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What happens when driverless car meets delivery robot at an intersection?

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Just before Christmas last year, Telia and Ericsson opened a 5G pilot network on Tallinn University of Technology’s campus. It’s a permanent network, created for TalTech scientists and the local startup hub to test new applications that need next-generation technology.

Its first trial was to stream live 4K video from the Christmas market in Tallinn, which according to Telia Estonia, was the first live 4K broadcast in the region.

Although it will take some time until mobile end users in Estonia can start signing up for 5G, there are other areas where the technology is already being put to use.

One exciting project that’s now powered by Telia’s 5G network is ISEAuto, the first self-driving vehicle built in Estonia. ISEAuto is a last-mile autonomous shuttle, which is shorter and narrower than a Mini Cooper, although it is a meter higher than a Mini.

It is being tested on the TalTech self-driving car track. The vehicle has six spaces for passengers or luggage, with a 47kW main motor to give a cruising speed of 10kph to 20kph (6mph to 12mph).

The technology it uses to drive autonomously includes Lidar, ultrasonic sensors, short-distance radar, cameras, inertial measurement unit (IMU), and GNSS-RTK positioning technology.

Raivo Sell, a senior researcher at TalTech and one of the leading scientists behind the project, tells ZDNet that this month the team has already started the next stage of project, which involves building the second and more autonomous version of the car.

“The new version will be a street-legal version with optimized systems. It means ISEAuto v2 can perform pilot drives in urban environments,” he says.

SEE: The new commute: How driverless cars, hyperloop, and drones will change our travel plans (TechRepublic cover story) | download the PDF version

This next phase also involves the vehicle being tested and trialed in various countries.

“For example, we’re applying for pilots in Tallinn, Estonia, and Helsinki, Finland, as well as some later pilots in Latvia. We’re also starting to cooperate with Florida Polytechnic University to apply new testing and validation methods to our vehicle to make it safer and more reliable,” explains Sell.

Although ISEAuto is soon going to have the opportunity to explore new tarmac paths in various places around the world, it doesn’t mean it will be abandoning the smart-city environment of TalTech campus.

In addition to 5G and ISEAuto vehicles, the test area is equipped with intelligent road signs and is also being used by Starship Technologies’ autonomous delivery robots, providing rare opportunities for scientists and entrepreneurs to test solutions to problems that could emerge in the near future in various traffic situations.

“New test cases are planned for late January and February to test V2V and V2I communication. The first test case will demonstrate ISEAuto and delivery robot communication, to agree on their driving behavior at intersections. This requires low latency communication, which is enabled by 5G,” Sell says.

“The second case study involves real-time Lidar and camera-stream uploads to the cloud to perform real-time processing and cloud-based situation awareness analysis during the drive.”

The ISEAuto project started in February 2017, when Väino Kaldoja, CEO of Silberauto, one of the biggest enterprises in the automotive field in the Baltics, came to the university and proposed some innovative projects for TalTech’s 100th anniversary in 2018.

During the meeting with Raivo Sell, the idea of making a self-driving vehicle was agreed. The project started officially in June 2017 where both the company and the university invested 50 percent of the project cost.

“The project was very ambitious: to develop a fully operative self-driving car in one year,” says Sell.

A team of students was put together to work on autonomous driving software, sensor technology, and electronics, while Silberauto engineers started to manufacture the vehicle body.

SEE: IT pro’s guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

The project’s main objectives were to develop relevant expertise, offer practical, state-of-art studies for students, and create a smart-city environment on the university campus. Those goals have been met, and now the one-off project might end up as something much bigger.

“We’re now setting up the long-term financial and strategic plan for ISEAuto’s future developments,” says Sell.

“As so far it’s been a project-based initiative, we need to establish a long-term strategy. In cooperation with the smart-city concept on TalTech campus and our partner, the ISEAuto project will be reorganized to meet long-term objectives and business opportunities.”

The international interest is certainly there. In addition to receiving invitations to several fairs and exhibitions in Baltic and Nordic countries, ISEAuto has already received quite a few cooperation proposals.

“One of our partners in this project is ABB Estonia, and the project has also gained the interest from ABB headquarters in Switzerland,” says Sell.

“We’re invited to be a partner in several EU H2020 projects and have also started collaborating with Japan and US universities and companies. We’re just beginning a new partnership with Florida Polytechnic University and the International Transportation Innovation Center in the US.”

So, when can we see the first ISEAuto driving independently on the public streets? According to Sell, quite soon.

“Tallinn will announce the tender for self-driving last-mile vehicle pilots where we will participate. If we succeed, our vehicle will be in traffic by the end of 2019.” 

ISEAuto and delivery robot interactions are being tested using low-latency comms enabled by 5G.


Image: ISEAuto

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Ram unveils limited 1500 TRX Ignition Edition, Longhorn SouthFork, and 1500 (RED) Edition

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The 2022 Ram 1500 TRX is getting a trio of limited-edition models with custom features and unique exterior appointments. The 1500 TRX Ignition Edition, 1500 Longhorn SouthFork, and 1500 Ram (RED) Edition recently made their first appearances at the State Fair of Texas. The latter is particularly worth mentioning as Jeep, Fiat, and Ram cemented with U2 frontman Bono’s (RED) organization to fight global health crises.

“Ram customers demand even more, and our new models deliver that with a selection of exterior and interior appointments and content for greater personalization,” said Mike Koval Jr., Ram Brand Chief Executive Officer – Stellantis.

The 2022 Ram 1500 TRX Ignition has the TRX Level 2 Equipment Group. The package includes custom Ignition paint and body graphics, a panoramic sunroof, a spray-in bed liner, a bed step, cargo tie-downs, a cab-mounted LED brake light, and bespoke 18-inch machine face black wheels. Under the hood is the same 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 motor pumping out 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque.

Other goodies include orange interior stitching, embroidered TRX logos on the seatbacks, copper carbon fiber trimmings, a heads-up display, and an orange center console badge. The Ram TRX Ignition starts at $91,585 (plus $1,695 destination), and only 875 units will arrive at US dealerships near the end of 2021.

Meanwhile, the 2022 Ram 1500 Longhorn SouthFork is all about luxury. It replaces the Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary model and has an impressive lineup of standard kits like a multi-function tailgate, metal pedals, a deployable bed step, LED bed lighting, a spray-in bed liner, and a cargo divider.

It also has a Mountain Brown interior, bucket seats, suede door bolsters, and leather interior trim. The Ram 1500 Longhorn SouthFork starts at $61,620 (plus $1,695 destination) and arrives at dealerships later this year.“Buyers demand a good-looking truck with easy-to-use features. They tell us their Ram trucks are an extension of their personality, and they want to stand out from the crowd,” added Koval.

Finally, the 2022 Ram 1500 (RAM) RED Edition is available in a crew cab body style and starts at $63,250 (plus $1,695 destination). The (RAM) RED model has red RAM letters on the front grille and a (RED) badge on the center console lid. Engine choices include a 5.7-liter V8 with 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque or Ram’s 3.0-liter turbocharged EcoDiesel V6 with 260 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque.

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2022 Honda Passport arrives with a fresh face and new rugged TrailSport trim

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Honda is fortifying its SUV lineup with the redesigned 2022 Passport five-seat crossover. The new Passport comes with an outdoorsy TrailSport trim with chunkier bumpers, a wider track, and 18-inch wheels with chunky tires. Standard across the board is a more rugged façade (derived from the Honda Ridgeline) and a mild splattering of technology updates.

Honda has yet to show the standard 2022 Passport, so let’s focus on the off-road-ready TrailSport version. “Some may not realize the true rugged, off-road capabilities of our light trucks,” said Dave Gardner, executive vice president of National Operations, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “Now they’re getting tough, rugged looks to match, and the addition of TrailSport will further enhance the off-road capability of our vehicles in the future.”

The 2022 Honda Passport TrailSport has chunkier front and rear bumpers, a unique grille, and silver skid plates. It also has special Orange TrailSport badges on the grille and tailgate. In addition, TrailSport has a 10 millimeter wider front and rear track for a burlier stance and better stability. It also offers more room to accommodate all-new machine-finished 18-inch wheels wrapped in TrailSport-specific off-road tires.

Under the hood remains a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Power goes to a nine-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. However, standard in Passport TrailSport and Elite is Honda’s i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system. The drivetrain can automatically send up to 70-percent of engine torque to the rear wheels in rugged terrain. It can also send 100-percent of that torque to either the left or right rear wheels to keep you going.

All AWD Passport models have 8.1-inches of ground clearance and can tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped. All trims also get 50.5 cubic feet of cargo space and a power tailgate. Passport also has under-floor storage compartments in the back to keep wet clothes and dirty boots from mingling with your precious cargo.

Meanwhile, every 2022 Honda Passport has standard Honda Sensing. The package includes a collision mitigation braking system, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, road departure mitigation, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. Additional standard safety equipment includes LED headlights, smart entry with push-button start, a rear-seat reminder, and a rear seatbelt reminder.

Inside, the 2022 Honda Passport gets an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Furthermore, the EX-L trim has perforated leather seats and contrasting stitching, while Passport TrailSport has amber interior ambient lighting, rubber floor mats, orange stitching. Pricing remains forthcoming, but the new Passport arrives at dealerships this winter.

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Aura EV Concept is a collaboration of brilliant British minds

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The Aura EV Concept is a long-range, all-electric speedster boasting 400 to 500 miles of driving range. It may not have the supercar-styling of a Bugatti Chiron or McLaren Elva. Still, the Aura EV is more about substance than style and results from a collaboration between four British companies: BAMD Composites, Conjure, Astheimer, and Potenza Technologies.

The four companies also got help from the UK Office for Zero-Emission Vehicles, with a common goal of creating the first homegrown long-range British EV. And when it comes to electric vehicles, aerodynamics is critical in squeezing out every ounce of driving range from the batteries, and the brainiacs behind Aura EV know this all too well.

But the future of Britain’s EV industry should not only have a more extended range. It needs to be sustainable as well, reducing every ounce of carbon footprints along the way. Aura EV has a lightweight composite body derived from natural fibers. In addition, its svelte yet minimalist silhouette is the result of computational fluid dynamics to make it as slippery as a fish in the water. And if those covered rear wheels are any indication, Aura EV can slice the wind almost effortlessly.

Unfortunately, some details are pretty scarce, but we were lucky to receive more information about Aura EV. According to sources, the car has two 44 kWh battery packs. One of them is on the floor, while there’s also a battery pack under the hood, enough to propel Aura EV to 400 miles (643 km) on a single full charge. If you came here looking for numbers, we’re sorry to disappoint. We’re expecting performance to be peppy for your weekend excursions, but don’t expect it to outrun a Rimac Nevera or Lotus Evija.

One of the central premises behind Aura EV is to reduce people’s perceptions of range anxiety, enabling buyers to adopt the EV lifestyle without further hesitations. Other quirks include a custom steering wheel with a self-positioning screen and a hi-tech human-machine interface with 3D visualization. Meanwhile, Aura EV’s Android-sourced battery and charging software can monitor the state of charge within 0.5-percent for superior accuracy, ensuring drivers will never unexpectedly run out of juice or wait unnecessarily at a charging station.

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