Ride-hailing app Uber has entered the driverless car market with a test vehicle created at their Advanced Technology Centre, with the aim of collecting data and mapping an American city.
Uber’s Ford Fusion will be scoping out the streets of Pittsburgh to ‘collect mapping data’ and ‘test its self-driving capacities’, although there will be a human in the car hitching a ride at all times.
Uber, along with a host of other household tech names has made it its mission to develop self-driving technology, which many people believe has the potential to improve road safety, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality in busy cities.
In a recent statement Uber put forward the benefits of a driverless world: “1.3 million people die every year in car accidents; 94 percent of which involve human error.”
“In the future we believe this technology will mean less congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation and far fewer lives lost in car accidents.”
And it’s not just Uber expounding on the potential benefits of fully automated vehicles. In a recent UK study which looked at the transformative implications of self-driving vehicles on cities. The study found that shared autonomous vehicles could increase available urban space by 15 – 20 percent, predominantly through removing the need for parking spaces. The report pointed to the fact that central London has nearly 7 million parking spaces with a parking coverage of around 16%. Freeing up this space with cars which can be used to pick people up ‘on order’ rather than sitting in people’s driveways will make our cities greener, increase quality of life and also make room for additional housing.
The main players
As with all emergent technology trends, all the big tech vultures have been circling driverless cars for some time. Here’s a closer look at some of the tech big-hitters looking to roll out a driverless car in the next couple of years.
Labelled project “Titan” by the tech press and Apple insiders, rumours of Apple’s first autonomous electric vehicle continue to buzz. Those in the know suggest Apple have put together a crack-team of specialists, poached primarily from Tesla, Volkswagen and Nvidia, the GPU manufacturer, to bring Apple’s driverless car to market.
If it’s the future of the automotive industry at stake then needless to say Tesla will be right in the mix. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has gone on record saying his company is rolling out its “Autopilot” feature to the masses and the company’s fully autonomous vehicles will be ready in just a few short years. Having said that, Musk has also voiced concerns over the inflexible legislation and over-regulation of the emerging industry which may very well stall Tesla’s plans.
What if it could be easier and safer for everyone to get around? This is the question posed to visitors to Google’s self-driving car project website who are busy building and testing a range of cars that take us to where we need to go at the touch of a button.
Google explains how their self-driving cars are designed to navigate safely through city streets, being covered bumper to boot with sensors designed to “detect objects as far as two football fields away in all directions”, including pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles.
And for a slice of home-grown driverless technology…
With headquarters in the rather non-descript Kent town of Gillingham, Delphi Automotive PLC is a high-technology company that integrates safer, greener and more connected solutions for the automotive industry.
Delphi’s team of engineers and their driverless car they’ve christened ‘Roadrunner’ recently completed a 3,400 mile cross-country journey which spanned the southern United States, traveling from San Francisco, California to New York City, New York.
These companies have all been rumoured to be in varying stages of production for a mass market driverless car and it seems it is very much a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ we will see self-driving cars on our roads by the end of the decade