Most car companies are remaking themselves into tech startups as they move toward offering fully autonomous self-driving vehicles. Yet thousands of tractors already use self-driving kits as do hundreds of tugs, lifts and trucks. Self-driving aftermarket kits are beginning to be offered in multiple markets. Cruise Automation just got acquired by GM for 1 billion. Up until now Cruise was known as the developer of a 16,000 aftermarket kit to turn select cars into self-driving cars.
John Zimmer, one of the cofounders of Lyft, is bullish about autonomous cars. In a lengthy article posted on Medium, he outlined how he thinks transportation and urban environments will be transformed by vehicle automation and changing patterns of car ownership. Among other things, Zimmer predicts that within just five years most of the cars in Lyft's fleet will drive themselves. Many carmakers, tech companies, and Lyft's arch-rival, Uber, have all jumped on board with automation lately. Reading Zimmer's post, it sounds like the self-driving revolution is already underway.
Apple has finally confirmed the worst-kept secret in Silicon Valley: it's working on self-driving car technology. "We're focusing on autonomous systems,"chief executive Tim Cook told Bloomberg News. "Clearly one purpose of autonomous systems is self-driving cars. "We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects," Cook added. "It's probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on."
The first guidelines on public road tests of self-driving vehicles, released Thursday by the National Police Agency, exclude fully automated cars without a steering wheel or driver. The NPA's recommendations say tests should be conducted with cars that have a driver behind the wheel to ensure safety and compliance with the road traffic law. The government sees promoting the technology used in self-driving cars as a key to economic growth. The police agency's guidelines call for using "black boxes" on test cars to record all data and, in case of an accident, ascertaining the cause and taking corrective measures before test drives are resumed. The NPA is expected to set up a panel of experts this summer to examine issues surrounding possible legislative reforms for this new technology, such as who would be legally responsible in case of an accident, the need to adapt the driver's license system for self-driving cars and how to take measures against hacking cars.
U.S. consumers still resist the notion of self-driving cars, according to a University of Michigan study released on Monday, the latest sign that investors and automakers may be rushing into a business where demand is limited at best. General Motors Co's recent acquisition of Silicon Valley startup Cruise Automation for a reported 1 billion has accelerated a stampede by other automakers, suppliers and venture capital firms looking to invest in or acquire new companies developing self-driving technology. Consumers, meanwhile, remain concerned about aspects of self-driving technology and "overwhelmingly" still want the ability to manually control a self-driving vehicle, the study said. "The most frequent preference for vehicle automation continues to be for no self-driving capability," said the study's authors, Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak. The survey results are consistent with those in a similar survey that the university conducted a year ago and generally mirror the findings in a study that the American Automobile Association released in March.