Moguls including Google, Nissan, Tesla, Uber, Waymo, and Toyota have pumped in a huge capital to develop autonomous cars. As autonomous vehicle (AV) technology is still at its infancy, but it is speculated to become the primary mode of transportation in future. AVs can help reduce traffic snarls, avoid fatal accidents, and mitigate parking issues. It is said that AVs can save up to 50 minutes a day of a driver. This technology is expected to save more than 600,000 lives, and add as much as $2 trillion to the US economy by 2050. Phantom Auto, an automotive startup, recently demonstrated its first remote-controlled car on the streets of Las Vegas, operated by an automobilist, Ben Shukman, sitting 500 miles away in Mountain View, California.
Shai Magzimof, Phantom Auto’s CEO said, “An autonomous vehicle company might have a system that works 95 or even 99 percent of the time, but that last 1 percent is a very difficult piece of the puzzle to solve. We’re here to do that hardest part.” Phantom Auto announced to have successfully tested its autonomous car; however, for safety reasons, the AV was not allowed to go beyond 25 mph and had a driver behind the wheels to take control in case of an emergency. The company tested its prototype during in adverse conditions including rush hours, heavy traffic, and rains.
Phantom Auto has equipped its AVs with teleoperation-as-a-service safety solution, which utilize the application programming interface (API) for real-time assistance. Its AVs this technology to tackle the problem of remote driving by working on multiple difficulties or as they say—edge cases. Some of the edge cases are adverse weather conditions and encounter with unfamiliar terrains or detours due to road diversion. Phantom uses multiple wireless networks simultaneously to get rid of dead spots in the network. It sends its data redundantly across all the networks to ensure seamless connectivity. Its AVs are built to be fail-safe in case there are any snags in the any equipment. For instance, if all systems stop working, and the system cannot fix anything, the vehicle will gradually slow down, and warn fellow drivers with emergency flashers.
World’s favorite taxi technology ride-hailing company, Uber Technologies Inc., isn’t unfamiliar with the concepts of autonomous car. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, wishes to see a fully-operational car run on the roads within the next 18 months and expects customers from the most cities riding in AVs in the next 10 to 15 years. Nevertheless, a recent test drive of Uber AV tells a different story altogether. After only a couple of minutes of the ride, its car hit a pothole, which changed its setting to the manual mode, and refused to go back to the self-driving mode later. Eventually, the operator had to drive back the car to rectify the problem.
This year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was extremely innovative in the field of autonomous cars. China is not backing down from the challenges of driverless cars. Baidu, a China-based tech firm (also known as China’s Google), recently attended the CES, wherein it displayed its technology of driverless cars. There are some rumors about safety related issues of its AVs, however, it plans to launch its cars in the upcoming years.
Austin Russell, Founder and CEO of Luminar Technologies made his appearance in CES. He is distinguished to have developed a new technology for AVs using light detection and ranging (LiDAR). Austin believes that his driverless cars will eclipse Uber’s and Waymo’s products, but agrees that they have rigorously work on it, and are not ready to come out of the stealth.
Considering the recent investments, research, and trials of companies such as Phantom Auto and Baidu, it is expected that AVs will be a common sightings on the roads in next few years where people would be saved from the hassles of driving, and can expect their journeys to be lot safer than the present. But for now, it can be said that fully operational self-driving cars have a long way to go in terms of technology and safety to gain adulation across the world.