Self-driving cars – state of the industry

Tesla model S - Self-driving cars

Things are different now as compared to 2013 when Google made a $250 Million investment in Uber. Google has been pursuing the research and development of self-driving cars for a while now. Uber, on the other hand has also started its pursuit of the driverless car.  While it would be very convenient to own a self-driven car, consider the alternative – a taxi hailing service run entirely using driverless cars. That would eliminate the cost of paying drivers and some experts estimate that it could even work out to be cheaper than driving your own car. The profit margins for the providers are also expected to be huge.

All this and many other developments point to one simple, inescapable fact – driverless cars are going to be on the road real soon. Here are three news updates which support Travis Kalanick’s comment about driverless cars being ‘existentially’ important for Uber to survive:

  • 1. A test program where prototype cars are going to be tested as part of a ride-hailing service at Pittsburg.
  • 2. A $300 million alliance with Volvo to develop fully driverless cars by 2021.
  • 3. Acquisition of Otto, a San Francisco startup focused on autonomous trucks.

While it is exciting to see such updates about an upcoming technology, real world adoption is something nobody can predict. Here are results from a recent survey about self-driven cars conducted in the US.

self-driving cars survey

People aged over 65 are highly skeptical about self-driving cars or ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. On the other hand, younger people who were surveyed support adoption of the technology if it’s statistically safer.

In states like California, Nevada and Florida, laws have been passed that have made such cars legal. Many of the technologies of driverless cars are already being used in conventional cars.

Another very interesting player in the emergent self-driving cars market: Tesla. Their approach is starkly opposite to Google’s. The internet giant is experimenting on new features everyday leading up to full vehicular autonomy. The former, on the other hand, has faith in technology paving the way for complete autonomy someday. In the meantime, their autopilot feature has logged a staggering 47 million miles compared to Google’s 1.5 million miles.

inside self-driving cars

Their approach to the hardware is also different. Tesla believes that cameras and radars would do the job. In a press conference last year, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said that advanced sensors like Google’s LIDAR wouldn’t be required for future Tesla models. This is because these models would still have someone sitting at the wheel (i.e they’re not driverless). Musk confidently stated that fully autonomous Tesla cars would roll out by 2018. Google expects to do the same by 2020. At this point, it’s not clear who the winner of this mad technology race will be. One thing is certain – better use of real-world data, not just lab results, will decide the winner.

Pravir Ramasundaram is our in-house content writer at ContractIQ. Keep coming back to read more from him on mobility, outsourcing & analytics.

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