General Motors on Friday filed a lawsuit against Ford over the branding of its “BlueCruise” hands-free driving tech.
Ford’s April announcement of its BlueCruise tech amounted to a “brazen attempt” to co-opt GM’s branding, the complaint said. GM said the name infringed on the trademark of its subsidiary, Cruise, and its self-driving vehicle software, Super Cruise, launched in 2017.
“Ford knew exactly what it was doing,” the complaint said. “If Ford wanted to adopt a new, unique, brand, it easily could have done so without using the word ‘Cruise,’ as shown by Ford’s branding for the same automated driving technology in their luxury car models.”
In some models, Ford’s hands-free features were branded as “ActiveGlide.”
GM in its lawsuit – filed in US District Court in the Northern District of California – accused Ford of trademark infringement and unfair competition. GM sought damages and an order that would permanently stop Ford from using the branding.
In a statement, Ford said the branding was an extension of the cruise-control features that vehicle manufacturers have long used, Reuters reported.
“Drivers for decades have understood what cruise control is, every automaker offers it, and ‘cruise’ is common shorthand for the capability,” the company said.
The lawsuit detailed a “protracted” exchange between the two companies following Ford’s April announcement. During those talks, the companies “agreed to multiple standstill agreements,” but were unable to come to a solution, GM said.
“Cruise and GM do not file this lawsuit lightly,” the complaint said.
Toyota Motor Corp will acquire Lyft Inc’s self-driving technology unit for $550 million, the companies said, as the Japanese firm steps up its automation ambitions with the newly created Woven Planet division.
The acquisition of Level 5 automation will also provide Toyota access to the US ride-hailing firm’s more than 300 employees of the essentially complete autonomy technology.
“This is the first step of establishing and bringing together the people. Obviously building technology and product requires people, and that’s much what this acquisition is about,” Woven Planet chief executive James Kuffner told reporters on Tuesday.
It will also give Toyota a direct presence in Silicon Valley and London and expand smart-city project “Woven City” at the base of Japan’s Mt. Fuji, effectively helping it ride through dramatic changes expected in the mobility industry and major centres, he said.
For Lyft, the deal will allow it to become profitable sooner and takes away the burden and risk of developing a costly technology that has yet to enter the mainstream.
Kuffner said Woven Planet, which was set up in January, intends to continue investing and growing the team, although he refrained from commenting about any timeline or future acquisition plans.
Takaki Nakanishi, an auto industry analyst and chief executive of the Nakanishi Research Institute, said by expanding partnerships, Toyota is “moving a step towards realizing its goals,” including self-driving technology.
Toyota has other self-driving projects in the works
Toyota, which currently offers Level 2 automation with advanced driver assistance technology, has other self-driving projects and has been working closely with ride hailing firms.
It owns a stake in China’s top ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing and Southeast Asia’s Grab and also had a stake in the self-driving unit of Lyft’s larger rival Uber Technology Inc, but transferred the stake when Uber sold the unit in December to car startup Aurora.
Toyota said in February it would develop and build autonomous minivans for ride-hailing networks with Aurora and longtime supplier partner Denso Corp.
Lyft’s sale allows it to offload cash-burning side businesses and focus on reviving their core divisions following a bruising pandemic year.
It will receive $200 million cash upfront, with the remaining $350 million paid over five years.
Lyft did not immediately say how it plans to invest the funds. But the sale will allow Lyft to report third-quarter profit on an adjusted basis of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization as long as the company continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, it said.
The sale will also remove $100 million in annual net operating costs, Lyft said.
Lyft will now focus on what it can do best with autonomous vehicles by offering services such as routing, consumer interface and managing, and maintaining and cleaning partners’ autonomous vehicle fleets, which could mean added revenue, it said.
Lyft already allows consumers to book rides in self-driving vehicles in select cities in partnerships with Alphabet Inc’s Waymo and Motional, the joint venture between Hyundai Motor Co and Aptiv.
It will continue to collect real-world driving data through some 10,000 vehicles it rents out to consumers and ride-hail drivers. The data is valuable for the development of self-driving vehicles that Woven Planet will have access to under the deal.
But Lyft also believes human ride-hail drivers will remain important for the foreseeable future to serve customers during peak demand periods, bad weather, or in areas that self-driving cars are unable to navigate.
Several Tesla vehicle models, including the Model 3 and Model Y, record and transmit video footage of drivers and passengers via in-car cameras. The cameras are designed to help Tesla develop its full-self driving software, but present a serious privacy risk, according to Consumer Reports.
John Davisson, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), told Consumer Reports the footage opens Tesla drivers up to a whole host of privacy concerns, including the potential for outside parties to gain access to the data for malicious purposes, as well as Tesla itself using the data for its own gain.
“It may later be repurposed for a system that is designed to track the behaviors of the driver, potentially for other business purposes,” Davisson told Consumer Reports.
Jake Fisher, senior director of Consumer Reports’ auto-test center, told Insider the most concerning aspect of their investigation into the cameras was that Tesla was not being entirely transparent about how the cameras were being used.
“Tesla could be using these cameras to stop crashes and they’re using it for studies, to help Tesla develop more things,” Fisher told Insider. “Tesla is the only automaker that has hardware that could help stop crashes, but isn’t using it for the driver’s safety.”
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter that Tesla has used the in-car cameras to remove its full self-driving software from drivers that “did not pay sufficient attention to the road.”
Other car companies, including BMW, Ford and General Motors have elaborate driver monitoring systems, but they have focused the systems on driver safety over collecting data. Consumer Reports notes the car companies do not record, save or transmit the data and use infrared technology to identify a driver’s eye movements or head position instead of video cameras.
While Tesla does not use the in-car cameras to alert the driver to potential safety concerns, the company does use a real-time driver-engagement tool via steering wheel inputs that analyze the amount of pressure put on the wheel to keep drivers alert.
Consumer Reports said the steering wheel inputs can be easily tricked. “Just because a driver’s hands are on the wheel doesn’t mean their attention is on the road,” said Kelly Funkhouser, program manager for vehicle interface testing at Consumer Reports. Fisher told Insider in-car cameras could help save a lot of lives.
Tesla drivers can opt-out of sharing the in-car videos via their control settings and the Cabin Camera is disabled by default. According to Tesla’s site, the camera will only turn on before a crash or automatic emergency braking (AEB) activation.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Friday said the carmaker had expanded the public testing pool for its Full Self-Driving software to about 2,000 vehicle owners but also revoked access for drivers who didn’t pay close attention to the road.
Tesla “revoked beta where drivers did not pay sufficient attention to the road,” Musk said on Twitter late Friday. “No accidents to date.”
Musk didn’t offer further details about how many drivers have lost access, or how Tesla made decisions about pulling access. Insider has reached out to the company for comment.
Musk’s statement followed a Friday report saying the National Transportation Safety Board chairman called for increased scrutiny of self-driving software.
On Friday, CNBC reported that NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt had in February sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking for updated requirements for carmakers testing software like Tesla’s on public roads.
Sumwalt’s letter mentioned Tesla by name 16 times, as CNBC reported. He wrote that Tesla was testing its software on public roads “with limited oversight or reporting requirements.”
He added: “Although Tesla includes a disclaimer that ‘currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous,’ NHTSA’s hands-off approach to oversight of [automated vehicle] testing poses a potential risk to motorists and other road users.”
A week ago, Musk said Tesla would double the size of its public beta testing program for version 8.2 of its software. “Still be careful, but it’s getting mature,” he said.
He added that he expected the beta testing program to expand tenfold for software version 8.3, which would be released in “probably two or three weeks.” On Friday, he said the next “significant release will be in April.”
A cache of emails between Tesla and California regulators were made public by a transparency advocacy group, PlainSite, on Friday.
In the emails, a Tesla lawyer said the company had “made it abundantly clear” to beta testers that the system “does not make the vehicle autonomous and that the driver is responsible for being fully attentive at all times.”
The two companies are looking to combine their respective expertise to develop, test, and sell semi-trucks powered by Aurora’s autonomous-driving technology.
“Paccar looks forward to partnering with Aurora because of their industry-leading autonomous driving technology and impressive team,” Preston Feight, Paccar’s chief executive officer, said in a press release on Tuesday. “This strategic partnership complements Paccar’s best-in-class commercial vehicle quality, technology, and innovation.”
The Bellevue, Washington-based Paccar is a global leader in the design and manufacture of high-quality light, medium, and heavy-duty trucks. The company also provides its clientele with advanced powertrains, financial services, information technology, and distributes truck parts.
Aurora, meanwhile, has been in the self-driving technology game since 2017 when former Google autonomous-driving engineer Chris Urmson, former Tesla self-driving director Sterling Anderson, and Carnegie Mellon’s Drew Bagnell came together to create the company.
Since 2017 Aurora has been making moves in an attempt to create the first fleet of self-driving semis.
In December, Aurora acquired Uber’s self-driving unit giving up 26% equity to do so. The company then expanded testing on public roads in California, Pennsylvania, and Texas, focusing on long-haul, commercial trips.
Now, Aurora’s technology will be paired with the Peterbilt 579 and the Kenworth T680 semi-trucks at Paccar.
Despite the bullish news, PACCAR and Aurora will face stiff competition going forward, and not just from the big names like Tesla.
Alphabet’s Waymo announced plans last year to develop semi-trucks with Daimler, and self-driving startup TuSimple announced it is joining forces with US truck manufacturer Navistar to create driverless big rigs by 2024.
The news of a strategic partnership with Aurora should be cheered by Paccar shareholders. The company’s revenue has taken a hit recently, falling some 24% year-over-year in the third quarter, according to its latest SEC filings.
Additionally, Paccar earned just $2.57 per share for the nine months that ended September 30, 2020, versus $5.34 per share during the same period in 2019.
Paccar currently trades around $92 per share and holds a $30 billion market cap.
The company boasts 10 “buy” ratings, 14 “neutral” ratings, and six “sell” ratings from analysts.
Newly minted Tesla owners who receive their vehicles this week, before 2020 is over, will get a surprise holiday bonus: three free months of the company’s forthcoming “Full Self-Driving” driver-assistance system.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the news in a tweet Tuesday, promising that “all Tesla cars delivered in the final three days of the year” are eligible, and adding that “delivery & docs must be fully complete by midnight Dec 31st.”
Tesla previously announced plans to release its long-awaited FSD technology, currently a $10,000 add-on, in early 2021 as a subscription service. The company released a beta version to some customers in October.
Tesla’s vehicles come standard with Autopilot, a predecessor to FSD that can brake, accelerate, and steer automatically, while FSD adds capabilities that allow vehicles to park themselves, change lanes, and recognize stop signs and traffic lights.
But neither technology gives Tesla’s vehicles full autonomy, despite some misleading claims by the company.
Following the beta release, the top US safety regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that “no vehicle available for purchase today is capable of driving itself.”
Early videos of the FSD beta in use showed how far the software still has to go, with numerous recordings depicting situations where drivers had to intervene suddenly to keep vehicles from crashing or breaking traffic rules.