Self-driving vehicles and shuttles are clearly the wave of the future. Nearly every major car company is investing heavily in autonomous transportation to be relevant in the decades ahead. While each of their approaches is unique in many ways, a major trend seems to be emerging: collaboration. Companies from diverse industries and even competitors are finding themselves working together to define future public transportation. And those who aren’t may well be left in the dust.
The Future of Public Transportation Demands Resource Sharing
When it comes to any industry, being first to market has notable advantages. Thus, being the first to provide self-driving vehicles requires being faster in development than your competitors. But self-driving vehicles require more than simply a set of lidar sensors and cameras to be functional and safe. In addition to their development, urban systems must also change. When it comes to the future of public transportation, no company is an island.
Understanding this, collaboration and resource sharing have notable benefits. Companies that partner to advance self-driving vehicles can serve as catalysts for transportation system changes. This is especially true when these companies represent major global brands.
Likewise, working with urban developers can also facilitate these changes. As a result, several companies highlight how this current strategy offers great potential for future public transportation.
Volvo’s Strategy for Self-Driving Vehicles
It’s no secret that Volvo has a commitment to passenger safety. But competing with others pursuing self-driving vehicles demands that they speed up their development process. As a result, Volvo has entered a joint venture with Autoliv called “Zenuity.” Both companies will utilize Nvidia’s AI platform to advance the future of public transportation. Though some Nvidia AI software will be specific to Volvo, Autoliv will be able to sell others to third parties. The collaboration thus accelerates the development of self-driving vehicles while still being committed to safety.
Audi and Apple’s Resource-Sharing Approach
While Apple began its Project Titan to develop self-driving vehicles in 2014, challenges initially delayed progress. Today, however, Apple is rumored to be developing both an autonomous driving system as well as autonomous shuttles. In this regard, Apple has partnered with Volkswagen by using its T6 Transporter vans. Meanwhile, Audi (Volkswagen’s parent company) has invested $16 billion in its Autonomous Intelligent Driving unit. It appears both companies are pooling their resources to bring innovation to the future of public transportation. And with such industry titans as Apple and Volkswagen pairing up, it’s hard to imagine anything other than a dramatic technological advance appearing on the horizon.
Ford and Baidu – Unlikely Partners
Baidu is essentially China’s version of Google, and it like Google, it has incredible resources. Among them are its Apollo Virtual Driving System that guides self-driving vehicles. For Ford, a partnership with Baidu has tremendous advantages. Not only does Ford gain access to advanced technology, but it also enjoys a great testing environment. Specifically, Beijing has a dedicated region for testing self-driving vehicles. Their two-year agreement will allow both companies to enjoy one another’s technology in developing future public transportation offerings.
Making Collaboration a Crucial Component
Waymo, Alphabet’s division for self-driving vehicles, has recently announced it’s making its autonomous vehicle technologies available to its partners. Named “Laser Beam Honeycomb 3D Perimeter,” Waymo plans to extend the technology to companies beyond self-driving vehicles. Industries such as robotics, security, and agriculture as well as others could benefit from Waymo’s developments. Thus, collaborations appear to be expanding across industries that have little to do with the future of transportation.
Toyota’s Broad View of a Collaborative Environment
For Toyota, their vision for self-driving vehicles is much more expansive. For one, Toyota is working on the e-Palette, an eight-wheeled autonomous shuttle that comes in small-, medium- and large sizes. In addition, it is developing a complete mobility services platform equipped with fleet management tools. Its partners in this endeavor include Amazon, Uber, Mazda, Didi Chuxing, and Pizza Hut. From parcels to pizza and people, their vision of the future of public transportation offers an open platform for any company to utilize. And with each company involved having a key interest, the collaboration offers tremendous potential for success.
May Mobility – Taking a Different Path to Self Driving Vehicles
This Michigan-based startup is making huge waves by taking self-driving vehicles to the streets. Partnering with Detroit urban planners, May Mobility has already brought the future of public transportation to the city. Combining urban route sensors with autonomous driving technologies, May Mobility shuttles have hit the ground running. And with seed money for BMW and Toyota, May Mobility embraces partnerships and collaborations. Though it may not be pursuing mass production, May Mobility is putting self-driving vehicles to the real test.
What Will Future Public Transportation Look Like?
As evidenced by these broad collaborations and partnerships, bold business trends are changing in the autonomous vehicle industry. Certainly, companies like General Motors, with its Cruise Automation, will likely make an impact. But the joint projects currently being pursued by companies in a variety of industries have tremendous potential for innovation. So while the future of public transportation is anyone’s guess, it is going to be exciting and creative with many surprises along the way.