10 Companies Developing Self-Driving Cars
From startups to well-established industry leaders, more and more companies are competing to develop autonomous vehicles. Taking away the driver has the potential to be majorly beneficial for navigation, efficiency and road safety, and once driverless technology is adopted on a mass scale, it will fundamentally change the way the roads work. There are clear set-backs surrounding issues of unemployment and questions of accountability in the event of crashes. However, that’s not stopping businesses from investing. A number of companies have already developed self-driving vehicles of some description… Now, the race is on to create fully-fledged transportation that runs without any internal human involvement.
At the forefront of the driverless vehicle market is Uber, which launched an entire fleet of driverless cars in Pittsburgh last month. Although the taxis require the guidance of two human operators, the car hailing firm are the first to develop a fleet of functional autonomous cars. This has truly brought driverless technology into the mainstream, as passengers can experience it simply by booking one of these taxis. It’s highly likely that the expansionist company will now look to creating similar services in other cities. Uber have also partnered up with Otto, a promising startup, and plans to venture into freight.
Otto was the company responsible for the creation of a genius ‘retro-fit kit’ which can be installed as part of any truck made after 2015 to give it driverless capabilities. The tech costs a fairly affordable $30,000, and has offered a way to steepen the adoption rate of self-driving trucks. Uber saw the potential of this and bought them for a reported $680 million. The startup is currently selling its services to independent truckers as part of Uber’s plan to become a major player in logistics.
Volvo have confidently stated that they are close to offering a truly autonomous car. In fact, they claim that self-driving Volvos are already in use in Sweden. The cars are reportedly able to steer, accelerate and break by themselves once switched to the autopilot setting. By 2017, the automaker plan to release 100 of their new vehicles on public roads, with endorsement from the Swedish government. In August, Volvo and Uber announced a joint investment of $300 million to be put towards the continued development of an autonomous car.
4. Tesla Motors
In Master Plan Part Deux, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk stated that one of the current aims of the company was to improve the self-drive technology that was already part of their electric cars. Instead of waiting to develop full autonomous capabilities, the cars offer partial driverless capabilities. According to Musk, it is ‘morally reprehensible’ to deny even limited autonomy to the public due to its huge safety benefits. Unfortunately, the automaker has faced recent criticism about the true safety of their autopilot kit. Musk has responded by stating that it is far safer than manual drive.
Google X have been designing and manufacturing autonomous vehicles as part of their project to develop electric cars. In December 2014, Google unveiled a fully functioning prototype of a car with no wheel or pedals that could be described as totally autonomous. They plan to make this widely available to the public in 2020. Like Tesla, Google sees merit in the improved safety created by driverless technology.
Daimler, the automotive giant who owns Mercedes Benz and Freightliner, employed a team to create an autonomous truck in 2015 called the Freightliner Inspiration. The 40-tonne, 18-wheeled vehicle was the first fully licensed driverless truck, but according to its developers it won’t be market ready until 2025. Daimler-owned Mercedes Benz is also in the process of making an autonomous research car called the F015 Luxury in Motion.
The German automobile manufacturer has been researching driverless technology for years, and began testing in 2013. The following year, Audi promised that by 2016 they would have created cars that could pilot themselves. Passengers have been invited to try out Audi’s ‘piloted cars’, which still require operators (like the Uber fleet in Pittsburgh) in case anything goes wrong. The company describe their driverless technology as an evolving process which could take decades to perfect.
8. Delphi Automotive
Delphi Automotive is an automaker headquartered in UK, and is one of the largest manufacturers of automotive parts worldwide. In 2015, they became the first company to successfully complete a cross-country road trip using an autonomous car. Now, Delphi has partnered with the government of Singapore to test fully autonomous cars in the city by 2019. The testing period will run for three years, with full deployment in 2022.
Bosch is another German-based business with an interest in autonomous vehicles. Mainly known for its kitchen appliances, Bosch isn’t exactly a new player in the market for autonomous vehicles. They claim that they’ve been testing vehicles since 2013 and aim to have their cars ready for consumers by 2020. The company revealed a concept car at CES 2016 that, quite frankly, wouldn’t look out of place in a nightclub.
There has been a lot of speculation about Apple’s entrance into the market for driverless vehicles. According to internal sources, Apple’s autonomous vehicle strategy is called ‘Project Titan’ and there are around 1,000 staff working on it. At one point it looked like Apple was poised to acquire British super car maker McClaren, but these rumours never materialised. Last year, however, it was reported that the company had been in talks with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. As per usual, Apple are worth keeping an eye on.
With huge technological companies backing the advent of driverless vehicles, it’s difficult to imagine a future where we wouldn’t use autonomous cars. Of course, companies like Otto and Daimler have shown that it isn’t all about four wheels. Autonomy could have huge implications for the trucking industry, as well as the consumer market for automobiles. It doesn’t end there, either – Amsterdam has just announced a five-year project to launch a fleet of autonomous ‘Roboats’ to ferry passengers up and down the famous canals. Clearly, the market for driverless transport is huge, and the list of companies involved with its advancement is only set to grow.