Cruise Automation, the self-driving unit of General Motors, is teaming up with Honda, one of the world’s largest automakers, the company announced on Wednesday.
The two auto giants will collaborate on a purpose-built autonomous vehicle that can serve a “wide variety” of use cases and be manufactured at high volumes for global deployment. Honda will devote $2 billion to the effort over 12 years, which, together with a $750 million equity investment in Cruise, brings the total commitment to $2.75 billion.
It’s another enormous win for GM’s Cruise. Just last May, it announced a $2.25 billion investment from the SoftBank Vision Fund, a major venture investment effort that was started by the Japanese tech giant in 2016. Today’s transaction brings Cruise’s post-money valuation to $14.6 billion.
GM bought Cruise in 2016 for $1 billion to jump-start its self-driving efforts. The company says it plans to deploy its fully driverless cars, without steering wheel or pedals, for commercial ride-hailing use as early as 2019.
So what will this new vehicle built by GM and Honda look like? It wasn’t immediately clear, although Cruise Automation CEO Kyle Vogt teased some possibilities in a Medium post.
Shouldn’t the car of the future have giant TV screens, a mini bar, and lay-flat seats? Maybe it should. We’ve been quietly prototyping a ground-breaking new vehicle over the past two years that is fully released from the constraints of having a driver behind the wheel. Building a new vehicle that has an incredible user experience, optimal operational parameters, and efficient use of space is the ultimate engineering challenge. We’re going to do this right, and by joining forces with Honda we’ve found the perfect partner to help make it happen.
What is clear is that this purpose-built AV won’t look anything like the Chevy Bolt vehicles that Cruise is currently using as a platform for its self-driving experiments in San Francisco and Arizona. The company has one of the largest fleets of autonomous test vehicles in the Bay Area, with over 100 cars and permits for almost 400 drivers in California.
A deal this large will unavoidably have a ripple effect. Honda was rumored to be in talks with Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent company Alphabet, to build a self-driving delivery car. That deal would now appear to be moot, as Honda’s chief operating officer Seiji Kuraishi described the automaker’s partnership with Cruise as “exclusive.” However, in a call with reporters, executives declined to comment specifically on other companies. (A spokesperson for Waymo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
Deploying a purpose-built self-driving car without traditional controls in the US would require an exemption from the federal government’s motor vehicle safety standards. GM submitted a petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for permission to deploy its fully driverless Chevy Bolt earlier this year, and it would most likely need another one before putting its vehicles built with Honda out into the world.
By committing to rolling out fully driverless cars in a shortened time frame, GM is seeking to outmaneuver rivals both old and new in the increasingly hyper-competitive race to build and deploy robot cars. Ford has said it will build an autonomous car without a steering wheel or pedals by 2021, while Waymo is preparing to launch its first commercial ride-hailing service in Phoenix featuring fully driverless minivans later this year.
There was a flurry of partnerships and investments around self-driving cars in 2016 and 2017, but that activity has since mostly died down, leading some critics to claim that the technology now finds itself in the “trough of disillusionment.” To be sure, there are still huge sums of money exchanging hands despite this lull. There was the Cruise-SoftBank deal in May. And in August, Toyota and Uber said they would join forces to build self-driving cars, in a deal that involved the Japanese automaker committing $500 million to the ride-hailing giant. There may be disillusionment in this trough, but there are huge piles of money, too.
9-year-old genius to graduate university
(CNN) – A child prodigy from Belgium is on course to gain a bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 9.
Laurent Simons is studying electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) — a tough course even for students of an average graduate age.
Described by staff as “simply extraordinary,” Laurent is on course to finish his degree in December.
He then plans to embark on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying for a medicine degree, his father told CNN.
His parents, Lydia and Alexander Simons, said they thought Laurent’s grandparents were exaggerating when they said he had a gift, but his teachers soon concurred.
“They noticed something very special about Laurent,” said Lydia.
Laurent was given test after test as teachers tried to work out the extent of his talents. “They told us he is like a sponge,” said Alexander.
While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.
But Lydia has her own theory.
“I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy,” she joked.
The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.
“That is not unusual,” said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in a statement.
“Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport.”
Hulshof said Laurent is “simply extraordinary” and praised the youngster.
“Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,” he said. “Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.”
Laurent told CNN his favorite subject is electrical engineering and he’s also “going to study a bit of medicine.”
His progress has not gone unnoticed and he is already being sought out by prestigious universities around the world, although Laurent’s family wouldn’t be drawn on naming which of them he is considering for his PhD.
“The absorption of information is no problem for Laurent,” said his father.
“I think the focus will be on research and applying the knowledge to discover new things.”
While Laurent is evidently able to learn faster than most, his parents are being careful to let him enjoy himself too.
“We don’t want him to get too serious. He does whatever he likes,” said Alexander. “We need to find a balance between being a child and his talents.”
Laurent said he enjoys playing with his dog Sammy and playing on his phone, like many young people.
However, unlike most 9-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.
In the meantime, Laurent has to finish his bachelor’s degree and choose which academic institution will play host to the next stage in his remarkable journey.
Before that, he plans on taking a vacation to Japan for an undoubtedly well-deserved break.
New award to honor arts and activism named after Lena Horne
Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem
Two gangbangers aimed their BMW like a missile at a father and his 8-year-old son on a Harlem sidewalk in a horrifying incident captured by video distributed by police Thursday.
The BMW — driven by a man police believe is a member of the Gorilla Stone Bloods Gang — was zeroed in on the father, a rival gang member, said cops.
Around 3:45 p.m. Nov. 6, the boy and his father were walking on W. 112th St. by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. when the BMW jumped the sidewalk and slammed into them both, said cops.
🚨WANTED for ASSAULT: on 11/6 at approx 3:43 PM in front of 128 West 112th St in Manhattan, a 32 yr old male was walking with his 8 yr old son when a white BMW jumped the curb & hit the father & son. The driver then got out and slashed the father. Call @NYPDTips with any info. pic.twitter.com/cwd79rcM4c
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) November 15, 2019
Father and son were both knocked through a gate.
The BMW driver then backed up — and its driver and passenger, also believed to be a gang member, jumped out of the car and ran toward the father and the son.
One of the attackers slashed the father, identified by sources as 32-year-old Brian McIntosh, who’s served prison time for robbery and bail jumping.
McIntosh and his son went to Harlem Hospital. Miraculously, the boy escaped serious harm.
McIntosh was so adamant about refusing to help police catch his attackers that the young boy’s mother had to file a police report alleging he was the victim of a crime, police sources said.
Cops released video of the attack, and ask anyone with information about the suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.
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