Within a couple of weeks, three companies have announced important steps in the quest for self-driving cars.
Tesla launched a beta test of their autonomous technology. Waymo opens up its driverless taxi service to the public in Phoenix, Arizona. And Cruise is doing the same thing in San Francisco.
Tesla is using private individuals in their beta test. First a small group of dedicated Tesla owners, all of them located in California it seems. They will continuously expand to more and more drivers across the U.S. and the world, as soon as the technology is safe enough and they get regulators approval.
Tesla already has autonomous hardware and software technology in their cars. The current beta test is a rewrite and significant upgrade of that software.
Waymo has had cars without drivers in Phoenix during the year, but only limited to a few people with signed NDA:s. Now they are opening up their service to the public as a taxi service, and states that in the “near term, 100% of our rides will be fully driverless.”
Cruise is also offering a taxi service to the public, but starts small with just five cars in one neighborhood. This will “start to introduce people to the concept that maybe driverless cars are coming,” says Cruise to Wired.
Zoox also recently received a permit for driverless cars in California, but hasn’t announced when they will start using it.
Removing the backup driver is a big step
Waymo and Cruise have a very cautious approach. They are afraid to cause a major accident and anger regulators and the public. Therefore it’s a big step when they feel confident enough to remove the backup driver.
A race for data
As the word suggests, machine learning means that computer software uses data to train itself.
There are many different opinions out there about which company is in the lead, but since data is the name of the game, it seems likely to me that Tesla is number one. When the other companies count their driven miles in the millions, Tesla counts them in the billions.
Will electric cars be cheaper to buy than the equivalent petrol cars in 2025? And does it matter when the big shift from petrol to electricity takes place? We have updated our forecast from last spring.