Uber Technologies Inc. and Volvo are just two of the players in the increasingly crowded field of autonomous vehicle research.
Automakers and tech companies alike are pouring resources into developing a self-driving vehicle.
Here are what some of them are doing:
Google’s autonomous vehicle program has 21 modified Lexus SUVs and 33 pod-like small cars. In May, Google announced a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to more than double the size of its fleet by adding 100 Chrysler Pacifica minivans. Google is focusing on what are known as Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous vehicles; the former requires a driver to input navigation instructions but relinquish all other control to the vehicle, while Level 5 autonomy does not involve a driver at all. For now, Google’s cars operate only under the oversight of company experts.
Ford announced plans this week to make fully autonomous cars available for sale by 2021. The cars would have no steering wheels or pedals. At first they’ll be used for ride hailing and ride sharing, with sales to individual drivers an indeterminate number of years after that. Ford Motor Co. has made a $75-million investment in Velodyne LiDar Inc., a Northern California company that specializes in lidar, a technology that uses light to detect objects.
San Francisco-based Uber will enable customers in Pittsburgh later this month to summon rides from autonomous Volvo SUVs and Ford Focuses. The SUVs will have a human helper in the driver’s seat in the event a trip goes awry. Uber has also reached a $300-million deal with Volvo to co-develop additional autonomous SUVs.
In July, BMW announced plans to release a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles by 2021 in a partnership with Santa Clara-based Intel and Israeli tech firm Mobileye. BMW has signaled ambitions to develop levels 3, 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles – a range covering cars operating with a mix of human and machine control to those with no driver at all. It has received permission from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test driverless cars.
Earlier this year, GM bought an autonomous car start-up, Cruise Automation, and announced it would work with Lyft to develop driverless taxis. General Motors announced a $500-million investment in Lyft in January. The two companies announced plans to build an Autonomous On-Demand Network that will leverage GM’s autonomous vehicle development and Lyft’s ride-matching, routing and payment software.
Tesla Motors Inc. has been rolling out self-driving technology to consumers more aggressively than anyone. In 2015, it activated its Autopilot mode, which automates steering, braking and lane switching. Tesla has been facing questions about the system since the May death of a Model S driver in a car using the system in Florida.
In January, the Renault-Nissan Alliance said it would build 10 autonomous car models capable of temporarily relieving humans of their driving duties.
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