Autonomous Cars -The New Frontier for Major Tech Companies

Autonomous Vehicles- Are We Ready?

Autonomous cars are set to totally transform our driving habits but they could also have a major impact on society, from city planning to mobility. What’s more, driverless vehicles will also spark new business models for transportation and car-centric firms. And as our relationship with driverless cars evolves, this will bring new opportunities that will result of a range of spin-off industries emerging.

Alphabet’s Waymo, Elon Musk’s Tesla and the auto giants have all been developing self-driving technology for years. But nearly all the major tech companies now agree that the market potential is too big to ignore.

Here’s where U.S. tech companies are focusing their investment in autonomous driving.

 Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said the company was working on “autonomous systems,” or software that could power self-driving cars. Siri, CarPlay and other Apple software will probably get more usage once autonomous vehicles become a reality and drivers are free to pay attention to their screens, not the road.

Google’s self-driving car unit name- Waymo is building an end-to-end self-driving system filled with sensors and software so you can go door to door without taking the wheel. Waymo claims to have 4 million miles of real-world driving experience and data gathered from cities including Mountain View, California, as well as Austin and Phoenix. It’s teaming up with Avis to make the vehicles rentable and has also partnered with AutoNation to provide vehicle maintenance and support, and with Intel for processors to power the cars.  

Microsoft has a number of partnerships with automakers developing internet-connected and autonomous vehicles including BMW, Ford, Renault-Nissan, Toyota and Volvo. But its most intriguing deal in this new market is with the Chinese internet company Baidu. Baidu is developing an open source platform that it hopes will become the “Android” of self-driving cars, dubbed Apollo. Microsoft joined Baidu’s Apollo “alliance,” gaining a channel for sales of Azure cloud services to companies that use Apollo to build and run their self-driving cars.

Amazon’s efforts in autonomous transportation appear most focused on getting items to consumers as quickly and efficiently as possible. Amazon was part of a Toyota announcement revealing a self-driving food delivery vehicle called the e-Pallette, just a concept car for now but the partnership with Toyota allows Amazon to collaborate and explore new opportunities to improve the speed and quality of delivery for their customers.

Intel- The chipmaker wants to become one of the world’s biggest automotive suppliers. To that end, it acquired Mobileye for around $15.3 billion last year and partnered with Waymo to provide sensors and connectivity. Mobileye, out of Israel, makes systems used for collision detection and other features in self-driving vehicles. Intel revealed that BMW, Nissan and Volkswagen all plan to use Mobileye technology to create “high-definition maps” that enable self-driving cars to get around safely. The company is building a test fleet of 100 cars that are equipped with twelve cameras, radar and laser scanners, and other chips, processors and systems developed by Intel and Mobileye.

Cisco said it will bring superfast networking capabilities to Hyundai vehicles in 2019. If it works, Cisco’s technology will help Hyundai use more sensors and process more data in their cars, taking them from semi- to fully autonomous. It will also allow Hyundai to deliver more “over-the-air” software upgrades to customers and enable vehicles to communicate with smart parking meters, toll gates and traffic lights.

Qualcomm is trying to take what it’s learned from owning the mobile chip market to automobiles. It’s one of a number of companies partnering with Ford in San Diego. Qualcomm has also joined forces with LG in South Korea for a research center focused on wireless and connected car technology. Qualcomm is also part of a consortium called Connected Vehicle to Everything of Tomorrow (Convex), which has set out to make self-driving vehicles connect to other vehicles, devices and internet infrastructure. Meanwhile, the company is attempting to win regulatory approval for the $38 billion acquisition of auto chipmaker NXP

Nvidia is very focused on the emerging market for self-driving cars, even as the company maintains a stronghold in gaming. Nvidia’s Xavier chipset, that can supposedly conduct 20 trillion deep learning operations per second with very low power consumption, is now being manufactured and will ship to select automotive customers and partners this year.  Dozens of companies have already been using it to test their fleets of “robo-taxis.

Texas Instruments is banking on radars and sensors to be key parts of an autonomous car’s hardware, and is making a bid to be an integral part of the system. Last year the company introduced a portfolio of chips that includes sensors for driver assist and autonomous driving.

As the framework needed for cars and public transport evolves, the landscape of the city will change dramatically. Urban planners such as Gensler, a global design and architecture firm, are already beginning to consider architecture for smart cities and how driverless vehicles will fit into them. Not only will parking areas and road systems be transformed, congestion will be reduced, which will have a positive impact on the environment, especially air quality.

Seamless connectivity would also enable new trends such as live streaming content to cars and even lead to the development of new media formats such as TV episodes and sports highlights tailored to specific journey lengths. What’s more, we could see the introduction of in-car Augmented Reality (AR) experiences where computer graphics are projected over the passengers’ real-world view out the car windows.

While it will be at least 5-10 years before we see the introduction of driverless cars at scale, it’s important to start planning for the automated vehicle age now. Driverless cars will be a major force in the digital revolution, disrupting the world as we know it. However, organizations that have considered how the driverless era will affect them and planned accordingly will have a competitive edge over those who have not.

The advent of the autonomous vehicle is truly The New Frontier for the population of the United States and the rest of the world!