A number of startups and established businesses are heavily invested in self-driving car technology. While Google’s Waymo is arguably leading the driverless car race, it is joined by other tech companies, including Apple; transport companies like Uber; and car manufacturers like GM.
There are already many components of the technology being used in modern cars – cruise control has been used for several years, while parking sensors are also a mature technology, and advancements like lane sensing technology and automated assistant parking are being introduced at a higher frequency too. So, which company looks the most likely to launch the first truly driverless car?
The benefits of driverless cars are plentiful. Built-in devices such as sensors are continuously operating and are not subject to certain situations such as driver fatigue or tiredness. Vehicles will be able to travel faster and more safely, and because they will be equipped to drive in closer proximity to one another, the technology has the potential to reduce congestion and improve journey times. It will also save businesses money, especially those that are in the logistics and haulage industry.
Waymo leads the pack
Its driverless cars have already covered more than 5 million miles in more than 20 cities around the world. It has a fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans already, has signed a deal to add Jaguar I-Pace SUVs to its fleet, and has plans to operate driverless vans from late this year. We could see driverless delivery fleets within 6 months, according to Waymo estimates.
GM as a close contender
Honda is investing nearly $3bn in GM’s program, and GM has said that it plans to run a ride-hailing pilot scheme next year using cars with no wheels or pedals, which is the ultimate goal of all companies involved. GM not only has a fleet of self-driving cars but has a factory in Detroit where it can produce them on demand. Ride-hailing, using GM cars, could be available in around 12 months.
Uber’s hybrid admission
Uber obviously has a lot to gain from driverless cars, and it claims to have covered more than 250 million testing miles. The lift hailing company is arguably taking a more realistic approach to technology, predicting years of hybrid like cars that will bridge the gap between current cars and driverless.
Different companies have different ideas of when, precisely, we will see the technology hit mainstream. Google has lofty plans, but it is difficult to argue with a company that has covered millions of miles in its fleet of self-driving cars.