When it comes to robocars, new LIDAR products were the story of CES 2018. Far more companies showed off LIDAR products than can succeed, with a surprising variety of approaches. CES is now the 5th largest car show, with almost the entire north hall devoted to cars. In coming articles I will look at other sensors, software teams and non-car aspects of CES, but let's begin with the LIDARs.
The biggest challenge in building an autonomous vehicle is giving the car the ability to see the world. It requires a thorough understanding of lidar, the radar-like system of lasers that creates the digital map each car needs to navigate the world safely and competently. Mastering lidar is essential to the technological and commercial success of robo-cars, yet there is much work to be done. Most automakers are still figuring out how to make it robust enough for automobiles, and cheap enough for consumers. Doing this demands a serious investment and expertise.
It's been a hell of a two days for Boston Dynamics' fantastical quadruped robot SpotMini. Yesterday, it starred in a new video that may seem, well, a bit ho-hum at first glance--at least compared to the company's other recent reveals. Yet within that short journey lies a tantalizing detail about SpotMini the robot dog. Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert followed that up today at the TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics conference at UC Berkeley with surprising news for the secretive company: SpotMini is coming to market, and soon. The company is planning to build 100 units later this year.
Apple Inc. has had a "will they or won't they" relationship with self-driving car development over the last few years, and unlike companies like Alphabet Inc. or Uber Technologies Inc., Apple has been fairly tight lipped about most of its work. From what little is known, Apple has been focusing more on the software side rather than on hardware, and a new research paper published Friday by the company on Cornell University's arXiv repository seems to confirm that theory.
Due to the recent adaptive quarantine measures imposed in virtually all parts of the world, air travel, public transportation, and many other sectors took a really big hit in 2020. However, the automotive world and autonomous vehicles, in particular, have shown increased resilience during this difficult time. In fact, companies like Ford have increased their investments in the development of electric and self-driving cars by allocating $29 billion dollars in the fourth quarter of last year. Specifically, $7 billion of that money will go towards the development of self-driving cars. So Ford is joining General Motors, Tesla, Baidu, and other automakers in heavily investing in autonomous vehicles.