Despite what views you hold on the idea of self driving cars. They are upon us. Every year we inch closer towards a reality where you would trust a car with no driver and even no stirring wheel with your life. There are a lot of companies that are working on this project. So it is natural that some are ahead of some others. Before going any further first, let’s decide this “autonomy” feature of the future cars. This is no one size fits all. Autonomy is level based (level 1- 6).
These levels are decided upon by SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). Cars today come with either Level 2-3 autonomy which is an only partial self-driving category. Full independence doesn’t arrive until level 4-5. At this level car can act fully autonomous. You only need to enter the address you need to go to, and the car will do the rest. With that out of the way let’s have a look at top contenders.
GM (General Motors)
I know. You thought that I would start with Google ( Waymo) or Tesla. Well, you are not alone. Many experts consider Google to be at the forefront of Self-Driving cars. However, GM topped the list, with a recent design reveal of its self-driving Cruise AV, which does not have a steering wheel. GM is doing things differently. In a striking resemblance to Apple, the company wanted to do everything on its own. Both hardware and software. In December 2017, the company announced it’s plan to deploy driverless taxis by 2019. In continuation in January 2018, GM submitted a petition to the USDOT (US Department of Transportation) asking permission for operating fully autonomous cars in a commercial ride-hailing service by 2019.
Ah, the most popular one. Google had predicted that it would release automated cars by the year 2020. Back in April of 2017, Waymo (Google’s self Driving car spinoff company) started opening up test drives in regions like CA, MI, and AZ. Google even tested its cars in Death Valley, to ensure that the vehicles could take extreme temperatures (spoiler alert ! they can). Google also appears to be juicing up its engineering department by adding the talent like Satish Jeyachandran, former Director of Hardware Engineering, Tesla. So Google seems right on track for a self-driving car launch soon in the future.
Audi had claimed that the next generation Audi A8 would be capable of fully autonomous driving which was due in 2017. But as of July 2017, the company had launched its A8 model, but it only came with a level 3 autonomy. Mind that Levels 4 & 5 are considered as “full self-driving” capability. So, Audi still has some ground to cover this year with the A8 if it wants to reach its goal of self-driving Audi. News sources also indicate that Audi has been testing self-driving models in New York for some time now.
The company NuTonomy has announced that it would provide self-driving taxi services by 2018 in Singapore. The company then plans to expand the same in 10 cities around the world by the year 2020. To stay on the timeline, it has partnered with Lyft. NuTonomy has been testing autonomous cars in Singapore for the past two years. Also, The company announced that it would spend coming time testing out the nuTonomy’s electric car in Boston region via the partnered Lyft network.
Luxury car maker BMW has teamed up with chip maker Intel and sensor company Mobileye since 2016 with the purpose of bringing self-driving cars to market by the year 2021. The three collaborated companies are working on the “iNEXT” model, which they intended as the foundation of their free driving strategy. The plan is to have Level 3 cars for consumers by the year 2021, and Level 4 and five cars (ride-hail) for urban pilot programs in the same year.
Also Read: Top 10 Ongoing AI Projects that will Blow Your Mind
Perhaps the most publicly known semi-autonomous vehicle sold today is the Tesla Model S. The company’s Autopilot technology has received equal part attention for its failures as it has for its top of the line capabilities.
Pushing the envelope even further, Tesla is almost set to offer a Full Self-Driving Capability on it’s Model S. The thing is it is subject to some further testing and then regulatory approval before it can be activated commercially.
In April of last year, Daimler (parent company Mercedes-Benz )partnered with supplier Bosch to create Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous cars by the year 2020. With the Combination of Daimler’s strength in car manufacturing and Bosch’s system work, the collaboration plans to first introduce their driving tech into taxis built for urban driving.
Backing its partnership with Renault, the brand has faith that it will have an autonomous vehicle by the year 2020 and a driverless car by 2025. The brand has cited its “Nissan Safety Shield” technology as a very early pre-autonomy feature that has been a part of its vehicles for years. Nissan has also unveiled the 2018 Leaf with partial self-driving capabilities back in January at the CES. Also, It recently revealed pictures, and a brief video clip showcasing the model’s ProPilot Assist feature that enhances acceleration, steering, braking functions in the car to help better drivers navigate through tight traffic.
Toyota has claimed it will have its first autonomous vehicle by 2020. About the only current update is that it has a two-part strategy for its self-driving car program: Guardian and Chauffeur. Guardian is more of a driver-assist safety technology that TRI(Toyota Research Institute) will build into the Toyota/Lexus products, then tweak it through further testing. The chauffeur is the part that is specifically targeting a fully autonomous car. Toyota has invested upwards of $1 billion in TRI to help reach the goal.
In recent months, Volkswagen has partnered with the company “Aurora Innovation” to integrate Aurora’s self-driving system of sensors, hardware, and software into upcoming Volkswagen’s automobiles. As for the last few years, Volkswagen has done more on-road testing than anyone outside of Google. The company said that they are taking a bit more traditional approach to how the technology must be applied.
I am a sophomore at IIT Roorkee currently pursuing my B.tech in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering.