Autonomous cars are cars that can figure out what’s going on around them and get where they need to go without any help from a person.
There are now more than 50 companies working hard to make vehicles drive themselves. Even though there has been a lot of progress, technology is still not where it needs to be.
Companies like Apple and General Motors are trying to become one-stop shops. This means that while most companies are working with third parties to provide hardware, software, and firmware, Apple and GM will be able to do everything on their own. The race is very close. Everybody wants to be the first one there.
To get to the end line, you have to climb up a five-step hierarchy. At level 5, cars will no longer need steering wheels. They will be so self-reliant that they will be able to follow pre-mapped courses without any help from a person. The first company there will be able to build trust with customers and make their brand name well-known, like Uber did with ridesharing.
For the winner, that’s not the end of the game. Automakers will also need to come up with business plans for self-driving cars. A big part of it will be making money from taxi and delivery services. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. says that ride-sharing and ride-hailing could bring in $5 billion now and $285 billion in ten years. This is more than three times what GM makes in a year.
So, who is in charge of making and putting into use driverless cars? Let’s look at some of the best candidates.
1. General Motors (GM)
People know General Motors for its Buick, Wuling, GMC, Holden, Chevrolet, and Cadillac car brands. Work on making cars drive themselves started as early as the 1930s. But it wasn’t until recently that serious work began.
At the moment, the automaker is taking the same approach as Apple and designing and making software for self-driving cars. The Cruise AV, a self-driving Chevrolet Bolt with Level 4 capabilities, is their most recent step in the direction of autonomous driving. The car doesn’t have a steering wheel or pedals.
GM wants to have driverless taxis running in some of the biggest cities by 2019. Since the company gave itself such a short deadline, it is at the top of the list. Most of the other car companies have plans for 2020 and beyond.
The Japanese tech company SoftBank Vision Fund and GM have both put a lot of money into the plan. In May of this year, SoftBank gave $2.25 billion and GM gave $1.1 billion to their unit for self-driving cars.
General Motors, on the other hand, still has a long way to go. The Cruise AV can only go up to 25 mph. Also, it costs between $200,000 and $300,000 to make each car. In California, 22 of the 27 accidents that were reported last year were caused by Cruise AVs. The company is making a lot of investments, but it might get there in the end.
Google started Waymo in 2009 as a technology project for self-driving cars. Today, it’s a company with self-driving cars that drive more than 25,000 miles a day.
Most of the other car companies were still watching from afar when the company first started. At the moment, it is the best when it comes to testing on the road and how well it works with people. It has wonderful systems.
General Motors is ahead of Waymo because Waymo hasn’t made its own cars yet. The Chrysler Pacifica minivan is used to get around San Francisco right now. It has worked with different automakers in the past to cover more than 8 million miles in more than 20 U.S. cities.
Waymo is the first company to test its Level 4 driverless cars on people other than its own employees. It was also the first company that made driverless technology to give the federal government a report on how safe it was for the public. It has had the fewest incidents and cases of people getting off on public roads.
Plans are in the works to get more than 20,000 Level 5 self-driving Jaguar SUVs on the road. In the next few months, Honda Motor Co. may also be able to take care of logistics and delivery. This year, a pilot programme will be started in which paid customers in Phoenix will be driven around.
Daimler is the company that makes the high-end Mercedes Benz cars and is one of the largest makers of commercial vehicles in the world. This year, the car company teamed up with Bosch, a top electronics and engineering company, to make self-driving cars that will be on the road by 2020.
In both Silicon Valley and Stuttgart, engineers from both companies will work side by side. About their pilot programme, not much is known. Executives said that cars could have a steering wheel and a driver to keep them safe. During tests, customers will be able to ride for free on certain courses.
Daimler will be in charge of making an app-based mobility service available. The system that drives itself will be built on NVIDIA’s programme for artificial intelligence. Bosch, on the other hand, is working on making its own computer system to control the cars.
Daimler will also give Bosch Mercedes B- and S-class vehicles and the test equipment that Bosch will use to test its many control units, sensors, and actuators. Two companies plan to have self-driving taxis on the road in Silicon Valley by next year. Check out the first look at the Mercedes EQC electric SUV
The first time Ford talked about self-driving cars was in 2016. The plan was to make whole fleets of cars that could drive themselves. There would be no gas, pedals, or steering wheels. The focus is on business vehicles instead of personal ones.
Ford started a separate company called Ford Autonomous Vehicles to make its goal happen faster. The automaker also worked with Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based artificial intelligence company, to get the self-driving technology it needed.
Peter Rander, who used to be the lead engineer at Uber, and Bryan Salesky, who used to be the director of hardware development at Waymo, are both on the strong team at Argo.
Ford is a little bit behind other car companies right now. Its most recent work is a Ford Fusion from the third generation that uses Argo’s technology. Last year, the company also had a big setback when Mark Fields, the former CEO, was fired because he didn’t have the same vision for autonomy as the company.
There are plans for Level 4 driverless cars to be available by 2021. A factory to make self-driving cars is also being built in Michigan. The company is already testing the delivery of pizzas and packages with Domino’s Pizza and Postmates. By 2023, $4 billion is expected to have been put in.
5. Volkswagen Group
A few years ago, Volkswagen was the second company after Google to have done the most tests on the road. The Audi A8 is one of the best driverless cars on the market right now. Audi is a car brand owned by VW AG.
Volkswagen is working with Aurora Innovation, a company that makes technology for self-driving cars, to add software, sensors, and hardware from Aurora Innovation to Volkswagen cars.
The Audi A8 can drive itself up to 37 miles per hour. Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) technology is used in its Traffic Jam Pilot system to let you drive without having to use your hands.
The team at Aurora is made up of top experts in the field, such as Sterling Anderson, Drew Bagnell, and Chris Urmson, who worked on driverless technology for Google, Tesla’s Autopilot project, and Uber’s self-drive team, respectively.
The company plans to sell up to 20 cars that don’t need a driver by 2025. It already has four futuristic concept cars in its line-up. The I.D. Vizzion is the newest idea. Passengers will be able to talk and make hand gestures to it.
Volkswagen wants to spend up to $40 billion on its technology to make cars drive themselves. The company has already been given the go-ahead to make the VW Sedric, which is an electric shuttle concept that can drive itself.
In 2016, BMW teamed up with Mobileye, a company that makes sensors and cameras, and Intel to make self-driving cars by 2021. Soon, the iNEXT model is expected to come out. It will be the start of BMW’s ridesharing business plan and the basis of its long-term strategy.
BMW has more than 40 Level 4 cars that can drive themselves. They do business in places like California and Munich. The company plans to sell Level 3 driverless cars to the public in 2021. The same year, ride-hailing services will also start using Level 4 and Level 5 driverless cars.
This year, BMW also worked with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and the German company Continental AG, which makes parts.
The CFO says that BMW is not yet ready to put self-driving cars on the road. More work needs to be done to improve the technology. But the company has more than 1,000 people working on research and development to reach its goal of becoming self-sufficient.
Aptiv PLC is a company that makes software for self-driving cars. It grew out of Delphi Automotive, an auto parts company that went out of business more than ten years ago. It is the only company that has technology that is almost as good as Waymo’s.
The technology made by Aptiv is one to keep an eye on. Since 2016, the company has been running tests in Singapore on self-driving cars. The fact that testing rules outside of Europe and the United States are different has made this a lot easier.
It has put a lot of money into making cars that can drive themselves. Aptiv bought the software company Ottomatika last year to speed up its path to full autonomy. The company also has shares in Quanergy Systems, Innoviz, and Leddertech. Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) is made by all three.
Its biggest investment, though, was buying NuTonomoy, a tech company that was testing self-driving cars at city speeds in Singapore and Boston. There is already a deal in place with Lyft to make Level 4 driverless cars. Aptiv plans to have its systems ready for production by 2019.
It also says that fully self-driving cars will be ready by 2021. It uses Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Audi AG vehicles to test and improve its technology.
8. Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance
The three automakers hope that their partnership, which is one of the biggest in the world right now, will lead to something solid in the next 10 years. This year, a pilot programme for taxis that drive themselves will start in Japan.
Nissan’s ProPILOT programme has been rolled out much faster than GM’s Super Cruise. The system can keep a car in its lane and stop it quickly if the car in front of it stops unexpectedly.
This is one of the few things Nissan has been able to do to get to the point where cars can drive themselves. At the moment, the car company is testing fully autonomous cars in California.
On the other hand, Renault has a new idea car called the Symbioz. In fully autonomous mode, it should be able to go 80 mph. At the touch of a button, drivers will be able to switch from manual control to full autonomy. It’s not likely to go on sale, though.
When it comes to testing, Renault wants to do the same thing as Nissan. It will test its electric Zoe model in Rouen and Paris by the end of this year.
Both companies have the biggest share in the Alliance, but Renault has more control than Nissan does. There is already a plan for the next six years that aims to bring in up to €10 billion. Electric cars, self-driving cars, and technologies that work together are getting money.
Volvo has been taking care of its fleet in many ways. By 2020, the company hopes that no one will get hurt in an accident involving one of its cars. It has more than 500 people working on making its own technology to run itself.
Already, its Pilot Assist system lets you drive for 15 seconds without touching the wheel. Its parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, wants to sell self-driving cars by 2021. Already, tests are being done in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Volvo is building an autonomous platform with Autoliv, Ericsson, and Zenuity that will combine autonomy and data security. The platform can be used to make better systems by other vehicles and infrastructures. Already, an innovation lab has been set up to make it easier to work with startups.
When it comes to cars in general, you can always count on Toyota. This car company began making cars that could park themselves as early as 1999. By 2003, it had already put the technology into its Prius model.
Toyota hasn’t said much about self-driving cars, despite how good it is. It showed off its idea for an e-Palette shuttle at the International Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. The idea will be shown to the public for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. It will be a shuttle service that will come in three sizes.
A few years ago, Uber was one of the leaders in self-driving technology. This was stopped by a lawsuit that got a lot of attention, and then one of its cars was in an accident that killed someone. Because of this, the ride-hailing giant stopped all tests and shut down its self-driving services.
Toyota Motor Corp. recently said that it will work with Uber Technologies Inc. to catch up to competitors. Toyota will put $500 million into the alliance so that they can work on making cars that can drive themselves.
The deal is part of Uber’s new plan to work with other companies to develop self-driving cars. It also gives its self-driving project a new lease on life. Both companies’ ultimate goal is to find a way to make a large number of driverless cars for ride-hailing and shared fleet services.
Toyota’s Guardian technology and Uber’s driverless systems will be used to build the cars. The technology will be put in Toyota Sienna minivans, which Toyota will also provide. In 2021, these will be put into use.
Tesla is one of the top automakers when it comes to making some of the most technologically advanced cars on the market today. From top to bottom, the company makes its own cars. Elon Musk and his team are working on automating the Model S, which is the company’s best-known car.
Software updates make it easy for Tesla to make changes. Instead of relying on NVIDIA, the team is now working on making its own computer chip. According to Musk, the new chip is ten times faster and includes extra capacity for improved safety and redundancy.
The chip is important for improving the Autopilot feature in all Tesla cars. All Tesla vehicles produced since 2016 have the hardware required. All owners will be required to do is to visit their nearest service centre to get the new chip plugged in.
A timeline for a fully autonomous vehicle is yet to be set. However, Musk recently said that a prototype might be showcased before the end of the year. For now, the Autopilot mode will include extra safety features and will enable vehicles to switch lanes automatically.