SELF-DRIVING WILL LOOK LIKE THIS

In the last let’s say 2 years this subject is intensely debated. Everybody is in a hurry to predict very optimistic dates by when the self-driving cars will be available.  The idea of having autonomous cars is actually a fantastic one and  it will entirely change the lifestyle of humans on planet earth. In a perfect controlled system it will literally eliminate the car accidents, living beings  won’t be anymore in danger of bodily injury or death.  But that’s  still at theoretical stage. In practice the situation is far to become reality soon. Self-driving cars once seemed poised to inaugurate a new era in transportation, but now, driverless cars are further away than most analysts thought.

  Why? Well….What many had hoped would be a market worth trillions of euros has hit a wall of technological, legal and public-perception obstacles. Thinking that the fully autonomous vehicle is around the corner, with a collision- and congestion-free future riding shotgun, remain a dream which may become true at one point in the far future. Therefore prepare for disappointment. A decade of massive investment in robocar tech has spawned impressive progress, but the arrival of a truly driverless car—the car that can go anywhere anytime, without human help—remains delayed indefinitely. We are not ready for that yet.

Not only self-driving cars but even the technology for the full electric cars needs a lot of improvement. There are currently many drawbacks with these concepts (electric and self-driving cars in the same time) so it will for sure take at least a decade (for self-driving cars) from now on until the technology will be mature enough to  convince people that it is worth to take into consideration and finally buy such a car. But the technology progress is skyrocketing these days so even if I say a decade,  it won’t be a surprise if it will become available sooner.  But at the today’s state of the art the most optimistic  prediction is at least another 10 years from now on until the technology will reach its maturity.

Despite Elon Musk’s self-assured claim that Teslas will have “full self-driving” capability by the end of 2020, the world is too diverse and unpredictable, the robots too expensive and temperamental, for cars to navigate all the things human drivers navigate now.

Meanwhile, American,European and Japanese consumers and lawmakers remain leery of self-driving cars that Alphabet’s (GOOGLE) Waymo, UberGeneral MotorsFord Motor, Tesla, Audi, B.M.W, Daimler,VW, Toyota , Honda and Nissan are all launching. What car companies are currently doing is learning about customer experience around these vehicles and trying to develop business models that will be viable, But the reality is: general consumers are not going to be buying automated vehicles in the foreseeable future. It’s going to take a lot longer than people anticipate. The good news is still there due to electric cars, people have already started to buy them, and indeed the sales for electric cars are increasing year after year. So that’s a good trend actually, for sure in the future people will become more and more interested to buy such cars, but for a self-driving car we must for sure wait for a while. And that’s despite the industry pouring billions more into the technology. In fact, investments in self-driving cars surged from $6 billion in 2015 to more than $60 billion in 2018.

The self-driving cars are already on the road now in a handful of cities worldwide. And thousands of people were willing to pay up. In 2018, an Aptiv  and Lyft  venture gave its 25,000th ride in Las Vegas. Driverless car startup May Mobility, which has integrated its self-driving technology into shuttle services, completed 10,000 shuttle trips in the Midwest. Waymo started a commercial robotaxi service.

Waymo Robotaxi Service

But here’s the rub. These early robot cars all have humans as backup drivers to take over if things go wrong. The robotaxis also drive along slower, simpler routes or in select areas of carefully chosen cities. They can’t go anywhere at will.

Currently all the car manufactures in the world are making a huge marketing campaign not only for self-driving cars but also for electric cars. All big names in the industry are ready to produce in this moment entirely electric cars. Many really intend to stop producing classic cars completely and focus only on electric cars and on the future self-driving models.

But again this is just a very expensive marketing campaign; in fact people still don’t buy such self-driving cars. Tesla is the biggest cash burner on this type of marketing. But also the sales for the electric models from Tesla are not very promising. Everybody praise for example the electric Tesla Model X how awesome is, what a fantastic car, it is so great and bullshit like that. No it’s not. I’ve been traveling this year in many places worldwide, I’ve been in Scandinavia, in U.S.A. and recently I am just returned from Singapore, I wanted to see it myself. Hell no, I haven’t seen many Tesla Models neither in New York nor in Washington, Brussels, Copenhagen, Malmo or Singapore. Almost nobody is buying Tesla cars as the marketing said. Sales are quite low for Tesla. Indeed I’ve seen some electric cars running (such as AUDI E-Tron, B.M.W. i8, Honda Clarity, etc.)  But Tesla is extremely rare almost not existing on the roads. People still buy the classic cars, Toyota is by far the very successful example worldwide, they have a lot of hybrids and also electric models which people are ready to buy anytime. I’ve have seen all types of Toyota cars everywhere I’ve been so far.

I’ve had the chance to play a bit with Tesla Model X (electric car) but after the first touch I would say that I would do many design optimization for that car. My personal impression is that Toyota, Audi and BMW are much more better in Design and Interior Comfort than Tesla. In Addition Tesla is also too damn expensive. Well …. in general all the new electric cars are expensive but Tesla doesn’t worth its price at all. There are other better alternatives with the same amount of money or less.

Me, playing with Tesla Model X – Electric Car

Come on  seriously, how many people can afford to pay 120.000 Euro for such a car which  won’t take you further than  approx 400 or perhaps 500km with a full battery loaded? At least in the U.S.A where the distances between big cities are bigger than 200km. It is very unpractical. Tesla looks good on advertising, it may have some interesting performance on short distance and let’s say for some people it also looks attractive in design too but that’s all, people just watch it, but at the end they don’t buy it. I can bet that for example BMW, AUDI, Daimer and Toyota have better sales for electric cars than Tesla.

For example, let’s consider the new AUDI A7 which is a very stable car and is performing good in many tests. This Audi model has a semi-automatic self-driving system integrated. Which means the car can drive alone once being on the highway and no crossroads ahead or cars coming from opposite direction. There is a lot of AI (artificial inteligence) incorporated so that the car permanently communicate with the human driver. Recently AUDI and Hanson Robotics (the creators of the humanoid robot Sophia) did a test together in order to see the interaction with Self-Driving Car towards Artificial Intelligence used in humanoid robots.

The Female Robot SOPHIA is interacting for the first time with a self-driving car.

Here is a link with a very interesting video. Have a look : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtX-qVUfCKI

Self-Driving Cars Faced High Expectations

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Just a few years ago, industry leaders stressed the disruptive potential of self-driving cars and talked up an opportunity of $4 trillion-$7 trillion by 2050. But in the last year, leaders have instead been noting the challenges robot cars face.

Waymo Self-Driving City Car

Waymo CEO John Krafcik declared triumphantly in 2017 that “fully self-driving cars are here.” He also said his company was taking safety drivers out of its cars. But in 2018, he said “autonomy always will have some constraints.”

Similarly, GM CFO Chuck Stevens in 2017 talked up self-driving cars as potentially bigger than GM’s current business. Then in 2018 another GM executive called it “the engineering challenge of our generation.”

And in April this year, Ford CEO Jim Hackett admitted, “We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles.” He added that Ford’s robotaxis will be geo-fenced, meaning they will likely operate on specific well-mapped roads, “because the problem is so complex.”

Pfffuuff….. that´s so embarrassing…But those guy are just having numbers in their head as many managers in general do. A real engineer who knows a bit more in detail about the technology would not be such a dreamer. Not surprisingly, Tesla’s recent attempt to hype its driverless cars flopped. When Tesla forecast a million robotaxis without safety drivers on the road by mid-2020, analysts weren’t buying it. They noted how the self-driving cars hesitated to change lanes, failed to recognize traffic cones and almost missed a turn on a ramp.

And recently, Consumer Reports warned Tesla’s Autopilot, which has already been involved in recent fatal accidents, was a safety risk. The watchdog group said drivers often had to prevent Autopilot from making poor decisions. “Despite Tesla’s promises that it will have full self-driving technology by the end of next year, this experience with Navigate on Autopilot suggests that it will surely take longer.

Published by florijn2019

I am a material science engineer working in Automotive Industry for some years and I have been doing projects in mechanical design using different CAD softwares such as CATIA V5, and NX. I have knowledge in plastics design, injection molding and automotive glass technology but I have also interests in new technologies such as artificial intelligence and aerospace industry. In my free time I like to travel the world, to learn about new cultures and make friends in different countries. Currently I can speak 5 languages : Romanian, English, German, French and Dutch. I was born in Romania but I am living in Belgium since Jan.2011.

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