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Quest for the A-1 Autonomous Car

Quest for the A-1 Autonomous Car

A close race is going on in the tech world as to who will be the first to present the first driverless car. The leading groups in this quest are Alphabet and Tesla. Although a lot of other companies are in the race but in the leader board remains the two Alphabet and Tesla. Alphabet has the advantage of money while Tesla has of technology. Alphabet has invested over 3 million in this project.

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Autonomous cars are nothing but an unmanned group vehicle which is capable of navigating through the environment without any human input. It uses a variety of techniques such as radar, GPS, Laser Light, odometry, computer vision, Artificial Intelligence, advanced control and sensory technologies. They are also called Driverless, Self Driver, Robotic car or autonomous depicting absence of human effort. The quest for the Autonomous car began in the early 1920’s when Houdina Radio Control demonstrated the radio-controlled “American Wonder” on New York City streets, traveling up Broadway and down Fifth Avenue through the thick of the traffic jam.

The potential benefits of the same are immense. It will reduce mobility and infrastructure costs, increased safety, increased mobility, increased customer satisfaction and reduced crime. Hence the quest began and the race has been a neck to neck since then. A lot of companies have been in the race which include Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Continental Automotive Systems, Autoliv Inc., Bosch, Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Volvo, Vislab from University of Parma, Oxford University and Google but the ones who top the leader board are Tesla and Alphabet’s Waymo.

Waymo is an autonomous car development company spun out Google parent company Alphabet Inc. Alphabet describes Waymo as “a self-driving tech company with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around”. Recently the road testing of its projects were done which showed the following results and it proved that the project is still in its infancy phase. In August 2016 alone, their cars travelled a “total of 170,000 miles; of those, 126,000 miles were driven autonomously. As of June 2016, Google had test driven

their fleet of vehicles, in autonomous mode, a total of 1,725,911 mi (2,777,585 km). There was also an accident that leads to the death of the driver in California. The subject collided with a trailer which resulted in the death of the car driver. Investigations revealed that the car continued to move after the crash which is a matter of concern.

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Tesla Autopilot is a driver assist feature which signifies partial assistance or full assistance in the future. The company’s stated intent is to offer a fully autonomous vehicle in the future. The Autopilot feature was first offered in the year October 9, 2014, for Tesla Model S which was the first model to get driver assistance feature, followed by the Model X. On August 31,

2016, Elon Musk announced Autopilot 8.0, that processes radar signals to create a coarse point cloud similar to Lidar to help navigate in low visibility conditions, and even to ‘see’ in

front of the car ahead. Autopilot, as of version 8, uses radar as the primary sensor instead of

the camera. In November 2016, Autopilot 8.0 was updated to have a more noticeable signal to the driver that it is engaged and it requires drivers to touch the steering wheel more frequently, otherwise Autopilot will turn off. It is much ahead of other companies in terms of technology.

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The quest is breath-taking but as an end user we are much anxious about the fully automated cars which will reduce the chance of collisions due to human errors. Whoever wins the race, one thing is for sure that we would be getting one of the finest pieces of technologies and driverless car will no more be a realm of science fiction.

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