Autonomous revolution to be led by self-driving shuttles
Besides the excitement of the past few years about autonomous driving, experts and industrial companies have now realized that the revolution will happen in stages. Robotaxis and shared self-driving vans should lead the way and clear the path for future driverless vehicles.
This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas was not short of autonomous technologies. Japanese giant Sony presented a concept-car to showcase its OEM knowhow on equipment, sensors, and screens. The company doesn’t close any doors, and could very well build its own car. LG, for its part, has unveiled its autonomous shuttle while Bosch imagined a modular platform to be used as a basis for many vehicles.
However, while many autonomous concept-cars were presented in every CES edition and motor shows of the past decade, none seem to have really taken the roads. Instead, driving aids have developed and laws have been softened to accept their use on public roads.
The most likable scenario for the self-driving revolution to take place is to start with autonomous shuttles. Numerous cities have started partnerships with self-driving shuttle companies to develop some sort of autonomous public transport. Mobileye vehicles will drive in Paris this year, and even the Stib/Mivb will put up such service this year in Brussels.
Open road ahead
Currently, it’s difficult to predict which technology will prevail in the next five or ten years. “We can imagine three scenarios. In the first, the vehicle is completely dependent on the infrastructure like a train on dedicated tracks.
In the second, the car is intelligent and to be safe it’s connected to the infrastructure. It reacts to the situation. It can overtake a bus, drive on the motorway, etc. Finally, the third possibility is a car equipped with radars and cameras, and won’t need infrastructure,” develops Hadi Zabit, General Secretary of the Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi Alliance.
Ready for everything
Google’s subsidiary, Waymo, has been testing this last scenario for the past ten years. The system gets more intelligent with every kilometer. It needs to learn every situation. This is why Waymo’s systems have 16 million kilometers under their belt.
“Before the launch of driverless passenger cars capable of driving safely in the city or on long distances, other autonomous vehicles will be on the road like shared shuttles, taxis, mail or meal delivery droids, etc. Ideally, driving aids will multiply on new generation cars and drivers will gradually get used to them,” adds Guillaume Devauchelle, Invocation and Scientific Development Vice-President at Valeo.