One of the reasons self-driving is guaranteed to take hold is the sheer numbers of competitors in the space all striving for the best solution. There is also competition between cities, states and countries.
On August 18, Uber announced it would test self-driving taxis in Pittsburgh later this month. But second place will have to do. The World’s First Self-Driving Taxis Debut in Singapore starting Thursday.
Select members of the public will be able to hail a free ride through their smartphones in taxis operated by nuTonomy, an autonomous vehicle software startup. While multiple companies, including Google and Volvo, have been testing self-driving cars on public roads for several years, nuTonomy says it will be the first to offer rides to the public. It will beat ride-hailing service Uber, which plans to offer rides in autonomous cars in Pittsburgh, by a few weeks.
The service will start small — six cars now, growing to a dozen by the end of the year. The ultimate goal, say nuTonomy officials, is to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018, which will help sharply cut the number of cars on Singapore’s congested roads. Eventually, the model could be adopted in cities around the world, nuTonomy says.
For now, the taxis only will run in a 2.5-square-mile business and residential district called “one-north,” and pick-ups and drop-offs will be limited to specified locations. And riders must have an invitation from nuTonomy to use the service. The company says dozens have signed up for the launch, and it plans to expand that list to thousands of people within a few months.
The cars — modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electrics — have a driver in front who is prepared to take back the wheel and a researcher in back who watches the car’s computers. Each car is fitted with six sets of Lidar — a detection system that uses lasers to operate like radar — including one that constantly spins on the roof. There are also two cameras on the dashboard to scan for obstacles and detect changes in traffic lights.
Doug Parker, nuTonomy’s chief operating officer, said autonomous taxis could ultimately reduce the number of cars on Singapore’s roads from 900,000 to 300,000.
“When you are able to take that many cars off the road, it creates a lot of possibilities. You can create smaller roads, you can create much smaller car parks,” Parker said. “I think it will change how people interact with the city going forward.”
Olivia Seow, 25, who does work in startup partnerships in one-north and is one of the riders nuTonomy selected, took a test ride of just less than a mile on Monday. She acknowledged she was nervous when she got into the car, and then surprised as she watched the steering wheel turn by itself.
“It felt like there was a ghost or something,” she said.
But she quickly grew more comfortable. The ride was smooth and controlled, she said, and she was relieved to see that the car recognized even small obstacles like birds and motorcycles parked in the distance.
“I couldn’t see them with my human eye, but the car could, so I knew that I could trust the car,” she said. She said she is excited because the technology could free up her time during commutes or help her father by driving him around as he grows older.
An Associated Press reporter taking a ride Wednesday observed that the safety driver had to step on the brakes once, when a car was obstructing the test car’s lane and another vehicle, which appeared to be parked, suddenly began moving in the oncoming lane.
NuTonomy Test Drive
Above image from the BBC report Self-Driving Taxi Trial Kicks Off in Singapore.
Once again, I note the date on my calendar. It appears to be 2016. Ford has five years of testing to get the technology correct for its launch date of cars without steering wheels.
It won’t take that long.
Here are the announced launch dates from Driverless Car Watch
Delphi and MobilEye to provide off-the-shelf self-driving system by 2019
Both companies have announced that they will bring a fully self-driving (SAE level 4) system on the market for use in a variety of cars in 2019.
Source: TheVerge, 2016-08-23
Ford CEO announces fully autonomous vehicles for mobility services by 2021
Mark Fields, Ford’s CEO announced that the company plans to offer fully self-driving vehicles by 2021. The vehicles, which will come without steering wheel and pedals, will be targeted to fleets which provide autonomous mobility services. Fields expects that it will take several years longer until Ford will sell autonomous vehicles to the public.
Source: Reuters, 2016-08-16
Volkswagen expects first self driving cars on the market by 2019
Johann Jungwirth, Volkswagen’s appointed head of Digitalization Strategy, expects the first self-driving cars to appear on the market by 2019. He did not claim that these would be Volkswagen models.
Source: Focus, 2016-04-23
GM: Autononomous cars could be deployed by 2020 or sooner
General Motor’s head of foresight and trends Richard Holman said at a confererence in Detroit that most industry participants now think that self-driving cars will be on the road by 2020 or sooner.
Source: Wall Street Journal, 2016-05-10
BMW to launch autonomous iNext in 2021
At their annual shareholder meeting, BMW CEO Harald Krueger said that BMW will launch a self-driving electric vehicle, the BMW iNext, in 2021.
Source: Elektrek, 2016-05-12
Ford’s head of product development: autonomous vehicle on the market by 2020
Raj Nair, Ford’s head of product development, expects that autonomous vehicles of SAE level 4 (which means that the car needs no driver but may not be capable of driving everywhere) will hit the market by 2020.(Source: autonews, 2016-02-27)
Baidu’s Chief Scientist expects large number of self-driving cars on the road by 2019
In an interview session, Andrew Ng, the chief scientist of the Chinese search engine Baidu expects that a large number self-driving self-driving cars will be on the road within three years, and that mass-production will be in full swing by 2021.
(Source: Quora, 2016-01-29)
First autonomous Toyota to be available in 2020
Toyota is starting to overcome its long-standing reluctance with respect to autonomous driving: It plans to bring the first models capable of autonomous highway driving to the market by 2020.
(Source: Wired.com, 2015-10-08)
Elon Musk now expects first fully autonomous Tesla by 2018, approved by 2021
In an interview by Danish newspaper Borsen, Tesla’s founder Elon Musk accelerates his timeline for the introduction of fully autonomous Teslas by 2 years (!) compared to his estimate less than a year ago (October 2014). He now expects fully autonomous Teslas to be ready by 2018 but notes that regulatory approval may take 1 to 3 more years thereafter.
(Source: Borsen Interview on youtube, timeline: 8:06-8:29, recorded on 2015-9-23)
Mike “Mish” shedlock