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Autonomous driving

[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Volvo Cars developing systems for Driver State Estimation; driver sensors

March 17, 2014

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A sensor that is able to monitor in which direction the driver is looking, how open the eyes are, as well as head position and angle is part of Volvo Cars’ work on developing systems that can detect if a driver is tired or inattentive. The technology is based on a sensor installed in the dashboard and small LEDs that illuminate the driver with infrared light.The information can be used to adjust the action of safety systems to the driver’s condition. Click to enlarge.

Volvo Cars is researching systems that can recognize and distinguish whether a driver is tired or inattentive. By placing a sensor on the dashboard to monitor aspects such as in which direction drivers are looking, how open their eyes are, as well as their head position and angle, it is possible to develop precise safety systems that detect a driver’s state and are able to adjust the car accordingly.

The analysis of the driver’s state, known as Driver State Estimation, in which driver sensors play an important role, is a field that may be key to self-driving cars in the future, Volvo suggests. The car will need to be able to determine for itself whether the driver is capable of taking control when the conditions for driving autonomously are no longer present. A driver sensor could be of assistance in this.

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Volvo Car Group tests road-embedded magnets for accurate positioning of self-driving cars

March 11, 2014

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Volvo Car Group has completed a research project using magnets in the roadway to help the car determine its position. A pattern of round ferrite magnets (40x15 mm) was located 200 mm below the road surface. The test car was equipped with several magnetic field sensors. Click to enlarge.

Volvo Car Group has completed a research project using magnets embedded in the roadway to help the car determine its position. The research, which has been financed in strategic co-operation with the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket), is a potential means of implementing self-driving vehicles.

Reliable and highly accurate positioning is one of the crucial issues in the development of self-driving cars. While established positioning technologies such as GPS and cameras have limitations in certain conditions, road-integrated magnets remain unaffected by physical obstacles and poor weather conditions. Accordingly, the use of road magnets has attracted some academic research, as well as a number of patents filed on different approaches.

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Volkswagen Group’s new Future Tracks program targeting digitalization era in auto industry; “James 2025”

March 10, 2014

At the Geneva Motor Show and now at the IT trade fair CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, Volkswagen Group executive management has begun to outline its “Future Tracks” program which will address, among other things, what Chairman of the Board of Management Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn calls an approaching new era of digitalization.

In an address at the opening ceremony of CeBIT 2014 in Hanover in the presence of Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel, the British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Minister-President of Lower Saxony Stephan Weil and Prof. Dieter Kempf, President of BITKOM, the IT industry Association, Winterkorn declared that the increasingly intensive networking of cars with their surroundings and automatic driving would be the key topics for the intelligent mobility of the future.

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Renault unveils Next Two autonomous electric vehicle prototype for 2020

February 06, 2014

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The Next Two prototype. Click to enlarge.

Renault has unveiled the Next Two concept—the company’s current vision of an autonomous drive (AD) capable electric vehicle for the year 2020.

The Next Two prototype—based on a Renault ZOE—focuses on two areas: the delegation of driving functions under certain conditions and connectivity. Using sensor technologies, Next Two enables the delegation of driving functions from the driver to the car in congested traffic up to km/h (18.6 mph) on main roads. It also offers an Automated Valet Parking function which permits the vehicle to park itself completely autonomously in car parks equipped to cater for automated vehicles. This includes both finding a parking place and the necessary maneuvering.

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US Army and Lockheed Martin complete advanced autonomous convoy demonstration

February 03, 2014

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Notional implementation of AMAS kits on a medium tactical vehicle. Source: TARDEC. Click to enlarge.

The US Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and Lockheed Martin recently demonstrated the ability of fully autonomous convoys to operate in urban environments with multiple vehicles of different models. The test involved driverless tactical vehicles navigating hazards and obstacles such as road intersections, oncoming traffic, stalled and passing vehicles, pedestrians and traffic circles in both urban and rural test areas.

The demonstration in January at Boaz Military Operations and Urban Terrain Site in Fort Hood, Texas was part of the Army and Marine Corps’ Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS) program, and marked the completion of the program’s Capabilities Advancement Demonstration (CAD). The AMAS hardware and software are designed to automate the driving task on current tactical vehicles.

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European research project AdaptIVe targeting advances in automated driving technologies

February 01, 2014

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Representation of AdapIVe’s working point between full driver control and full vehicle control. Source: Volkswagen Research. Click to enlarge.

A major European research project, AdaptIVe (Automated Driving Applications & Technologies for Intelligent Vehicles), targeting breakthrough advances that will lead to more efficient and safe automated driving kicked off at the MobileLifeCampus in Wolfsburg, Germany on Friday. AdaptIVe is an effort by a consortium of 29 partners—automotive manufacturers, suppliers, research institutes and universities, and small- and medium-sized businesses—coordinated by Volkswagen Group Research.

Over the planned 42-month duration of AdaptIVe, the partners will develop and test new functionalities for cars and trucks, offering both partially automated and highly automated driving on motorways, in urban scenarios, and for close-distance maneuvers.

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Subaru debuts next-generation EyeSight system; three new ADAS technologies coming this year

January 24, 2014

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The EyeSight system. Click to enlarge.

Subaru of America, Inc. has introduced a new and improved version of its EyeSight driver assistance system. The new system now features color stereo cameras which deliver an approximately 40% longer and wider detection range; brake light detection; and full functionality when the speed differential between the Eyesight-equipped car and another vehicle is up to 30 mph (48 km/h), up from 19 mph (31 km/h) previously.

Also debuting in Subaru models later this year are three additional advanced driver assistance (ADAS) technologies: blind spot detection; lane change assist; and rear cross traffic alert. These new systems will be introduced on Subaru’s product line-up starting in 2014.

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Ford kicks off new automated driving research projects with MIT and Stanford University

January 22, 2014

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Ford Fusion Hybrid automated research vehicle with four LiDAR sensors. Click to enlarge.

Building on the capabilities of the automated Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicle unveiled last month (earlier post), Ford is working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford University to research and to develop solutions to some of the technical challenges surrounding automated driving.

The MIT research focuses on scenario planning to predict actions of other vehicles and pedestrians, while Stanford is exploring how a vehicle might maneuver to allow its sensors to peek around obstructions. Put another way, the purpose of the MIT project is enhance the utilization of the line-of-sight data already acquired by the Fusion’s sensors to provide augmented predictive capability, especially for pedestrians. The purpose of the Stanford work is to enhance the acquisition of non-line-of-sight data.

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TU München team develops new technique for accurate distance measurement by advanced driver assistance systems using cooperative transponders

January 21, 2014

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Basic concept for range detection using cooperative transponders. Click to enlarge.

As part of the “cooperative transponder” research project Ko-TAG (earlier post), researchers at the Technische Universität München (TUM) developed a new approach to distance measurement to enable advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) in cars to pinpoint the location of pedestrians and cyclists even in non-line-of-sight situations—i.e., when they are hidden from the driver’s view.

In this scheme, pedestrian’s and cyclist’s cell phones serve as transponders. On-board positioning systems compute the projected trajectory of the transponders and initiate an emergency braking sequence in case a pedestrian or cyclist moves into the path of a car.

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Audi wraps up Audi Urban Intelligent Assist (AUIA) project

January 10, 2014

Audi has wrapped up a three-year partnership launched in 2011 involving the Volkswagen Group’s Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in Silicon Valley and four leading US research universities to develop innovations in predictive driving technology that would allow a car to anticipate future traffic trends and to “learn” a person’s driving habits for a customized driving experience on each commute. (Earlier post.)

Audi this week demonstrated some of the early concept results of the Audi Urban Intelligent Assist (AUIA) project to media in San Francisco. The demonstration focused on two primary applications: Driver Centric Urban Navigation and Urban Assistance.

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Audi and TTTech present prototype advanced ECU for piloted driving at CES; computing capacity superior to entire current A4

January 07, 2014

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Audi AG’s Ulrich Hackenberg (Member of the Board for Technical Development) holds the prototype zFAS at CES. Click to enlarge.

At the CES in Las Vegas, Audi and its technology partner TTTech Computertechnik AG presented a prototype of the zFAS platform ECU for piloted driving. TTTEch is a leading provider of reliable network solutions based on time-triggered technology and modular safety platforms. (Earlier post.)

The highly integrated platform ECU zFAS is based on a complex multicore network, hosting sophisticated sensor fusion and a variety of innovative functions with multiple safety criticality levels for applications such as piloted parking or driving.

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BMW previews future driver assistance and connected vehicle developments at CES, including more automated driving

BMW selected the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 in Las Vegas as a venue at which to preview future developments and new applications of connected vehicle technology for series-produced vehicles.

Among these are a prototype for highly automated driving; vehicle functions on an electronic wristwatch (Samsung) as part of a research application; camera-based assistance systems bringing enhanced safety into new vehicle classes; and a new Parking Assistant with longitudinal and lateral guidance.

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NVIDIA unveils Tegra K1 192-core mobile processor; ADAS applications on the way to autonomous driving

January 06, 2014

At CES in Las Vegas, NVIDIA unveiled the Tegra K1 mobile processor, a 192-core chip featuring the same NVIDIA Kepler architecture that powers the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti GPU. Among its targeted applications—notably mobile gaming—are a variety of automotive applications.

Tegra K1 will drive camera-based, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and street sign recognition, and can also monitor driver alertness via a dashboard-mounted camera.

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Ford unveils Fusion Hybrid research vehicle for autonomous driving

December 13, 2013

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Ford Fusion Hybrid automated research vehicle with four LiDAR sensors. Click to enlarge.

Ford, in conjunction with the University of Michigan and State Farm, unveiled a Ford Fusion Hybrid automated research vehicle that will be used to make progress on future autonomous driving and other advanced technologies.

The result of an ongoing project that builds on more than a decade of Ford’s automated driving research, the Fusion Hybrid automated vehicle will test current and future sensing systems and driver-assist technologies. Ford’s goal is to advance development of new technologies with its supplier partners so these features can be applied to the company’s next generation of vehicles.

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Volvo Car Group in multi-year, large-scale pilot project with autonomous cars on public roads

December 02, 2013

Volvo Car Group will take a leading role in the first large-scale autonomous driving pilot project in which 100 self-driving Volvo cars will use public roads in everyday driving conditions around the Swedish city of Gothenburg.

The project “Drive Me – Self-driving cars for sustainable mobility” is a joint initiative between Volvo Car Group, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenburg. The aim of the “Drive Me” project, which is endorsed by the Swedish Government, is to pinpoint the societal benefits of autonomous driving and position Sweden and Volvo Cars as leaders in the development of future mobility.

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Toyota unveils Driver Awareness Research Vehicle

November 21, 2013

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DAR-V’s personalized information display on the side window. Click to enlarge.

Toyota used the Los Angeles Auto Show as the forum at which to unveil a Driver Awareness Research Vehicle (DAR-V). The DAR-V was developed in partnership with Microsoft Research to help reduce driver distractions before the key is even in the ignition. Utilizing Microsoft technologies such as Kinect, the interactive systems integrated into the design of the vehicle display important, highly personalized information on the side window when the driver approaches the car.

Using a combination of gesture control, voice and the key fob, drivers can navigate information such as updates on traffic and the weather, appointments and schedules for the day ahead, and even route details that might include a gas station if the vehicle is low on fuel. By addressing these critical daily priorities before even setting foot in the vehicle, a driver potentially has more mental bandwidth to focus on driving, Toyota suggests.

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Ford Edge Concept showcases new automated driving systems

November 20, 2013

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Ford Edge Concept. Click to enlarge.

At the Los Angeles Auto Show, Ford introduced a set of new prototype automated driving technologies in the Ford Edge Concept. The sensor-based driver-assist technologies and semi-automated features in Edge Concept form the building blocks for the future of automated driving, and will help make driving safer and more efficient, Ford said.

Fully assisted parking aid, a prototype technology, lets customers park their vehicles at the touch of a button, or even by remote control. The concept builds on Ford’s current active park assist feature. It can find a perpendicular parking space using ultrasonic sensors.

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UK launches £75M fund for more energy efficient engines and cars; £1.5M for autonomous pods

November 10, 2013

The UK government has launched a £75-million (US$120-million) fund to speed the development of low carbon technologies for engines. Selected projects are to be the pilot projects of the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) announced in July. (Earlier post.) The APC will channel £1-billion (US$1.6 billion) investment from government and industry to fund the development of new technologies over the next 10 years.

To apply for a share of the £75 million APC fund, bidders must form a group which includes at least one vehicle manufacturer, an SME and at least one supply chain company. The competition, which will support a range of powertrain technologies, will open on 2 December 2013, with projects expected to begin from April 2014.

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Euro NCAP releases first results of testing with autonomous emergency braking systems

October 29, 2013

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The tested AEB systems can offer two functions: automatic braking and forward collision warning. Source: NCAP. Click to enlarge.

Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme) released the first results of rear-end crash avoidance systems tested against the upcoming 2014 rating protocol. The testing compared 8 vehicles with respect to their performance on the test track.

Real world claims data suggest that Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) systems can reduce rear-end crashes by one quarter or more and lead to a significant reduction of injuries. From January 2014, Euro NCAP will give credit in its rating scheme to vehicle manufacturers that equip their models with robust forward collision warning and/or automatic braking technology.

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Panasonic develops high precision, wide field of view millimeter-wave radar technology for automotive applications

October 15, 2013

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The new high-precision radar keeps close objects separated. Click to enlarge.

Millimeter-wave radar is capable of detecting pedestrians and other vehicles in night time and under poor weather conditions. Panasonic Corporation has developed high precision, wide field of view millimeter-wave technologies that are able to detect cars, pedestrians and bicycles separately in less than 0.1 seconds, on the condition that they are separated by 20 cm.

These technologies will be applied to 79GHz radar, and utilized in detection sensors to avoid accidents occurring at intersections, accelerating the adoption of advanced safety support systems. These technologies also allow the operation of multiple millimeter radars, enables for a wider field of view (FOV) system.

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Nissan LEAF with semi-autonomous driver assistance systems cleared for public road testing in Japan; moving to Autonomous Drive

September 26, 2013

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The LEAF with semi-autonomous ADAS. Click to enlarge.

Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn took delivery of Japan’s first license plate for a car equipped with semi-autonomous advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). It clears the way for a Nissan LEAF equipped with the technology to be tested on the public roads in Japan for the first time. The research program will accelerate the development of technologies fundamental to Autonomous Drive (AD).

The systems are designed to allow the driver to manually take over control at any time. The license plate includes the number 2020, which reflects Nissan's goal to be ready with multiple, commercially-viable Autonomous Drive vehicles by the year 2020. (Earlier post.)

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SwRI to launch Automotive Consortium for Embedded Security (ACES)

As vehicles become increasingly dependent on computers to operate integrated systems, from engine timing to anti-lock brakes, it is crucial to safeguard those systems from outside threats. To investigate leading-edge technologies and understand and reduce the risk of attack, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is forming the Automotive Consortium for Embedded Security (ACES).

The joint industry program aims to provide pre-competitive and non-competitive research in automotive embedded systems security to protect the safety, reliability, brand image, trade secrets and privacy of client members’ future products. It is open to original equipment manufacturers and affiliated businesses in the automotive industry.

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NXP and TTTech partner on automotive Ethernet switch chip; infotainment, advanced driver assistance and OBD over single twisted-pair cable

September 19, 2013

NXP Semiconductors N.V. and TTTech signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop jointly automotive Ethernet switch solutions supporting OPEN Alliance BroadR-Reach Ethernet PHY (physical layer transceiver) technology. The switch chip will be specifically designed for the automotive market, but will also be suitable for various demanding industrial real-time applications.

The jointly developed switch chip will enable applications with unshielded twisted-pair cabling with BroadR-Reach PHY technology. BroadR-Reach Ethernet automotive technology allows multiple in-vehicle systems (such as infotainment, automated driver assistance and on board-diagnostics) simultaneously to access information over a single unshielded twisted-pair cable. By eliminating cumbersome, shielded cabling, automotive manufacturers can significantly reduce connectivity costs and cabling weight.

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Mercedes-Benz S-Class INTELLIGENT DRIVE drives autonomously over 100km interurban and urban route with near-production technology

September 11, 2013

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Networked sensor systems of the S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE research vehicle. Click to enlarge.

Mercedes-Benz has demonstrated the feasibility of autonomous driving on both interurban and urban routes with its S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE research vehicle. The company set the vehicle to cover a 100 km (62-mile) route from Mannheim to Pforzheim—retracing that taken by motoring pioneer Bertha Benz exactly 125 years ago when she set off on the first long-distance drive.

The self-driving S-Class had to deal autonomously with a number of highly complex situations such as traffic lights, roundabouts, pedestrians, cyclists and trams. The successful drive was achieved with the aid of near-production-standard technology, very similar to that already found in the new E and S-Class. The project thus marks a milestone along the way that leads from the self-propelled (automobile) to the self-driving (autonomous) vehicle, the company said.

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Nissan says it will have first commercially-viable autonomous drive vehicles by 2020; across the range in 2 vehicle generations

August 28, 2013

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. announced that the company will be ready with multiple, commercially-viable autonomous drive (AD) vehicles by 2020. Nissan said that its engineers have been carrying out intensive research on the technology for years, alongside teams from universities including MIT, Stanford, Oxford, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Tokyo.

Work is already underway in Japan to build a dedicated autonomous driving proving ground, to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2014. Nissan says that its autonomous driving will be achieved at realistic prices for consumers. The goal is availability across the model range within two vehicle generations after introduction.

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Navigant Research projects autonomous vehicles to represent 75% of all LDV sales by 2035

August 20, 2013

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Autonomous Vehicle Sales by Region, World Markets: 2015-2035. Source: Navigant Research. Click to enlarge.

In a new report, Navigant Research forecasts that vehicles with autonomous driving modes will gradually gain traction in the market over the coming two decades, from about 4% of the global light-duty vehicle market in 2025, rising to roughly 41% in 2030 and 75% by 2035—about 95.4 million units annually by then.

Navigant projects that the first fully autonomous functions will go into production in 2020, though the projected numbers will extremely low. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the three largest markets (North America, Western Europe, and Asia Pacific) from 2020 to 2035 is expected to average approximately 85%.

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Volvo Car Group introducing autonomous steering, other new safety and driver assistance technologies on XC90 next year

July 05, 2013

Volvo Car Group will introduce a number of safety and driver assistance technologies in the all-new Volvo XC90 at the end of 2014, including the use of autonomous steering functions to avoid accidents and make driving more comfortable, according to Thomas Broberg, Senior Safety Advisor Volvo Car Group.

Pedestrian detection at night. According to STRADA (Swedish TRaffic Accident Data Acquisition), 44% of all the pedestrian fatalities occurred in darkness, at dusk or dawn. In the US, the traffic fatality rate is 3–4 times higher in darkness (VTI). Volvo’s new Pedestrian Detection in darkness feature will enable Volvo’s detection and auto braking technology to work effectively at night. The technology includes detection and auto brake for other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.

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NHTSA issues preliminary policy on development of autonomous vehicles to provide guidance to states

May 31, 2013

The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a preliminary policy statement concerning vehicle automation, including its plans for research on related safety issues and recommendations for states related to the testing, licensing, and regulation of “autonomous” or “self-driving” vehicles.

Self-driving vehicles are those in which operation of the vehicle occurs without direct driver input to control the steering, acceleration, and braking and are designed so that the driver is not expected to constantly monitor the roadway while operating in self-driving mode.

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Mercedes-Benz launches new S-Class with hybrid, diesel, gasoline models; 59 mpg PHEV model to come

May 16, 2013

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New S 400 HYBRID. Click to enlarge.

Mercedes-Benz’s new generation flagship S-Class, introduced at an elaborate event at Airbus in Finkenwerder, marks a number of technology firsts in numerous areas from comfort, to driver control, to efficiency. As one example of the last, the new S-Class is the first car in the world to completely dispense with conventional electric bulbs, making exclusive use of energy-saving LED technology both inside and outside.

On a larger efficiency scale, the new S-Class in its first year will offer two hybrid versions, a gasoline model and a diesel variant: the S 400 HYBRID, S 300 BlueTEC HYBRID, S 500, and S 350 BlueTEC. The models offer up to 20% lower fuel consumption than the outgoing model series. These soon will be followed by the S 500 Plug-In HYBRID—the first S-Class with a fuel consumption lower than 4l/100 km (59 mpg US). All the engines already meet the requirements of the Euro-6 emissions standard.

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U-M launches Michigan Mobility Transformation Center; model deployment for testing connected and automated vehicles and systems

May 14, 2013

The University of Michigan announced the establishment of the Michigan Mobility Transformation Center (MTC) as a partnership with government and industry to improve the safety, sustainability and accessibility of the ways that people and goods move from place to place.

A key focus of the MTC will be a model deployment that will allow researchers to test emerging concepts in connected and automated vehicles and vehicle systems in both off-road and on-road settings. The model deployment will build in part on a $25-million study for the US Department of Transportation now underway at UMTRI. (Earlier post.)

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