Many companies are working on self-driving vehicle technology, from large established automakers, to Silicon Valley start-ups and tech companies. Two that are most noticed these days are Tesla and Google. Recent reports and news have shown that these two companies are moving forward in drastically different ways.
Tesla is selling cars to the public that have semi-autonomy already. Google is still in the testing mode. Consumers are essentially “beta” testing Tesla software on the road, while Google is using test drivers. Usually, one Google driver is behind the wheel, just in case, and the other is in the passenger seat monitoring.
Google used cameras to monitor some employees testing self-driving technology and found that there were still many scary observations. The company has moved to another form of testing that takes the human completely out of the equation. The cars truly drive themselves, with no steering wheels, accelerators or brakes. Such vehicles could be on roads by 2019 for use in slower, more controlled, mass transit situations.
Sebastian Thrun, an artificial intelligence researcher at Google, said:
“Safety has been paramount for the Google self-driving car team from the very beginning. We wanted it to be significantly safer to the point where there would be no accidents ever.”
There are a minimum of 19 companies near the Silicon Valley area that are working on autonomous vehicle technology, so we will begin to see more of these reports. Companies mentioned in the self-driving race range from Nissan and Ford, to Baidu, Apple, and GM partner, Cruise Automation.
Toyota is looking at the technology from a completely different standpoint. The company will not focus on cars that drives themselves. However, the cars will take over to protect the driver if needed.
The recent fatal Tesla Model S crash in Florida has brought this to the attention of the public. Google did have one crash not too long ago, but it was very slow speed and no one was harmed. Tesla has responded to reports of its Autopilot system problems concerning the fatal crash. The company reminds that the system is only meant to assist and that drivers must understand it and remain engaged. Others disagree:
Steve Wozniak, a Tesla Model S owner, and Apple’s co-founder, said:
“Beta products shouldn’t have such life-and-death consequences.”
Wozniak uses his Autopilot feature even though he feels it is a risk. He explained:
“Even though I might have a slight attention lapse at the exact wrong moment, it’s easier to drive this way and not feel as tired.”
The comment by Wozniak is exactly what scares those advocating against the technology, or at least against beta testing it on the roads or releasing it prematurely.
Source (New York Times)