Radar technology gets a refresh, increased role in automated driving systems

Radar, a technology invented more than a century ago and first widely used during World War II, could soon improve the performance of automated driving systems.
While technology companies often highlight laser-based lidar sensors as a key enabler of automated driving, experts say next-generation radar sensors may hold some advantages. Namely, it has greater capability during bad weather and may be more cost effective.
“Radar just does what people want it to do,” said Matt Markel, president of startup Spartan Radar and former head of radar at self-driving technology company Waymo. “It’s unlike lasers, which when running, can essentially be useless in fog. Radar sees right through it.”
Radar made its automotive debut in the 1990s as a component in adaptive cruise control applications. Now, companies are exploring 4D imaging radar, which can provide perception, velocity information on targets and a lidar-like point cloud.
In today’s automated vehicles, cameras, lidar and radar serve complementary roles. Going forward, imaging radar could not only improve its performance in that same setup, it could also supplant lidar.

Imaging radar is gaining traction and interest in the marketplace.
In January, Israeli automated driving company Mobileye said it is collaborating with Taiwan’s Wistron NeWeb Corp. to develop automotive-grade 4D imaging radars.
The product, expected to be ready in two years, will improve AV perception and reduce the need for multiple lidar sensors in vehicles, said Yaniv Avital, vice president and general manager of Mobileye Radar.
In April, Israel’s Arbe Robotics Ltd. and China’s Weifu High-Technology Group disclosed a deal to provide Chinese autonomous trucking company KargoBot with 4D imaging radars for its commercial trucks. The deal involves research and development along with placing Arbe’s radars in in the Level 4 trucks KargoBot plans to produce. Executives from Weifu and KargoBot said Arbe’s radars would enhance safety features on their trucks.
In February, Arizona-based Lunewave, another next-generation radar startup, said it had completed development projects with leading global automakers.
Spartan recently raised $17 million from investors to further develop its flagship 4D radar-based software designed to improve the resolution and range of driver-assist and autonomous systems.
Mobileye said its radars can offer a detailed 4D image of the roadway at distances of at least 1,000 feet, with a 140-degree field of view at medium ranges. As the industry’s collective radar technology improves toward lidar-like levels, its cost may allow it to surpass its rival sensor and complement camera information.
“You’ll want to have two sensors for some level of redundancy, you want two to cover the areas where that sensing modality is weak,” Markel said. “Is it going to be radar or lidar? I think that from a price point, from weather, from reliability, maintainability, I think we’re seeing most people go the radar route for now.”

Not everyone is convinced. But more people who rely on lidar are at least intrigued.
Jason Fischer, executive chief engineer of autonomous technology at General Motors, said the automaker is squarely a “lidar-based company.” He does not believe that imaging-radar tech is yet on par.
“I don’t believe it’s there today,” he said. “But it’s a growing field, it’s something we’re looking at because there’s cost parity there.”
It’s not just cost parity. Imaging radar provides information to automated systems that can help them get out of tricky situations, particularly if they are receiving false-positive obstacles from other sensors. Radar can be an accurate cross-check, Markel said.
“The cars are getting false alarm hits and that’s why they can’t move forward,” he said.
Amit Kumar, vice president of engineering at automated-driving company Plus.Ai, which has focused its software on the trucking industry, sees the potential for imaging radar to replace lidar.
Imaging radar is not yet commercialized, he said. “There are certain issues with the imaging radar,” Kumar said. “If manufacturers can overcome them, there’s some potential there.”
Phil Magney, founder and principal adviser of VSI Labs, a St. Louis Park, Minn., firm that tests and researches advanced safety and automated driving systems, said radar is entrenched as part of automated driving systems.
“I think radar has a bright future, so do cameras and lidar,” Magney said. “There’s no one sensor that can do it all.”

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From CRMs to CDPs: How to Achieve Wins Today While Laying the Critical Groundwork for Tomorrow.

Dealers, their partners and providers, have challenges accessing their CRM data in a timely, robust manner. What dealers are demanding is functionality that a CRM can’t deliver – but a Customer Data Platform (CDP) can. The road from being CRM-dependent to full CDP implementation will take time and investment. But dealers can start now by asking the right questions.5 Key Takeaways:This article surfaces those questions, along with actionable steps to take toward a CDP future. Topics discussed include:
The importance of safeguarding dealership data
Complying with new FTC Safeguards Rules (re: auto dealerships)
What to look for in a vendor who can best leverage dealership data and integrate/clean up first-party dealership data
The critical need for daily defection data
Why proven data management and secure data-access experience are essential qualities for any CDP partner vendor under consideration for your business.

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Turkish court acquits 3 people in retrial over Ghosn escape, report says

ISTANBUL — A Turkish court acquitted three people over former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn’s escape via Istanbul to Lebanon after fleeing Japan, a lawyer for one of the defendants said.
A jet company executive and two pilots, who were detained for several months, were sentenced to four years and two months in jail in 2021 over the charge of migrant smuggling.
Mehmet Fatih Danaci, a lawyer for the jet operator executive, said on Tuesday that an appeals court ordered the retrial of the case and returned the file to the lower court.
Click here for all of Automotive News’ historic coverage of the Carlos Ghosn saga.
“We appealed the ruling. In the retrial, the court acquitted our client, along with two pilots who were initially convicted,” Danaci told Reuters.
Ghosn, once an influential leader in the global auto industry, was arrested in Japan in late 2018 and charged with financial misconduct. He denied the charge and said his detention was part of a plot by Nissan executives to block a merger.
The ousted chairman of the alliance of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors fled to Lebanon in late 2019 while awaiting trial and has since been living as a fugitive.

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Biden withdraws nomination of official to head U.S. auto safety agency

WASHINGTON – The White House said on Tuesday that President Joe Biden is withdrawing the nomination of the acting head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the job.
Ann Carlson, the agency’s chief counsel, was named acting head of NHTSA in September and formally nominated for the top position in March.
She has overseen safety probes into Tesla, efforts to shrink traffic deaths and to boost vehicle fuel economy requirements.

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If Toyota Grand Highlander cannibalizes sales of smaller namesake, it's part of the plan

WAIMEA, Hawaii — Toyota North American brand head Dave Christ is fully prepared if the sales of his current top-selling three-row crossover, the Highlander, decline next year. Any losses, Toyota’s group vice president said, will be more than made up by customers moving up to the larger 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander or coming back to the brand because it now has a comfortable non-minivan option for growing families.”We do expect some cannibalization, people that may have bought a Highlander in the past,” Christ told Automotive News here during a media drive. “I’m a great example. I have three kids; the youngest one is just now getting out of a car seat, and my oldest is five-foot-five with shoes as big as mine. Putting him in the third row of a Highlander was a little tight.”Arriving in dealerships this summer, the 2024 Grand Highlander is 2 inches wider, 2 inches taller and — most important — 6 inches longer than the current three-row Toyota Highlander, with the additional room aimed squarely at making the rear seating of the eight-person people-hauler more comfortable.

“We think the combined total [of Highlander and Grand Highlander] is going to be significantly more volume, because we get both ends: We get people that don’t need the third row as much, maybe a grandparent who drives their kid once a week and can get around fine in a Highlander, but then we have the Grand Highlander for people like me that have three kids and need the space,” Christ said.In 2022, Toyota sold 222,805 Highlanders in the U.S., down 16 percent primarily on supply-related production restrictions. Through April, Highlander sales in the U.S. were down 13 percent to 74,697.

Toyota set its pricing and trim strategies on the Grand Highlander to let the larger three-row take advantage of the middle of the market. While the Highlander has a base “L” trim level that starts at $37,995, including delivery, the Grand Highlander’s lowest trim level is the Highlander’s midgrade XLE package that starts at $44,405 — a $1,050 premium over the smaller Highlander at the same trim level. Both prices are for nonhybrid four-wheel-drive models, but the difference holds relatively steady across the trim walk, including for hybrid and all-wheel-drive models.”The pricing decision was really to build it so that we didn’t have an enormous amount of overlap,” Christ explained.

Designed in the U.S. and manufactured in Toyota’s plant in Princeton, Ind., with the start of production set in June, the 2024 Grand Highlander comes equipped with a standard 2.4-liter turbocharged I-4 engine. Two optional hybrid powertrains featuring 2.5-liter I-4 engines are also available — one tuned for fuel economy and capable of delivering up to 36 mpg combined, or the Hybrid Max powertrain with added power, capable of delivering up to 362 hp and towing up to 5,000 pounds, delivering an estimated 27 mpg combined, Toyota said. All-wheel drive is optional on gasoline and hybrid models, and standard on Hybrid Max models.

In the cabin, seating for seven comes standard with second-row captain’s chairs, with the option for a second-row bench available to raise capacity to eight occupants in certain configurations. The Grand Highlander comes standard with a 12.3-inch touchscreen running the brand’s new Toyota Audio Multimedia system, which was developed in-house and works largely through voice prompts.All Grand Highlander trims come standard with Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, a suite of upgraded safety and driver-assistance features including dynamic cruise control, lane keeping, automated headlights and a new system the brand calls Proactive Driving Assist. Toyota says that when certain “operating conditions are met, using the vehicle’s camera and radar, this system provides gentle braking into curves or gentle braking and/or steering to help support driving tasks such as distance control between a preceding vehicle, pedestrian or bicyclist.”

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GM, Stellantis give $15 million lifeline to insolvent supplier

Three of Unique Fabricating Inc.’s largest customers have agreed to bail out the insolvent supplier with price increases and investment of up to $15 million to tide over the company until it sells itself and restructures.
General Motors, Stellantis and Yanfeng Automotive Interior Systems Co. entered into an accommodation agreement with the Auburn Hills-based supplier on May 22, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

At the same time, the company entered into another forbearance agreement with lender Citizens Bank NA, which stipulates that Unique Fabricating must pay $1.23 million in past due interest and attorney and adviser fees.
As part of the accommodation agreement, customers also agreed not to “exercise certain rights of set off, recoupment or deduction” and not to resource parts components to other suppliers.
The deal imposes a deadline of Oct. 31 for the company to be sold to a qualified buyer. The agreement may be terminated by a customer if a default occurs. The company must formulate a restructuring plan, hire a chief restructuring consultant and engage an investment banker within 30 days.
“The accommodation agreement provides for specified price increases to be paid by customers during the term or other funding to be provided by customers to the company through the purchase by customers of a junior tranche of debt to be established under the credit agreement of up to $15 million in the aggregate,” the filing said.
The financial struggles of Unique Fabricating, which supplies plastics, rubber and foam, became apparent earlier this year when it failed to report its financials for the fiscal year ended Dec. 31 due its statements being investigated for inaccuracies. Additionally, the company is being investigated for alleged labor rights violations at plants in Mexico.
In its most recent financial report — the one under review — company executives said it took a $6.2 million operating loss and $10.6 million net loss in the third quarter, with projected full-year sales of $136 million. It had just $500,000 in cash and $1.3 million in liquidity under its revolving credit facility.
The company, which also counts Rivian Automotive Inc. and Bosch as customers, aims to continuing operating amid the restructuring process and potential sale.
Unique Fabricating could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
“GM is aware of the developments at Unique Fabricating and is supportive of it as a going concern,” GM spokesman David Barnas said in an email. “As such, we are working with several of Unique Fabricating’s other customers and its creditors to allow them to be viable long-term through either a restructuring or sale. We do not expect any interruption to GM supply during this process.”
Stellantis declined to comment.
Like other automotive suppliers, Unique Fabricating has struggled with production volatility, shrinking volumes and inflation, which have had an outsize impact on smaller companies further down the supply chain.
The accommodation agreement indicates that automakers and Tier 1 suppliers are still willing to make financial concessions to suppliers to keep them afloat, as they did during the supply chain snarls over the past couple of years. When Gissing North America LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last August, GM, Toyota and BMW agreed to fund Gissing’s projected liquidity shortfall of more than $14 million as a bridge to it being sold.
Unique Fabricating shares were trading at 23 cents per share as of Tuesday, having lost nearly all of its value since launching its initial public offering in 2015 at $11 per share.

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Stellantis designer Chris Benjamin joins Scout Motors

Veteran Stellantis designer Chris Benjamin has joined Scout Motors to lead design for the EV-focused Volkswagen brand that will specialize in utility vehicles and trucks. Benjamin, most recently the interior design chief for Stellantis North America, becomes chief design officer at a critical time for Scout, which plans to begin vehicle production at a plant near Columbia, S.C., by the end of 2026. The brand said the first retail sales of its electric pickups and SUVs will start soon after. He has officially joined the company, a spokesperson said.Volkswagen hatched plans to resurrect the Scout brand in 2022 and establish a firmer foothold in the expanding market for off-road vehicles in the U.S. Benjamin graduated from Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. He launched his automotive design career at Mercedes-Benz. After that, Benjamin did design work for BMW, Volvo and Stellantis, where he spent time in Europe and the U.S.He will report to Scout Motors CEO Scott Keogh. “Chris’ work is prolific. For nearly 25 years, he’s brought to life vehicles that stand out on the road,” Keogh said in a statement. “His thumbprints are all over many of the most beloved off-road vehicles in the market today. I’m confident that Chris will build on that experience as he defines the next chapter of design for Scout and electric utility vehicles.”Benjamin, in a statement Tuesday, said Scout’s classic vehicles have always “exerted a magnetic pull” by creating “the archetype for the modern SUV in the ’60s” and proving “that a daily driver could also be a weekend adventurer.”His primary task is to balance Scout’s iconic heritage styling with the “innovative possibilities that electrification” presents. “With the base of inspiration that Scout offers,” he said, “what we’re dreaming up will be beyond special.”

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Toyota’s Hino Motors and Daimler’s Mitsubishi Fuso are teaming up on heavy-truck development. Chipmaker Nvidia approaches a trillion-dollar valuation as investors applaud its aggressive growth targets. And Kumar Galhotra explains why he sees Ford Blue as a growth business – at least for now.

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Dealer-backed VC fund raises $13 million, lower than target

Automotive Ventures raised $13 million for a new fund backed by dealerships hoping to invest in novel technology that could help them do their jobs better.
The firm’s DealerFund is much smaller than originally intended, however. When fundraising began more than a year ago, the goal had been to raise as much as $50 million. The fund closed in April.
“The fundraising environment over the past year has softened significantly,” Automotive Ventures CEO Steve Greenfield told Automotive News. “We had one commitment of $5 million pull out and a couple of other softer commitments that failed to materialize.”
Angel and seed-stage startups have been able to raise money, but investors are more risk averse than they were “writing checks only to companies with strong fundamentals, healthy burn rates and solid strategies to preserve” a growth path, PitchBook said in its Q1 2023 US VC Valuations report.
At the same time, Greenfield noted, DealerFund attracted 48 total investors including dealership groups and some single dealerships, representing hundreds of storefronts in all.
The typical participating investor is a mid-size group owner with an average of five to 25 stores, Greenfield said. The average investment size was roughly $250,000.
Investors include Dinos Constantine, chief operations officer, Holler-Classic Family of Dealerships; Paul Antony, executive chairman of AutoCanada; Sam Slaughter, a personal investor and former owner of Sellers Auto Group, which sold its two dealerships in March; Bill Feinstein, president, Planet Honda in Union, N.J.; Clay Cooley, CEO, Clay Cooley Auto Group; and Liza Borches, CEO of Carter Myers Automotive.
Also investing are Adam Simms and Tom Price, of the former Price Simms Family Dealerships, Greenfield said. Price Simms now operates as Price Family Dealerships, of which Price is chairman, and Simms is CEO of newly formed Simms Automotive Inc.
Some other investors previously disclosed include Rick Ford, executive vice president of operations for the RFJ Auto platform within Sonic Automotive Inc., and Brian Godfrey, president of Pat Milliken Ford in suburban Detroit, who made a personal investment.
Stock market corrections prevented more investors from participating, Greenfield said, particularly when big technology companies saw their valuations tumble.
“All of us kind of look at the Dow Jones as a barometer of our personal wealth and savings,” Greenfield said.
Other factors are revenue drops dealers are facing after a record few years stemming from the coronavirus pandemic and rising interest rates that make both new and used vehicles less affordable.
“On balance we had a really good environment for most of the year,” Greenfield said. “Near the end, some of the big commitments that we had didn’t come through, largely because of some of the general hesitation.”
The fund initially has opted to invest in three portfolio companies: WarrCloud, Go Eve and Kinetic.
WarrCloud automates warranty processing for franchised auto dealers. Go Eve has developed its “dock chain” product that enables one DC fast charger to charge up to 20 vehicles at the same time. Kinetic Automation has put together a way to automate calibration for dealerships of advanced driver assistance systems such as automatic braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance.
WarrCloud also is part of an earlier Automotive Ventures fund focused on global mobility-related technology.

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Discover how AI improves inspection efficiency and accuracy

Quality control is critical for automotive manufacturers and suppliers. However, traditional paper-based inspection methods can increase inefficiencies and mistakes. AI-enhanced AR work instructions improve accuracy and reduce costs associated with scrap, rework, and recalls – saving companies millions and improving customer satisfaction.In the Upgrade Your End-of-Line Inspections with AI-Enhanced Augmented Reality e-book, you’ll learn how you can: 
Accelerate inspection cycles with AI-enhanced visual guidance
Avoid errors with automatic warnings displayed in AR
Foster continuous improvement with automated insight reporting from frontline workers

Improve your EOL inspections and overall quality with Step Check, Vuforia’s AI-enhanced inspection technology.

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