A few weeks ago we all heard the exciting news that all new Tesla models were now going to be equipped the the necessary hardware to enable fully autonomus driving.
Customers much choose to 'enable' this technology by adding software to their car for the hardware to use, and undoubedly there are customers who narrowly missed out on this extra technology who would be less than pleased.
However, this is an exciting and important step toward mainstream autonomous vehicles. Below is a video which shows the world as a fully autonous Tesla sees it, it's certaintly an eye-opener in to how the technology visualises and processes our complex world.
With a large number of developed countries around the globe pioneering the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles for private and mass transit as well as logistics and trucking, some countries face bigger challenges than others.
India, the rapidly growing international hub both in terms of GDP and population, faces a distinct and hard to remedy challenge in the use of autonomous vehicles.
R.C. Bhargava, Chairman of Maruti Suzuki, has essentially ruled out rapid deployment of autonomous vehicles in his native India. Indian motorists are too unpredictable and follow too few rules in order for autonomous cars to integrate in to their traffic schemes.
Bhargava appreciates and even stresses the importance of autonomous technologies in increasing the efficiency of India's road network.
Sadly, the solution to this problem is not as simple as passing legislation, it requires a cultural shift and that will take many years. India is unlikely to be able to adopt autonomous vehicles at the same rate as the western world and China. The economic and social effects of this will be interesting to monitor.
I'm lucky, my family are very supportive of me embarking on a PhD. However, a PhD is often seen as a superfluous qualification; there are many people who don't initially see the value in embarking upon higher study over seeking employment immediately after graduation. I argue, despite only being a month in to my PhD programme of study, that in fact there are already tangible benefits that I am experiencing or anticipating from being a PhD student; and eventually a Doctor.
The National Qualifications Framework in the United Kingdom has 11 levels, three 'Entry Level' levels and then a further eight levels of qualification above that. A Bachelors degree is level six (tick), masters level seven (tick) and PhD is level 8; in theory the highest level qualification an individual in the United Kingdom can work towards.
What has struck me in the very early days of my doctoral studies (I'm yet to submit my final research proposal for research committee approval, that's how early on in my program I am), is just how individualised a PhD is. The requirement of a PhD is to make an "original contribution to knowledge"; thus, whatever one decides to study is right on the cusp of innovation in any particular academic field.
...you have to come up with something from scratch.
Keen followers of either the autonomous vehicle scene or Apple as a company have probably rolled their eyes at my terribly punny (not funny as my laptop tried to correct it to) title.
As I sit typing this on my trusty Apple MacBook, I read that Apple's autonomous and electric vehicle project, dubbed 'Titan' has, according to insiders and analysts, been shelved. Recent developments within the company and the automotive industry have resulted in the tech giant reverting to merely creating software for autonomous cars, with many staff previously tasked to 'Titan' being reassigned.
Recently there was also speculation of an alliance, or takeover, of the spots/supercar manufacturer and F1 heavyweight, McLaren and Apple. These two companies, while not linked by capabilities or products, are inherently linked through their outlook and modes of operation. One only has to google search the Foster+Partners McLaren Technology Centre; perhaps the world's cleanest and beautifully designed car development and manufacturing plant on the planet.
Should Apple have entered the automotive market themselves, they would have been on the 'back foot' from the start. Firstly, convincing the average consumer to purchase a car made by their mobile phone manufacturer would probably be a struggle. Also, the company would have had to seriously invest in hardware manufacturing capabilities that it has never embarked upon before; there are marked differences between producing a mobile phone or laptop compared to a vehicle.
While the contribution of such a well respected tech giant is welcomed in the autonomous vehicle community, their change in direction is certainly for the best.
Maybe the reassigned staff can concentrate their efforts on continued innovation and sales; Apple reported it's first drop in annual revenues in 13 years, just this week.
These three car manufacturing behemoths (well, two and Tata) have been working in partnership to develop connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs). CAVs will not only be able to perform in isolation, but will communicate with nearby vehicles and gain information from them about their current status on the road.
The three major announcements at the UK Autodrive event were their new automatic overtaking technology, a warning stayed which monitors the braking activity of the car ahead and also a technology which communicates with traffic lights so that the vehicle and occupants arrive at the lights when they turn green.
JLR, Ford and Tata, by working in partnership are hoping to establish the industry standard for CAVs, allowing all vehicles from all manufacturers to communicate with one-another. JLR have committed a fleet of around 100 vehicles to their autonomous technology research efforts over the coming four years, which are developing technologies both for on-road and off-road applications.
“Until now we have focused on the communication between Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles, this collaborative approach is a major stepping stone towards all connected and autonomous vehicles co-operating with each other in the future,” he said.
The implications of CAVs are increased safety and capability over a singularly autonomous vehicle; and hopefully therefore greater public acceptance of these emerging technologies.
For more information, see the article over at car advice here, and the website for UK Autodrive, the largest of three consortia running three-year trials in to autonomous vehicles in the UK.
Two interesting things have occurred with regard to Tesla's 'Autopilot' in recent weeks, so in the spirit of optimism, let's start with the bad news first.
Tesla have been told by the German Transport Authority to cease and desist from using the 'Autopilot' brand in the country. The KBA assert that the terminology and brand gave customers false expectations of the capabilities of the software.
The 'Autopilot' system is a driver-assistance package and helps the driver with the following tasks: lane keeping, speed, lane changing and cornering. Presently, 'Autopilot' is an advanced cruise control system. Drivers must remain engaged in the management of the vehicle, and cannot treat them as self-driving cars. You'll remember in a previous blog post where we discussed the differences between self-driving and autonomous vehicles.
Tesla remain defiant, and are still using the term 'Autopilot' on their German website as of the publishing of this blog post.
In more positive, and less controversial news, Tesla have announced that all new cars produced by them will have the required hardware installed to be fully autonomous. This does not mean that they will be self-driving right out of the factory, but rather that they have the necessary equipment to be activated as fully autonomous cars in the future.
Meanwhile other manufacturers are yet to release any autonomous vehicles...
With such a current buzz around the development of increasingly autonomous vehicles, it becomes increasingly important to understand the nuances of the relevant terminology. Seemingly correlated with this need for better understanding is the difficulty of doing so; with many individuals and organisations using the wrong terms in conversation and documentation.
Garcia and Calatone (2002) established in their journal article that:
So what is the difference between autonomous and driverless vehicles?
I'm a PhD student in the UK looking in to consumer innovation resistance toward autonomous vehicles. This will be a blog about both my research specifically and the wider autonomous vehicle landscape.