The race for driverless ride-sharing is already underway, and it’s a crowded track.
Uber made a splash with its test vehicles in Pittsburgh in 2016. NuTonomy, a U.S. software firm, is currently piloting driverless taxis in Singapore in cooperation with Uber-rival Grab. NuTonomy expects to launch a demonstration project in Boston soon, and plans to have driverless taxis in 10 Asian and U.S. cities by 2020.
At the International Auto Show in Detroit this January, Raj Nair, Ford’s CTO, told reporters that “the total mobility services could theoretically be as large as our core automotive business.” This follows on the heels of Ford’s mid-2016 announcement that it will produce an autonomous car aimed at ride-sharing by 2021.
And Ford is not the only auto manufacturer that sees transportation services as a lucrative revenue source.
General Motors has invested in ride-hailing company Lyft and will collaborate to develop and test autonomous vehicles in mobility. GM has also acquired Cruise Automation for its skills in machine learning and image recognition.
Per Business Insider:
GM President Dan Ammann even said in a recent Business Insider interview that most people are unlikely to experience self-driving tech in a car they buy.
“It’s very clear that the first application of autonomous vehicles is in a ride-sharing setting,” Ammann said.
BMW has started a ride-sharing service called ReachNow, and is planning on combining that with self-driving vehicles. Volkswagen and Daimler are also working on ride-sharing apps. Likewise, Toyota is investing more than $1 billion in robotics and artificial intelligence in the next five years; Telsa has quiet plans for the “Tesla Network” of ride sharing using self-driving Tesla vehicles
And then there is Google, one of the commercial pioneers, which is apparently positioning itself with a blend of ride-sharing, driverless cars, and easy access through smartphone apps, per Forbes.com:
Google is aggressively pursuing its autonomous cars initiatives and hopes to have its driverless cars on the road soon. One of the key benefits of this technology would be ride-sharing using autonomous vehicles. The company can gain from its experience with Waze car pool to implement ride sharing in driverless cars in the future. Google is not looking to invest in attracting paid drivers for its car-pooling initiative and is promoting commute share among existing travelers. If it launches ride sharing for its autonomous vehicles, it will not need any human drivers and hence the experience with Waze can be easily replicated. Technology will be the key driver of success in these initiatives and Google has a technological edge.
The number of players in this market are driving innovation in technology as well as creative approaches to building the public acceptance and familiarity that will be critical to the future success of this technology.
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