Didi has opened a self-driving lab in Mountain View

Johana Bhuiyan for Recode:

The Chinese company’s new U.S. lab, which will focus on intelligent driving systems and AI-based security for transportation, also formalizes what many already knew: Didi is working on self-driving cars.

The company has already partnered with Udacity — a college-level nanodegree startup — on its self-driving program, at the end of which Didi and a number of other partnering companies get first pick of the graduates the companies want to hire.

Didi did not only acquired Uber China assets last year but it is also actively poaching AV talent from Google Waymo and Uber itself.

I can just but imagine the potential of AVs deployed at a Didi scale in China in a near future.

Uber is buiding its own mapping solution

Leslie Hook for Financial Times:

Uber is preparing to pour $500m into an ambitious global mapping project as it seeks to wean itself off dependence on Google Maps and pave the way for driverless cars.

It is interesting to watch how car manufacturers (namely VAG, BMW, Daimler) and the bigger mobility companies are trying to cut their dependencies with Google Maps.

It is not surprising though: Google is very vocal about its Autonomous Driving ambitions and sooner than later will have to clarify how Google Maps fits in its overall strategy. Mapping will be strategic for the AV future and I do not think that Google will provide all the needed mapping features (e.g. accuracy) to direct competitors.

By developing its own maps Uber could eventually reduce its reliance on Google Maps, which currently power the Uber app in most of the world.

Although Google was an earlier investor in Uber, the two companies have avoided working closely together and are now developing rival technologies for driverless cars.

Last year Uber hired one of the world’s leading digital mapping experts, Brian McClendon, who previously ran Google Maps and helped create Google Earth.

“Accurate maps are at the heart of our service and backbone of our business,” Mr McClendon said in a statement. “The ongoing need for maps tailored to the Uber experience is why we’re doubling down on our investment in mapping.”

Competition is always good and brings nothing but better products!

Fascinating behind the scenes at Google’s autonomous car testing center

It is truly impressive the access that Steven Levy has to everything Google.

I cannot help but wonder how many miles/kilometers of autonomous driving are needed in order to make the systems ready for “public consumption”.

The test-driving program evolved out of the company’s need to log a lot of time driving autonomously. “We had two objectives,” says Chris Urmson, director of the autonomous car program, which is in the process of leaving the Google X research division and becoming a separate Alphabet company. “One was to drive 1,000 miles of interesting roads, and the other was to drive 100,000 miles of roads. At the time, this was 10 times more than anyone had ever driven before with one of these things. We realized we couldn’t just have our developers in the cars all day — we had to get some people to come out and drive them.”