The Story of Self Drive Cars

The future knocks on the door. Every time you open the door to attend, a new surprise is waiting for you. 3D Printing, Lab Produced Meat, 5G, and Flying Taxi and now there are the self-driving cars. An idea was conceived back in 1990. A driverless taxi service called Jhonny Cab was featured in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hit movie Total Recall. Jhonny was a robot driving the taxi and interacting with the passengers. Get out of the film scene. It is time now to have a Jhonny Cab of your own. The idea no more a fantasy but a hard fact. 

The industry peers are estimating that the autonomous cars market will grow to $36 billion by 2025. The robotaxis will be the next for the public after getting success as personal cars. It will be the dawn of a new era compelling for wholly new traffic systems and traffic protocols. There will be a need for and growth of large-scale allied paraphernalia. A great deal of progress has been made towards self-driving cars. It will however take a decade or so to enter the gadget into the mainstream similar to a fully operational Jhonny Cab. 

Socio-Economic Impact

Commercial use of self-driving vehicles will have a multi-facet socio-economic impact. The emerging technology will reduce transportation costs by minimizing labor. It will reduce the rate of accidents and deaths as compared to human-driven vehicles. The delivery services will be totally revolutionized by saving costs and delivery time. The uniform traffic control measures and protocols will emerge over time. Safety regulations for the U.S. companies testing autonomous vehicles now vary from state to state.

Let us have a view of the top FIVE self-driving cars, and what they are doing to make their vehicles safe on the roads.

Waymo

Waymo is a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet. The company is known as the front runner of autonomous vehicles. It perhaps rightly boasts the lowest disengagement rate of once every 5,127 miles. The disengagement rate is the instance when a human is required to take control of the wheel.  

The company started testing autonomous vehicles in 2009. It has covered over 10 million road miles in 25 cities. It has collaborated with Fiat Chrysler, Jaguar Land Rover, Honda Motor, and Lyft. The company has obtained 2,118 patents for self-driving technologies. It has opened public testing of its vehicles Waymo One, since 2018. It is the first and only to have a permit for fully driverless delivery testing on public roads in California since December 2019.

Uber

Uber’s self-driving vehicle episode is a distressing story. Uber purchased Otto Trucking a self-driving startup full of former Alphabet employees. Alphabet responded in 2016 with a hefty trade secrets lawsuit. One of Uber’s self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona in March 2018.

Uber’s self-driving SUVs returned to the roads against all these odds. The company announced its third-generation self-driving car in 2019. The new vehicle includes multiple backup systems to improve safety and secured an additional $1 billion in investments from Softbank’s Vision Fund, Toyota, and auto-parts maker Denso. The company also purchased 600 acres of land near Pittsburgh last December to build a new test track for self-driving cars.

General Motors

The famous General Motors (GM) acquired Cruise Automation in 2016 for $581 million to help launch self-driving vehicles as part of its ride-sharing fleets. GM announced to introduce its own version of self-driving Chevy Bolts without steering wheels or pedals by 2019, but the timeline stands revised.

The company has applied to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in December 2019, for permission to test its cars without steering wheels on public streets. The company will be FIRST to do so if granted permission. 

Baidu

Chinese search engine Baidu is also in the line of launching Apollo, a commercial robot taxi fleet in mainland China. The company’s autonomous vehicles have traveled over one million miles in 13 cities. The company recently announced having secured 40 licenses to test in specific streets in Beijing. Baidu has partnered with Geely, Ford, and Chinese state-owned company FAW Group to develop its vehicles.

Tesla

Last but not least is the case of Tesla which is in-game since October 2016 when they equipped all of its cars with self-driving hardware. The hardware includes 360-degree visibility surround cameras, ultrasonic sensors, and radar with enhanced processing. It is enabled to see through heavy rain, fog, dust, and even the car ahead. Elon Musk promised that the Tesla car would complete a self-driven trip across the U.S. in 2017.

Tesla plans to make its electric cars fully autonomous in 2020. It also plans to create a network of robotic taxis to compete with its rival Uber. Tesla has a bad day having three issues on the same day raising safety concerns about its autonomous cars. Let wait to hear good news at a later time. 

Comments

Humans are initially reluctant to accept new inventions, autonomous vehicles being no exception. More than 50% of Americans have safety fears about the driverless vehicle. It means that companies still need to make hard efforts to win customer trust. No company is yet able to test its vehicle with Level 5 automation which is an SAE International, defined full automation in all conditions.

Autonomous vehicle technology is an emerging trend close to become reality but can take a longer than imagined time. It is a long journey but will revolutionize the way we travel and transport. It will be a memorable milestone in human history once achieved. 

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  • Urza Omar
  • The writer is a freelance blogger, content, copywriter, and an accredited motivational speaker and trainer.