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The Race to Build Autonomous Cars

By EV World Editorial Staff

Google isn't the only company experimenting with self-driving, autonomous cars, they just happen to have amassed the most mileage.

Recently some high-profile web sites had egg on their faces when they announced that Uber was buying 2,500 Google autonomous, self-driving: i.e. robotic cars. It turns out the fictitious report is ‘from the future’ of 2023. The tongue-in-cheek article claimed that the Peer-to-Peer carshare app-developer Uber had made a $375 million investment in Google’s third generation autonomous electric car.

Now, in a quite factual way, Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn has announced that he expects to have a self-driving car that is both commercially viable and affordable to consumers by 2020.

While Google’s Priuses have garnered the most attention and mileage -- some 400,000 by the start of 2013 -- a host of other players have joined the race, including Volkswagen’s Audi division and Toyota for starters. Who’ll be the first to actually offer it as a production model option is yet to be seen, though some are placing their bets on Tesla.

Like many technological innovations, the concept of an autonomous vehicle has its origins in war: Iraq and Afghanistan, to be exact. IUDs were taking a horrible toll on U.S. forces and contractors, especially the long trains of trucks hauling fuel, munitions and supplies for troops. The ability to create a convoy of driverless supply trucks, as well as assault vehicles and ambulances, was very appealing. So in 2005, DARPA launched the Grand Challenge, a university competition to build the first autonomous -- as opposed to remotely controlled -- vehicle to drive 100 miles across a desert proving grounds. That work directly led to the development of most of today’s self-driving cars, including Google, Audi, and Nissan.

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Times Article Viewed: 8808
Originally published: 01 Sep 2013

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