CES Roundup Part 2: Autonomous Vehicles
By Ayal Shmilovich
If you've ever seen Minority Report, I, Robot, Total Recall, or a multitude of other science fiction movies in the last 30 years, you have seen that self-driving cars are something that people have been thinking about for a long time. This is especially true of people who live in congested areas like Los Angeles. Staffing firm Robert Half surveyed 2,700 people in 27 cities across the U.S. and LA ranks first in commuter stress, eight in time commuted, and the average worker across these cities spend 49.10 minutes commuting each day. How much better would it be if we didn't have to worry about sitting in traffic? How many accidents can be avoided by removing the human element? In 2008, the NHTSA asserted that 93% of crashes were a result of human error, which tells us that autonomous vehicles should be embraced, not feared. In that spirit, here is a look at companies leading the self-driving revolution.
Car manufacturers lead the push for automation, with Tesla being one of the earliest adopters. According to Tesla, they introduced the "Autopiliot" self-driving feature with lane asset in 2014 and according to Engadget, Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla and SpaceX) has said that fully self-driving Teslas will be on the road by 2019. By now, most of the major car manufacturers have jumped into the fray including Ford, GM, BMW, Mercedes and Audi, claiming they will have driverless cars within the next few years as well.
Every body needs a brain, and computer chip companies provide that brain for the car manufacturers. The biggest winner, thus far, is Nvidia Corporation, whose DRIVE Xavier will use machine learning and AI to power driverless cars. At their keynote speech, CEO Jensen Huang displayed an impressive video of a car navigating a difficult track of obstacles, twists and turns without a driver touching anything. The other major chip companies such as Intel and Qualcomm have entered the fight with the former purchasing Mobileye (Tesla's former tech partner before Nvidia) and the latter buying NXP Semiconductor. They both need to challenge Nvidia's current and future dominance.
Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft were on display as well and Lyft had even partnered with BMW to show their self-driving taxis. Alphabet's (Google's parent company) Waymo was also mentioned here and there. Ride-sharing services stand to benefit more than the car manufacturers as of right now because paying drivers is one of their biggest expenses. Therefore, the more prevalent self-driving cars become, the more ride-sharing services win, with that money saved going to their bottom line.
In addition to the aforementioned companies, many concept cars strut their stuff at CES, with concepts ranging from one-person "pods" from Toyota, to stylish sports cars from Mercedes, to a car with an enormous screen the width of the car by Byton. Byton is betting on a full-service entertainment experience whereby humans no longer have to watch the road and instead can watch their favorite Netflix show.
The driverless car revolution is coming, there is no doubt about that. The die has already been cast and there is no going back. The question now is who are the winners who are the losers. Who is left riding a horse and buggy when the rest of us are getting in our shiny new automobiles?
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