Racing Towards Tomorrow: Who Will Build the Ideal Self-Driving Car?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Racing Towards Tomorrow: Who Will Build the Ideal Self-Driving Car?

Self Driving Cars

While we are still a decade or so away from self driving cars being widely used on our roads, a number of companies are racing to push the technology forward. Already Google's Koala has thousands of road testing hours in, and Tesla is in the hands drivers (or not depending on if they are using automated driving), and many others are working on the problem.

The future keeps calling to us, and it seems to be coming for our cars next. Many major companies are going down the self-driving road, such as traditional manufacturers of cars like Audi and Nissan, and more tech-oriented corporations like Google and Tesla. Numbers fluctuate depending on the source, but estimates point to somewhere between 5 and 10 years as being the sweet spot where drivers may opt of traditional cars and turn to autonomous vehicles instead. Some have hit the road already.


The more conventional applications of this technology are pretty well known to people already. One of the more common adopters is GE, who have used their autonomous systems in their Cadillacs. These are not as complex as most common self-driving cars, but they do provide assistance for drivers in what's a pretty large vehicle, which is impressive on its own.


Google has done reasonably well when it comes to attracting media attention over this new type of vehicle. Koala has been let loose by Google on to California roads to test its capabilities. With the use of lasers, cameras and radar, this entirely autonomous vehicle navigates roads while being able to differentiate buildings, people, vehicles, motorists and all manner of obstructions in its path.

Google Koala

Since May of 2015, several Koalas have been put out into the wild, testing their capabilities against traffic of all sizes, and have traveled as far as Austin, Texas, accumulating more than a million miles driven without a human driver controlling the wheel. And while there have been over a dozen minor accidents, however, Koala was never the guilty party, which has given Google the confidence to make their system available in the next five years.

Delphi and Audi

While all those hours are impressive, Delphi, made in partnership between Audi and Delphi Automotive, traveled thousands of miles to cross the continental United States, from San Francisco to New York City. Back in April of 2015, Delphi made a classic American road trip in a technologically advanced way. Across bridges, through tunnels and past landmarks, Delphi rode at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, driving for its passengers 99% of the time. Audi was so impressed with the results that data from Delphi was used to implement autonomous features in some of the cars featured in their 2016 line.

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Nissan hopes to make a similar feat as Audi. They've planned a coast-to-coast drive for an autonomous car to show off Japan's highways, landmarks, and to set the tone for 2020, which is when they hope to have self-driving cars on the road. To make this dream a reality, they've made friends with the NASA Ames Research Center and have planned a research and development partnership to last five years. However, meeting the demands of regulations, for safety and operating instructions, they've made room for possible delays in their eventual public reveal.


Tesla's Model S cars have brought drivers closer to that dream of automated vehicles. It was first debuted in 2015, and garnered quite a bit of attention for what it could do without interference. Now that they're on the road, divers have assistance in avoiding collision with other cars, changing lanes and navigating troubling traffic. The cars have been so effective that Tesla continues to collect their data to better develop their next line of autonomous vehicles. And by the time they're done, they may have some buyers ready to purchase a fleet of their cars.

Tesla's Model SSelf Driving


Travis Kalanick, Uber's CEO, has built a lab for robotics testing in Pittsburgh and has been buying autonomous cars whenever he can. But his dream vehicle seems to be the Tesla of the future, and has vowed to buy many by 2020 if they continue to impress him and help make his dream of constant smooth traffic a reality.

The Future

If one were to bet on the future of the self-driving car, companies like Tesla, Google and Audi seem to offer up the most confidence by having the tested hours on the open road and the consistency in their data sets. Google's Koala has the most road testing, and Tesla is in more hands of independent drivers. Audi's a little slow to catch up to this competition, but they've got plans in the works to hit the road in a big commercial endeavor real soon.

Regardless of who gets there first, companies like Uber and regular consumers will be a real deciding factor in determining how far this technology will go and who will adopt it first. The real question is whether local governments can issue proper licensing in time and insurance providers figure all the ins and outs of this game-changer.

By Lindsey PattersonEmbed

Author Bio - Lindsey is a freelance writer specializing in business and consumer technology.


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