The cars aren’t flying yet, but the way it’s going, it won’t be very long.
If your secret ambition is to be a Driving Instructor, you might want to rethink your career path. It looks like the future of cars is to take the steering wheel out of our hands, and give it to our cell phones. Well not quite, but strangely enough both Google and Apple have entered the ” Who’s going to be the first to have driverless cars ” race. What seemed a few years ago to be something used only in Hollywood movies, is now right the corner, and I mean right around the corner, as in 2020.
The race is definitely on, and in high swing, with all the major players vying to hit the market first. Let’s take a look at the competitors.
Nissan had their first public Autonomous Drive in 2013 at CEATEC JAPAN, Japan’s largest IT and electronics exhibition, and have been working together with teams from MIT, Stanford, Oxford, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Tokyo. So they are well on their way to that 2020 goal, which by the way corresponds with the Tokyo Olympics. How’s that for good timing. Their driverless concept vehicle is not only great looking, but extremely polite.
This one’s a little hard to wrap my head around, but Google is well on it’s way to making driverless cars a normal part of our lives. Their vehicles have self driven over a million miles, and are already on the streets of Mountain View, California and Austin, Texas.
Tesla recently enabled the use of an automated driving system, called Autopilot, which allows properly equipped cars to steer, switch lanes, and manage speed on its own. This is their stepping stone to a fully automated vehicle. Look ma, no hands.
Toyota is a little late to the table, but is trying to make up for lost time. In September they announced plans to invest $50 million in building artificial intelligence into its vehicles, and will work with both Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to get back in the game.
Apple has just recently admitted to being a part of the race, but at this point, any details are strictly speculation. I’m betting it’ll be silver, what do you think ?
Honda, GMC, Ford, and Audi are also in the hunt, but are not likely to hit the 2020 timeframe.
The Federal Government has recently upped the ante in this game with the decision by The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, which is responsible for determining the safety ratings for new vehicles, to include advanced safety technologies as part of their ratings assessments. This means that vehicles that don’t have these technologies will have a harder time making a 5 star rating, and following that same line, there will be a significant impact on insurance rates.
I recently caught the tail end of last weeks 60 Minutes show that covered driverless cars, and the interviewer asked ” The Question ” about the inevitable glitches that comes with every computer. The answer of course, was that this technology is different, and that we won’t see the types of issues that are normally associated with computer processing, and I’m thinking to myself, ” Oh come on, really, who’s gonna buy that one ? “. The fact is yes, there will be problems, especially in the early years, and there will be headlines, big ones, and the lawyers will be lining up rubbing their hands together in joyful anticipation of a large payday, but none of that will change the direction we’re headed. The technology will get better, and it will save lives, because the comparison between accidents caused by computer glitches, and those caused by texting, eating, or putting on makeup while going 70 miles an hour, will be overwhelming.
Driverless cars are coming, and they will change the way we get from one place to another, almost as much as when Ford put the first horseless buggie on the road. Their impact though won’t be limited to just transportation. Every piece of equipment that has an engine will at some point be affected, and it’s need for human operators reduced. We’re seeing a large step in the evolution to attain a fully computer managed world, and the technology is moving way faster than our social ability to deal with the changes it brings. So, hold on to your hat, the world of The Jetson’s is just around the corner.