Creating the driverless car of the future means creating a system that can intelligently navigate extremely complex traffic scenarios in urban and highway environments—at any time. Since, according to IHS Automotive, the number of vehicles with various levels of autonomy will grow to a total of 76 million sold by 2035, automakers and tech suppliers alike want a piece of the driverless pie. Here are a few of our favorite players in the crowded space.
NVIDIA and Bosch
Suppliers NVIDIA and Bosch recently teamed up to create an AI self-driving car supercomputer. Fueled by deep learning, the small AI car supercomputer is rumored to push the limits of sensors, software and services. The platform is said to be able to process up to 30 trillion deep learning operations per second while drawing just 30 watts of power.
It’s interesting that 35,000 people have pre-purchased “fully self-driving” Tesla vehicles that don’t even exist yet. Today, the automaker claims that all Tesla vehicles produced in its factory have the components needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver. Tesla’s advanced sensor coverage means that eight surround cameras provide 360 degrees of visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range. Twelve updated ultrasonic sensors allow for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system. A forward-facing radar with enhanced processing provides additional data on a redundant wavelength that’s able to see through rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead.
Formerly known as Google’s self-driving car project, Waymo was formed in 2016 as an independent self-driving technology company. Waymo’s mission is to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around—without the need for anyone in the driver’s seat. The Waymo team drives more than 25,000 autonomous miles each week, primarily on complex city streets. Going beyond just fancy sensors, the company’s vehicles detect and predict behavior of pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, road work and more—from up to three football fields away—in all 360 degrees. Data from five million miles of real-world experience makes it all possible.
Possibly the most unpredictable player on the list, Uber suffered a PR nightmare when one of its driverless cars killed a pedestrian. Uber was subsequently suspended from autonomous vehicle testing in Arizona where the fatal accident occurred, and then chose to let its similar permit in California expire. However, it’s too early to count the ride-hailing company out of the autonomous game, considering it had previously purchased 24,000 Volvo vehicles to form a fleet of driverless autos. Also, it was announced at CES 2018 that Uber has partnered with NVIDIA to build self-driving vehicles. Take note Uber drivers: The company’s long-term goal is said to be phasing out human drivers in favor of wholly autonomous vehicles.
Honorable mentions: GM, Ford, BMW, Aptiv, Volkswagen, Samsung and Apple
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