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The autonomous driving car race is on

The autonomous driving car race is definitely on, with BMW announcing the launch date of the company’s first autonomous driving car, set for 2021. The question is whether it will be a sprint or a marathon?

BMW plans to launch a flagship autonomous driving car in 2021. The INext is said to come equipped with a “cutting edge” electric powertrain and be able to drive itself in many situations, according to Auto News. “Our world is changing. We are seizing this opportunity to transform the BMW Group into a high-tech mobility company. … The technologies of the future also include enhanced connectivity, the use of artificial intelligence and the development of autonomous driving,” said Harald Krüger, chairman of the board of management of BMW Group, speaking at the company’s shareholders meeting on Thursday. Krüger presented the INext as “ultimately bringing the next generation of electromobility to the road.”

In the meantime, Apple announced it had made a $1 billion investment in Didi Chuxing Technology, Uber’s ride-hailing rival in China. With over 11 million rides per day, Didi’s share of the private ride-hailing market is estimated at more than 87%, Reuters reported. Ride-hailing players such as Uber and Lyft are already active in the field of autonomous driving. Uber has a large team working on the technology, while Lyft and General Motors plan to start testing self-driving taxis within a year. It has been reported that Apple has a team of 1,000 employees working on building an autonomous electric vehicle. The investment in Didi could be a good fit to Apple’s efforts within autonomous driving. Apple CEO Tim Cook said however that Apple remained focused on the in-car experience for now.

Also in the Chinese market, car maker Changan has stated its plan to start mass producing autonomous driving cars by 2018, and its ambition to become the world’s largest autonomous driving car maker. The manufacturer’s driverless cars have completed a 124-mile journey, the first long-distance test of autonomous driving technologies in China, the company said.

Volvo is in the process of rolling out self-driving car trials in the United Kingdom, China and Sweden, where people will be put behind the wheel. Other players have chosen to partner with tech companies. Fiat Chrysler announced it would develop a self-driving minivans together with Google, and Ford has partnered with Google and Uber to push autonomous driving.

Sprint or marathon?

Car makers are planning to launch autonomous driving cars as soon as 2018, but much remains to be done before self-driving vehicles can be allowed on the road. First movers, choosing to sprint, might not gain a competitive advantage as a result. For starters, regulation must be adjusted to allow self-driving cars. It is unlikely this process can be completed by the time car makers are planning to launch their first AD vehicles. Then there is technology: it needs to be extensively tested. Policy making research institution Rand raises two important questions: how safe should self-driving cars be and how much testing is required to achieve that desired level of safetyGoogle’s self-driving vehicles could in fact already be safer than traditional cars, Rand said. To enable a statical comparison, autonomous vehicles would have to be test driven “hundreds of millions of miles and sometimes hundreds of billions of miles.” New technology might require a new approach to testing car safety, concluded Rand. 

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IIoT news recap: today’s forecasts; China Unicom invests in Shanghai; smart city competition in Detroit

Today’s forecasts: base station spending down, smart factories up

As capital expenditure is shifting to small cells, distributed antenna systems and Wi-Fi for densification, worldwide macrocell base station spending is set to declinefor the second year in a row. Spending is forecast to drop 2% in 2016, hitting $48 billion. Each following year, spending is expected to decline by double digits, according to ABI Research.

Pushed by the wide adoption of the “Internet of Things,” the global smart factory market is expected to be worth $74.8 billion by 2020, growing at a 10.4% compound annual growth rate between 2016 and 2022, according to Research and Markets. The smart factory market for the pharmaceuticals industry is expected to grow at the highest rate during the forecast period.

Shanghai selects China Unicom for smart city, narrow band-IoT deployment

China Unicom plans to deploy a citywide NB-IoT platform in Shanghai as part of the city’s plan to become a smart city. The platform is said to support applications including intelligent parking and environmental monitoring, Telecom Asia reports. The network is expected to be up and running next year. The roll out is part of a larger agreement between Shanghai and China Unicom, whereby the Chinese operator has committed to invest $2.15 billion in the expansion and upgrade its fixed optical network and wireless infrastructure in Shanghai over the next five years.

Global challenge seeks smart city technology solutions

NextEnergy, DENSO, DTE Energy and Wells Fargo are teaming up on NextChallenge, a smart city competition in Detroit. The goal of the challenge is to find technology solutions for smart parking, smart transportation, smart infrastructure and smart buildings. The winner, who will get an $80,000 grant from Wells Fargo “to demonstrate and validate their solution at the NextEnergy Center in Detroit,” is set to be announced in January 2017.

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