see a lot of new companies entering the fray, with many likely to get acquired early on. The real winners will be those who build the components of the automated driving stack, as they will be in high demand by car manufacturers looking to protect their own position in the new world.
Sam Myers is a principal at London-based VC firm Balderton Capital. Prior to joining Balderton, he worked with the investment team at DN Capital, investing in early-stage software, digital media, eCommerce, and consumer mobile companies. He started his career as a strategy consultant with the Monitor Group, working with clients across Europe, USA, and Latin America.
Nico Rosberg is constantly fiddling with the dials and buttons on his steering wheel as he nabs pole position at Baku.
Mercedes-AMG driver Nico Rosberg saw more than 215 mph as he nabbed pole position at the 2016 European Grand Prix. His 1:42.758 qualifying lap was nearly a second faster than Force India’s Sergio Perez, the next-fastest qualifier.
You’d think that turning such a quick, clean lap would require absolute concentration on the ABCs—acceleration, braking, and cornering. But this annotated cockpit video shows a different scene: Rosberg constantly fiddling with the myriad adjustment dials and buttons on his steering wheel.
It’s mind-boggling. This video, uploaded to Vimeo by user “Mark4211,” highlights every tiny adjustment Rosberg makes as he hurtles around Baku City Circuit. He’s opening and closing the drag-reduction flap (DRS), which diverts air around the rear wing to increase straight-line speed. He’s tweaking the Brake Migration (BMIG) setup, adjusting how the car’s brake-by-wire system adjusts front-rear braking balance on the fly. He’s making microscopic adjustments to brake balance (BBal), portioning out left-right braking strength perfectly for every turn.
Oh, and he’s upshifting and downshifting, steering and braking, nailing apexes and braking zones, and generally making it all look easy.
Keeping track of this many car adjustments, at that speed, requires superhuman concentration and brain power. Makes you realize how stupid we look when we drift out of our lanes while playing with our radios.
Within the next five years, a quarter of a billion vehicles with connected features will travel on roads across the globe. How will we protect them?
Automakers are rushing connectivity into their cars. Features like 4G LTE and Bluetooth are now standard on many makes and models, and they’re keeping on-the-go motorists connected to their lives beyond the vehicle. In the coming years, our cars will connect more with the broader Internet of Things (IoT) and integrate seamlessly with smartwatches, smart houses, and smart cities. All those connections are potentially dangerous, warns Josh Corman, director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative for the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C., think tank that analyzes global economic, political, and technological challenges. He says automakers are equipping cars with these connected features faster than they can defend them from cyberthreats. Sooner or later—and he argues it will be sooner—they are due for a reckoning.
Corman likens the scope of the connected-car threat to that of another promising development once widely used in building materials—until its cancer-causing effects were discovered. “When they first introduced asbestos, you were an idiot not to use asbestos everywhere,” he said of the building material. “It was a fire retardant. It was lightweight. It was inexpensive. Asbestos had clear benefits. There are obvious benefits in the IoT, but when it comes to putting connectivity in these cyberphysical systems, or in these cybersafety use cases, we’re going to look back on this point in history and say, ‘What were we thinking?’ “
He’s not alone. In April, the Government Accountability Office released a study that suggested the Department of Transportation needs to define its role in preventing and responding to real-world cyberattacks on vehicles. The report said hackers could potentially attack a large number of vehicles—and that they could do so from anywhere in the world, a development made clear last year when researchers working from a residence in Pittsburgh remotely commandeered control of a Jeep Cherokee traveling along a highway in St. Louis.
“When we see some confidence-shattering cybersecurity failure that leads to a loss of life, you’ll see people aggressively disconnecting things.” —Josh Corman, the Atlantic Council
That research set off alarm bells within the Department of Homeland Security, but the capabilities of car hackers have been well known in the auto industry since 2010, when researchers with the University of Washington and the University of California San Diego first demonstrated it was possible for outsiders to breach software systems in a vehicle and gain control. From those early stages, automotive cybersecurity has mushroomed into a massive potential pitfall. With 112 million vehicles now connected around the world, by 2023 the industry will be spending $759 million per year to grapple with those concerns, according to financial-services company IHS Markit. The number of connected vehicles is expected to double by 2025 to a quarter of a billion, according to Gartner, a global technology consulting firm.
“Cybersecurity will be one of the toughest challenges that the auto industry will face in the next decade or two,” said Colin Bird, senior analyst with IHS Markit. “Especially as more vehicles with telematics and embedded modems make connected cars an attractive target to cybercriminals, terrorists, and nation-states.”
Confronting the Threat by Sharing Intelligence
So far, car-hacking exploits have remained in the realm of white-hat researchers who have demonstrated any number of security holes in the security of a dozen automakers. But federal officials know they may not always be so fortunate and that they need to fortify cars against system-wide attacks.
In response to the GAO report, officials from the DOT have been writing the blueprint for a new cybersecurity policy that will be revealed “soon,” a spokesperson told Car and Driver. In the meantime, the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy released by the department addresses cybersecurity as it relates specifically to highly automated vehicles.
That document instructs OEMs that detection, response, and recovery options should be used to address threats and enable a quick response to events—actions that almost none are capable of today. Much as federal officials have urged automakers to share information on safety concerns related to autonomous vehicles, the government likely will expect the same when it comes to cybersecurity failures.
“Cybersecurity is another example of where we intend to push this sharing,” said a senior DOT official who requested he not be identified. “There are a number of places where we’re trying to encourage and help foster an environment where they don’t have to make the same mistakes their neighbor made.”
Charlie Miller, above, was one of two researchers who figured out how to remotely commandeer control of a Jeep Cherokee in 2015, an exploit that put the industry on edge.
Such sharing is already underway. A group that is one of the few existing bulwarks against car hackers, the Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center (Auto-ISAC), commenced operations in January 2016. Composed of members from major automakers and some suppliers, the group logged and shared more than 30 actionable threats in its first months, according to Jon Allen, the group’s executive director.
In July, Auto-ISAC published its set of best practices for automakers and suppliers. The document acknowledges that “a future vehicle with zero risk is unobtainable and unrealistic” and emphasizes ways that automakers and suppliers can assess risks, detect threats, and manage responses. NHTSA referenced the group’s best practices as a document that should be leaned on for guidance for highly automated vehicles, and it’s possible it will again make that recommendation when it comes to protecting the overall vehicle fleet.
But there’s one problem: Right now, almost every automaker lacks the ability to detect real-time threats at a broad level and initiate a response. While the OEMs have fortified defenses with the addition of software that’s supposed to identify and quarantine potential hacking attempts discovered on vehicle networks, no major automakers have the ability to preserve such network traffic in real time, nor the capability to capture data for follow-up investigations.
Corman, who founded iamthecavalry.org, a grassroots organization that analyzes the convergence of cybersecurity and public safety, published a Five-Star Automotive Cyber Safety Program that serves as another set of best practices. The third of those five stars recommends that automakers develop a method for evidence capture, something akin to a black box, that would track intrusion attempts and sabotage on the vehicle’s Controller Area Network bus.
But designing such a data recorder isn’t as simple as it is for the airlines. “One of the first things hackers do is delete the logs to hide their tracks, so you can’t simply try to do an evidence recorder,” Corman said. “You need to do it in a way that incorporates all the hard-fought and hard-earned lessons we’ve had in the private sector.”
Reversal on Working with Independent Experts
If fortifying vehicular security and sharing information are two of the industry’s best defenses against hackers in the connected-car age, so is doing something that once seemed unthinkable: getting outside help from the independent researchers who thus far have pioneered the fledgling cybersecurity field.
Three automakers currently either offer bug bounties or run coordinated disclosure programs, which provide independent researchers an avenue to contact and work with companies to identify and neutralize vulnerabilities before divulging them to a wider audience. Tesla Motors offers a gold coin—a symbolic gesture that’s highly sought within the white-hat hacker community—and a factory tour to researchers who find and share vulnerabilities. General Motors started a coordinated disclosure program in January, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles followed in July.
“We’ve learned we’re really good at working with automotive electronics and automobiles, but we didn’t necessarily know how to work with hackers on our own.” —Jeff Massimilla, General Motors
Those are developments encouraged by Auto-ISAC—and they amount to a seismic shift from how automakers treated researchers a year earlier. In 2015, automakers in general through their lobbying group, and General Motors specifically, said independent researchers should not hold the legal right to study the software in their cars, arguing the millions of lines of code that run almost every vehicle function were protected by copyright law. But researchers and do-it-yourself tinkerers secured an exemption in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that mostly preserved their access to vehicles to continue peeking under the hood.
General Motors began to change its stance last summer, when hacker Samy Kamkar told the company he found a flaw in an OnStar smartphone app that allowed him to remotely start vehicles. Within a matter of months, GM reversed its stance to distance itself from independent researchers and established its coordinated disclosure program. Within its first 48 hours of operation, the automaker received a large number of submissions, some of which included reports of bugs the company hadn’t previously known.
“Through that interaction, we understood not only the importance of working with researchers, but that it was important to provide them a clear and defined way to interact with us,” said Jeff Massimilla, chief cybersecurity officer at GM. “They’re probably as apprehensive to work with us as we might be to work with them. And we’ve learned we’re really good at working with automotive electronics and automobiles, but we didn’t necessarily know how to work with hackers on our own. We got a lot of guidance on our program, and it’s been great. I can’t get into statistics, but it’s provided actionable intelligence, and we’ll continue to mature that program.”
A Catastrophe Waiting to Happen
Intelligence sharing through Auto-ISAC and coordinated-disclosure programs run by automakers are two strong pillars for defending cars, but that may not be enough to thwart attacks. Corman says the DOT’s upcoming framework for handling cyberthreats should have some teeth. In the same way that systems checks for commercial aircraft are mandatory after a certain number of flight hours, that kitchen safety codes in restaurants are mandatory, and that seatbelts and airbags have become mandatory in the auto industry, he says regulations that set minimum standards for automotive cybertechnology are needed.
“None of those were voluntary,” he said. “I know there’s this fear that the heavy hand of government may not understand their sector well, but this is a reminder these things aren’t just cyber anymore. It’s cyberphysical systems. It’s cybersafety impact. It’s where bits and bytes meet flesh and blood.”
The number of reported vulnerabilities may soon increase. October 1 is the end of a yearlong stay in the implementation of the ruling in the copyright case, meaning researchers who may have felt afraid to report their findings for fear of being prosecuted or sued by automakers will be in the legal clear to share their knowledge.
Three automakers hosting coordinated disclosure programs is perhaps a good start, but what about the rest of them? At a time when the number of embedded connections in vehicles is increasing, the already deployed fleet is devoid of defense, and dongles that plug in to OBD-II ports are increasingly exposed as vulnerable, most automakers and aftermarket suppliers have no means to receive outside help.
Malicious actors aren’t waiting around for disclosure programs anyway, but the lack of clarity could slow the discovery of fixes for dire problems. Security flaws are crises waiting to happen, and a single breach that causes an injury or death could mean the connected-car age ultimately is short-lived.
“When we see some confidence-shattering cybersecurity failure that leads to a loss of life, you’ll see people aggressively disconnecting things,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a catastrophe to really get the hint. The issue I have is when that happens, the response times will be very long and very painful.”
Photo: General MotorsGeneral Motors announced a feature in its 2017 GMC Acadia sport-utility vehicle that will remind a driver that someone might be in the back seat if the rear door was previously opened.
Sensors and cameras can activate alarms before it’s too late
Since 1998, nearly 700 babies and other children in the United States alone have died of heatstroke after being accidentally left in a hot vehicle. More than 25 cases have been reported this year. Half of those deaths resulted from children who were left in the cars by caregivers. In 30 percent of the cases, the child entered an unattended, unlocked vehicle.
When outdoor temperatures exceed 30 °C, a vehicle’s internal temperature can rise to 67 °C in as little as 20 minutes. Heatstroke occurs when a person’s temperature exceeds 40 °C, causing internal organs to shut down and damaging cells.
The auto industry is slowly taking action to prevent such deaths. General Motors announced a rear-seat reminder feature in its 2017 GMC Acadia sport-utility vehicle. It notifies the driver at the end of a trip that the rear door was previously opened, prompting the driver to check the backseat before exiting. Car seat manufacturer Evenflo offers technology on the Advanced SensorSafe Embrace DLX infant seat that plays a tone to remind a driver that a child is still in the seat. These are two solutions, but there are several other features that might help prevent tragedies.
A DUAL APPROACH
According to a CNN report, in 2012 the U.S. government warned that “new devices intended to prevent children from dying of heatstroke in parked vehicles are unreliable and should not be used as stand-alone measures to prevent such tragedies.” And, the report noted, no aftermarket devices protected against a child entering an unlocked vehicle. Four years later, this is still the case.
Being a retired systems engineer, I have examined this problem from several perspectives. First, there is the need to detect when a child is left in the vehicle—whether it be through sensors in a car seat or the floor, or rear seats. The system of sensors must produce some kind of alert to warn either the driver, a caregiver, a nearby adult, or first responders in a timely manner so they can remove the child before the symptoms of heatstroke set in. Automakers must also examine cars’ existing technologies or look at new ones in the works, and assess how these can be applied to protect children.
Whether children are left in a car seat or hide in an unattended vehicle, any technology designed to protect them must be able to send out a warning. The technologies needed for each of the following problems are different.
- To prevent children from being forgotten in car seats, the seats themselves can be built with sensors to capture biometric data about the child, including weight, respiration, heart rate, and movements, and also whether the child is breathing out carbon dioxide. This information can be transmitted in real time to a caregiver’s smartphone.
A timer can begin either when the driver shuts off the engine or exits the car without removing the child, while sensors monitor the interior temperature of the vehicle. Collectively these would be intended to sense the presence of an unattended child left behind in a car and produce some type of alert, whether by activating the car horn or car alarm or sending a message to the caregiver’s smartphone.
- Whenchildren enter an unattended, unlocked vehicle and cannot get out, sensors could be installed to detect movement, screams, banging, and other noises, and send an alarm. Multiple video cameras would need to cover several areas of the vehicle’s interior, including the floor between rows of seats and, in hatchback vehicles, the storage area behind the backseat—where children may hide. An easily accessible switch could be installed for children to activate an alarm themselves. Or a feature could be added that would automatically unlock the doors when the engine has been off for a period of time and is empty of any front-seat occupants but sensors detect that children are still in the back.
Once technologies that can detect unattended children are implemented, then the next step is to interface them with what is already installed in vehicles. That includes video cameras, the horn (which can act as an alarm), and Bluetooth technology (which can send messages to a driver’s smartphone). Cars can already sense when doors are opened or closed and when seat belts are engaged or not engaged, and they can display outdoor temperatures. Many are also equipped with safety components such as a latch for exiting the rear compartment or trunk. A systems solution would integrate all of these technologies toward the common goal of saving children’s lives.
A Google self-driving Lexus RX 450h was involved in a crash with a van in Mountain View, Calif. on Friday afternoon, according to local police. Another driver ran a red light and crashed into the car. Thankfully, nobody was injured in the accident.
TechCrunch has reached out to Google for more information.
Two local TV stations, KRON and KPIX, reported that the Google autonomous vehicle had been “in control,” or in its self-driving mode at the time of the crash.
However, the self-driving car was reportedly manned by a Google employee who took over its operation, and applied the brakes when the other car’s driver began crossing an intersection, possibly running a red light.
The crash comes just after the U.S. Department of Transportation made some major autonomous vehicle policy announcements earlier this week, as TechCrunch then reported.
Among other things, the DOT called on self-driving auto makers and related technology firms to prioritize safety, and share data with the government and each other within reason.
Generally, DOT officials say they want to ensure the U.S. can be a leader rather than a laggard in autonomous vehicles, while protecting the traveling public.
Article updated to reflect that another car collided with it.
Red light, green light!
If you’ve ever been stuck at a red light that seems to last an eternity, you’ll be happy to know that Audi announced that it’s going to start work with municipalities to tell its cars when a light is about to turn green. The automaker says this is the first step in a Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) partnership with cities that will be launching this fall.
The Audis won’t be talking to the traffic lights directly, instead the vehicles will use their built-in LTE connection to get information from a participating city’s central traffic control system. Using that data and GPS, the cars will be able to show on the dashboard when an upcoming signal will turn green.
The system does not use the upcoming DSRC V2V (vehicle to vehicle)/ V2I (Vehicle to Infrastructure) standard. Instead it uses partner Traffic Technology Services to establish a data relationship with the municipalities. As a vehicle enters a “zone” it requests a one-time unique token to establish communication with the infrastructure to request the stop light phase.
As for DSRC, Audi product and technology communications senior specialist, Justin Goduto said it’s not quite ready for widespread deployment yet. Audi wants to move forward now. “For the time being using this methodology gives us true integration to the infrastructure,” Goduto said.
The technology needed to get all that green light information is available in 2017 Audi Q7, A4 and A4 Allroad vehicles built after June 1, 2016. Drivers will also need to subscribe to Audi Connect Prime. As for the cities, the automaker isn’t ready to announce where the V2I infrastructure will roll out first. But it hopes the system will be working in five to seven metropolitan areas by the end of the year.
It is predicted that South Korea’s small and medium company’s battery technology will be used by Apple for its self-driving electric vehicle that is being developed as a top secret. Because it is a technology that was never seen before, industries are interested whether or not a South Korean company will play a role of a secret weapon for Apple’s future innovative vehicle technology.
According to a battery industry on the 8th, Apple recently signed off on a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) with a South Korean battery developer to co-develop batteries for ‘Protect Titan (tentative name)’. They have been carrying out administrative work in South Korea and the U.S. starting from early this year as an employee from Apple’s department that is related to development of batteries for electric vehicles has been visiting this South Korean company.
Industries think that this Korean company won’t be the sole company that will be in charge of Apple’s batteries. However it is heard that Apple has been approaching innovativeness even though they started off with totally different concepts from design, function, and performance perspective from the start. Industries believe that Apple is focusing on securing creative battery technology that will only exist in Apple’s self-driving vehicles.
This Korean battery developer, which is comprised of 20 or so employees who are expert technologists in batteries, holds international patented technologies for hollow batteries. These batteries are cylindrical lithium-ion secondary batteries that have thickness of 2 fingers and they are different from other batteries that their centers are hollow.
Because batteries create most heat from the center due to chemical reactions, this company has created batteries where air flow and cooling are smooth in the center of batteries and this can minimize installation of separate cooling device or a device that prevents over-heating. They are also advantageous in high output. By utilizing this space, it is easy to design parallel connection, which is to expand battery capacity, in these batteries.
Apple did not choose standardized circular or rectangular batteries that are widely used for current electric vehicles, but it is planning to develop its own independent batteries for electric vehicles based on this Korean company’s hollow battery technology.
“Because we made a NDA with Apple, we cannot discuss any information regarding this project.” said a high-ranking official from this Korean company.
Apple’s Project Titan was heard by industries in early 2015. Apple newly appointed Bob Mansfield, who had led developments of Macbook Air, iMac, and iPad, as the man who will oversee this project and it is heard that Apple is carrying out its project with other professional employees that it hired from Tesla, Ford, and BMW as well as Chris Porritt who used to be the Tesla’s Vice-President and in charge of vehicle engineering.
The auto industry has seen a flurry of startups and private investment enter the market in the past five years, as cars become more connected, electric, and autonomous.
Startups range from one man units to large teams, with some valuations exceeding $1 billion. But who are the startups? In a CB Insights report (infographic below), the venture capital database firm attempts to “unbundle” the automobile and show what these startups are working on.
Plenty of the startups are essentially trying to zone in on the auto issue, instead of building services that rival Android or Google Maps.
Take PathSense, a 10-person navigation startup based in Palo Alto, California. The team has released four SDKs, three for Android, one for iOS, which attempt to improve accuracy, speed, and lower battery drain when using GPS or geolocation tools on mobile.
PathSense, in a way, appears to be marketing itself to Google or Apple. It has tech and talent, two things the giants are in need of, especially for their own autonomous projects.
Auto aftermarket also an opportunity
But while everyone may be waiting for a fully autonomous car, the huge existing auto fleet presents an opportunity as well. Aftermarket autonomous features will be big as well.
“I think the broader perspective is that American’s can’t afford new cars and the automotive industry itself relies on the upsell of new features as an enticement for people to buy,” says Andy Karuza, CEO of Fensens, a wireless parking sensor and app. “Now, the new features are becoming more accessible and affordable through technology, allowing consumers to bypass having to get the new car all together. This will likely be a larger trend with IoT technology. ”
We have written a few articles on nuTonomy, a MIT spinoff that entered Singapore earlier this year. The startup, which is building an autonomous shuttle system, recently received approval from Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) to expand its autonomous trial in more zones.
nuTonomy’s goal is to provide its shuttle service to the entire city state of Singapore, possibly entering into other markets during that time. People will be able, in the future, to call for the shuttle in the same way we book Uber’s today—minus the driver.
As startups dive into these different sectors, it is possible they will find new methods that improve platforms and products outside of the automobile. Cybersecurity firms may create encryption that surpasses current end-to-end encryption on mobile messaging services, mapping and navigation firms have already proved their worth, as shown by the upgrades PathSense has made to Android and iOS navigation in its short lifespan.