After so many full promises, self-driving cars have so far been met with a lot of skepticism. But its developers see themselves before jumping into road traffic.
« From self-propelled the cars We’re always five years apart,” that’s a quick saying going around in the industry.
The reason: Five years is the period often given as an answer to the question of when robot cars will appear in daily traffic. Five-year period after another – however, despite all the technical offerings, today’s robotics work is limited to a few experimental projects.
But that will change, as many companies promised at the tech show those In Las Vegas – and yes, again in a few years. But this time it could actually happen. Because the technology that could make self-driving possible is about to be introduced into cars from various manufacturers.
At CES, Intel subsidiary Mobileye, which specializes in Nvidia chips, presented their new computer systems, which process data from cameras and other sensors vehicles must control. Nvidia Drive Hyperion and Mobileyes EyeQ should be available in Series 1 cars in the middle of the decade. “I don’t see anything that could stop us, neither regulatory nor technical, nor in terms of customer acceptance,” said Johan Jungfirth, Director of Mobileye. The era of self-driving cars has already begun.
Danny Shapiro, head of Nvidia Cars, also sees a trend, thanks to which autonomous functions can become available faster not only in expensive cars. The first car manufacturers began building driving computers in their entire range of models. By accessing it, they can earn additional money: “Even with a start-up model, the owner can activate new functions over time, and this changes the manufacturer’s business.”
The devices required for autonomous driving are also becoming increasingly cheaper. This is especially true of laser (lidar) radars, which scan the surroundings of vehicles. With the exception of Tesla chief Elon Musk, who wants to deal with cameras and artificial intelligence only, almost all other players in the industry consider them indispensable, at least today. Once upon a time, lidar systems could cost $70,000 and more, but now some providers have slashed the price to a few thousand.
Even if self-driving technology is in the building blocks, at least in some situations, many questions remain unanswered. Will we first see them in automated taxis, private vehicles or trucks? What is the speed and on what streets it will spread in everyday life?
“I think it will be at least a decade before we see a significant proportion – about five percent – of automated or self-driving vehicles,” said mobility expert Jürgen Riers of the consultancy Accenture. “There is a great contradiction between what is technically feasible – and what can be done in the realities of cities as we find them today.” Artificial intelligence is reaching its limits. Not only the vehicles, but also the infrastructure need to be upgraded – also creating separate lanes for different mobility options.
In the past few years, it has often been expected that the autonomous car of the future will likely be an automated taxi that you don’t own but use only when needed. These services are already trying to develop, among other things, Google’s sister company Waymo and General Motors’ subsidiary Cruise. General Motors CEO Mary Barra announced during an online appearance at CES that the US company also wants to bring a self-driving car to consumers in the market by the middle of the decade.
The main challenge in the industry is the cost of it. Mobileye’s president, Amnon Shashua, sees the critical mark on which to push the price of the technology for self-driving per vehicle in the consumer market below $5,000. We’re working on it, Shashua said curtly at CES online.
But auto taxis and self-driving shuttles that can seat up to 20 passengers are still considered the most efficient way to use the technology. Because they pay a lot to pay for the high hardware costs. The consultancy McKinsey assumes that in the next decade it will be up to 40 percent cheaper to travel with a robotic shuttle per kilometer than a private car. Then robot taxis would be 20 percent more expensive than the cost of a private car.
“It can be assumed since the mid-2000s that, at least in cities with populations greater than 300,000, there is actually no longer any reason to drive into town by private car,” said Kirsten Heineke, an expert at McKinsey. Development could also be faster – if cities had to step in with rising parking costs or city fees to force private vehicles out of cities.
Nvidia Director Shapiro – as a result of the boom in online commerce due to the coronavirus pandemic – sees a growing interest in independent freight transportation. “While there is still progress in robotics, I think there will be many commercial vehicles and trucks among the first autonomous shows.” With self-propelled articulated trucks, companies like Waymo, Aurora, TuSimple and Embark are currently vying for space on the street.