Car Wars: A New Road | Unmanned Systems Institute

Car Wars: A New Road

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The race to be the first on the streets with AVs

Many consumers have already seen the affects of automated vehicle technology – automatic breaks, sensors that keep vehicles in their lane, adaptive cruise control, etc. This technology will continue to grow and bring us past the early phases of automation, with many companies introducing hands-free highway driving over the next few years.

While the legal and policy hurdles will dictate when self-driving technology will be utilized on a grand scale, the technology will be present sooner than many of us think. 2020 has been the magic number that multiple companies say they will have an AV on public roads that can drive itself at least some of the time.

But which companies appear poised to roll out this technology first? Google, Apple, and Uber have received a lot of press – but what is the competition like among traditional car manufacturers? Early implementers of this tech may be able to control the market early on and shift the balance of power in the automobile industry.

Toyota – The auto industry giant has said that it is not pursuing completely autonomous technology, and that drivers will always be in control of their vehicles. As of now they are taking a gradual approach to automation technology, with a driver-car partnership in mind. Toyota is committed to safety, but is taking things slow when it comes to automation.

Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz) – Mercedes recently took their newest creation to the streets of San Francisco, where it created quite a stir on social media. This vehicle was more of a project to show what cars may look like in 2030, but Daimler AG is planning for autonomy much sooner than that. By 2025 they expect to be selling autonomous cars, but that technology will likely preceded that date.

For more information on Mercedes-Benz’s progress in autonomous vehicle technology, hear Luca Delgrossi, U.S. Head of Research & Development, speak at USI 2015.

Tesla – Elon Musk told the Wall Street Journal that he is aiming for full autonomy in five or six years. Tesla has always been ahead of the curve on technology, but their vehicles often come at a high price. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Musk’s company was the first to roll out autonomous cars, but someone else may be able to roll out a cheaper version sooner.

GM (Chevy, Buick, Cadillac) – General Motors is on board the automation bandwagon, but may have more subdued expectations for when we can expect to see these cars. After unveiling their new Cadillac that features autonomous highway control, GM stated they expect cars to have vehicle-to-vehicle communication and autonomous features in 2025, but stopped short of promising full automation.

VW (Audi) – Audi has partnered with Delphi to have a car drive itself from coast-to-coast of the United States. Audi has stayed in the spotlight to show off its driverless tech, and (like many mentioned above) expects to introduce highway autonomy features within the next two years.

Hyundai (Kia) – A recent viral video showed the capabilities of automated vehicles, but like much of movie magic it was too good to be true. Hyundai is obviously interested in pursuing this technology but has yet to show firm examples of their autonomous tech or have their CEO make a bold claim about when they will arrive.

Ford – The long time Detroit carmaker announced the opening of their new Silicon Valley office and partnership with Stanford University. After seeing the strides Google is making, Ford may have decided that California is the way to go, especially after their CEO’s comment that driverless cars will be available with in five years.

Nissan-Renault – The alliance between these two companies have already had a great deal of success in the electric vehicle market and plan to be one of the early distributers of autonomous cars. An autonomous (not driverless) car is expected to be available for purchase in 2016, assuming lawmakers approve. Like many others, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn agrees that city autonomous driving will be a reality in the early 2020s.

Fiat-Chrysler – FCA Group is a little wearier of the promise of autonomous vehicles. While the technology may be available soon, it appears they are waiting until the legislative outlook is more promising, which they do not anticipate will happen anytime soon.

Honda – Honda has not been one for theatrics in their pursuit of automated vehicles, but expects to be ready when the technology hits the market, citing 2020 as a reasonable date. Perhaps the lack of flash and letting their technology speak for itself will help the automaker stay focused on its goal of producing a safe, driverless consumer vehicle.

Volvo – The Swedish car company has been known for safe, unsexy vehicles but recently made headlines when it announced a partnership with the Swedish government. In 2017 Volvo will test 100 automated vehicles on Swedish roads, matching similar testing initiatives in the UK. Self-driving cars are designed to be much safer than human drivers, and safety is what Volvo knows best.

BMW – The ConnectedDrive platform by BMW has certainly entertained journalists and tech enthusiasts with its high-speed controlled automation. BMW appears to be right on track with other leaders in the industry, and may establish a niche for those looking to speed in style – no hands – on the Autobahn.


Gavin Holdgreiwe | Unmanned Systems Institute

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