27 Jun 19

Where are autonomous cars going?

While sceptics keep on wondering if our cars will ever be self-driving, OEMs keep investing and inventing in autonomous technology. Here are three paths to follow. 

Follow the money

First of all, the autonomous vehicle industry is continuously attracting investors. Recently the self-driving car startup Argo AI, which is backed by Ford, pledged to invest $15 million over the next five years to fund a new facility called the Carnegie Mellon University Argo AI Centre for Autonomous Vehicle Research. The Centre will bridge the gap between industry and academics in order to educate a new generation of students in order to advance ‘large scale, global deployment of AVs’. Earlier this month, Argo unveiled already a third-generation AV.  

In the meantime, GM Cruise – the self-driving unit of GM – raised $1.15 billion from a group of investors, including Honda, Softbank Vision Fund and its parent company GM. The money will be used for its launch of a commercial autonomous ridehailing service later this year. The investment brings the total valuation of Cruise to $19 billion. Good to know, GM Cruise is seen as the company with ‘the most aggressive timelines among companies hoping to deploy a commercial self-driving vehicle service’ according to Techcrunch, including the launch of a commercial service sometime in 2019. 

Follow the technology

Yet, the investments in autonomous cars result in optimisation of the technology in order to tackle the last technical hurdles before getting these AVs on the road. Tesla recently presented a new custom chip that will be running the self-driving software in its vehicles. Musk called it ‘the best chip in the world’. The FSD Computer (full self-driving computer) will be a high-performance, special-purpose chip built specifically for autonomy and safety. 

Follow the app

So, while Cruise is pushing to get its commercial autonomous service out there, and Tesla is improving its technology, there is already a place to encounter self-driving cars on the road: the Lyft ridehailing app in Phoenix. Waymo has recently added its self-driving cars on the app, facilitating 10 self-driving minivans to drive around Phoenix. Yet, there will still be safety drivers behind the wheel, like with Waymo One, the commercial ridehailing service of Alphabet. 

Hence, while investments and innovations in self-driving cars are increasing, the latter ‘path’ might show where the future of shared mobility is really heading: autonomous ridehailing services as the first commercial place to encounter your AV on the public roads. 

To be continued …

Authored by: Fien Van den steen