Self-driving technology is becoming more advanced with companies such as Alphabet, refining and testing the technology ready to become the next big thing in the transportation industry.
According to the Financial Times, Alphabet has moved ahead of the competition with a more mature and comprehensive system. This was based on recent data which have been released by California regulators.
Alphabet’s Waymo is being tested more often and for longer hours compared to other autonomous vehicle manufacturers. Reports said the bold idea has now become very accurate, needing a human to decide on safety issues roughly about 0.2 times for every thousand miles it has traveled.
After Waymo, the California Department of Motor Vehicles reports that BMW, Ford, and Nissan are the most accurate autonomous vehicle systems. The race to perfect the driverless car technology is becoming more cut-throat and bolder. Since there are currently no laws governing self-driving cars, reports such as these are the readers’ only window to developments.
How far is the driverless car from being rolled out in the market? Nobody really knows.
Car analyst Mike Ramsey says the California DMV data proves that Google’s Waymo system has pulled ahead of the pack. Moreover, the state’s stringent reporting rules may have pushed other car makers to other areas when they don’t have to be transparent about their test numbers. Two of these companies are Honda and Volkswagen.
Alphabet’s Waymo is being tested more often and for longer hours compared to other autonomous vehicle manufacturers
California is the chosen spot for testing driverless vehicles because a lot of autonomous vehicle manufacturers have labs in the Bay Area. The focal point in this bold idea is paring back the number of times a human driver has to take over the wheel to the fewest instances. While Waymo is in a comfortable position, German manufacturer Bosch appears to be lagging behind. While the company also creates the sensors for autonomous vehicles, their system requires the most number of human safety interventions.
Bosch spokesman Tim Wieland was quick to defend the company’s stance. He says the company’s research center was geared more towards advanced development and was conducting a different line of tests for the benefit of its consumers.
Alphabet on the other hand, does not manufacture its own cars but it is recognized as one of the forerunners in testing autonomous vehicle systems. Next to them, online transportation network Uber has also been investing a lot of money in driverless research and testing. However, since the company failed to apply for a state permit, regulators slapped them with a cease-and-desist order in December.
In the meantime, as the exhaustive testing continues, there are those who wonder if this concept in transportation is still way ahead of its time.
NBC News touched on the moral dilemma involved in the algorithms of autonomous vehicle systems. While the focus was to create the safest vehicle possible, there will always be situations where human discretion would be critical.
Karl Iagnemma, CEO of NuTonomy, a Cambridge-based company which has pioneered self-driving taxis in Singapore, says they have attacked the problem from a practical and engineering standpoint. The self-driving systems are still being refined and tested since these algorithms will later on be making decisions which have a critical impact on real, human lives. Car sensors should also be able to cope and adjust to weather conditions which could change dramatically in just a few minutes.
If driverless cars become a reality, people won’t be needing licenses by the year 2040. Wired Magazine made a bold prediction that by that time, more than 75 % of vehicles on the road will already be self-driven.
Cars running on autopilot may have been the stuff of science fiction movies a few years ago. However, it’s only a few months away from becoming a reality. If a driverless car pull up at your driveway to pick you up, would you be bold enough to get in?