Autonomous Driving Projects Gaining Momentum

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The words autonomous, connected, and electric are fast becoming prefixes to the word “car.” From legacy automakers to technology giants, multiple players are exploring, investing, and collaborating in autonomous vehicles.

Here’s a look at some of the interesting developments within this space during the last month.

Baidu, Inc. (BIDU) which has been investing in autonomous vehicle technology and development since 2013, recently announced the release of Apollo 1.5, (an upgraded version of Apollo 1.0) which has five additional core capabilities, including obstacle perception, planning, cloud simulation, High-Definition (HD) maps and End-to-End deep learning. Baidu has also committed to $1.5 billion under the Apollo Fund to invest in 100 autonomous driving projects in the next three years.

Apollo, first announced in April 2017, is regarded as the “Android of the auto industry” and currently has over 70 global partners, including the top names from the automobile and technology space. Baidu intends to introduce fully autonomous driving capabilities by 2020.

There is also the partnership announcement between Intel Corporation (INTC) and Waymo. Intel is working actively to become the “chip inside the car” for the automated-driving experience.

“By working closely with Waymo, Intel can offer Waymo’s fleet of vehicles the advanced processing power required for level 4 and 5 autonomysaid Brian Krzanich, CEO, Intel Corporation. Waymo began its journey in 2009 as Google’s self-driving project before it attained the status of a technology company in 2016 by Alphabet, Inc. (GOOG, GOOGL).

In mid-September, Samsung (SSNLF) set-up a new $300-million fund—Samsung Automotive Innovation Fund—to focus on connected cars and autonomous technologies. Its first strategic investment will be in TTTech. In addition, a new ADAS Strategic Business Unit (SBU), HARMAN SBU, has been established under its connected car division.

Samsung completed the acquisition of Harman International Industries in March 2017 and it is considered one of the most strategic moves by Samsung to be a part of the fast-growing market, which expected to grow to more than $100 billion by 2025.

Incentives For Self-Driving Cars

Globally, vehicle crashes cause the death of about 1.25 million people, according to the World Health Organization. In the U.S. alone, the preliminary data for 2016 from the National Safety Council estimates that more than 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, an increase of 6% over 2015 and a 14% increase over 2014. It is further reported by NHTSA that approximately 94% of crashes can be tied back to a human choice or error.

There is a huge economic loss as well. The estimated cost of motor-vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage in 2016 in the U.S. was $432.5 billion, an increase of 12% from 2015. Additionally, a report suggests that the problem of congestion cost U.S. drivers almost $300 billion in 2016, at an average of $1,400 per driver.

Autonomous cars are deemed to bring the benefits of safety, convenience, efficiency (by reducing congestion), and affordability which has even led governments to facilitate the innovation and adoption of such technology. While companies are partnering, investing, developing and sharpening their skills to garner a bigger share of the fast-emerging high tech market which is projected to reach $126.8 billion by 2027.

Other Initiatives

In February this year, Ford Motor Company (F) announced a $1 billion investment over the next five years in Argo AI, to develop a virtual driver system for the automaker’s autonomous vehicle coming in 2021.

Tesla (TSLA), the pioneer in electric cars, has been experimenting with self-driving technology too. During a TED talk in April, Elon Musk said that Tesla is on track for completing a fully autonomous vehicle: “November or December of this year, we should be able to go from a parking lot in California to a parking lot in New York, no controls touched at any point during the entire journey.”

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) is working on autonomous driving capabilities as well. In May, NVIDIA and Toyota partnered to enhance the capabilities of autonomous driving systems planned for market introduction within the next few years. During the month, TRI also joined the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance with the belief that blockchain has the potential to accelerate the development of autonomous driving.

In June, General Motors (GM) completed production of 130 Chevrolet Bolt EV test vehicles equipped with its next generation of self-driving technology.

Final Word

These are just a handful of the numerous projects, collaborations and tests that are being carried out around the self-driving technology. A new ecosystem is fast emerging which sees the future of mobility — primarily defined by software and driven by advanced technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence, sensors, computer vision, machine learning, and robotics.

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