Aug 1, 2017, News of the Day: Valeo Expects LiDAR Price Drop

Aug 1, 2017 News of the Day

Eric Walz
    Aug 01, 2017 12:16 PM  PT
Aug 1, 2017, News of the Day: Valeo Expects LiDAR Price Drop
author: Eric Walz   

Valeo Expects LiDAR Price Drop

Traverse City, Michigan — Lidar-equipped vehicles are available in showrooms, but forget about those bulky, Google-style bucket-sized lidars on the roofs of self-driving cars.

The redesigned Audi A8 will feature a Valeo-produced lidar unit in the grille, said James Schwyn, chief technical officer of Valeo's North American division, who spoke Monday at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Michigan.

The new-generation lidar, produced by Valeo near Munich, will complement the A8's array of radar, cameras and ultrasonic sensors.

The A8 will use the lidar for its traffic-jam assist, which can steer, accelerate and brake at speeds up to 37 mph. The driver does not need to hold the steering wheel in automated mode.

The A8 is to go on sale in Europe late this year, and in the United States next year.

The A8 unit is a mechanical lidar — rather than solid state — which means it is pricey, Schwyn acknowledged. He did not disclose the price, but predicted that costs will decline sharply over the next five years or so as Valeo develops a solid-state unit.

"The automotive market will demand a certain price point, which is an order of magnitude lower" than the $7,000 units on the roofs of Google's fleet, Schwyn said, speaking with Automotive News before his presentation. "The market is going to be extremely limited."

Aside from luxury flagships such as the A8, Mercedes-Benz S class and BMW 7 series, the most likely market for early lidar use will be robo-taxi fleets operated by ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Industry insiders have said the technology will be ready for the mass market when the cost of a lidar unit drops to $250 or so. Schwyn agrees.

"I agree that this stuff is really expensive," he said. "But over the next generation or two, the price will come down rapidly."

Daimler Invests in Flying Taxi Firm Volocopter


Frankfurt - Germany's Volocopter said it has received 25 million euros ($30 million) in funding to develop an electric flying taxi, with car and truck maker Daimler among the firms providing fresh capital.

Daimler joined a consortium that includes technology investor Lukasz Gadowski, who sits on the supervisory board of Delivery Hero, and others, Volocopter said on Tuesday.

Volocopter said it is developing a five-seat vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) electric vehicle aimed at the taxi market and plans to carry out initial demonstrations in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Potential competitors to Volocopter include German start-ups Lilium Jet and eVolo, as well as U.S.-based Terrafugia, and California-based Joby Aviation. Commercial aircraft and helicopter manufacturer Airbus is also developing a single-seat "flying car."

Detroit's Automotive industry Faces Talent Shortage as Cars Become High-Tech

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Traverse City – While Detroit, Michigan enjoys plenty of momentum in efforts to establish the state as a center for developing, testing and self-driving cars, a longstanding problem persists.

Talent recruiting and retention is a problem as work on driverless and connected vehicles forces companies to branch out from their traditional roles and adapt to new technologies. The lack of adequately trained workers has hampered those companies.

It was a common theme during the opening sessions of the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City. Several automotive industry officials several bemoaned the challenge they face in getting and keeping workers.

Jay Baron, president and chief executive officer of the Ann Arbor-based CAR group, noted similarities between the current situation and decades ago when the traditional auto industry faced "an apprenticeship crisis in tooling." That's a staffing issue that persists; Baron said "today's average toolmaker is over 32."

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley outlined the problem in the context of Michigan competing with other locations around the U.S. to draw work and investment on new vehicle technologies. Southeast Michigan competes with places like Silicon Valley for graduates with the engineering and computer skills needed.

"Those who have the best talent are the ones who are doing the best and leading the way," Calley said. "...I don't think it would be a stretch to say we are obsessed with skilled trades."

Michigan government and education officials have worked to increase the number of potential auto workers in the pipeline. That includes looking to expand apprenticeship programs or supporting robotics competitions.

In April, Junior Achievement of Southeast Michigan hosted a gathering of industry representatives from the region in Pontiac. It gave companies an opportunity to meet with area high school students and show them what types of jobs are available. At that time, local officials bemoaned the small local talent pool being fought over by employers.

"Here at our Auburn Hills headquarters, I hired about 160 people last year," Michael Brosseau, president of Brose North America, said in April. "I'd say three-quarters of that number came from other companies. So, in a sense, we're kind of just moving the same checkers around the board."

But there is room for optimism. Last year, Calley indicated Michigan saw an increased "inbound migration" of people age 25 to 34, something that may have seemed unlikely a decade ago.

"I know that the talent is being attracted back now finally," he said. "But the growth and demand (of the industry) is outpacing that and is creating a scenario where it's more urgent than most people realize."

Atlanta Set to Test Self-Driving Cars


Imagine Atlanta roads if drivers weren't distracted by cell phones, didn't cut each other off, and got in the appropriate lane to make a turn more than five feet from an intersection.

Instead of being dominated by traffic noise and congestion, Atlanta's streets could be more pleasant, with more room for bikes and wider sidewalks, and thousands of acres of surface parking could be redeveloped into denser neighborhoods, helping to lower housing costs and create the walkable environment that many people crave.

That could be the future with driverless cars, as has been touted by those in the know for at least the last year. Turns out, the future may be closer than we think.

According to Atlanta magazine, the first run of a fully autonomous car on Atlanta streets will take place in just six weeks, thanks to a pilot program championed by Georgia Tech, the City of Atlanta, and other tech-oriented organizations.

The test will take place along North Avenue, with a car departing Georgia Tech's campus and negotiating the relatively straight thoroughfare a mile-and-a-half eastward to Ponce City Market.

Atlanta is one of just three cities around the world that will be testing the technology as part of the Safer Roads Challenge. North Avenue is being tricked out with all sorts of fancy equipment to make it a "smart corridor" to test the technology.

While the test is just a very early step in wider deployment of autonomous vehicles in the city, Sept. 14 could be the first day of the future for Atlanta.

Maybe one day we'll celebrate the anniversary as the day the traffic and parking lots that dominate the metro area began to meet their maker.

Porsche installs first prototype 350-kw electric car charging station in Berlin


Porsche has installed the first 350 kilowatt, 800-volt charging station at the brand's new branch office in Berlin-Adlershof. To put the charging station into context, the current Combined Charging Standards (CCS) charging stations are capped at 50 kilowatts with today's technology. The 350-kilowatt charging station can charge an electric car's battery to 80 percent capacity in about 15 minutes. That's half the time of today's CCS fast-charging stations.

The charging station uses technology not readily available today: liquid cooling. The charging cable itself is liquid cooled to ensure the charging pins do not overheat. The high rates of electricity being transferred would fry any current CCS charging cable. About 100 kilowatt hours are being transferred in 15 minutes in the prototype charging station.

Porsche is powering the prototype charging station with a new solar pylon on the branch office's campus. The 82-foot tall pylon provides 33,000 kilowatt-hours per year and will provide enough power to cover the entire electricity demand of the new office.

However, the technology is incredibly expensive and will require a sizable investment to make all CCS-standard cars capable of using the future technology. Porsche's parent automaker, Volkswagen Group, was required to invest $2 billion over 10 years into fueling infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles as part of its diesel scandal settlement. Some of the $2 billion could find its way to future 350-kilowatt charging stations. That's the bad news.

The good news is any progress Porsche makes may be beneficial for all CCS-standard electric cars. All U.S. and German automakers utilize the CCS standard. That means thousands of other electric vehicles could use the future fast-charging stations, not just Porsches. Only time will tell how quickly Porsche moves on the budding technology, however.