As companies all over the world scramble to be the first to develop autonomous driving, it’s important to take a step back and understand how this dream is transforming into a reality.
For the past several years, self-driving cars have been getting closer than ever to becoming a commercial product. With companies such as BMW claiming that a fully driverless car will be released by 2021, we’re in for a wild ride that’s waiting just around the corner.
Car manufacturers all over the world have been approaching this challenge in many different ways – some successful, and some not. Companies like BMW, Tesla, and Uber have all been working hard, each one with a different approach that we will analyze in this article.
BMW has been one of the developers of self-driving cars in Romania. In an interview with Alex Seremet, the PR manager of BMW Romania, he explained BMW’s approach, achievements, and obstacles. The approach BMW has taken during the process of development is specialization, in which every company brings in its own key feature to design the car.
BMW believes that unlike Tesla, who manufactures all of its components ‘in-house’, car brands should not do anything. BMW has partnered with Intel, Mobileye, and Heat Maps in order to come together. Seremet says that BMW is like the “broker in between the several different companies who brings them together to create the final product.”
BMW has already released partial autonomous driving to the public and believes that true autonomous driving will become a reality by 2021. Seremet says that one of the biggest obstacles in autonomous driving is creating the ecosystem. BMW’s vision is that each car can communicate with one another and allow the system to grow, become more cognitive, and be aware.
BMW uses HERE WeGo – a live map that constantly gets updated in order to do this. BMW believes that the access to 5G will be hugely beneficial in build this ecosystem, as it will allow for live communication between cars and the system to work on a much greater scale.
Elon Musk, highlighted in Nick A.’s “Elon Musk’s Traffic Solution: Amazing or Impossible?” is the CEO and co-founder of Tesla. And when it comes to the autonomous car industry, Musk has other plans in mind. In Tesla’s approach, they are responsible for developing the car, software, cameras, and maps all by themselves. Unlike BMW, Tesla’s development is independent. While this does lead to better collaboration early on, it also may be the downfall Tesla’s systems.
The number of things that one company is trying to create is tremendous and truly awe-inspiring, but it may be too much. However, Tesla’s partial autonomous driving system is currently considered one of the best.
Tesla first and foremost goal is creating electronic vehicles, and autonomous driving comes as a secondary objective. While Tesla’s system is great, it is simply not accessible. Other than the United States, Tesla is barely present in the international market. With charging stations not being very common outside of very developed countries, Tesla limits its market share.
And although Tesla does is not widespread, Elon Musk said that “In cities where demand [for self-driving cars] exceeds the supply of customer-owned cars, Tesla will operate its own fleet,” sparking the possibility that Tesla will spread further. But as of now, BMW has a greater advantage over Tesla in the autonomous driving industry.
By far the most internationally widespread player in the field, Uber is not actually a car manufacturer and is very different than the rest, but Uber has been a prominent force in the race to be the first to produce self-driving cars.
Uber’s vision has been very ambitious, and Travis Kalanick, co-founder of Uber, explains that with self-driving cars, “traffic in all cities will be gone. Significantly reduced pollution and trillions of hours will be given back to people — [the] quality of life goes way up.” More specifically, Uber aims to create self-driving taxis, reducing the need for a human driver. With over 17 million taxi driver’s in the world, Uber’s efforts spell out doom for the large population of taxi drivers.
But drivers can hope to remain in the business for a couple more years since Uber’s efforts have been mostly feeble and unsuccessful. Uber’s prototypes have been failing even when operating in closed areas, and their self-driving fleet has been crashing notoriously. According to USA Today, just under a year ago, one of Uber’s cars was involved in a 3-car crash that resulted in the car flipping over to its side. Not to mention, Uber has been facing lawsuits recently for stealing programming from another developer’s autonomous system, further staining their reputation in the self-driving industry.
As each company continues in the everlasting race to be the very best, we better buckle our seat belts, as we’re in for quite the ride. With autonomous driving hopefully becoming a reality in the coming years, many more questions will open up for us to explore. But in the meantime, you’ll be stuck driving yourself.