Clean Fleet Report Founder Looks Back—And Forward
We have seen amazing progress in cars, electrified transportation and in the future of mobility, since I started Clean Fleet Report in 2006. Oil usage peaked in 2006 in the United States and other developed nations and I reported 10 reasons.
What once was rare (the EV) is becoming more commonplace
Clean Fleet Report was started to showcase success in clean transportation. Fleets were five years ahead of the mass market. Although I could not find hundreds of electric vehicles in my neighborhood, at US Marine Corps Camp Pendleton I witnessed hundreds of electric vehicles being charged with solar power. They also had a large fleet of advanced diesel vehicles running on biofuel and even a hydrogen fuel cell pilot. In 2006, it took fleets to put in the charging or fueling infrastructure, stock the parts, secure the advanced diagnostics and training, and keep everything running.
Now my neighborhood streets include a steady stream of electric cars from Tesla, Chevrolet, BMW, Nissan, Ford and dozens of others. Since I live near Silicon Valley, where every automaker has an R&D center, I also see a number of autonomous vehicles clocking-up their millions of miles.
I still am in awe of the innovators and the fleet managers who devote years to working through all the issues so that we can all benefit from the technology breakthroughs.
The Circle of Life
I interviewed hundreds of people for my book, Save Gas, Save the Planet. One theme that emerged is many experience a “circle of life.” Their college was in a city with excellent transit and they lived car-free. Later, a job, a relationship or a dog necessitated their buying a car. Relationships blossomed and they had a car and a truck. Many raised children and worked longer hours to support three or four vehicles. Eventually, they retire, downsizing to two, then one, and finally zero cars.
Shared electric bikes are another mobility option
With children long grown, my wife and I replaced our two cars with one Chevrolet Volt. My mom is down to zero. In my book and in Clean Fleet Report, I surveyed the progress of hybrids, electrics, advanced fuels and integrated urban transportation. When the book was released in 2009, much of the technology looked cutting edge.
Naysayers dismissed electric cars as expensive golf carts. Now we have millions of electric cars, SUVs, buses and trucks. We have 150 million electric bicycles. My wife and I only have one electric car, but two electric bikes, and frequently travel on electric buses and rail. Fleets continue to convert innovation into major success.
Another area of breakthrough success is in smart cities around the world. The future of urban mobility is ACES: Autonomous, Connected, Electric, Shared.
For decades, we have used shared mobility in cities as we ride on buses, rail and on-demand ride-sharing options, including Uber and Lyft. Most major cities have metro rail and bus systems that enable people to travel faster.
We don’t know what the transportation future will look like, but we hope it will be ACES
Of our shared choices, rail moves the most; cars the least, with buses in between. Rail is laid down into fixed routes that last 40 to 100 years, yet cities grow and reshape organically. When people deboard transit one-quarter mile from their destination, most walk. But for the last one-to-three miles, on-demand services are needed. Smart cities have integrated these services of rail, bus, on demand, bicycling and walking.
Around 20 years ago, Toyota added an electric motor and advanced battery to a conventional car and introduced the hybrid Prius. Success in hybrid cars led to hybrid heavy-duty vehicles such as buses and trucks. With the success of hybrids, plug-in vehicles were introduced, so that batteries could be charged from garage outlets or public chargers.
By 2025, Navigant expects 37 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the global roads, fueled by lithium battery costs falling from $1,000 per kWh in 2010 to $145 (GM’s price from LG Chem reports Car and Driver).
From electric cars to electric buses and electric rail, we are ending our dependence on gasoline and diesel powering 15 percent efficient drive systems and transitioning to local renewable energy powering 90 percent efficient electric drive systems. Mobility is increasingly powered by wind and solar, not from the extreme emissions from shale drilling and pipelines from tar sands. Millions of lives will be saved annually, now lost to lung damage from air pollution. Trillions will be saved in health care.
In most developed nations of the world, transit systems in major cities are connected with high-speed rail, which is pure electric. The planned 800-mile high-speed rail system for California will connect all major cities, 25 transit systems and run on 100 percent renewable energy. Those transit systems are planning on thousands of electric buses. Ridesharing providers are already adding electric cars to their fleets.
Drivers kill over a million annually, making the roads unsafe for other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Self-driving cars see better, using multiple cameras, lasers and 360-degree lidar. Self-driving cars are totally focused on driving; don’t text, bounce to music, drive after drinking, smoke dope or get distracted.
Sharing is becoming a real, growing option to car ownership; soon that shared car may pick you up instead of you picking it
Machine learning and big data will make full use of autonomous fleets during peak hours, routing them to the right places at the right times. In some cities, wireless charging will be used for the fleets of self-driving cars and shuttles. In others, the vehicles will drive themselves during off-peak hours to car washes and parking structures where they will be fast-charged.
The benefits of self-driving are hotly debated. A transportation authority, San Francisco CTA, states that the on-demand services have made the streets of SF more congested. Other studies conclude that on-demand leads to fewer cars and more transit use. After analyzing the data from three million taxi rides, MIT calculated that 2,000 on-demand 10-person vans in New York CIty could replace 14,000 taxis. MIT researchers also estimate that successful use of ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft could reduce the number of vehicles on the road by a whopping 75 percent without slowing down travel.
We will have autonomous cars, buses and trucks. Vancouver even has electric self-driving Skytrain monorail.
Put a price on carbon, congestion zones and vehicle miles traveled during peak hours, and most urban transportation will not be solo drivers. It will be in electric and autonomous shared rides like Lyft Lines, Waymo and Waze (Alphabet companies) shuttle vans, autonomous buses and rail. Autonomous vehicles will save lives, insurance rates will drop, hospital bills will drop, urban housing will be more affordable without requirements of one and two spaces per unit. ACES mobility improves urban density.
When I listen to debates about autonomous vehicles, I am reminded of similar debates 10 years ago about electric vehicles. EVs were predicted to add massive congestion, use nothing but coal power, eliminate jobs and cause recessions by reducing petroleum demand. None of these alarming forecasts happened.
We were making a long and painful drive back from Los Angeles to San Francisco in heavy traffic. On the freeway, in the middle an empty desert, my Android Auto navigation told me that I could save 37 minutes by taking the next exit. I almost dismissed the direction as an error, but I trusted Google Maps and took the exit. As we drove 12 miles on a windy sideroad, I looked at the I-5 freeway in complete gridlock, due to a major accident. After 12 miles, we were directed back on the freeway, indeed saving 37 minutes.
Your car is now connected to the world and can help you navigate through it
Google could see the speed of thousands of Google Map users at that GPS location. In my Google Map settings, I had given permission to reroute me based on traffic information. Google’s sophisticated algorithms saved me valuable time. Tomorrow, similar apps will guide us through our day of interconnected services making best use of rail, transit, car, and some healthy walking.
Leading cities are already using ACES – autonomous, connected, electric, and shared mobility. Look for high growth in smart cities. ACES brings us mobility that is safe, pollution-free, healthy and less expensive.
Congratulations to all who have made a difference these past 12 years. Engineers have dramatically improved drive systems. Software wizards have transformed cars into networks of supercomputers on wheels.
Congratulations to Michael Coates, who has been running Clean Fleet Report these last three years and to his team, which keeps you updated about today’s most efficient cars and tomorrow’s most intelligent transportation. Most important are all the readers from fleet managers and car owners who take the best information and ideas and put them into action.
An Insurance Perspective on Autonomous Technology
Tesla’s Video of its Self-Driving Technology
It goes without saying that preservation of life is the reason to invest in road and car safety technology, but the financial implications that fatal and non-fatal accidents have on the economy areanother factor which cannot be ignored.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the total cost of prevention of reported road accidents is estimated to be $871 billion per year.
Fatal and non-fatal accidents impact financially upon the following elements.
● Medical Care
● Emergency Services
● Market Productivity
● Household Productivity
● Legal Costs
● Insurance Administrative Costs
● Workplace Costs
● Property Damage
There were an estimated 38,300 people killed on US roads in 2015.
In a 2015 McKinsey Report, researchers estimated autonomous vehicles (AV) and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) could reduce accidents by up to 90 percent; more than 90 prcent of accidents each year are caused by human error , but with AVs this factor is obviously completely removed.
Using the figures provided by the NHTSA – the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles could save the US approximately $784 billion per year.
It also means that self-driving cars could save as many as 34,470 lives per year, which over a period of a decade would equate to saving nearly 350,000 people.
‘Current and Future Car Safety Technology’ Resource
Until now, car safety technology development has been about assisting the driver’s manual actions and mitigating the adverse ones. However, we are in an era where autonomous vehicles completely remove the element of human error. In order to showcase these advancements in car safety and the shift from manual, to automated, to autonomous, Quoteme.ie have created a resource which documents both current and future technologies and their respective influence on making our roads safer. Current and Future Car Safety Technology also highlights which pioneering manufacturers are already incorporating these cutting-edge innovations into some of the more advanced vehicle models.
View the resource in full here.
Technology and Innovation Drives Ford Smart Mobility
Ford recently marked the one-year anniversary of the opening of its newly expanded California R&D lab and ticked off its accomplishments as leader in what CEO Mark Fields called Ford’s “one
Talking up Ford Smart Mobility
foot in today, one foot in tomorrow” strategy:
- Driving innovation (more about that later).
- Becoming a part of Silicon Valley’s culture.
- Becoming one of the largest automotive presences in the Valley.
Fields said the Palo Alto (CA) office was a key component in Ford’s move into what he terms Ford Smart Mobility, which encompasses:
- Autonomous vehicles,
- Connected vehicles and
- Big data.
Self-Driving Cars and Miniature Data Gatherers
Now legal to drive itself
To demonstrate Ford’s progress Fields affixed a new license plate to its recently licensed autonomous car (a Fusion). What was not discussed at the media event were talks reported on later between Ford and Google that could lead to a large-scale collaboration on autonomous vehicles. Ford opened the lab to media with demonstrations of some of the technologies its folks are working on. Some of the innovations come out of collaborations with 40 local startups (out of 200 they’ve talked with). Fields noted that Ford has filed 100 invention disclosures and 51 patents in the past year. Researchers are working on sophisticated, learning software programs that can simulate automated car driving situations without risking either expensive hardware or people’s lives.
One of the examples often cited is Ford’s collaboration with its neighbor, Nest, a Google (now Alphabet) company. Ford and Nest engineers worked together to develop software embedded in Ford’s infotainment system that turns down the home thermostat when you leave the garage and then resets the home temperature to match the one in your car when you head for home.
Another example was found in the back room of Ford’s Silicon Valley lab. There, one researcher had his vintage Honda motorcycle and a basic bicycle, the testbed for a project. They were to be used as part of an experiment in data collection Ford is pursuing with Riders for Health. The African non-profit group delivers health care and medicines in rural areas. Ford’s Silicon Valley engineers used off-the-shelf components to design and then shrink a durable data collection computer that they hope will allow the organization and others to map rural roads and make their life-saving work more efficient.
Ford Smart Mobility Does Fear Failure
That project is part of Ford’s Ford Smart Mobility program, an effort announced a year ago that is designed to explore the company’s move beyond its core car and truck-making business. Two
The old data device was shrunk
aspects of this program set it apart from a typical auto company program. First, it encompassed 25 projects spanning the globe, many only peripherally connected to the auto business. Second, at the outset Ford said it expected that many of the projects might fail. The company was saying that it expected to learn things to add to its future business whether these projects succeeded or not.
In Ford’s growing lab the gap is evident between tech early adopters, who can’t wait for the Google car to arrive, and researchers working on autonomous technology, who are much more sobering about the debut of said technology. That gap is driving more than 100 Ford engineers and their collaborators throughout the Valley to explore new technologies and push the boundries of how we envision mobility. They’re not the only ones barreling down this road, but their growth and progress during the past year shows the intensity that is being brought to bear on what may be the defining issues for the automobile in the coming years.
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$50 Million in Programs at Stanford and MIT
While Silicon Valley seems awash in autonomous Google cars and Carlos Ghosn says Nissan will have an autonomous car on the road by 2020, Toyota is taking a more cautious approach, investing in more research in artificial intelligence and hedging on when any of its self-driving cars might be on the road. At the announcement of the new collaborative ventures at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Toyota’s Kiyotak Ise, Toyota Motor Corporation senior managing officer and chief officer of its R&D Group, said the car company has been working on autonomous cars for more than 20 years and expects to add technology that grows out of this research as it becomes available.
Kiyotaka Ise of Toyota looks to AI (Photo by Beck Diefenbach)
“The goal of the research,” Ise said, “is to eliminate traffic casualties and improve the quality of life.” He and Dr. Gill Pratt, who just joined Toyota to lead these projects, emphasized that the research would be looking beyond cars, examining “the autonomy of people” and exploring the mobility opportunities both indoors and outdoors for the aging populations of Japan and the U.S. Not coincidentally, those are Toyota’s two biggest markets.
Dr. Pratt, who was most recently the program manager at DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and leader of its Robotics Challenge,
Dr. Gill Pratt will lead the AI programs for Toyota (Photo by Beck Diefenbach)
added that “the race for the best (autonomous) systems has just begun” and that he envisioned that the end-game of an autonomous vehicle would include “technology that hasn’t been invented yet.” This research is aimed at solving the “hard cases,” Pratt added.
Speaking a few blocks from the home base of the Google cars, Professor Fei-Fei Li, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL), asserted “no one has figured this out yet(designing humans into the system of autonomous vehicles).” Stanford will develop
Professor Fei-Fei Li of Stanford (Photo by Beck Diefenbach)
advanced intelligent systems to recognize, understand and act in complex traffic environments, she said. “Building on Stanford’s expertise with computer vision, machine learning, large-scale data analysis and human-computer interaction, our team will work to help intelligent vehicles recognize objects in the road, predict behaviors of things and people, and make safe and smart driving decisions under diverse conditions,” said Professor Li.
At MIT the research will be led by Professor Daniela Rus, who is the director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). She said she hopes through her group’s research to show “computers can make cars better” and work towards a “a car that is never responsible for a collision.” She said the research would take them “beyond safe navigation” into territories where the car and its computers will be
Professor Daniela Rus of MIT (Photo by Beck Diefenbach)
able to recognize the state of the driver as well as surroundings (even in inclement weather) and keep car and driver safe.
Ise also said one goal of this research is also to make advanced technologies more affordable, as the company has done with hybrid technology, so they can be used throughout the product line and beyond. One aspect to watch is how this research is integrated into not just Toyota’s vehicles, such as the just-introduced fuel cell Mirai, but projects like its Partner and Human Support Robot. As Pratt said in his introduction, we are “in the middle of a revolution” in mobility.
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A Few More Steps Toward Taking Your Hands Off the Wheel
Whether it’s Google’s little “horizontal elevators” or Audis “driving” across the country with no driver input, it’s hard to find a story on advanced automotive technology that doesn’t touch on the coming of the autonomous or self-driving car. Well, we hate to tell you, but that fantastical version of future transportation is already here–at least in bits and pieces. Those bits and pieces, which represent significant advances in technology individually, also are in the process of adding up to a car that can pilot itself with minimal help from a human.
Safety concerns have led automotive manufacturers to design an ever-increasing number of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS is a new acronym to learn that describes these technologies) that make cars safer and easier to drive. The end goal is fewer accidents, injuries and deaths, something insurance companies and the federal government both champion.
These new technologies are following seatbelts, air bags and anti-lock braking systems that started as options and then quickly became mandatory on all new cars. The driver assistance systems we
Technology to deal with the crowded roads
are seeing now as options or part of packages will undoubtedly become standard equipment in the coming years. For many of these technologies becoming mandatory can’t come soon enough, especially as the Baby Boomer population bubble ages.
The ADAS discussed here may carry different names from manufacturer to manufacturer, so when shopping for your next car ask to see the list of these technologies to determine exactly what is available. One rule of thumb is that the more expensive the car, the higher the possibility you will find these – and maybe others – either as options or standard equipment.
Adaptive Cruise Control
An on-board sensor-controlled radar system that automatically adjusts your car’s speed to keep a safe distance from the cars ahead. Adaptive Cruise Control does not use GPS, road sensors or other infrastructure, or require communication with any other vehicle to operate.
Power steering is common on all vehicles, helping drivers turn without needing to go to the gym first. Adaptive Steering does something different by adjusting the steering based on different driving conditions. When at low speeds, for example, Adaptive Steering helps you turn the wheel fewer times to get to your end destination and makes the car easier to turn, especially when parking.
One vision of the automated future
Advanced Brake Assist
This system works in conjunction with Forward Collision Warning and the Collision Mitigation Braking System to assist in bringing your car to a safe stop in an emergency. Through sensors, Advanced Brake Assist recognizes a panic stop is taking place and works with the Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) to reduce stopping distances and help the driver keep the car under control.
Automatic/Adaptive High Beam Control
In an attempt to reduce the limited visibility of driving at night, Automatic/Adaptive High Beam Control systems are designed to increase the vehicle’s high beam headlights efficiency so that pedestrians, signs, bicyclists, road hazards and configurations, and other vehicles are more visible. The technology uses sensors to read light sources, whether it be from oncoming vehicles or approaching a slower car.
Automatic Post-Collision Braking System
During an accident, your car does not always stop immediately. An Automatic Post Collision Braking system, used in conjunction with the air bag sensors, automatically engages the brakes after a collision, slowing the car to approximately 5 mph to prevent subsequent higher speed impacts.
Automatic Rollover Protection System
What driver of a convertible hasn’t wondered what protection is there in a roll-over crash? Several manufacturers have an Automatic Rollover Protection system that uses the crash sensors from the air bag control unit to deploy rollover bars, either behind the front seats or rear seats depending if the car is a two or four passenger model. These deploy in less than a quarter of a second and, in conjunction with the reinforced windshield A-pillar, provides excellent protection to the car’s occupants.
Blind Spot and Lane Departure Control System
If adjusted properly and used correctly, outside rear view mirrors will provide the necessary vision to eliminate any blind spots, especially on the rear of the passenger side. But, as we all know, most mirrors are either not adjusted correctly or used properly, if even at all. A Blind Spot and Lane Departure Control system provides either a visual (flashing lights in the outside rear view mirrors), audible (beeping) or tactile (vibrating of the driver seat or steering wheel) to alert the driver that an object is in an area that could cause an impact if your car continues to either drift from its lane or during a lane change. The system is cancelled when using the turn signals. This is probably the most useful of all the ADAS Technology systems that will keep you out of a collision.
More and more cars see everything around you
Forward Collision Warning/Avoidance System
Used in conjunction with an Adaptive Cruise Control system, a Collision Avoidance System (also called a Collision Mitigation Brake System) is radar-based technology designed to avoid a frontal collision. Some systems use lasers and cameras, but these, unlike radar, are ineffective in poor weather. When approaching a car going the same direction and in the same lane, the system’s first alert will be through visual warnings of flashing lights on the instrument panel and audibly, usually a beeping. If you continue to approach at an unsafe closing speed the visual and audible warnings increase in intensity and there is a light application of the brakes. If none of these has drawn your attention, the visual and audible warnings continue, followed by a stronger application of the brakes.
Cross Traffic Alert System
This technology, usually packaged with the Blind Spot monitoring system and a Rear View Camera, is very handy when backing out of a parking space. The Cross Traffic Alert system engages when your car is placed in reverse and sensors in the rear bumper detect a moving object on either side of the car. Warnings will be beeps and a flashing light in the outside rearview mirrors.
Parallel Park Assist
This one is fun! When parallel or perpendicular parking, you turn-on the system and it automatically determines if a space is large enough for your car. Once it finds a suitable space and you place the car in reverse, the system takes over control of the steering wheel and guides your car into the parking space. You will still be required to apply the brakes.
Rain-Sensing Windshield Wipers
For those of you who can’t figure out when it is necessary to turn on your windshield wipers, a Rain-Sensing Windshield Wiper system is just what you need. This system works through an optical sensor that determines when water is on the windshield and if the wipers should be operating.
Rear-view Camera with Rotating Outside Mirrors
Rear-view cameras, now available on almost all cars (and mandatory starting in mid-2018), are activated when placing a car in reverse and work well once the driver gets used to the perspective of the wide angle lens. The rear-view camera is even more effective is when it is paired with automatic outside mirrors that rotate downward when the car is in reverse. The combination of the two solves a major problem when backing-up, especially when parking with no cars on either side of your car. The downward facing mirrors look directly at the painted lines, so along with using the rear-view camera, you are able to easily center your car and stop backing before banging into something.
There are other related technologies available such as adaptive lights that turn into a curve, crosswind stabilization, night vision systems, driver drowsiness detection, hill descent controls and
Fully automated cars are already on the road–and you’re not far behind
traffic sign recognition systems.
Availing yourself of the ADAS offered in the market is becoming a no-brainer. When car shopping, do not scrimp on the monthly payment by failing to take advantage of a safety device that might save your life, that of passengers in your car or even other drivers on the road.
Everyone on the road will benefit and thank you for being a safer driver, even if it took a computer and sensor to get you there.
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