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Google Robot Drivers are Coming, South Australia Plans on Being First

Posted: February 12th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Auto News, Favorite New Thought | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Google Robot Drivers are Coming, South Australia Plans on Being First

Google Robot Drivers are Coming, South Australia Plans on Being First
There are plans to update South Australia’s road laws to allow for a future when driverless cars may become a reality.

Former General Motors executive and adviser to Google’s driverless car project Larry Burns visited Adelaide last year to speak with government and business interests about the project’s progress.

In a speech delivered in the South Australian Parliament today to mark the formal opening of the new session, the Government outlined a plan to reform two pieces of road legislation ::::

“Our Motor Vehicles Act was written when the FB model Holden was being released to the market in 1959 and our Road Traffic Act was written two years later,” South Australia’s Governor, Hieu Van Le told the Parliament as he read the Government’s legislative agenda. “The Government will reform both pieces of legislation and also legislate for driverless vehicles, which will revolutionise transportation in South Australia.”

SA Premier Jay Weatherill said the state needed to embrace new industries and technologies and legislation needed to reflect that direction.

He also said the Government was keen to make hybrid-engine and electric vehicles the preferred option on CBD streets within a decade.

The Government’s other pledge was to make Adelaide a carbon-neutral city.

Mr Weatherill promised more improvements to cycling and pedestrian infrastructure around the city.

Proponents of the global driverless car project claim 90 per cent of current road crashes are due to errors by drivers and promise their revolutionary vehicles will be safer.

Google’s Self-driving Car With No Steering Wheel

In May last year Google began building its own self-driving car that it hopes to begin testing as early as this year.

“They won’t have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal … because they don’t need them,” the company said in a blog post. “Our software and sensors do all the work.”

For Google, the car marks a shift away from adapting vehicles made by others in its quest to pioneer individual transport that needs only a stop-and-go function.

“It was inspiring to start with a blank sheet of paper and ask: ‘What should be different about this kind of vehicle?'” the post said.

Google said it plans to build about 100 prototype vehicles. The company tested its robotic automobiles in August last year, allbeit versions with manual (human driver) controls.

“If all goes well, we’d like to run a small pilot program here in California in the next couple of years,” the company said.

The top speed of the prototypes will be 40 kilometres per hour.

The San Jose Mercury News called the car a “rounded, almost cuddly-looking two-seater”. The vehicles are battery powered and boast safety features like a flexible windshield and foam-like material covering the front, the paper said.

“We took a look from the ground up of what a self-driving car would look like,” Google co-founder Sergey Brin told a conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Google had previously been re-fitting Lexus, Toyota and Honda vehicles to work as self-driving.

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Driverless car may ease city parking demands, ex-GM executive Larry Burns says

Safer roads and alternative uses for current city parking space are being talked up by a key supporter of a global project for driverless cars.

Larry Burns, who is visiting Australia, is a former vice-president of General Motors and now advising the self-driving car project for Google. During a visit to Adelaide, he said the driverless car technology was showing great promise.

“Most of the true leaders in this field say by 2017-2018 the car will be able to drive itself, anywhere, any time without any human input,” Mr Burns said. “If we have that proven then the real challenge will be regulations and liability and ultimately consumers getting used to the new system.”

Mr Burns thinks cars which move commuters around city areas without anyone at the wheel will prove popular once people see the the ease of such transport.

“The way to get past those hurdles really is just to get out and start trying it on a small scale and learn and show people it’s possible,” he said.

Driverless car decides how fast and which direction

Mr Burns said safety would become a big selling point for the driverless cars of the future.

“Basically the car makes two simple decisions simultaneously, ‘How fast should I go and which way should I steer?'” Mr Burns said. “Once you get the driver out of the loop the vehicle becomes much, much safer. Traffic safety experts say about 90 per cent of crashes are due to human error. If cars don’t crash we can now tailor their design to the typical trip we take, which is one and two person. That allows us to have a much smaller vehicle, which is much more energy-efficient, space efficient.”

Mr Burns was confident it would take just a few years for driverless cars to win wide favour.

“I think it’s going to be very compelling, I think it’s going to grow to a very large scale over a couple of decades,” he said.

Better uses promised for current parking spaces

As for city parking, he predicts big changes in urban design as much of the current space devoted to parked vehicles becomes freed up.

“The car doesn’t park itself, it drops you off and then goes and picks somebody else up nearby,” Mr Burns said.

The developers also see a future in which driverless trucks will be hitched together into road trains.

Mr Burns says he doubts private car use will become obsolete but he can imagine a mix of vehicle types on the roads of the future. As for the risk of the technology malfunctioning when there is no driver in control, he promises there will be safeguards.

“The goal here is to prove that it fails so rarely that 90 per cent of the [current] crashes get eliminated with the technology and I think we’ll get there,” Mr Burns said.

Motoring organisations are keen to see Australia at the forefront of any revolution a driverless vehicle might bring.

With vehicle manufacturing in Australia set to end this decade, they are eyeing the future possibilities.

“The ideas we’re talking about might create new opportunities for our local manufacturing industry,” Penny Gale of local motoring organisation, the RAA, said. “Whether we build the driverless cars here in South Australia or build the robots that will help build those vehicles, it shows a lot of promise.”

While in Adelaide Mr Burns has been speaking with local manufacturing executives about future directions they might consider.

Robotic Trucks Steam Ahead of Cars, Taking Over Australian Mining Operations

Robotic Trucks Steam Ahead of Cars, Taking Over Australian Mining Operations

Hot, dirty and cashed up have become synonymous with the fly in, fly out miner in Western Australia. But that image is slowly being bulldozed by technology, with driverless trucks, trains and drills replacing manual and often dangerous mining jobs.

“It’s a shifting and upgrading of skills; we’re moving from primitive work to advanced work,” said Philip Kirchlechner, who has spent years working in the iron ore game, his job being to marry Australian miners with Chinese steel mills. “By eliminating those mundane, often dangerous jobs, you create safer and more sophisticated jobs.”

Mr Kirchlechner said the move to automation was the only way for Australian miners to remain competitive in the world market.

“We have to do things smarter, we have to use technology to raise productivity, and that’s going to touch on a whole spectrum of mining,” Mr Kirchlechner said. “All the way from finding the new mines, processing better, mining more efficiently.”

Technology Revolution Sweeping the Pilbara

The three iron ore heavyweights in the Pilbara have launched into the new world of automated mining, where the people are leaving the dirty work to the mechanical monsters in the pit.

With the decade-long mining boom pushing up wages and costs to unrealistic heights and ongoing scrutiny of safety in the mines, it is not hard to see why.

Tim Day has been in charge of rolling out BHP’s automation program at its brand new Jimblebar mine in the Pilbara. He says there are several drivers for the change.

“The single biggest reason is safety,” Mr Day said. “On a mine site, one of the issues we have is that we expose operators to machinery for long periods of time. We have fatigue issues, so it takes our people away from the front line.”

A recent Department of Mines study analysed the deaths of 52 miners over the past 12 years, finding worker fatigue and inexperience with mining risks to be the biggest cause of accidents. However, while miners are keen to sell the technology as a ticket to safer mine sites, it is also a ticket to cutting costs.

“It should also actually introduce a lot more hours onto the machines, so you can actually use the machinery more because you don’t need lunch breaks, you don’t need crib times or shift changes,” Mr Day said.

And what productivity and efficiency gains essentially boils down to is lower costs for producers and greater returns for investors.

With reduced costs on accommodation, flights and site penalties, some estimate each autonomous truck saves a million dollars per year. The saving, Mr Kirchlechner says, is essential to remaining cost competitive on the world stage.

“As the world is becoming more global, capital is mobile, so we are always competing for capital,” Mr Kirchlechner said. “And because the industry is becoming so capital intensive, and because capital costs have risen so quickly, it’s really putting pressure on companies to become more productive.”

Automation Technology Years in the Making

BHP was not the first big miner to make the shift. Multinational Rio Tinto pre-empted the move, teaming up with Japanese giant Komatsu to start trialling driverless trucks on its Pilbara mine sites in 2008.

It now has 30 autonomous trucks across two of its Pilbara mine sites, with ambitious plans to roll out 150.

Fortescue Metals Group was the next cab off the rank, signing up with Caterpillar in 2011. It now has a fleet of 12 trucks on its Solomon Mine sites.

BHP was the last to begin major automation, but it does not believe that puts it behind the eight ball. Rather, the company says, the delay gave the technology time to improve.

“I think BHP was probably looking at automation four to five years ago, but it has really only just come to the forefront, as the technology is getting better,” Mr Day said.

While BHP might only have a small fleet of six trucks at the moment, that is just the beginning of a bigger technology revolution.

“As we prove it up and get far more mature in what we do, we will very much head towards introducing more circuits,” Mr Day said. “In fact, we’re heading towards a second circuit middle of this year, so we will add another six trucks.”

Robotic, Not Remote Controlled

The new-generation trucks are not remote controlled, they are truly autonomous. They have seven in-built safety features which prevent them from colliding with other trucks, allowing them to operate alongside manned vehicles.

“It has a GPS and a number of scanners on the front of the machine, and a number of sensors on the machine itself,” Mr Day said. “In between all of those, it can sense where it’s going around site. To tell it where to go, we have a map of the mine site, which in effect can tell the machine which lanes it can physically go on-site.”

While the trucks do all the heavy lifting, the brains behind the activity sit inside a control room on-site at the mine. The control room workers are the eyes and ears of the trucks, and it is their job to create a virtual map of the mine and make sure the vehicles stay on course.

Doing things smarter demands somewhat different skills. BHP’s Tony Ottaviano says that is not a bad thing.

“There will be a higher level of requirement to understand the technology, but that’s a good thing because we can up-skill the existing workforce through training,” Mr Ottaviano said.

They embrace the obvious safety benefits but fear that the ability to remotely control mine operations could eventually be shifted offshore. While operations are currently on-site, the technology could, in theory, allow operators to control the mine from anywhere in the world.

“At the moment, we see no plans of off-shoring anything to do with the IROC (Integrated Remote Operations Centre),” Mr Ottaviano said. “In fact, it doesn’t make sense, so we see it very much as a West Australian-led initiative.”

While BHP’s newly opened remote operations centre in Perth does not currently have any control over its driverless truck fleet, that is the future vision.

“It will be the natural platform for us to roll out autonomy across our operations and into the future,” Mr Ottaviano said.

It is clear the Pilbara has become the world’s testing ground for autonomous technology, but what are the long-term benefits for WA? Caterpiller’s Dale Blyth says that despite being headquartered in the United States, the company trains its Pilbara workers in Perth.

“We rely heavily on our dealer (WesTrac) for the training side of this operation,” Mr Blyth said. “We’ve done development work here in Western Australia. We wanted to seek out one of the harshest environments on earth and I think we’ve found that.”

Western Australia is already a hub for mining software, with 60 per cent of the world’s product being designed and manufactured here. Like Philip Kirchlechner, many in the game see automation as key to growing that market.

“It’s sparking more industries, it’s sparking more new companies in mining-related technologies,” Mr Kirchlechner said. “Which if one day resources are mined out, we will still be able to export technology, software, all the mining-related high level skills we’ve developed in the meantime.”

@mcsixtyfive

RELATED! Robot named Buttercup wins national competition for driverless cars

Robot named Buttercup wins national competition for driverless cars

A robot painted to resemble a cow has taken out a national competition for driverless cars in a three-day competition at Deakin University in Geelong.

The team from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) won the Autonomous Ground Vehicle Competition with “Buttercup”, a vehicle that navigates around an obstacle course unaided.

Sam Marden, a member of the winning team, said Buttercup featured a series of sensors that allowed it to read the environment as it moved :: Read the full article »»»»

RELATED! Robot Car UK set to rival Google’s driverless-car project

Sitting in the passenger seat as your driver lifts his arms away from the wheel and gleefully says “look, no hands” should be an unsettling experience. My driver is Mark Sheehan, 26, but he isn’t a reckless hooligan or boy racer, and he assures me I’m safe. He’s a researcher at Robot Car UK and is demonstrating the latest in British driverless-car technology. It has been developed by a 22-strong team from the department of engineering science at Oxford University and I’m one of the first people to get a ride in the country’s first road-going autonomous vehicles.

The search giant Google – and car manufacturers such as Audi, Toyota, GM, Ford, Mercedes and Volvo – has been experimenting with driverless-car technology since 2005, but Robot Car UK is the first tested in the UK :: Read the full article »»»»

The car that drives itself... using an iPad! Oxford University unveils robot car  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2278725/The-car-drives--using-iPad-Oxford-University-unveils-robot-car.html#ixzz3RUZp9R16  Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

RELATED! The car that drives itself… using an iPad! Oxford University unveils robot car

Having a car that can drive itself has long been the stuff of science fiction. But scientists have now created a robot car – controlled by an iPad. And the Oxford University team says the technology could be installed in mainstream cars within 15 years.

It means futuristic vehicles, like David Hasselhoff’s KITT in the 1980s TV series Knight Rider, could soon be driving us on the commute and school run :: Read the full article »»»»

GIFTS.FOR.HER GIFTS.FOR.HIM

 


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