Tech Nation: New Israeli Highway to Test Self-driving Cars

Lonza to open R&D center; taxi association to launch app

Robot Shuttle, a self driving bus using software developed by Japan's DeNA Co., Nishikata, Japan, September 8, 2017.
Issei Kato / Reuters

Israel’s first testing ground for autonomous cars was formally opened last week at a completed stretch of highway that won’t be open to the public for another year. The highway runs a kilometer and a half (0.9 miles) between Route 2 and the Ayalon Highway north of Tel Aviv. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said at the dedication ceremony that the highway and other planned sites would help ensure Israel’s leadership in autonomous-car technology. But not all the companies present at the ceremony were happy with the government’s support. Gil Golan, who heads General Motors’ Israel research and development center, said researchers needed to conduct pilots on roads used by the public, not those barred to regular traffic. Without access to public roadways, companies would conduct tests elsewhere, he said, naming Singapore as a likely candidate. A ministry official said in response that Singapore didn’t report on accidents involving self-driving cars, a policy that would be difficult to observe in Israel. (Oren Dori)

Switzerland’s Lonza plans to open Israel R&D center this year
Lonza, a Swiss chemical and biotechnology company, said Monday it was opening an Israel research and development center near Haifa. The Lonza Collaborative Innovation Center will begin operating later this year in a 1,000-square-meter (10,764-square-foot) facility that will employ 15 to 20 people focusing on areas such as engineering, software and cell/molecular biology. “Through its growing reputation as a biotech hub, Israel offers Lonza an opportunity to expand our capabilities and bring transformative technologies and offerings to Lonza Pharma & Biotech customers. That’s why we chose to establish the Lonza Collaborative Innovation Center in Israel,” said Marc Funk, chief operating officer of Pharma & Biotech. Lonza said it had signed memorandums of understanding and conducted talent scouting at Tel Aviv University, the Technion R&D Foundation and the Weizmann Institute of Science. Eytan Abraham, associate director for R&D at Lonza, will take responsibility for setting up the center. Roee Atlas has been hired to manage the center. (TheMarker Staff)

Taxi association to launch app for shared cab rides
Israeli riders will soon be able to hail shared taxis along heavily traveled routes in the greater Tel Aviv area via an app developed by the taxi drivers’ association. The app, which was developed in response to reforms opening the market for shared taxis that went into effect this year, lets riders track scores of participating taxis plying designated routes, order rides, see what the fare will be in advance and pay it. Taxis will be able to collect as many as four passengers, and fares will be less than half of those in sherut shared taxis, sources told TheMarker. The app resembles a service abroad offered by the Israeli company Via, except that only medallion holders can offer rides, a condition of the reforms apparently aimed at blocking ride-sharing companies like Uber that use private drivers. The app will become available in the next few months. (Oren Dori)