The Best Autonomous Car Developers In The World
Following on from our last blog on Autonomous Vehicles, we decided to have an in-depth look at the best autonomous car developers in the world.
When it comes to autonomous vehicles I’m sure we’re supposed to be there by now! I don’t know about you, but I still find myself bobbing about waiting for the self-drive revolution to bite! Predictions from as early as 2015 had us all believing 2020 was Blade Runner year.
With recent pandemics, developments of autonomous taxis and flying cars have probably been pushed back further.
let’s first have a quick look at how the top self-drive companies are handling the COVID – 19 pandemic. Then suss out what the top three autonomous developers in the world are up to now! In the words of Blade Runners Roy Batty.
”Gosh you’ve got some nice toys here!”
How Coronavirus Is Affecting Autonomous Vehicles
As we head into May 2020, Coronavirus cases in Europe and America are showing little signs of waning. With the States conducting the majority of autonomous testing, how is the pandemic affecting progression?
It would seem the Coronavirus has no mercy, even for the autonomous car. Ironically a system designed to bypass human intervention has been floored by this biological invader. With current social distancing rules –
as much as I hate to admit it – because life was much easier when Apple and Blackberry were just fruits
wouldn’t this have been a great time to have autonomous vehicles by our sides? Imagine the benefits to isolation with self-drive vehicles helping with say –
- Taxi runs
- Food delivery
- Public transport
Unfortunately self-drive vehicles are way off, but in the light of recent events I can imagine their importance is about to bloom.
The testing of autonomous vehicles still relies heavily on a human workforce. A large proportion of vehicle test drivers are contracted via outside sources. The American Technology News website (The Verve) reached out to 10 autonomous vehicle developers. Most of these companies have suspended testing for several weeks as they monitor the spread of the virus.
Autonomous Vehicles Spring Into Action In China
Amid a global health crisis self-driving cars are now starting to help people affected by COVID – 19. A Chinese company called Neolix has capitalized on human free delivery services. Neolix manufactures self-driving delivery units. Their vehicles are dropping off vital food, groceries, and medical supplies to some of the hardest-hit areas of China.
And check this out – the vans are also equipped to disinfect the city streets.
Over the last 2 months, orders for the units have exploded! After witnessing how effective the units have been during the crisis the Chinese government has given a 60% discount on all units. Neolix hopes to have sold up to a 1000 vans by the end of the year.
The Best Autonomous Car Developers In The World
let’s check out the top three autonomous car company’s in the world and see what their up to as of now. Surprisingly Tesla does not feature on this list. With Space X Starlink satellite program, Neuralink, and colonizing Mars, they can be forgiven for lagging behind a little.
So who are the best autonomous car developers in the world?
Here are the top 3 in reverse order. We start with –
3. Argo AI
Argo AI, is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, established in 2016 and backed by Ford Motor Company. Although after initially investing $1 billion, Ford had the majority stake, the car giant does not own the company.
The company’s mission is to improve the way the world moves by making transportation safer. They also aim to make autonomous vehicles more affordable, convenient, and accessible for everyone.
The reason Argo AI is so exciting is that it’s dropped the full-stack approach (designing the whole car) favored by most of its competitors. Argo AI seems to focus in on the technology needed to transform basic cars into autonomous vehicles. At the moment they’re cobbling their tech onto a Ford Fusion. (Cobbling is probably not the preferred method of attaching expensive equipment, but that’s how I’d do it!)
Back in 1913, Ford was responsible for bringing the motorcar to the masses. With the first-ever car assembly line, Ford was able to step up production and reduce costs. Can they repeat history by bringing autonomous cars to the masses?
Ultimately Argo AI hopes to develop level 4 autonomous equipment. Ford can then use this tech to develop fully functional service vehicles, eg taxis or delivery vehicles. (possibly through cobbling!)
What Makes Argo AI Stand Out
To start with the company was booted out of obscurity by a mega bung from Ford. Then along came the worlds largest automaker (Volkswagon) injecting a further $2.6 billion!
Focusing on technology alone rather than whole vehicle development or (full-stack solution) could just give Argo AI the edge?
With the backing of two of the worlds largest automakers, Argo AI certainly has enough behind them to compete with the big boys.
2. GM Cruise
Just pipped to the post at number 2 is GM Cruise. The company was founded in 2013 by Dan Kan and Kyle Vogt. The San Francisco based Cruise initially started out designing highway autopiloting systems for Audi A4’s. They abandoned the project named RP-1 in 2014 to move onto something more exciting.
More Cash Please
In 2016 General Motors stepped in with a cool $1 Billion to acquire the majority ownership of Cruise. Although enveloping Cruise, GM has allowed the company to keep its independence. Cruise is still responsible for GM’s self-drive department and can continue to flap its creative wings.
With further cash injections from Honda and Softbank Vision Fund, the estimated total funding is $2.25 billion.
Cruise also received a permit back in 2015 from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, allowing them to test (with passengers) on public roads. With sizeable cash injections coupled with a permit from the government, it’s easy to see why Cruise is one of the autonomous front runners.
GM’s Cruise Origin
The Cruise Origin is GM’s first electric self-driving vehicle designed for shared ownership. The car was launched on the 22nd of January 2020 in San Francisco. The Origin is an attempt by Cruise to deliver on the company’s promise to provide an environmentally friendly ride-hailing service. It’s designed to be a six-person taxi service for ride shares around urban areas.
The Origin has no steering wheel so it would be classed as a level 5 autonomous vehicle. Although it looks gigantic compared to regular taxi’s the Cruise Origin is around the same size as a regular saloon. This square blocky mini bopper’s great for a million miles too! You enter through futuristic sliding doors which allow passengers to embark and disembark simultaneously. It’s believed the robot taxi can transport up to six passengers at a time!
We’re not too sure what joint ownership means, when it comes to an autonomous Robo-taxi? Whether it’s a taxi you book and pay per trip or whether you have to pay some sort of subscription every year.
By eliminating a human driver Cruise boasts that the Origin could save users up to $5000 per year in motoring costs.
GM Cruise 3rd Generation
GM Cruise has the bit between their teeth when it comes to their 3rd generation autonomous project. Below is a picture of how cruise has built self-drive capabilities into a Chevrolet Bolt.
The vehicle comes with the latest state of the art autonomous technology Frankenstein – ed inside and out. 130 vehicles have been developed and are ready to be let loose in San Francisco. Cruise founder Kyle Vogt hopes driving down costs will help push large scale deployment of their next-gen autonomous vehicle.
So who’s no.1 in the best autonomous car developers in the world?
Outshining everyone at the moment is a company called Waymo. The company started in 2009 as a Google project testing self-driving taxis in Phenix, Arizona. In 2016 it became a stand-alone company, owned by Alphabet Inc.
2017 Waymo Starts Testing On Public Roads Without A Driver
Like Cruise, Waymo has been granted permission to test fully autonomous vehicles without drivers on public roads. Waymo was the first company to receive a driverless permit in the state of California. Starting off testing close to home (near Alphabets Headquarters) they soon moved on to testing vehicles in multiple destinations around the U.S.
A detailed three-dimensional map of the surroundings is collected before testing starts in any new area. Information including road signs and markings, curbs, traffic lights, etc is also programmed into the system.
How Is Waymo Building The Most Experienced Driver
Waymo shades all competition with billions of hours of simulated road time coupled with millions of hours of on-road testing. The amazing thing about autonomous vehicles is that every hour of on-road testing can be saved and installed on every other vehicle. In effect the more vehicles out testing the faster they all grow exponentially. Every vehicle on Waymo’s fleet already has hundreds of years of driving experience.
How amazing is this-
In a couple of years, Waymo has built up more hours of on-road and simulated driving experience than –
All of the driving instructors in the world have, put together!!
Just imagine how much knowledge thousands of interconnected vehicles will have if autonomous cars do take off!
Not content on just developing self – drive vehicles and taxi’s the company is also at the forefront of the transportation of goods. Since 2017 Waymo has been learning the skills required to drive heavy goods vehicles from A to B.
Trucks have a lot more additional weight and spend the majority of their time on high-speed highways. Waymo’s trucking product lead Vijaysai Patnaik acknowledges that –
Sensors need to be developed to see further ahead and trucks have different blind spots.
Developing technology for cars and trucks are not independent challenges. Any progressions in one field will transfer over nicely to the other.
Let’s Talk Self Driving
Let’s talk self-driving was created by Waymo and is the first public education initiative on the topic of autonomous vehicles. Its purpose is to bring together company’s that share the belief that self-driving cars will create new mobility options, improve independence and save lives.
Autonomous Testing After Coronavirus
Courtesy of the ongoing pandemic, social distancing has forced the main autonomous company’s to delay testing and close shop. However, could there be a silver lining to the autonomous corona cloud? As terrible as it is, the pandemic may just be what was needed to propel the industry forward. Keeping social distancing protocol is far easier if service vehicles are delivering food and medicine. Not to mention the benefits of robotic taxis and refuge collection units.
With the U.S. starting to slowly phase parts of its economy back into action, Waymo after suspending all testing two months ago due to coronavirus has announced it will restart testing shortly. Although some reports suggest 11th May 2020 for the restart, we have seen no evidence of this online or through social media. If one company does restart its likely the rest will follow suit.
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