Plans for autonomous buses in Disney collapsed after bitter legal battle

9 Nov 2018

Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Disneyland Hong Kong. Image: LeeSnider/Depositphotos

This week in IoT, documents show Disney’s big plans for autonomous buses at its parks collapsed in dramatic fashion.

If you’re a business owner considering adapting internet of things (IoT) technologies on a large scale, you might want to check out our piece with Paul Hingley, data services manager at Siemens UK and Ireland, who gave a breakdown of what is on offer.

TechWatch’s Emily McDaid also spoke to CSIT’s Sarah McCarthy about cryptography and the need for secure digital ID in a post-quantum world.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom won’t get the autonomous buses it wanted

Last year, it was reported that Disney was to jump straight into the world of autonomous vehicles by bringing in a fleet of buses at its Florida park to shuttle patrons around.

However, Jalopnik reported this week that the whole project has collapsed after the companies set to bring it to the park became involved in a bitter court battle, pitting one against the other.

At the time of the announcement, it was reported Disney was in “late-stage” negotiations with two companies to provide the service, but the project was actually doomed before it was even announced. Court documents have shown that Meridian Autonomous and Phoenix Wings – the two companies involved in the deal – were involved in a bitter dispute, with the former accusing the latter of having “orchestrated a scam” to steal intellectual property.

Meanwhile, Phoenix alleged that Meridian ran a “bait-and-switch” scheme, whereby Meridian tried to buy out Phoenix in 2016 but then offered “substantially different” terms than the original deal.

Either way, Disney is left with nothing, despite initially wanting up to 100 vehicles.

Volkswagen wants quantum computers to solve traffic problems

At the Web Summit in Portugal, Volkswagen (VW) announced it had succeeded in using a quantum computer built by D-Wave to develop a traffic management system that will replace forecasts of urban traffic volumes, transport demand and travel times with precise calculations.

The auto manufacturer said that, as a result, public transportation organisations, taxi companies and transport service providers will be able to deploy their fleets considerably more efficiently while minimising waiting times for passengers.

To develop the new traffic management system, Volkswagen analysed movement metadata from smartphones or transmitters in vehicles with conventional computers to calculate traffic accumulation and the number of people involved. Then, using a quantum algorithm, the data was optimised to make it possible to assign precise numbers of vehicles to different destinations – or ‘demand spots’ – on a predictive basis to provide transportation for all waiting passengers.

VW said that its experts want to first test the algorithm in Barcelona where they have a large database for the city, in cooperation with telecoms provider Orange and data science specialist Teralytics.

Israeli start-up partners with Microsoft to build public transport maps

Moovit, a mobility start-up based in Tel Aviv, Israel, has partnered with Microsoft to integrate its technology into the latter’s Azure Maps and Azure Digital Twins platforms.

Azure Maps is Azure’s location intelligence portfolio of mapping, navigation, traffic and geospatial services, while Azure Digital Twins is a service for companies to use spatial intelligence through the modelling of the relationships between people, devices, and the environments they exist in.

Under the deal, Microsoft will be able to include Moovit’s mapping tool, which leverages millions of crowdsourced data points in a city to build more accurate public transportation routes.

In a statement, Moovit’s co-founder and CEO, Nir Erez, said: “Moovit’s top-quality transit data and world-leading multi-modality services perfectly fit into the Microsoft Azure Maps portfolio of offerings for app developers.

“We’re delighted to work with a world-class company like Microsoft and integrate our rich transit APIs into Azure Maps so developers can build greater apps for people who ride transit everywhere.”

Smart speaker shipments set to surge

A report published by TrendForce is predicting that global shipments of smart speakers are expected to reach 6.25m units this year, driven by Google Home’s expansion into China and other regions.

It goes on to say that it expects shipments will increase further by 53pc year on year to reach 95.25m units in 2019.

“Currently, Amazon accounts for around 70pc of the US market; therefore, Google has to turn to explore the overseas markets,” said TrendForce analyst Tom Tien. In China, Tien expects that there will be fast growth in the market, but there may be low-price competitions before that.

In terms of figures, Chinese smart speaker brands are predicted to reach shipments of 28.71m units in 2019, representing year-on-year growth of 101.2pc from 14.27m units in 2018.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Disneyland Hong Kong. Image: LeeSnider/Depositphotos

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic