If you have a newer car, you may already be using features like adaptive cruise control, park in/out assist, lane control assist, pilot assist etc. These features typically use cameras, radar, and lasers to determine your situation, and then invoke artificial intelligence (AI) to “manage” your situation, such as applying the brakes, accelerating, and/or turning the steering wheel. All of these features move us along the road to more and more autonomous operation of a vehicle. So how far along that road are we going?
There are several major players in the autonomous vehicle field, and here is a sampling of what they are doing lately:
TESLA – they call it “Autopilot”, but the term is a little ambitious, as the driver should always be attentive and responsive in situations where the system gets into trouble. So much depends on there being reliable road and lane markings so the cameras can always “see” where you are and make appropriate decisions. If road markings are faded or non-existent, the system cannot function effectively. The latest version of TESLA “autopilot” includes the ability to link Navigation with Autopilot, giving it the ability to select and maneuver the correct highway entrances and exits. For TESLA cars without “autopilot” built in there is an aftermarket product that owners can install themselves to provide similar capabilities – – COMMA AI’s Open Pilot, paired with the EON Dashcam DevKit.
HONDA / GM – these two giants are teaming up to bring us the next generation of autonomous vehicles. Honda plans to invest $12b over 12 years in the GM subsidiary, “CRUISE”. Putting out a fleet of self driving versions of the Chevy Bolt EV is already in the GM/CRUISE plans. Partnering with Honda, they plan to develop fully autonomous vehicles, not based on any existing car. Initially targeting USA, the fully autonomous vehicles are planned with no steering wheel or pedals, prompting a re-think of laws and regulations.
GOOGLE / WAYMO – Started by GOOGLE in 2009 and spun off as WAYMO in 2016, these guys have the most autonomous miles under their belt, stating that their vehicles have gone over 9 million miles to date, and are adding about 25,000 more each day. They have an “early rider” program underway in Phoenix, Arizona on public streets. Based on WAYMO’s Safety Report, most of those miles have been quite safe. See the Report here: https://storage.googleapis.com/sdc-prod/v1/safety-report/Safety%20Report%202018.pdf
Also have a look at the WAYMO video here: https://waymo.com/tech/
Other major carmakers have jumped aboard, offering many of the popular autonomous features. Companies like Nissan, Hyundai, Volvo, and Toyota now highlight these features in their marketing, touting them as must-have “safety” features. Also driving these developments are other transportation industry giants, such as UBER, who see a great opportunity to increase profits by eliminating their need for drivers. Some analysts have predicted that if all vehicles began operating with advanced AI autonomous capabilities tomorrow, then traffic accidents, injuries, and deaths would be immediately reduced by over 90%. Given that there have been at least 2 deaths involving autonomous vehicles, it may be a while before the masses will totally accept these vehicles on the streets of their cities, let alone in their garage, ready for their family’s daily use.
As stated previously, the Trend Disruptors team will be analyzing new technologies such as autonomous vehicles, and identifying the companies that stand out in terms of investment potential. These companies may be large or small, but much like the internet boom of the 1990’s many of them will make the grade and succeed. The best and most promising of them all will generate Trend Disruptors recommendations. We will be watching a broad range of companies and technologies, expecting that there will be everything from small start-ups to large corporations, all striving to disrupt specific market segments and industries.
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