RUMOUR HAS IT
Cars that make ‘eye contact’: Jaguar Land Rover tackles pedestrians’ fear of robot cars
Jaguar Land Rover has fitted "virtual eyes" to intelligent pods to understand how humans will trust self-driving vehicles, as research studies suggest nearly two-thirds of pedestrians worry about how safe it will be to cross the road in future.
The friendly-faced "eye pods" have a vital job: helping work out how much information future autonomous cars should share with users or pedestrians to ensure that people trust the technology.
Jaguar Land Rover has enlisted a team of cognitive psychologists to better understand how vehicle behaviour affects human confidence in new technology. The intelligent pods run autonomously on a fabricated street scene in Coventry, UK, while the behaviour of pedestrians is analysed as they wait to cross the road.
The pods seek out the pedestrian — appearing to "look" directly at them — signalling to road users that it has identified them and intends to take avoiding action.
Engineers record trust levels in the person before and after the pod makes "eye contact" to find out whether it generates sufficient confidence that it would stop for them. Previous studies suggest as many 63% of pedestrians and cyclists say they’d feel less safe sharing the road with a self-driving vehicle.
"It’s second nature to glance at the driver of the approaching vehicle before stepping into the road," said Pete Bennett, future mobility research manager at Jaguar Land Rover.
"We want to know if it is beneficial to provide humans with information about a vehicle’s intentions or whether simply letting a pedestrian know it has been recognised is enough to improve confidence."
The trials are part of a wider study exploring how future connected and autonomous vehicles can replicate human behaviour and reactions when driving.
BMW gives early glimpse of next electric car
BMW has released a teaser sketch of its new technology flagship, the iNext electric car, which is due to be unveiled to the world next month.
The German car maker has confirmed that its future is electric vehicles and recently announced that the iNext will be produced at BMW’s Dingolfing plant in Germany starting in 2021. BMW also plans to launch the i4 battery-electric Gran Coupé in 2020.
Very little is known about the iNext except that it will be the German premium brand’s technology leader.
The teaser sketch reveals a low-slung coupe-style body that would set the iNext apart from BMW’s high-roofed i3, which was the firm’s first electric car.
BMW also said that the car will have a 700km range and will have a new level of automated driving.
Toyota and Uber team up
Toyota has signed a major deal with Uber to hurry along the development of autonomous vehicles.
The Japanese manufacturer invested $500m (about R7.4bn) in the ride-sharing company, which will retrofit Toyota Sienna minivans with its self-driving technology and begin testing them on public roads in 2021.
The deal, which reportedly values Uber at about $72bn, aims at "advancing and bringing to market autonomous ride-sharing as a mobility service at scale", Toyota said in a statement.
For Toyota the deal marks an important milestone in its transformation from merely a car-building company to a holistic mobility provider.
The agreement came as Uber, the world’s largest smartphone-summoned ride service, is throttling back its solo effort to develop autonomous vehicle technology. Uber suspended its self-driving car programme after a crash killed a woman pushing a bicycle in a street in Arizona, US, in March.
In August, the US firm took a tentative step towards restarting the programme, putting self-driving cars back on the road in "manual mode" — with a driver at the wheel at all times.
Uber is among a number of technology and car companies racing towards what some say is an inevitable future in which vehicles drive themselves.
Toyota and Uber have an existing partnership with e-Palette, an autonomous vehicle concept that can be used for everything from pizza delivery to ride sharing.
Extended bike warranties
BMW Motorrad South Africa has introduced a new standard three-year warranty with unlimited kilometres across its complete range of motorcycles.
The three-year, unlimited kilometres plan applies to bikes purchased from August 1 2018 and comes at no additional cost to customers.
New, used and demo motorcycles purchased prior to that date will be subject to the previous two-year, unlimited kilometres warranty.
The peace-of-mind plan covers any possible manufacturer defects (including labour) and excludes wear-and-tear items such as tyres.