The past couple of years have been quite eventful in the life cycle of the concept of the Autonomous Vehicle. The pace towards leading the idea to fruition has been picking up, as different trends seem to indicate. While a lot have been happening, certain trends stand out. One, an acquisition spree of companies that have anything to do with Autonomous Vehicles; two, publication of guidelines governing the operation; three, incorporating human-like thinking in the Autonomous Vehicle; four; the Autonomous Vehicle getting on the road; five; resistance to its implementation in certain countries.
The trends are described below.
Acquisition Spree and Tie-ups
Companies have been in an almost manic rush to enter acquisitions and tie-ups with companies that are doing anything important related to Autonomous Driving. Companies realise that the idea offers a huge opportunity which cannot be realized alone. For some companies, it makes more business sense to develop Autonomous Driver product inorganically. Hence, the rush to acquire companies or start-ups or enter tie-ups. For example, Toyota has acquired the Jaybridge Robotics Team because it neither had concrete plans nor expertise in developing Autonomous Driving technology.
Driverless cars get onto the road
Singapore became the first country in the world to allow on-demand driverless cars on the road on a trial basis. nuTonomy, a start-up is behind the potentially trendsetting achievement. nuTonomy beat Uber in the race to get driverless cars on the road. The service is available to limited people as of now. Commenting on the choice of Singapore as an option, nuTonomy chief operating officer Doug Parker pointed to the high demand and excellent traffic management and clear regulations as reasons.
In what could be a trendsetting move, the US Department of Transportation has unveiled guidelines governing the operation of the Autonomous Vehicles in the country. In the notification, the department calls the Autonomous Vehicles “highly automated vehicles”. Obviously, this should be treated as a governmental; recognition which will eventually pave the way for the Autonomous Vehicles plying on the road. Other countries could follow suit soon.
Human element in the Autonomous Vehicles
More specifically, efforts are on to incorporate an element into the vehicles so that it can think like human drivers on the streets. A Silicon Valley start-up, known as the Drive.ai is working on incorporating human-like thinking into the driverless technology. This is an essential step leading to more maturity in the technology.
Resistance to the idea
For all its novelty and promise, Autonomous Vehicles face resistance in countries like India. In fact, countries like those in the Indian subcontinent present probably the biggest challenge to Autonomous Vehicles in the form of unruly and chaotic traffic conditions and strong governmental resistance. The government maintains that Autonomous Vehicles could displace many drivers of their jobs.
Clearly, the progress of the Autonomous Vehicles could be divided into two distinct parts: one, it is swiftly moving towards realizing its potential in developed countries such as the US and Singapore and two, its future is uncertain in developing countries like India.