In case you’ve been living in a cave these last couple of years or have been working 24/7 with NASA and are the one of the first ones to touchdown on Mars, I have to tell you that we here on Earth are doing pretty great: we’ve got the technological age taking it to the next level with all the latest developments, including virtual reality (take Oculus Rift, for example), super-cheap Internet, prosthetic arms/legs, and even auto driving cars. Yep, you heard it – right now you won’t really be able to spot a driverless cars on a regular drive to the mall/school/your office, but the tech is here. It’s being heavily tested and the initial reports claim that we’re on a verge of a new revolution in the automobile industry. Hey, I told you we’re doing alright, didn’t I?
You gotta understand one thing: the market today is so fierce, that if you ever fail to deliver exactly what the folks need. You’ll run the risk of huge financial losses and maybe even bankruptcy – that’s just how it is. So, that said, I’m happy to tell y’all that pretty much all the majors in the game, including Toyota, Nissan, Audi, BMW, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Google (they’re actually the pioneers of the technology) and others, are “digging” the concept of driverless automobiles. And that means we can expect nothing less than a new clash of the titans. The driverless car technology is far from being perfect, but it’s on the rise like never before.
And also read my article “5 Amazing Facts About Driverless Cars – The Game-Changers” – it’s quite an interesting one.
Google Car – The Pioneer Of Self-Driving Cars
As I just said, investing into a new, uncharted development is super-risky. Thus, if the big-bad companies are embracing the idea of cars that can drive themselves (sounds a bit ridiculous, I know). It’s gonna blow – big time. It’s obvious that the market is in desperate need of something new and exciting, and, with Google’s approval, so to speak, you can rest assured that pretty soon we’ll be “driving” in a Google car with our friends and families while enjoying all the benefits of auto pilot cars. So, let’s talk a bit about the whole background of driverless cars – what are they all about? Goggle first introduced the car that drives itself (it’s got no official name, oddly enough) back in May 2014, and it had no steering wheel – not even pedals!
Autonomous Vehicles – The Baby Steps
In December the 100% functional concept was presented with plans to test-drive it in early 2015. And there’ve been several spottings of the Googlecar on the roads of San Francisco. Also, we’ve got spy pics of the various Google cars prototypes in Nevada, Washington, Florida, Michigan, and more. However, the vehicle has been in production since 2009, so that’s 5 years of heavy-duty manufacturing right there. And at first the new tech was only being tested in Toyota’s Lexus and Prius, and the Google auto was designed only a couple of years later. But that’s not the point. The point is the self driving cars technology is a really sophisticated and complex thing, so, at the very beginning the company was doing tests only on the roads of Mountain View (that’s where the headquarters are located).
7 Years In The Making
Today, in 2016, 7 years after the start of the program, the Google vehicle and the whole self driving cars family made a giant step forward. It can easily detect and recognize hundreds of objects, read stop signs, “see” the difference between people, cars and objects, and keep it steady and cool. So, yeah the technology behind the Gogle car (that’s what folks been calling it on the Net), is pretty sophisticated and took a lot of tries and errors before the team could finally reveal it to the world. When it comes to driving Google might not be a class-leader, but in terms of technological breakthroughs they are right there among the very best.
Google Cars – The Technology
Let’s talk a bit about the technology behind self driving cars. Without getting into too much techy details I’m just gonna say that the team has engineered a 64-beam Velodyne laser that’s mounted on top of the car to generate a super-detailed 3-D “map” of the environment. Next, the car takes these “fresh from the field” data pieces and combines them with pre-installed high-res maps of Earth, which – essentially – allows it to effectively drive itself. Well, that’s pretty much how it works. It’s robots driving cars, if you ask me 🙂 The new Google car, of course, is not the sole warrior. We’ve got all kinds of driverless cars out there, including Toyota’s redesigned Prius, Lexus RX450H, Audi’s SQ5, GM’s EN-V, and, of course, the Mercedes F015 Luxury In Motion, which is by far the most impressive concept out there, because of the futuristic looks and constant appearings here and there on the American streets.
Making A Debut On Public Streets
We’ll talk about all the prototypes in a second, but let’s discuss the Google self driving car for now. So, as mentioned above, the tiny Google car has been driving a lot in San Francisco, mainly in Lombard Street, which is famous for those steep hairpin turns, and through heavy city traffic. Self-driving around Lake Tahoe? Check. Cruisin’ down the Golden Gate Bridge? Check. I bet you’ve seen the March 2012 Google car video where the Google driverless cars was pictured taking a 95% blind man for a ride. That shows us that autonomous driving is the next big thing for all those folks who – one way or another – can’t drive a traditional gas-powered vehicle with a steering wheel, transmission and pedals. By August 2012 the concept car already had 300K self-driving miles (that’s 500K kilometers), accident-free behind its back. By June 2015 the number jumped to 1 million miles.
The Google Driverless Cars – Hitting The Market In 2020
The first self driving car – the Google car – is slated to hit the dealerships in 2020, with the heavy promotion and commercialization phase starting late 2018/early 2019. Google’s founder, Mr. Sergey Brin hinted that the concept might be available as soon as 2017, however, that doesn’t seem to be the case. With the smart car Google is aiming to please a very broad audience, from colleague kids who love everything new and futuristic to the traditional American couples that put safety above all. Furthermore, as mentioned above, driverless cars are a God-send gift for folks with limited abilities. Alright, we’ve talked a lot about the Googlecar. So, now let’s check out the other fish in the sea. To be honest, the tech behind autonomous cars is pretty much the same, so, you could easily install that laser and the soft on any traditional car and turn it into a self driving car. Actually, that’s exactly what Google did with the Toyota Prius and Lexus concepts!
Self Driven Autonomous Driving
If you ask me, it’s gonna come down to smart decisions, because, driverless or not, people are still gonna choose their next vehicle based on personal experience with the standard editions, and in that regard Toyota’s Prius/Lexus is a great marketing move. Besides, the officials stated that both cars from the Japanese mogul will also be available with the good-old steering wheel/pedal setup in case you get an urge to grab the wheel, hit the pedal and feel like you’re in control. And that’s going to be the major selling point of the driverless vehicles – nobody will force you to go with the self-driving approach only because it’s the next big thing. Today the partnership between Toyota – the wealthiest automobile manufacturer in the world – and Goggle – the biggest Internet company ever – seems to be a very strong statement and the most obvious sign that this technology is here to stay.
General Motors EN-V – The “Crazy” In Automated Cars
Another big competitor on the ever-growing market of autonomous vehicles is the General Motors EN-V (that’s Electric Networked-Vehicle). It’s a tiny and cute 2-seater that’s being developed in a joint effort with the Segway company. The great thing about this one is that it’s a no driver car, but, if you want, you can hop into that cabin and take control. The EN-V concept was first introduced to the public 5 years ago – at the Shanghai EXPO 2010. The line-up included not one, but three models: Xiao, Jiao and Miao, meaning laugh, pride and magic. Yep, I know 🙂 In 2011 the company revealed that yet another prototype was in production, this time under the Chevy brand. Real-world tests began mid-2014, so, it’s still not completely there yet. Both automatic driving cars from GM come packed with GPS, a car-to-car communication system, car-based sensors, and all kinds of other technological features; plus, you can “call” them on your phone and they will drive to your current location. Now, ain’t that something?
3 Beautiful Cars That Drive Themselves
All 3 editions of the EN-V come packed with two electric motors (1 one each wheel) and a lithium-ion phosphate battery pack, which allows them to have a max speed of 40KPH – kilometers per hours (25MPH) – and a max electric-only range of 40kilometers (25 miles). The difference between the 3 vehicles is only in the exterior design. The company invested tons of money into the manufacturing process, with the Australian, Californian and German plants. All working to make the EN-V something unique and special. However, ironically enough, the biggest downside to the GM driverless cars is the design. Come on, just take a look at the pics – can you imagine yourself driving around in such a vehicle? The exterior look of a driverless car is just as much important as that of a traditional one, maybe even more.
And in that regard Toyota’s Prius and Lexus RX450H are leading the pack. Right now any of the 3 prototypes from General Motors is just a car that can drive itself, nothing more. And they look ridiculous. So, I personally think that unless the Detroit Giant has something special up its sleeve that we don’t know about, we’ll have to hove that the team behind the EN-V has already started working on something new, because the current styling and design would be a perfect fit for the next Pixar/Dream Works animation movie, but not for the daily routine on the roads of America.
Mercedes Benz F015 Luxury In Motion – The Ultimate Autonomous Car
Now, if you want a self-driving car that doesn’t look like a cartoon character, but pretty sleek and futuristic, check out the Mercedes Benz autonomous vehicle – the F015 Luxury In Motion concept (yep, that’s what it’s called). Trust me, you’ll love it. Mercedes is one of the biggest players on the market of luxury cars (sedans especially). And they’ve got that very unique German attitude – quality, power, stability and mass appeal – that allows them to stay on top. They never loosen the grip. So, this new futuristic offering is that much more interesting because it comes from the company with a tremendous reputation and crowd support. Mercedes has been testing self driving cars for a while now. On public roads the test routine began in September 2014 (in California). In October they moved on to San Francisco. Obviously, the autonomous car technology has been heavily tested in Germany as well. Actually, it’s worth mentioning that in August 2013 the company’s first driverless concept, the Mercedes-Benz S 500 Intelligent Drive drove about 62 miles (100 kilometers) in full autonomous mode, making a big run from Mannheim to Pforzheim (German cities).
Driverless Cars Under The Spotlight
The latest development, the F015 Luxury in Motion self driven car was first introduced to the world in January 2015, at the CES (International Consumer Electronics Show) in Las-Vegas. Hands down, this is by far the coolest and the most bad-ass car that drives itself. It’s safe to say that if every driverless vehicle out there looked like that, the market would get a huge boost and folks would talk about them non-stop. Just looks at the F015! Come on, admit it, you want it! I know I do. On the practical side, the Mercedes car offers a flexible seating system with a total of 4 rotating chairs that can be set up in a way that the passengers will face each other in the interior.
For now the executives at the company claim they have no plans of making the F015 a market brand and making it available to the public. They say the sole purpose with it is to exhibit future technologies and ideas that could eventually make it to the upcoming editions of the current models. Yeah, right. I bet they’re cooking up a cunning plan of surprising us all with a market debut of this autopilot car sometime before 2020 – I have a strong feeling about that.
Delphi + Audi = SQ5
One of the biggest tech firms in the automobile industry, Delphi, has been working with Audi (another German major) on the development of yet another car that drives itself – the remodeled SQ5. The new concept has about 6 to 12 months of field tests on the streets of Nevada and Cali behind its back. It’s basically the one and only crossover SUV driverless car. During this year’s CES Delphi debuted the prototype on the streets of Las-Vegas. It got a lot of praise from the public and from the critics (that’s a pretty rare thing). The key element of the SQ5 is super-efficient behavior on crowded urban streets. Right now that’s the weak spot of self driving vehicles because they have to take care of traffic lights, intersections, and, most importantly, pedestrian crossings. However, as you might imagine, the self-driving car technology is far from perfect and, as it’s just making baby steps. It’s also pretty expensive. So, don’t expect this fancy new Audi to hit the streets of your hood any time soon. Keep an eye on it, though – you never know what the next turn brings.
Driverless Cars #2 From Audi
Actually, that’s not the only driverless cars that Audi’s been working on. They started investing into this brand new thing back in 2004 with the DARPA Grand Challenges. That was when 15 driverless vehicles, including a prototype from Audi, did their best to navigate through a desert track somewhere in Barstow (California). I have to say, though, that none of the 15 vehicles made it to the finish line, and the performance was quite a poor one, to be honest. However, Audi is not one to back down. So, as recent as in January 2015 the company introduced an autonomous edition of the A7 Sport back model with the piloted driving system right at the heart of it. The concept car successfully traveled more than 560miles on one of the longest highways in America – from California (Palo Alto) to Las Vegas. This new baby feels pretty great on the road, and it can maneuver through traffic, see the signs, accelerate, brake, park, and do so much more.
Trouble With The Autonomous Vehicle Technology
On the other hand, it’s still far from perfect, and when the “robotic mind” reaches its limit in a highly sophisticated situation – like in a crowded city street, per say, the system immediately activates several warning programs and “tells” the passenger to take control of the steering wheel ASAP. So, much like the rest of the bunch, the Audi A7 Sport back self drive car is still going through countless tests out on public streets and it’s gonna take the team behind it at least 5 to 10 years to make it really good and to get rid of all the flaws and troubles. True, there’s a lot to work on, and the fact that the majors in the industry are taking this new technology of cars that drive themselves seriously means they’ll eventually get it right.
A Driverless Cars From Nissan
Nissan, the Japanese mogul, has been working on this technology as well, and they decided to turn their famous all-electric Leaf model into a driverless car and official real-world tests started back in October 2013. They’ve been running tests in two places simultaneously: the Advanced Engineering Center in Japan (Atsugi) and the Silicon Valley Research Center in California. I have to say that Nissan managed to strike a deal with none other than NASA. Yep, they recently announced a 5-year R’n’D (Research and Development) partnership to further improve the concept of an autonomous car and to incorporate this technology into the commercial market. The self-driving Leaf might not be as famous as the Goggle car, but it will speak up in the nearest future – that’s for sure. Obviously, this model will be 100% emissions-free and will introduce a unique communication technology that the rest of the companies are also working on that allows the vehicles to “speak” to each other.
Google Auto Rival #6 – The BMW 3 Series
As you can see, self driving cars are the current super-trend. Since Mercedes and Audi are spending huge bucks on the new tech, BMW – another automobile giant from Germany – simply couldn’t stay away. The Google auto started this whole movement, but the rest of the majors are trying their best not to fall back in this new race. So, for about 3, 5 years now, BMW, in partnership with Bosch (an engineering and electronics company), has been working non-stop on their version of the driverless cars technology, testing every tiny function, feature they could think of. In May 2013 the company started real-world testing on the Autobahn in Germany. Mr. Frank Sgambati, the director of marketing and product innovation at the Bosch center in the United States believes that traffic management, reduced to no emissions, new possibilities for older folks and, of course, improved safety will turn the self driven cars into something truly amazing.
By the way, did you know that Bosch is the sole company that launch the adaptive cruise control system back in 2000, which is believed to be the first step towards self driven vehicles? 10 years later, in 2010, they made the predictive emergency braking system – yet another great development on the way to complete autonomousy. The progress with automated cars is going pretty great, and since Bosch is cooking up the traffic-jam assist (right now it’s well on its way), which they call a highly automated feature, I believe we’re now closer to self driving cars than ever before.
Tesla – The Champ Among Driverless Cars
Everybody knows that Tesla is one of the greatest companies out there when it comes to innovations and futuristic prototypes. So, it should come as no surprise to you that they’re indeed working on a driverless concept – the redesigned Tesla model S. In fact, they’ve developed a field-tested and ready-to-go software that allows the car to turn into a driverless vehicle that can automatically park, change lanes, steer, and take control of the whole process of driving. It’s not a fully automated car yet, though, as there is still a lot to work on, but the company heads have already announced that they’re planning to eventually manufacture a fully auto driving car – with no steering wheels and pedals whatsoever. Right now the software is being implemented into the traditional model S for field tests and possible integration into mass production for improved safety and flexibility.
Tesla Model S – The Best Of Both Worlds
Now, while the Mercedes F015 Luxury In Motion is the best-looking concept, and Google’s driverless cars are by far the most advanced in terms of tech, the Tesla prototype can easily beat both at once. It looks great, and, as far as technological breakthroughs go, this company knows a thing or two about being number 1. It’s known that approximately 60K Model S units will get these “autopilot features” in the nearest future. The software will be automatically downloaded and installed; however, keep in mind that only the latest editions – since September 2014 – come packed with all the necessary equipment for this new features to work, such as a front-facing camera, GPS navigation with high-res maps and an ultra-sonic sensor. I know that naturally folks wanna compare the Google self driving prototype with Tesla’s new baby, so, let’s see what we know about the two concept cars and try to find the pros and cons.
Google Driverless Cars Vs Tesla Model S
True, both Google and Tesla are working on creating a car that can drive itself, but the technology and the approach behind these two prototypes have more differences than the regular folks might think. Yes, both companies are incorporating several similar features, like mapping, sensors and the software that allows the vehicles to communicate with each other and learn. However, there is one major difference between the Google self driving car and the Tesla model, and it’s in the sensing tech that is the “eyes and ears” of the automated cars. The concept behind self-driving cars is they have to “see” their environment in order to make decisions about the safest and shortest way to drive on the road, depending on the terrain and traffic intensity. And when it comes to the sensors – the heart and soul of driverless cars, if you will – the companies don’t always agree on the same methods and techniques.
Google Self Driving Cars – The LIDAR Tech
The self driving car Google makes uses a light-sensing radar technology (the LIDAR) which uses lasers for making sense of the surroundings. The light reflected from the laser “hitting” various objects around the car helps the software to determine the distance between the vehicle and the objects/surroundings. I know that sounds like complex science-fiction stuff, but this approach is not only pretty common in all kinds of scientific experiments. But it’s also being used in a lot of modern-day equipment and tech. Some experts in the field name LIDAR the best bet for a driverless car, because its precision level is superb and it allows the Google car to be perfectly aware of its position on the world map. On the downside, this technology is actually not cheap at all: just one LIDAR system costs about 70-80K.
Tesla Cars – A Different Approach
So, where does Tesla stand on this? Well, interestingly enough, the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, claims that the whole laser-blaser tech is not vital for the Google automated car (or any other autonomous car) and we can do without it. Mr. Musk thinks that the same result can be achieved with passive optical and one/two forward RADARs. That’s quite a statement, so, I guess now the company will just HAVE to prove they’re right. For now Tesla is working with high-res camera sensors (much like many other manufacturers) as the cornerstone of driverless cars. In addition to the sensors the Tesla Model S comes packed with twelve ultra-sonic sensors for a 360degree vision and that forward RADAR that helps with the autopilot system. The forward-mounted camera (courtesy of Mobileye) is positioned on the front of the rearview mirror and uses a highly advanced piece of software not only for correct distance measuring, but also for reading signs and detecting the pedestrians.
By the way, Elon Musk said recently in an interview that he is personally picking up new talent for the team behind the new Model S and that it’s, and I quote, “a super high priority”. I mean, this guy is gonna be interviewing the new-comers personally and the Autopilot crew will be reporting directly to him on a constant basis. Well, what can I say – with an attitude like that I believe Tesla is on a verge of creating something truly awesome. For now the Autopilot software is being positioned as the driver’s best friend: it can take over practically anything, from driving to parking, but, at the same time, you can still switch to full manual mode whenever you feel like it. So, there you have it – two different approaches to the same task. It’s going to be a blast to see the two majors rival in the future!
Guilty As Charged? Not Exactly
Hey, what about the accidents? Well, as of July (2015), 23 Google driverless cars have been involved in… 14 (!) minor traffic accidents. However, the company claims that the cars were “innocent”. The accidents had to do with manual driving or with careless drivers on the road. So, bottom line is, don’t even worry about that – the Google car is pretty smart, flexible, careful and safe, more so than your regular drunks and narks on the streets. The market of auto drive cars is making baby steps right now, but you know how it goes – in a couple of years the whole world might be crowded with these intelligent driverless vehicles. Don’t be frightened, though. These robotic cars have nothing to do with those scary movies where the intelligent machines take over our world, enslave us and dominate with tyranny, death and despair. Not for now, anyway 🙂 today the smart car technology is all about making our lives easier, and, most importantly, safer.
What’s The Law For A Car That Drives Itself?
As for the whole “Driverless Cars Vs The American People” nonsense, I’m happy to say that the law of 5 American states is already happy with the idea of a car that drives itself on the roads, and, as long as they’re boosting safety, and not lowering it, the rest will come around in no time, trust me. The first official license was given out to the Toyota Prius autonomous concept by Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles in 2012 (in May, to be exact). The licensed plates, by the way, will come with a red-colored background and have the infinity symbol on the left – pretty cool, huh? Nothing says “future” like that ∞ symbol, right? However, despite the fast pace of the cars that drive themselves, including the flagship model, the Google autonomous car, the public is not realy 100% ready to embrace the idea of trusting a machine with their lives.
Trusting A Self Driving Car
Me, I’m a family man myself, and I will think twice before I let my kids ride in the Google smart car. It’s gonna take a while before the major population finally lets the machines take control over their lives. Besides, for this brand new thing to work, the law will have to figure out insurance rules, regulations, not to mention the autonomous vehicle technology will need a whole new infrastructure to back it up. On the other hand, you can’t deny the benefits, such as a significant drop in traffic accidents, improved fuel-efficiency, and last but not least, the ability to enjoy your hot cup of coffee/tea on your way to the office. That’s definitely going to be a crowd pleaser!
Driverless Cars For Sale
Obviously, it’s too early to talk about seeing any of the driverless cars for sale in the dealerships today. I mean, come on, they haven’t even been field-proved yet. So, nobody’s even talking about the possibility of hitting the markets before 2020. Even though Google is doing pretty great with their autopilot car. You won’t find the Google self driving car for sale in any part of the world (not even China). I’m not even sure how much the final models will cost, because the manufacturers aren’t really too happyto share any real technological details about the current prototypes. However, we do know that the equipment that comes with the Google self driving car is worth 150K dollars, including 70K for the LIDAR system.
True, the manufacturing cost will be greatly reduced once they start the mass production machine, but those numbers can at least give you a hint about the Google car cost. So, how much is a self driving car? I really can’t tell you right now. As I mentioned a couple of times throughout the article, the technology behind the cars that drive them self is too raw for us to speak real numbers and real dates. The Google car without driver today is just another one of those “what if” stories, but in about 20 to 30 years or so I believe the autonomous car technology will take over the world. Believe that!
A Big Bang For The Hotel/Airline Industries?
Some folks claim that in about 20 to 30 years the driverless cars could very well disrupt hotels and domestics flights, simply because people will be able to comfortable sleep in their cars while they take them to the desired destination(s). Short-haul travels will be the ideal route for the autonomous cars, as they’ll help regular folks to avoid the hassle of having to deal with countless airports on a daily basis. Just imagine – business travelers will skip the flights and attend all the important meetings while sitting back/sleeping in that cozy interior. Wouldn’t that be great? City-centre hotels will be practically useless, and that could mean people losing jobs and the economy going down (I’m not joking).
Have you ever seen what a limo looks like on the inside, or some of the Chinese market-based editions of American full-size sedans, like the Ford Taurus, for example? They’re super comfortable, spacious, with tons of technological features and the back seats are simply awesome – ideal for working while you’re en route or taking a minute or two to relax and get back to it. That’s the main appeal of the auto driving cars and I imagine a lot of people will be more than happy to jump in. And this could be a huge boost for the automobile industry, ’cause, despite the fact that year-end sales are still looking pretty damn good, experts say that the overall trend is going down, and something as exciting as driverless cars might just be what the doctor ordered.
The Driverless Cars Technology – The Verdict
Alright, ladies and gentlemen, that’s it for today! I told you everything I wanted y’all to know about this new endeavor from the leaders in the automobile industry. It’s been truly amazing to watch this technology grow from something of a simple thought, an idea, to a dozen of pretty great self driving concepts and prototypes. Obviously, there’s still A LOT to be fixed, and it’s gonna take us decades, if not centuries to get used to being driven by an autonomous vehicle. Google cars sure look awesome and perform handsomely on the road, but they still have a few bumps and bruises, if you know what I mean. Autonomous driving is the next big thing for the industry, no doubt about it, and we’ll just have to wait and see what it all turns out to be in the future.
If you ask me, I think the Google driverless car will be the leader of the pack, the hottest smartcar for sale, while the rest of the self cars will have to keep up. I bet when our kids grow up they’ll live in a brave new world, with little to no traffic accidents, zero emissions, low costs, high fuel-efficiency and a self driving car for sale in the nearest dealership. I really hope driverless cars will be able to make this world a better place and bring us all closer together. Don’t you? Of course you do! Drive safe, take care of your family and stay positive!
Check out this video: The Future of Driverless Cars.