Porsche’s CEO Oliver Blume recently told regional German newspaper Westfalen-Blatt, “An iPhone belongs in your pocket, not on the road,” explaining why Porsche is not willing to join the automotive momentum towards self-driving cars. Well, not so fast Mr. Blume, many brands are ready to bet otherwise. The smart car has already been launched, and a fully autonomous car is no longer a farfetched dream! On one hand, you have car brands such as Mercedes, Nissan, Audi, and Tesla and on the other, tech firms like Google or Apple, all fighting neck and neck to become the first to provide the world its fully functioning autonomous self-driving car.
Google's driverless fleet of cars has already traveled more than 2 million miles on the streets
Get ready to enjoy the next generation of fully digitized vehicles with Wi-Fi; advanced infotainment systems and apps; vehicle-to-vehicle communications that let cars on the road “talk” to each other, exchanging basic safety data such as speed and position. Who knows, pretty soon your car will be able to order for you at the McDonald’s drive-thru. Other features include real-time location services and routing based on traffic conditions; and networked Web links that facilitate vehicle diagnostics and repairs. Here is to hoping the car that repairs itself is not too far off.
Soon enough, the intelligent car will also make its way from concept to reality. Already, some cars can manage their own breaks, and park themselves. Sometime soon, vehicles will even be able to avoid accidents, all on their own, which we are sure insurance companies will love.
Inside an autonomous car's 'mind'
And even though most drivers still feel like they won’t take their hands off the driving wheel just yet, companies are envisioning a far different future than what could have been imagined a decade or so ago. Two giant industries are giving this futuristic goal the eye: the traditional automotive companies and software titans.
According to an analysis of patent filings, the automotive industry is leading the driverless car race and not the tech industries of Silicon Valley. French automotive manufacturing group PSA has already announced a successful eyes-off drive from Paris to Amsterdam. The car company Audi’s new car model, the A8, is said to be able to park itself and drive all on its own when at 37 mph (a relief for nervous parallel parkers). However, Toyota is truly leading the autonomous car race with a self-driving car patent that has more than 1400 submissions directed.
But the tech giants are far from raising their white flags. Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, says his company should have driverless cars on the road between 2018 and 2019, while Google is aiming to launch an autonomous car of its own in 2020. Google cars have already self-driven for over 2 million miles. And the race isn’t limited to the USA. Baidu, also known as China’s Google, plans to launch self-driving shuttles on a predetermined loop by 2018. This groundbreaking innovation is also bound to bring its own range of new services. In Singapore, a software company called Nutonomy is set to become the first firm to offer customers taxi rides with no chauffeurs.
How about a self-driving Uber?
The automotive and tech industries each have backgrounds and cultures of their own, and operate in very different ways. The technology needed to produce smart cars — specifically, Web networking, sensors, and software — is not in the traditional skill set catalog of auto-giants. And it is through this specific crack that high-tech companies such as Apple and Google are going to make their mark in the automotive industry. However, do not disregard automotive companies just yet. Tech companies do not have the same established manufacture infrastructure that the car industries have. Right now, it’s anyone’s game to win!
So who do you think will be the first to produce a fully functioning self-driving car? Are you excited for the change that is happening or do you prefer to zip around old school? Can you picture a self-driven car zipping its way through Lebanese traffic?