The Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) has been working overtime. The R&D-focused government branch is involved in a slew of new programs in the month of April, several of which were announced just this week. Two of those programs are related to the government’s recent decision to promote a national plan for smart transportation.
On Monday, the IIA announced the approval of NIS 57 million dedicated to promoting development and innovation in the fields of human-robot interaction, and command and control of autonomous vehicle fleets.
The IAA Research Committee approved the work plans and budgets of two consortiums: one that will develop advanced technologies aimed at providing robots with social capabilities, enabling them to carry out various tasks and effective interactions with different users in diverse operational environments; and a second that is developing technologies to enable the efficient and financially viable operation of remote command and control centers for autonomous fleets.
“The vision of autonomous vehicles is slowly becoming a reality,” said IIA Technology Infrastructure Division VP Dr. Aviv Zeevi. “The products of these consortiums will help generate competitive solutions and bring them to market. We will likely see ways to incorporate various combinations in systems that are not necessarily part of the classic autonomous vehicle market; for example, in the command and control of a fleet of drones, delivery robots, farming tools and more.”
That isn’t the only egg in the IIA’s self-driving basket. Two days later, following the government’s decision to promote a national plan for smart transportation, the Transportation Ministry, the National Public Transport Authority, the IIA and Ayalon Highways announced the launch of a NIS 20m. national initiative to conduct autonomous public transportation pilot programs in Israel.
The two-phase initiative is aimed at examining the feasibility of integrating autonomous vehicles in the public transportation system in Israel. The initiative will connect public transportation operators with innovative technology companies in Israel and around the world. It will also work to increase public awareness of autonomous vehicles and the issues surrounding their development, such as safety, driving experience and environmental benefits.
Transportation Ministry Director-General Michal Frank said, “The initiative is a direct continuation of the legislation recently passed in the Knesset, enabling the commercial operation of autonomous vehicles. The publication of the current call for proposals is an expression of the ministry’s vision for promoting public transportation and innovation in transportation in Israel.”
IIA CEO Dror Bin explained why this field of technology is worth so much attention.
“The smart-transportation initiative is expected to help dramatically with one of the biggest challenges facing the State of Israel: road congestion,” he said. “Moving to fleets of autonomous, driverless buses will help streamline the public transportation system, improve the level of safety and deal with the shortage of drivers – all within a few years.”
If cars without drivers aren’t your speed, on Tuesday, in partnership with the Korea-Israel Industrial R&D Foundation, the IIA launched the Lighthouse Program, a new strategic initiative that will feature joint collaborations of both industry and academia representatives from both countries. The stakeholders will be working together in mini-consortiums to develop groundbreaking technologies and research in predetermined strategic fields.
Avi Luvton, senior director of the International Collaboration Division’s Asia-Pacific operations at the IIA, said, “Leadership in groundbreaking technologies requires a combination of Israeli and international technological and academic expertise. To this end, the International Collaboration Division at the Israel Innovation Authority and our Korean partners decided to create a new tool that will combine the collaborative efforts of both academia and industry to enable the support of groundbreaking projects that will impact this ecosystem in both countries and globally.”
IIA Chairman Dr. Ami Appelbaum said, “Israel is well known for its technologically innovative capabilities, entrepreneurial spirit and cutting-edge scientific research. Moreover, it is famous for its multidisciplinary capabilities and for the ability to smoothly connect between the various entities to create a supportive ecosystem.”
Applebaum continued, “The Israel Innovation Authority has identified the field of robotics as a focus for the new Lighthouse Program. In order to establish leadership in this field, international collaborations are required such as this one with Korea, a country with many leading resources in the fields of research and technology, to help advance this goal.”