Self-Driving Cars

Mercedes-Benz, NVIDIA join forces to create computer-focused automated driving solutions

Mercedes-Benz is planning for an automated driving future.

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

There's a lot that goes into self-driving vehicles. It's not just cameras and radar. There's a bevy of technology that goes into solving the "how" question as well as attempt to automate how to react to other drivers demonstrating their free will, safely or unsafely. Then there's the regulations and laws to consider, not to mention the wide variety of roads, differing traffic laws by jurisdiction, and the appearance (or lack thereof) of a variety of lane markings. And that's just a quick list off the top of the head.

It's no wonder that automakers are pairing up with tech companies to come up with computer solutions to automated driving. Mercedes-Benz is the latest to do so, having joined forces with NVIDIA. According to a release, the two companies are planing to work together to "develop the most sophisticated and advanced computing architecture ever deployed in an automobile."

Mercedes is set to begin rolling out vehicles with the technology in 2024.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The solution will be software based and built on the NVIDIA DRIVE platform. Mercedes-Benz is already saying that the architecture will be deployed in the company's next-generation fleet and will allow for automated driving functionalities.

What features can drivers expect? According to Mercedes, "A primary feature will be the ability to automate driving of regular routes from address to address. In addition, there will be numerous future safety and convenience applications. Customers will be able to purchase and add capabilities, software applications and subscription services through over-the-air software updates during the life of the car."

This includes developing AI and automated vehicle applications that include SAE vehicle automation Level 2 and 3 levels, as well as automated parking functions (up to Level 4).

Level 2 is considered partial automaton and is defined as requiring the vehicle to be in a specific drive mode to allow for the specific execution of one or more driver assistance systems regarding steering and acceleration/deceleration.

Level 3 is conditional automation. This level allows drivers to switch on automated functionality as part of a drive mode and for that enabled technology to perform all the aspects of dynamic driving. When the system requests, a human can intervene.

Level 4 is a highly automated version of Level 3 requiring even more sophistication. A vehicle with Level 4 technology can respond on its own if a driver does not "properly" respond to prompts from the system to take control. This technology would not be available in just one mode, bu rather in many.

The DRIVE platform includes a computer system-on-chip (SoC), called Orin, which is based on recently announced NVIDIA Ampere supercomputing architecture. It includes a full system software stack designed for automated driving AI applications.

The NVIDIA DRIVE platform includes a full system software stack designed for automated driving AI applications. NVIDIA and Mercedes-Benz will jointly develop the AI and automated vehicle applications that include SAE Level 2 and 3 levels, as well as automated parking functions (up to Level 4).

The new system's state-of-the-art capabilities will be harnessed with a total focus on safety. As the technology and regulatory framework develop, it will be possible for every car to be updated over-the-air to enable new automated driving functions. Convenience as well as other safety features will also be available.

To develop the new models, both companies will be utilizing NVIDIA DRIVE Infrastructure solutions to enable data driven development and deep neural network development to handle the requirements of the regions and operational domains where the cars will be available.

A statement from Mercedes says that the technology will begin rolling out in 2024.

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Photo courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service

The long process to design, engineer, and award a contract for the U.S. Postal Service's (USPS) next-generation mail delivery vehicle (NGDV) has finally come to an end. The government has awarded Oshkosh Defense a contract to produce the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle for service. Oshkosh Defense is a a wholly owned subsidiary of Oshkosh Corporation (NYSE: OSK).

The NGDV project is the USPS's first large-scale fleet procurement in three decades. Over the next 10 years, the contract allows for the delivery of between 50,000 and 165,000 new vehicles.

"Oshkosh operates with unparalleled commitment to those who depend on our products and services to build, protect and serve communities around the world. We are honored to have been selected by the USPS to support their important work by manufacturing American-made Next Generation Delivery Vehicles that will connect every home and business across the United States for decades to come," said John Pfeifer, President & Chief Operating Officer, Oshkosh Corporation.

U.S. Postal Service's Next-Generation Mail Delivery Vehicle

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service

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The new mail trucks will have multiple powertrain options, just like many passenger vehicles on the road today. There will be a battery electric vehicle (BEV) version that runs exclusively on electric power and a fuel-efficient low-emission internal combustion engine vehicles (ICE) variant.

Under the contract awarded today, USPS has committed to paying Oshkosh Defense $482 million as a first step toward the new vehicles' production. The money will be used to finalize the production vehicle design and complete factory build-out, all of which is necessary before production gets underway. The process is similar to ones mass market vehicle manufacturers use.

"Our century-long history of delivering products to customers, operating in some of the most demanding and severe conditions on the planet, uniquely positions us to bring exceptional reliability, safety, and maintainability to USPS's Next Generation Delivery Vehicles," said John Bryant, Executive Vice President, Oshkosh Corporation, and President, Oshkosh Defense. "Partnering with trusted suppliers, we have developed a purpose-built solution to support the current and future needs of the USPS," Bryant concluded.

In addition to a new exterior and powertrain options, the NGTV also gets modern features and amenities like a rearview camera, walk-in cargo area, air condition, telematics, and a sliding cargo door. There's also a host of safety technology and equipment including airbags, automatic front and rear braking, blind spot warning, a 360-degree camera, and forward collision warning.

Production of the next generation delivery vehicle is expected to begin in 2023.

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The 2022 Kia Carnival was designed to look more like an SUV than a minivan.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

When is a minivan not a minivan? When Kia's marketing department decides its not. Apparently. The 2022 Kia Carnival replaces the Sedona minivan in the company's lineup and instead of being called a minivan, Kia has decided that it's a 'multi-purpose vehicle' or MPV for short.

Kia says that the new Carnival stakes a claim on the "unoccupied space between SUV and family hauler". It's not the first model in that territory. The Ford Carousel may be considered the first modern model to occupy the space, but it was just a prototype.

The Carnival was designed at Kia's California design studio. It's bold and boxy rather than sleek and function-forward, like the bodies of the Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica, and Toyota Sienna. The Odyssey and Pacifica were both refreshed for the 2021 model year while the Sienna was redesigned.

2022 Kia Carnival: Exterior

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

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Kia carries over many of the design elements of the Telluride, Sorento, and Seltos into the new Carnival. It has the company's new tiger nose grille and integrated LED headlights. At its sides are substantial wheel catches while two-tone mirrors and and cutlines run the length of the vehicle. At the rear, geometric trail lamps, a rear skid plate garnish, and reflectors are positioned to make the vehicle look like an SUV. The model rides on 17- and 19-inch wheels, which are available in gloss black.

The Carnival is a three-row van that seats seven or eight, depending on the buyer's preference. The vehicle uniquely features Side-Flex seating in its eight-passenger variant that allows for multiple configurations. Kia describes it as including "a sliding second row center seat which, when in the forward-most position, allows the front passenger easy access the baby or child riding in it. This seat also converts into a functional table."

Heated and ventilated second row 'VIP Lounge Seating' with power controls, wing-out headrests, and leg extensions is available for seven-passengers Carnivals.

2022 Kia Carnival: Interior

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

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Kia will offer the model in four trim levels: LX, EX, SX< and SX-Prestige.

Kia has given the U.S.-bound version of the Carnival a 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers best-in-class 290 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The powertrain is completed by an eight-speed automatic transmission and provides 3,500 pounds of towing capacity.

The van's dimensions offer best-in-class passenger room (168.2 cubic feet) and best-in-class cargo room (145.1 cubic feet behind the front row in LX, EX, and SX grades). Removable second-row seats and fold-in-floor third-row seats help the model achieve its best-in-class cargo room (second row seats not removable in SX-Prestige) title.

Kia will offer the model in three interior color schemes.

The list of standard features includes hands-free opening power sliding doors with Smart Key, and 8-inch infotainment touch screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2022 Kia Carnival: Details

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

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A hands-free power lift gate with auto close, Smart Key with one-button open/close functionality for rear sliding doors and liftgate, passenger voice recognition (allows second row occupants to control numerous in-vehicle functions through voice commands by pushing a button mounted on the ceiling), the Passenger Talk intercom system, Rear Passenger View in-cabin camera, dual-screen entertainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android screen mirroring, wireless smartphone charging, navigation, full digital instrument cluster, multi-Bluetooth, up to nine USB ports, a Bose premium audio system, and UVO link telematics are available.

The long list of standard advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) on the Carnival includes: forward collision warning with collision avoidance assist, blind spot monitoring with collision avoidance assist, rear cross traffic warning with collision avoidance assist, rear park assist, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, automatic high beam headlights, and driver attention monitor.

Buyers can add to the safety technology in the Carnival to include the new 'Kia Drive Wise' ADAS, which includes: Blind-Spot View Monitor, a technology that projects live video view of adjacent lanes in the instrument cluster and activated via the turn signal; speed limit adjustment; navigation-based adaptive cruise control; park assist; and surround-view monitor.

It's the first vehicle Kia is selling in the U.S. with the company's new logo displayed on it. It will go on sale in the second quarter of 2021. Pricing is expected to be made public in the coming months.

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