As Ford announced its plans to launch its own fleet of autonomous cars by 2021, and Uber and Volvo teamed up to bring an autonomous car fleet to Pittsburgh “this month”, the driverless car tech once again became the talking point of the technology world, which was tilted to AR/VR for the past few months.
Ford and Baidu have come together to invest $150 million in Velodyne LiDAR, a developer of sensors used in a variety of commercial applications including automotive safety systems, autonomous driving and 3D mobile mapping.
Autonomous cars use variety of techniques such as radar, lidar, GPS, odometry, and computer vision to make it a smooth driverless ride.
Earlier this year, Lyft and GM came together to announce a partnership where they would launch a fleet of self driving taxis within a year! Besides, we already know the notable work being done by Google, Apple, Uber and Tesla in the same field which has made this a cut-throat dimension of technology where everyone is trying to rush past the other.
With the announcement of autonomous cars by 2021, Ford has proved it once again that it is bent upon being the frontrunner when it comes to this industry. While most of the companies have been testing their autopilots in normal weather and regular roads, Ford has been testing its autonomous cars on snow covered roads.
One really gets confused with widespread use of “autonomous” by companies when it comes to self driving cars. The Internet has debated for some time now, on whether it should be described as autonomous or automatic. Diving deeper, while autonomous indicates towards something that can independently take its own decision and does not need a manual input at all, automatic would be a more appropriate term as most of the self driving cars being developed right now across the Globe do need a manual controller or the driver present at all times. In true sense, Tesla does seem to be moving towards “autonomous” cars the fastest with its 7.1 update which also allows the car to par itself without even the driver in the car.
While Google announced a 500,000 kms run of the self driving car way back in 2012 and Tesla’s autopilot features are known to be much ahead from the rest of the industry, self driving cars still seem to be a far fetched reality in India. Talking about India, the closest we have got to these giants working on autonomous car tech, is Dr. Roshy John, Bengaluru based Techie who has converted a TATA Nano into Tata Nano Autonomous and is looking forward to permission of traffic police to test the car on roads.
Several problems that India as a nation, might have with this technology are very evident.
While the conservative mindsets of people might not allow them to forfeit the control of their car, it also has a more deeply rooted problem of employment. While lakhs of drivers might go out of job, it might also face legislation and regulatory issues with the government for a long time. Also, a concern that the global giants are facing as well, is that an autonomous car might not be adaptive or responsive to gestures or non verbal cues by police or pedestrians. The concern being a little more grave in India with police and pedestrians relying on hand gestures a little too much (not to count the occasional show of middle fingers and exchange of verbal abuses every now and then)
The susceptibility of the system to weather changes, the strength of navigation systems and software reliability might be some of the “very few” challenges before a full blown acceptance to the self driving technology. Current road infrastructure is also a big question before rolling out of self driving cars in India.
The recent fatal accident of a Tesla driver while on autopilot mode has raised further questions on the technology globally. While it would be very interesting to see the further developments in this field in the coming years, we sincerely hope there is more good news in India sooner.