Tesla has held a presentation on its progress towards self-driving cars and in the process has unveiled its Robotaxi plan for a self-driving ride-sharing network with Tesla electric cars to be activated as soon as the next year through an over-the-air software update. Elon Musk believes the company will have developed the software with all the features required for a full self-driving system by the end of this year. Interestingly enough, he underlined that this version will require driver attention, which doesn’t really make it fully autonomous. However, according to Musk, by the second quarter of 2020, he expects that driver attention will no longer be required. The company will also work with regulators to approve its fully self-driving vehicle as soon as possible.
Once the regulatory approvals are granted, the Robotaxi function will be enabled in the Tesla app. Owners then will be able to add their cars to the shared fleet, earning extra money or summoning an autonomous Tesla to pick them up and bring them to their desired destination. Musk also presented Tesla vehicles as appreciating in value, unlike all other cars. According to him, when the self-driving function is enabled, the vehicle value will jump to $200,000, while the current sale price for most of its vehicles hovers around $50,000.
Apple in talks with self-driving car sensor producers
Apple is in talks with at least four self-driving car sensor producers about next generation lidar sensors. The news indicates iPhone-maker hasn’t fully moved away from its autonomous vehicle ambitions and continues to work on the projects. The fate of Project Titan has been unknown in recent months and has been a subject to much speculation.
Apple is reportedly seeking lidar units that will be smaller, cheaper and easily mass-produced than the existing technology. People familiar with the discussions stated that Apple is requesting a “revolutionary design”. Current sensors, produced by companies like Velodyne, cost upwards of $100,000 and use mechanical parts to sweep the laser scanners across the roads. As a result of this design, the sensors are bulky. Hunt for a new design has resulted in more than $1 billion investment in various startups to create smaller and cheaper sensors.
Along with hunting for new hardware, Apple has reportedly ramped up its testing operations and has brought on board key hires from Tesla and Google. It is still not clear whether the iPhone-maker plans to produce an entire self-driving vehicle on its own or will supply the hardware and focus on in-house software.
Car rental companies commit to greater transparency
Five biggest car rental companies — Avis, Europcar, Enterprise, Hertz, and Sixt have committed to higher price and terms transparency in the EU. In 2016, 2000 European consumers have complained that they ended up paying more than they were quoted at the time of booking. As a result, EU consumer authorities and the EU Commission have looked into the matter and the rental companies have committed to improving their practices.
The EU commission has published an assessment last month saying that the Enterprise and Sixt are now in full compliance of the changes required by the Commission and EU consumer authorities. Avis has committed to making all required changes by May 2019, Europcar — by June 2019, and Hertz — by the first quarter of 2020.
The companies have made three commitments. Firstly, the booking price will include all charges and it will match the final price to be paid. The companies will describe the key rental services, their terms, and conditions in all local languages. Lastly, the companies will make it clear in the price offer insurance waivers that reduce the amount in case of damage — while additional insurance can be bought for damages, the terms will now indicate what is or isn’t included in the price without the additional insurance.
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