There is no question that the concept of driverless vehicles has become an international discussion. The battle for first place (i.e. the country who will have driverless technology first) is heating up and the world is awaiting what could be the biggest change of our generation. We are excited that the MCAV ‘future of transport’ event on the 27th June will add to the discussions taking place in other parts of the world.
However, having already discussed the race for first place, we wondered why there has to be a race at all? Surely driverless technology will benefit everyone in the world? Could some of the world’s major players team up and accelerate the technology quicker?
In today’s society, ruled by capitalism, this was always going to be unlikely! Some of the world’s largest companies such as Google, Apple, Yandex and Toyota are all competing to launch their own brand of driverless vehicles, no doubt eying up the profits that autonomous vehicles will bring. What does this mean for other countries around the world? Are they all reliant on the big companies, or are they coming up with driverless solutions of their own? This article looks at some of the developments made by other countries.
We begin our exploration in Asia, a continent immersed in culture, and containing some of the world’s biggest cities. Large cities bring transportation challenges wherever they are, but Asia is arguably the most problematic continent for traffic congestion. Driverless vehicles might be capable of solving many traffic problems for Asian cities, but how close are they to finding a solution?
Singapore may become the first country to host a self-driving taxi. This pilot project is due to take place within a business park, and excitement built up around August 2016. It was launched by NuTonomy, a company originating from the Ministry of Transport (MIT) last year. Little information has been able to be found regarding the progress of the pilot test (or if it has taken place) which is indicative of the secrecy within the industry.
Parts of Japan and China often see transport become chaotic; both of these huge countries have seen developments in recent years – suggesting that driverless dreams in Asia are not far off becoming reality. In China, the company ‘Baidu’ released a prototype driverless car that drove 18.6 miles through Beijing! China are so often behind most of the world’s technological innovations, and are hoping to get autonomous cars in certain commercial locations by as soon as 2019! They are predicting mass production and widespread distribution by 2021.
Japan are also focussed on developing driverless technology as soon as possible; both Nissan and Toyota have been piloting driverless cars since 2013. The Japanese government has announced that at the heart of driverless technology, will be senior citizens and other members of society with limited access to transportation. Japan are hoping to release driverless transportation for passengers by 2020.
As we continue eastwards, we can see what developments Australia have been making within the driverless technology industry. Some of the Aussie transportation considerations reported in the news, include driverless trucks and cars but one of the more widely reported stories involves driverless bus trials which have taken place in Perth. The ‘RAC Intellibus’ has attracted over 2000 participants and the bus carries up to 11 passengers at a speed of around 25 kph. When reported in March, the trial has received some very positive responses from participants, with 97% agreeing that the bus could become a service.
Back home in Europe, and it is not just the UK who are developing driverless technology. Amongst other countries, France are making headway, and – in January – they released plans to conduct a 3-month test of self-driving buses.
Another major European player in the driverless vehicle industry is Russia. Apple’s competitor, ‘Yandex’ have been working on a driverless minibus, in partnership with Daimler, Kamaz and NAMI. Utilising their technological prowess, Yandex have announced one of the most innovative ways of travelling with a driverless vehicle, to date. Passengers will be able to tell an App where their required destination is and the App connects to Yandex’s cloud, to find this information and transport them!
Finally, we travel across the pond to see what the Americans are up to. We have already heard that Google have several years of trialling driverless technology – and it seems inevitable that they will be one of the biggest competitors when driverless technology is announced. But if we look at the locations that driverless cars are being – and will be – tested, it appears that many different locations are being used.
Google’s Waymo subsidiary is currently using Chandler in Arizona to test their driverless cars on public roads. Other cities in Arizona are being utilised by car manufacturers such as Ford and the General Motors (GM) – owned ‘Cruise Automation.’ This company – like Yandex – are also using mobile apps to request journeys within a trial being conducted which takes passengers from their homes to the company’s office.
Elsewhere in America, the technology company, ‘Uber’ has moved its testing of self-driving cars to Phoenix. In Boston, driverless cars from ‘Nutonomy’ are being tested in a park within the south of Boston. Even Las Vegas is being used; the French company, ‘Navya’ are testing self-driving buses. The driverless vehicle fever certainly seems to have hit the states!
Reading reports of driverless technology being developed around the world generates further excitement towards the ‘future of technology’ event being held on the 27th June. No longer does the technology seem a concept – it is being used in certain parts of the world! Although this may be mainly on a testing basis, we are incredibly excited to see countries competing to launch driverless cars as this indicates that it will only be a couple of years before we see them operating around the world! Join the driverless revolution today, by signing up – or sponsoring – the MCAV event.
By Neil Phipps
Photo by Automotive Rhythms