Volkswagen tests highly-automated driving on new inner-city test route in Hamburg

Hamburg/Wolfsburg, April 3, 2019 – Volkswagen Group Research is testing automated vehicles in urban traffic in Hamburg. This is the first time Volkswagen has begun to test automated driving to Level 4 at real driving conditions in a major German city. From now, a fleet of five e-Golf, equipped with laser scanners, cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radars, will drive on a three-kilometer section of the digital test bed for automated and connected driving in the Hanseatic city. The results of the test drives, which will be continuously evaluated taking full account of all data protection rules, will be incorporated in the Group’s numerous research projects on automated driving, and will test customer-centric services and optimize individual transport.

Actually, a nine kilometer long test track for automated and connected driving (TAVF) is being created in the city of Hamburg and will be upgraded to infrastructure-to-vehicle (I2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication by 2020. It is characterised by realistic and thus demanding traffic situations. The test track is an open platform for vehicle manufacturers, technology companies, and research institutions to trial innovative mobility services in real traffic conditions on public roads. With the test track, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg is creating a user-independent and technology-neutral application laboratory on which vehicle manufacturers, technology companies and research institutions can test innovative mobility services free of charge in real traffic on public roads. Interested companies and research institutions can apply at any time. The TAVF coordination center together with the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg takes various criteria like the impact of innovation, benefits for traffic flow and traffic safety or environmental effects on air quality into account.

With 1.8 million inhabitants, Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city. The City of Hamburg is promoting state-of-the-art technologies with the aim of becoming a showroom for innovative mobility. Digital technology plays a key role in making urban mobility and logistics in Hamburg safer, more efficient, and more eco-friendly. Therefore, Hamburg’s strategy on Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) is targeted at traffic safety, traffic flows, environmental effects, and the promotion of innovations. These topics are pursued in six focal areas: data & information; intelligent traffic control & routing; intelligent infrastructure (maintenance & operation); intelligent parking; mobility as a service; and automated & connected driving. Running under the tagline “Experience Future Mobility Now?, the ITS World Congress will take place in Hamburg from 11 to 15 October 2021.

More information on test track for automated and connected driving in Hamburg:

Car sharing offers ways to profit from or ditch personal car

By Cathy Bussewitz


NEW YORK _ While a growing number of Americans are struggling to make payments on their auto loans, a new crop of companies is offering alternative ways for car owners to get rid of costly vehicles or earn money while their cars would normally sit idle.

Companies such as Turo and Getaround provide a platform for individual car owners to rent out their own personal vehicles to nearby drivers who find the cars using a smartphone. The idea behind peer-to-peer car-sharing is similar to Airbnb, where people rent out their homes to travellers.

“A car is a very expensive asset, and it starts depreciating in value the minute you buy it,” said Sharon Feigon, founder and executive director of the Shared Use Mobility Center.  “The average car sits for 95% of the time. It’s really a waste when you think of it from that perspective.”


Car-sharing offers an alternative to individual car ownership and traditional car rental companies which typically rent by the day, instead enabling customers to borrow vehicles by the hour for shorter trips around town. Companies such as Zipcar and car2go eliminate the need to stand in line at rental car counters while waiting for vehicles, instead using smartphone apps to connect drivers with cars in their neighbourhoods or nearby.

The car-sharing model works best for people who live in dense areas, use mass transit or other modes of transportation, and sometimes but not always  need a car, said Sabrina Sussman, manager of public partnerships at Zipcar, which operates in 500 cities and towns and operates its own fleet of cars.

Zipcar drivers pay a monthly fee and can book cars by the hour or day, and then pay an hourly rate that includes gas, insurance and maintenance. Drivers pick up and return cars from the same parking spot.

More than half of Zipcar members got rid of their personal car after becoming a member, 87% of its customers spend $300 per month or less on transportation, and 40% of its customers have a household income that’s below the U.S. median.

“In almost every market, we have a near-even spread across all income categories,” said Sussman.

Maven, owned by General Motors, offers car-sharing for drivers borrowing cars for their personal use and those driving for delivery services or ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. Some companies such as Envoy and AAA-owned Gig specialize in shared electric or hybrid vehicles.


Even if you own a car, you can still benefit financially from the car-sharing economy. More than 7 million Americans were three months behind in their car payments at the end of 2018, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Some are renting out their cars when they’re not using them to defray the cost.

On, borrowers can choose from a wide range of vehicles from a BMW Z4 to a Dodge Ram Pickup, an environmentally friendly Toyota Prius, a 10-year-old Ford Focus for $53 a day or an 8-year-old Lexus RX 350 for $64 a day.

The average host earns $629 a month, said Steve Webb, spokesman for Turo, which operates in 5,500 cities. “They’re able to turn something that was depreciating and idle into something that’s generating revenue,” Webb said.

Earnings for hosts on Getaround, which operates in 140 cities, vary by car, location and availability, said spokeswoman Joan Wickham. With the Getaround platform, riders can unlock cars using the smartphone app.

Liz Tynan makes $300 to $900 per month renting out her 2017 Nissan Morano through Getaround and commutes to her telemarketing job on public transit.

“It makes having a car more affordable for us,” said Tynan, 34, of San Francisco. “It’s giving us that luxury to have that flexibility, and I’m happier because I can go see my friends when I want or drive to work when I need to.”

Some locations, such as New York, have laws prohibiting car-sharing services such as Turo and Getaround.


For hosts renting out their cars car through Turo or Getaround, both companies offer up to $1 million in liability insurance. Drivers are screened before they can take out a vehicle, and the companies offer 24-hour emergency assistance.

Even so, peer-to-peer car-sharing has been slower to take off than other alternative modes of transportation such as shared scooters, because some potential hosts worry about what would happen if a driver borrowing the car got a speeding ticket or used the car to commit a crime, said Steven Polzin, program director for mobility policy research at the Center for Urban Transportation Research, University of South Florida.

“I’m sure they all have language in the agreements, but those are the kinds of things that will make people scratch their heads and think twice about it,” Polzin said.


The motley mix of cars on peer-to-peer car-sharing sites offers a way for car-shoppers to take vehicles on a longer test-drive than they might have through a dealership. For example, a driver could take out a Tesla Model 3 to see what it’s like to drive an electric vehicle. Another side benefit: no pesky salesman will be along for the ride.

Dutch art sleuth recovers Picasso stolen 20 years ago

By Mike Corder


AMSTERDAM _ A Dutch art detective said Tuesday that he has recovered a valuable painting by Pablo Picasso 20 years after it was stolen from a wealthy Saudi’s yacht in France.

Arthur Brand told The Associated Press that he took possession two weeks ago of the 1938 painting “Buste de Femme” after trailing it for years in Amsterdam.

Brand, a renowned sleuth whose previous finds include a pair of bronze horses sculpted for Adolf Hitler, has since handed over the painting, which he estimates to be worth around 25 million euros ($28 million), to an insurance company. It wasn’t immediately clear what would happen to the painting.

Brand said he knew it was the real thing as soon as he got his hands on it and peeled away two plastic bags covering the canvas.

“You know it’s a Picasso because there is some magic coming off it,” he said.

But that wasn’t the only reason he was convinced of its authenticity.

In cases of stolen art, he said, the back of a painting can tell experts more than the front.

He said that since the theft from a yacht moored in the swanky French Riviera port of Antibes, a number of forgeries had been offered to insurers and rejected.

“But a forger never knows how the back looks,” Brand said, without specifying what was there. “When I saw the back of the painting, I knew it was the real one.”

Brand began his latest hunt after hearing rumours about a Picasso stolen from a boat.

“Finally, I tracked somebody down who had had it in his possession 10 years ago and he told me which one it was,” he said.  “And then it still took me three years to get near it.”

Brand said the painting had circulated in the criminal underworld of the Dutch capital.

“It was used as some kind of money as payment for drug and arm deals,” he said.

Eventually a person who had the painting in their possession decided to turn it in and reached out to Brand.

Martin Finkelnberg, head of the Dutch national police’s art and antique criminality team, welcomed the recovery. No arrests have been made.

Finkelnberg told Dutch national daily De Volkskrant that having such a painting can be a burden and taking it to Brand is a way out.

“Done. Everybody happy,” Finkelnberg said. “The most important thing is that the artwork is back.”

Lloyd’s of London Will Name and Shame Sexual Harassment Culprits

By and 


Lloyd’s of London will publicly name and shame anyone it bans from its insurance market for sexual harassment, according to Chief Executive Officer John Neal.

“When we do see instances of bad behavior, and let’s hope they are infrequent, we have got to be public and decisive about the action that we take,” Neal said in an interview on Wednesday. “People have got to be really clear that you cannot behave that way. Where we ban someone we should be very public about it.”

Neal was responding to a Bloomberg Businessweek article, published last week, which found a deep-seated culture of sexual misconduct in the London insurance market. Drawing on the experiences of 18 women, the report detailed an atmosphere of near-persistent harassment, ranging from lewd and suggestive comments to unwanted touching to sexual assault.

“This is not the Lloyd’s that I want to be part of,” Neal said. “We have got to ensure that everybody, whether it’s a woman or a man, should feel safe at any time of day doing anything that’s associated with the Lloyd’s market. I’m determined that will be the case.”

One of the women in the Bloomberg article described an experience in which a senior manager drunkenly attacked her in a pub right around the corner from Lloyd’s. Her employer convinced her it would be bad for her career to pursue a complaint. Other women who experienced similar abuse and had lodged formal complaints said their careers had suffered as a consequence.

Neal said it wasn’t within the jurisdiction of Lloyd’s to ban alcohol outside of its buildings, but added that he would no longer tolerate it on the premises and would eject anyone who was drunk.

Lloyd’s of London outlined a plan on Tuesday to address the allegations of harassment by setting up an independent whistleblower hotline and laying out potential lifetime bans for anyone found guilty of sexual harassment. The proposals were agreed upon at an emergency meeting of industry executives convened on Monday evening by Neal. Lloyd’s also committed to having an independent culture survey taken to identify the scale of the issue.

“While it’s an incredibly negative position to come from, you’ve written a story that has galvanized us into more action,” Neal said. “I think we have to use that as a rallying call.”

Tribal First Acquires Canada’s AFN Insurance Brokers

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Mar 7, 2019–Tribal First, a division of Alliant Underwriting Solutions, has acquired AFN Insurance Brokerage. The acquisition pairs Canada’s First Nations insurance leader with the largest provider of insurance solutions to Tribal Nations in the U.S., expanding Tribal First’s geographical reach and service profile.


“Tribal First is dedicated to providing customized insurance solutions to Native governments across North America,” said Sean McConlogue, President of Alliant Underwriting Solutions. “AFN brings a longstanding legacy of integrity and strength to our platform, and this alliance will enable us to provide powerful services and solutions that are new to the Canadian market.”


“The AFN name is synonymous with strength, customization, and a careful attention to addressing the needs of Canada’s First Nations and stands in direct alignment with Tribal First’s longstanding mission in the U.S.,” said Robert Shearer, Executive Vice President and leader of Tribal First.

Founded in 1998, AFN is a nationally incorporated insurance brokerage dedicated exclusively to serving First Nations across Canada. The Ottawa-based brokerage provides a full suite of products and services that include insurance, risk management, consulting, and employee benefits. AFN has access to leading international carriers and works directly with a large base of retail broker partners.


“This is a powerful strategic alliance that will add considerable strength to the AFN team,” said Gil Saunders, Principal at AFN. “Tribal First’s large platform, strong market relationships, and dedicated team of specialists will enable us to provide significant value and results to both our broker partners and First Nations clients. Most importantly, Tribal First shares our core objective of designing and delivering customized solutions that are in the best interest of Canada’s First Nations.”


The acquisition continues the Northern expansion of Tribal First. In 2017, the firm acquired American Indian Health Services, an American Indian-owned organization dedicated to addressing the distinct healthcare needs of American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes and related enterprises.


Saunders and the AFN team will join Alliant and continue to service clients from AFN’s Ottawa location. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.


About Tribal First

Tribal First, a specialized program of Alliant Underwriting Solutions, has focused exclusively on meeting the insurance and risk management needs of Native governments and enterprises since 1993. Tribal First is the largest provider of insurance solutions to Native America and a leader in the specialty areas of tribal business enterprises, including gaming, alternative energy, construction, and housing authorities. Tribal First’s TribalCare division provides a full range of health services customized for the needs of Tribal Nations.


About Alliant Insurance Services

Headquartered in Newport Beach, CA, Alliant Insurance Services, Inc. provides property and casualty, workers’ compensation, employee benefits, surety, and financial products and services to clients nationwide, including public entities, tribal nations, healthcare, energy, law firms, real estate, construction, and other industry groups. More information is available on the company’s website at


Aon Says It’s No Longer Pursuing Willis Towers Acquisition

Aon Plc said it’s no longer pursuing a combination with rival insurance brokerage Willis Towers Watson Plc, a day after confirming that it was considering a tie-up.

The company said on Tuesday that it was in the early stages of exploring an all-share tie-up with Willis Towers after Bloomberg reported the potential plans. The companies held preliminary talks and Aon was preparing to submit a bid in the coming weeks, people familiar with the matter had said, asking not to be identified as the details aren’t public.

Aon shares fell 7.8 percent in New York on Tuesday, its biggest decline since 2009. A potential combination with Willis — which gained 5.2 percent and had a market value of $23.5 billion at the close of trading — could have been the industry’s largest-ever merger. Willis’s shares declined about 4 percent in early trading Wednesday.

Source Bloomberg | By Nick Lichtenberg and Amy Thomson

Read more here: 


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