The buzz on the street is all about autonomous vehicles (AVs). News outlets are readily reporting on the developments of leading automotive innovators who are eager to test their self-driving vehicles on roadways near and far.
At Automile, we’re tech and car enthusiasts. We work hard to keep ahead of the curve when it comes to the latest and greatest in the world of tech. It’s no surprise that we’re keeping up with the headlines to provide the best possible service for our customers.
Let’s look at where manufacturers are and what this means to small- and medium- sized businesses (SMBs).
Latest developments in the autonomous arena
If these industry leaders are successful, we’ll soon be sharing our roadways with driverless vehicles.
Tesla is known for state-of-the art passenger cars, but this isn’t the only area the company wants to explore when it comes to self-driving vehicles. Reuters reported that Tesla will begin testing its electric truck prototypes in Nevada. They’re also in talks with California officials to get the highly-anticipated autonomous vehicles on the roads in their state.
Don’t expect to see a lone self-driven vehicle, however. Tesla aims to unveil a long-haul, electric semi-truck that can drive itself and move in “platoons” that are programmed to follow a lead vehicle, which sets the course. The theory behind this is to allow one driver to drive the lead truck with driverless trucks following – this will save on paid professional drivers.
Other key players
There’s an array of other automotive leaders who have tested out their vehicle models in Arizona. But reach is beginning to expand to other states – and also globally.
For instance, Waymo, a Google affiliate, has also been testing its autonomous vehicles in Mountain View, California; Austin Texas; and Kirkland, Washington. Meanwhile, Uber self-driven ride-share vehicles are roaming San Francisco and Pittsburg. Mobileye is looking to launch a fleet in Jerusalem soon.
The appeal to testing in different regions comes down to conditions. “Geographic diversity is very important as different regions have very diverse driving styles as well as different road conditions and signage,” Amnon Shashua, the incoming CEO and CTO of Mobileye, told Wired. “Our goal is to develop autonomous vehicle technology that can be deployed anywhere, which means we need to test and train the vehicles in varying locations.”
Ford sets aside 2021 deadline
Ford plans to release a fully autonomous vehicle with no steering wheel or pedals by 2021 is “under review,” according to chief executive Jim Hackett.
The company realizes that self-driving vehicles are progressive, just like computing. “If you think about a vehicle that can drive anywhere, anytime, in any circumstance, cold, rain – that’s longer than 2021. And every manufacturer will tell you that,” Hackett told SFGate.
Taking a more cautious and staged approach, Ford is falling in line with its rivals. Hackett noted that despite this, there is a “romanticism by everybody in the media about how this robot works.”
The road ahead
Pull out a crystal ball and you’ll likely to see autonomous vehicles zooming down highways and eventually navigating urban environments. Tech superpowers are counting on it!
They’re making progress and technical limitations are fading by the day. Still, hesitation remains as society has yet to adopt the concept of self-driving vehicles.
According to Fortune, “This friction will delay full autonomy for at least a decade, or however long it takes for the tech community (which hasn’t always been particularly empathetic) to collaborate with policymakers, regulators, insurance providers, and consumer advocates to address the significant social, regulatory, and legal challenges AVs will create.”
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a huge role to play, as it relies on more and more in AV technology. It’s inevitable that the self-driving vehicles will make choices – some that can result in life and death. Ethical decisions continue to be weighed. One such site where arguments are being made is MIT’s Moral Machine (a judgment crowdsourcing platform).
Ultimately, it is expected that AVs will save lives and also reduce labor costs – both are pretty big deals to SMBs. But it will be some time before fleet vehicles are ready to navigate both highway and city environments.
We’re here for the long haul.
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Look back at our AV roundup from April, and check out more for SMBs in the following articles: