Also in the news this week are the Thatcham Research, Porsche, BMW, Baidu, Huawei, Toyota and Faxi.

Conventional wisdom suggests that LiDAR is too expensive to put on affordable consumer cars. Volvo and Luminar beg to differ. Andrew Tolve reports.

Partially autonomous driver assistants are all the rage these days. Think Tesla AutoPilot, Cadillac Super Cruise, Nissan ProPILOT Assist and BMW Personal CoPilot, to name a few. One name conspicuously absent from that list is Volvo, which has been vocal about the fact that semi-autonomous assistants can make drivers dangerously over-reliant on systems that are far from fully independent. Instead, Volvo wants to skip partial autonomy and go straight for fully self-driving cars and it seems to have finally found the missing link to get there: LiDAR start-up Luminar.

Last week the companies announced that Volvo has acquired a stake in the start-up via the first investment in its new connected car and AI investment fund, the Volvo Cars Tech Fund. Neither companies would say the size of the investment but Volvo did reveal that it plans to slap Luminar’s LiDAR onto its fleet of autonomous vehicles that are already cruising around California. It also plans to integrate Luminar’s newly released software suite, which helps identify and organise LiDAR data, with the existing Volvo self-driving software. What makes Luminar special is that its LiDAR is up to 40 times more powerful than conventional LiDAR sensors yet costs a fraction of the price, making it viable for consumer cars.

On a similar topic, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) published a clear message to automakers: stop advertising your cars as “autonomous” or “partially autonomous”, even if you believe you’re being clear about the car’s dependence on human intervention. ABI hired Thatcham Research to test the present crop of semi-autonomous assistants and concluded that carmaker marketing and literature is lulling drivers into a false sense of security. Today’s assistants, it continued, are “still in their infancy and are not as robust or as capable as they are declared to be”. Thatcham is creating a new testing regime to assess functionality of driver assistance systems; misleading names and potentially dangerous functionality will be marked down.

Porsche launched a new digital charging service for plug-in and electric vehicles in Europe. The “Porsche Charging Service” searches for suitable charging stations and provides real-time information about availability and cost. The app integrates with the Porsche navigation system to provide the customer with turn-by-turn directions to the selected charging station. Once they show up, it uses centrally stored data to handle the payment process – across multiple countries and currencies.

BMW partnered up with China’s Baidu to extend its BMW Connected service into the smart home. BMW customers in China will now be able to access vehicle information by voice control and operate relevant functions easily from their home. For example, they can check fuel levels, lock their car doors via remote control, search for mobility information stored by BMW Connected and plan routes and departure times in advance. The voice control function can be activated simply using certain wake-up words with Baidu’s smart home system.

Huawei released the OceanConnect IoV (Internet of Vehicles) Platform to act as an interface between connected cars and the world around them. The platform collects and analyses vehicle Big Data, such as vehicle conditions and driving behaviours, and enables automakers to intelligently distribute content and service recommendations based on the analysis of these driving behaviours and travel scenarios. The platform also will work in cooperation with Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) tech to coordinate information from intelligent cars, bikes and roads.

Finally, Toyota partnered with London-based carpooling app Faxi to launch a new connected carpooling program for some of the largest businesses in Hamburg, Germany. Faxi’s app technology encourages long-term carpooling by verifying shared journeys so that meaningful incentives can be provided to commuters who carpool, such as reserved parking spots once they get to the office. Toyota is hoping to reach around 3,000 large employers in Germany and up to nine million commuters through the partnership.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.