The autonomous vehicle rollout: current state of play: Page 3 of 5

March 09, 2018 // By Bryce Johnstone
It might surprise some to learn that the autonomous vehicle first gained public exposure at the 1939 World’s Fair, on the General Motors Futurama exhibit. The car manufacturer envisioned, “abundant sunshine, fresh air and fine green parkways” upon which cars would drive themselves. Today, in 2018, 79 years later, the autonomous vehicle is a reality thanks to new sensor technology, advances in HD mapping, improvements in analytics, innovations in deep learning and much more.

Who is doing what?

There is feverish investment and collaboration activity in the automotive community. Volvo (Geely) and Uber have a $300m deal to deliver driverless cabs, whilst General Motors (GM) has taken a $500m stake in Lyft but is also covering its bases by working with Uber too. In addition, the likes of Uber, Lyft and others are spending vast amounts on R&D making sure that they are early in the game.

We are also seeing a range of autonomous driving platforms, many of which are from China, such as Baidu Apollo, Tencent and Alibaba gaining momentum. In addition, Chinese Internet companies are building large software partnerships in order to be the preferred partner for those deploying autonomous vehicles.

Waymo (Google) and Ford are looking to deploy autonomous taxi services this year. Car manufacturers themselves are taking a position in ride share companies, as well as looking to have self-owned car fleets for the Car as a Service (CaaS) opportunity. For example, Ford and GM have spun off their own independent carpooling companies to potentially take on the likes of DiDi and Uber.

In China, Baidu are testing autonomous vehicles in several cities and at least five Chinese car companies have licenses to test in the US.  BMW and Toyota are both working with Chinese companies on early autonomous vehicles activity, while the Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi alliance is working with DiDi on carpooling services.

Waymo is being very aggressive in its launch timescales of its robo-taxi and has received the right to run such a service in Arizona, USA starting as early as later in 2018. Multiple trials are currently underway and will help shape not only the response of the technology to highly complex urban conditions but also what infrastructure is needed to support a further rollout and what is required in terms of government regulation and laws to ensure that the autonomous car has a smooth transition.


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