Volvo’s self-driving car venture gets nod to test on Swedish roads

A self-driving Volvo electric truck with no cab called Vera is seen during a presentation in Berlin, Germany, September 12, 2018. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 28 January 2019

Volvo’s self-driving car venture gets nod to test on Swedish roads

STOCKHOLM: A Volvo Cars joint venture has won approval to begin hands-free testing of its software for self-driving cars on Swedish highways, partner Veoneer said on Monday.
Veoneer said the Zenuity joint venture’s software for Level 4 autonomous driving — the second highest level — would be tested in a Volvo car by trained drivers with their hands off the steering wheel at a maximum speed of 80 kilometers per hour (50 miles per hour).
The venture is striving to keep up with larger rivals in the race to develop self-driving vehicles.
US companies are leading the pack, with Google’s Waymo last year winning the first approval to test cars without safety drivers on Californian public roads.
General Motors’ Cruise has said it is ready to deploy a self-driving car with no manual controls, while Germany’s BMW and Audi have also secured testing rights.
Securing permissions has got tougher after an accident involving a Volvo car that Uber was using to test its own self-driving software. Uber last month resumed limited testing on public roads.
Zenuity has been running tests in Sweden to collect data to develop autonomous functionalities and sensors, while Volvo has been carrying out separate tests to gather data to improve driver experience and study driver behavior.
Veoneer Chief Technology Officer Nishant Batra said the approval to do real-life tests was “essential for gathering important data and test functions.”
“It is a strong proof-point for the progress of Zenuity’s self-driving capabilities,” he said.
Veoneer spokesman Thomas Jonsson said it was too early to say when Zenuity could potentially test without a safety driver.
Zenuity, formed by Volvo and Veoneer in 2017, is expected to have its first driver assistance products on sale by 2019 with autonomous driving technologies shortly afterwards. Volvo and its Chinese parent Geely are customers.
Volvo has goals of delivering self-driving cars sometime after 2021 and deriving a third of its sales from fully autonomous cars by 2025.
Documents obtained from the Swedish Transport Authority showed Volvo in September secured the right to test self-driving cars at 80kph and the permit removed a previous condition that a driver has at least one hand on the steering wheel.
The cars Volvo was testing were “for the development of fully autonomous vehicles” and it was using outside parties and test drivers, a Volvo spokesman said.
A top Level 5 vehicle, or fully autonomous vehicle, will be able to navigate roads without any driver input in all conditions.
Volvo teamed up with Baidu last year to use the Chinese company’s autonomous software to develop a Level 4 car.


NASA finds Indian moon lander with help of amateur space enthusiast

Updated 03 December 2019

NASA finds Indian moon lander with help of amateur space enthusiast

  • NASA released an image taken by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that showed the site of the spacecraft’s impact
  • A version of the picture was marked up to show the associated debris field

WASHINGTON: India’s Vikram lunar lander, which crashed on its final approach to the Moon’s surface in September, has been found thanks in part to the sleuthing efforts of an amateur space enthusiast.
NASA made the announcement on Monday, releasing an image taken by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that showed the site of the spacecraft’s impact (September 7 in India and September 6 in the US).
A version of the picture was marked up to show the associated debris field, with parts scattered over almost two dozen locations spanning several kilometers.
In a statement, NASA said it released a mosaic image of the site on September 26 (but taken on September 17), inviting the public to compare it with images of the same area before the crash to find signs of the lander.
The first person to come up with a positive identification was Shanmuga “Shan” Subramanian, a 33-year-old IT professional from Chennai, who said that NASA’s inability to find the lander on its own had sparked his interest.
“I had side-by-side comparison of those two images on two of my laptops ... on one side there was the old image, and another side there was the new image released by NASA,” he said, adding he was helped by fellow Twitter and Reddit users.
“It was quite hard, but (I) spent some effort,” said the self-professed space nerd, finally announcing his discovery on Twitter on October 3.
NASA then performed additional searches in the area and officially announced the finding almost two months later.
“NASA has to be 100% sure before they can go public, and that’s the reason they waited to confirm it, and even I would have done the same,” said Subramanian.
Blasting off in July, emerging Asian giant India had hoped with its Chandrayaan-2 (“Moon Vehicle 2“) mission to become just the fourth country after the United States, Russia and regional rival China to make a successful Moon landing, and the first on the lunar south pole.
The main spacecraft, which remains in orbit around the Moon, dropped the unmanned lander Vikram for a descent that would take five days, but the probe went silent just 2.1 kilometers above the surface.
Days after the failed landing, the Indian Space Research Organization said it had located the lander, but hadn’t been able to establish communication.