Automated Vehicles: Here & Now

Science fiction has always been an extremely popular genre whether in movies, in television, or in novels. Indeed, it is a fascination fueled by the innate imagination inside of every human being – the ability to dream endlessly about what the future may hold. However, as many sci-fi fans may tell you such fantasies usually stay as just that, a fantasy, as is the case of lightsabers from Star Wars, or The Starship Enterprise from Star Trek. But today the world is bearing witness to perhaps one of the greatest exceptions to this rule: automated vehicles. Posted below this paragraph is a video that details a brief history of the idea of automated vehicles for the first few minutes of the video’s run time. In the video the narrator explains not only have automated vehicles been around in some form for longer than most people would suspect, but also that the idea originated in a 1929 sci-fi magazine. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the future and we get to be a part of it here and now.

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But now that we’ve succeed in merging one of the coolest ideas of science fiction into the real world, just what exactly are we doing with autonomous vehicles current day? Today’s post aims to take a shorter term approach and dig deep into what this technology is doing for us not in the future, but current day.

To start off, Tesla has been on the forefront of innovation since their insertion into the auto industry in 2003. Currently they are best known for their semi-automatic vehicles on the road that are impressive not only from a technological standpoint, but also for the fact that they are electric. The main driving force of Tesla is the CEO, Elon Musk, who can be frequently seen on social media and in various other meetings and talks supporting the progression of autonomous vehicles. The company constantly updates the software that goes into their cars, and are now soon to release their first autopilot software to be installed into their newer model cars. Musk was quoted in August as saying “What we’ve got will blow people’s minds, it blows my mind …it’ll come sooner than people think.” In connection with this, Bosch, the leading distributor of car parts has just released their first self driving vehicle. This is a huge step for Tesla because the software being used in the Bosch’s vehicle will be the same software in Tesla’s Autopilot 2.0. To help understand just how big a leap this is, a level system is used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) when describing how autonomous certain vehicles are. Currently Tesla’s cars are at a level 2 autonomy, however these cars coming from Bosch rank higher at level 4 autonomy (fully functioning autonomous vehicle) thanks to the autopilot program that is soon to be released. The reason Tesla is now using the Bosch technology is because of an accident that occurred with one of their semi-autonomous in Florida because of a “technical failure” when the vehicle’s sensor could not recognize a tractor trailer due to it blending in with the glare of the sun. Due to the crash, Moblieye, an auto tech supplier left the company, so Tesla turned to Bosch. Despite this setback the world is still eagerly awaiting the next big piece of news to come from Tesla in the future.

The next company to look at is Ford, a longstanding and popular motor company that created the “first affordable automobile” the Model-T. However, that small 1927 revolution is nothing compared to what Ford is planning on releasing in 2021 as heard from CEO Mark Fields when he made the announcement on August 16th that Ford will release a level 4 autonomous vehicle. As the level system from the NHTSA above tells us, this is final level of autonomy which requires absolutely no human interaction. Interestingly, Ford also announced that this first new vehicle would not have steering wheels or control pads. Further, in 2021 Ford will not be selling the cars to the public but rather using the vehicles as a shuttle for their own employees. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this announcement from Ford is that they are skipping levels of autonomy and opting instead to release a vehicle which is fully autonomous. While some companies like Tesla, Google, and Uber are taking a more comprehensive approach with street testing and semi-autonomous vehicles first to move the software along this could all change extremely quick because Ford is opting for a more immediate route. Look for Ford and other U.S. auto companies to continue innovation and progress even further.

Finally, we step away from car manufacturers and take a look at the transport company, Uber. When Uber was founded in 2009 it instantaneously become a disruptive force in the automotive industry. Taxi drivers in all cities around the country scrambled to try to keep up with the massive changes that Uber was causing. Fast forward seven years and now Uber has upped the ante with a strong push in the world of autonomous innovation. Two months ago Uber rolled out autonomous vehicles on the streets of Pittsburgh. As of right now the cars unfortunately have a limited number of streets they can operate on due to programming constraints however this technology has gotten to the point where Uber drivers were only operating the vehicle close to 30% of the time on any given ride. This decision made many people wonder why Uber chose Pittsburgh for the initial testing of their automated vehicles as they are a California company and California is known as a state leading the way with laws and regulations allowing autonomous vehicles to hit the roads.  The main reason for the Pittsburgh is surprisingly simple however, Carniege Mellon University, which is home to most of the technology that is driving Uber’s advancements. Additionally, the company felt it was important to have engineers close to the vehicles just in case anything happened. Thus far there have been two conflicting reports about two incidents involving accidents occurring with the new autonomous vehicles. However, both of the accidents were human error, one being the driver went down a one-way street and the other was an Uber vehicle that got rear ended by another vehicle. The critics are trying hard to restrct Uber because right now they are the closest company to moving this technology to a national level. 

According to Reuters, various companies are just starting onto the onset of a competition between each other in the autonomous vehicle world. Indeed in terms of unlikely bedfellows , not only does Reuters have Uber slated to be Apple’s competition in the autonomous vehicle industry but they are also reporting that Google and Ford are rumored to partner in 2016 for automotive innovation. It would seem that many companies such as Google and Ford or Apple and Tesla are teaming up because while the tech and media companies have the advantage for Research and Development capabilities as well as existing computing technologies, the auto makers possess the industry expertise and facilities necessary to make the innovation a reality.  Yet, Uber is arguably well placed to be the leader in this regard as they well capitalized and Uber has already brought many changes in the taxi-driver on demand sector.  Uber is no longer simply viewed as a ridesharing app, current day it has now reached a market whereby using a smartphone to match demand and supply for automobiles efficiently and cheaper. Between Uber and Apple it would seem that Apple will need to utilize their technological capability to enter that sector in order to compete with Uber.

Meanwhile current day, Google has created a self-driving car with two routing programs, a “long term router” that acts much like the GPS device on a normal car, and another, short-term router that makes decisions on when to speed up, slow down, turn and execute other maneuvers. The self-driving car is poised to have a positive impact because there will be less accidents on the road, and as such less fatalities. At the moment, it would seem that autonomous vehicles are right around the corner waiting for the light to turn green so they can be allowed onto the streets of the United States.

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4 Responses to Automated Vehicles: Here & Now

  1. kaitlyn healy December 7, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

    In the article, “Automated Vehciles:Here and Now” by William Farlie we see how the car companies are going to revolutionized and are resembling a page taken out of a science fiction movie. Everyone now knows that Telsa has been working on automobile technology for a long time and has developed the electric car, which is amazing in it but the idea of a autonomous car could change our lives forever.

    According to this article there are many companies working and merging and crating for this innovation to be here sooner than later. Telsa is working with a company called Bosch, which is a leading manufacture of car parts. Bosch has been working on a technology that apparently is more developed than Telsa, so if you are putting these two giants together it should be impressive. An interesting reason was uncovered when one of Telsa’s cars got into an accident in Florida when a vehicle did not recognize a tractor-trailer due to sun glare and it crashed. They then joined forces with Bosch to advance their technology.

    The most interesting news in this article and most surprising come from Ford motor Company. Ford is going to release a fully autonomous car that will have no human interaction what so ever. They are jumping a few steps to go right to the prize. This car will have no steering wheel or control panels and it will be out in 2021. That is incredible since other companies are taking baby steps to ensure road testing.

    Other companies that are working to get their technology out and fast are Google and Ford and Apple and Telsa, but what I going on with the company Uber is amazing. Uber took over the taxi industry and if you think about it Uber probably hurt the automobile industry because who needs a car when they can call an Uber. Its inexpensive and you don’t have to pay for gas or the wear and tear of a car. You also don’t need insurance and its safe and as easy as downloading the APP to your phone.

    Uber now apparently is venturing outside of its taxi business to work with Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburg to create the autonomous car. Right now they are only able to use a small area because of the software and roads that are available but they wanted to stay close to the University so the creators would be available if there was a problem.. I find it interesting that the technology is not just on the West coast of the United States anymore, it is moving east and so many other companies are getting involved in to which might be the greatest invention of our time.

    Of course there is a price to pay for all this innovation and it is the lose of jobs, the price of this technology and who will have it and who won’t be able to afford it.
    I looked it up and a car from Telsa that is electric is about 70,000 dollars, I am sure as this technology increases and competition arises the cost will be more down to earth and affordable but there will be a major transition period that not only will involve our pocketbooks but the government and road structures as well. This should be interesting to watch.

  2. Joselito Abarca December 7, 2016 at 11:32 pm #

    In the blog post “Automated Vehicles: Here and Now” by William Farlie, the author examines autonomous vehicles and how many car companies are partaking in this initiative. For many years, we though autonomous vehicles were only seen on science fiction and that it would hit the market years. We were all wrong and they are closer then what we think. The future is here and we should all be excited. The blog begins by introducing Tesla and how they have been the first company to begin to experiment with this technology. They are known for their semi-automatic vehicles. I believe that a lot of credit should be given to CEO Elon Musk who is encouraging autonomous vehicles because before Tesla, electric vehicles did not exist. It was big game changer and the care was very popular with consumers. Musk even said “What we’ve got will blow people’s minds, it blows my mind …it’ll come sooner than people think.” The company will soon will release their autopilot system and software being used for Bosch, the leading distributor of car parts who is ranked at 4 autonomy wile Tesla’s car are at level 2 autonomy. I found it interesting how Tesla is using Bosch’s technology because of an accident that had occurred in Florida where a “technical failure’ had occurred. The fact that Tesla has decided to change their system means that it will be much safer for consumers and autonomy ranking will be higher. We should all be looking forward to what Tesla has in store.
    Other companies are also using the autonomous technology. When the Ford’s Model-T hit the market it was revolutionary, however according to CEO Mark Fields, what is planned to release in 2021 will be one of their biggest innovations yet. For is going to release an autonomous vehicle which is at level 4 which means it will be fully autonomous. The car will have no steering wheel or control panels and will be out in 2021. Unlike many other companies such as Tesla and Google, Ford is foregoing the safety measures such as street testing and semi-autonomous vehicles as Ford is taking a more immediate route. These vehicles will only be given to employees
    Apart from car manufactures, Uber has also been revolutionizing the industry. In 2009 when Uber was first founded it disrupted many tax driver because they were taking away their business. Today, Uber has already been experimenting with autonomous vehicles. A few months ago they began testing these vehicles in Pittsburg Pennsylvania. I also found it interesting how Google and Ford are rumored to partner which I believe will be beneficial for both parties. Google poses the research and development expertise, while Ford has the industry expertise. If this were to occur it would be a major competition for Tesla. As for now, many of us will have to when these vehicles will finally hit the market. I also believe for a few years, these cars will be relatively expensive but as competition arises, it will lower the price.

  3. Justin Scherzo December 9, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

    There have been so many different articles on the possibility of autonomous vehicles, when the truth is that they are already being implemented into the real world. Autonomous vehicles have the possibility of making the roads faster, safer, and less congested. They may revolutionize the way that we know transportation and this article speaks about how the autonomous vehicle industry is talking over.
    He first writes about Tesla becoming the forefront company in the autonomous vehicle industry. They currently have a semi-autonomous vehicle that is even more impressive than other vehicles because it is fully electric. I Tesla charging stations at the mall, and I am impressed by their sleek style and overall productivity. At first electric cars may not sound that appealing, but their ability to create no carbon emissions and since they do not use fuel, it is much cheaper. The CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, has been quoted saying “What we’ve got will blow people’s minds, it blows my mind …it’ll come sooner than people think.” Hopefully he is speaking about their Autopilot 2.0 which is supposed to revolutionize the way that we autonomous driving. The article also says that “Tesla is now using the Bosch technology is because of an accident that occurred with one of their semi-autonomous in Florida because of a “technical failure” when the vehicle’s sensor could not recognize a tractor trailer due to it blending in with the glare of the sun.” For me, the biggest concern has to be safety. I feel like accidents have become something that we have become accustomed to, but giving the autonomous vehicles all the power would be very different. I do not know how people would feel if they knew that the vehicle caused the accident, not a human being.
    He moves on to talk about how Ford is planning to implement autonomous vehicles. Eventually, they are planning to implement cars with control pads rather than steering wheels. Ford also is planning to implement a fully autonomous vehicle rather than taking some steps gradually implementing them.
    Finally the article talks about the company Uber. I did my whole entire journal this semester on Uber, so I am well aware of what is going on. Uber is always a step ahead, not only did they revolutionize the taxi service as we know it but they are planning to revolutionize the autonomous vehicle industry as we know it. Uber has already rolled these vehicles into the streets of Pittsburgh, and they seem to be doing very well. There have only been two accidents from the autonomous vehicles and supposedly they are both due to human error. If Uber is able to perfect this industry, they may be able to take over all car services. I would not be surprised to see one day that the only vehicles on the road are autonomous vehicles run by Uber. It would make the world more efficient, safer, and there would be more space on the streets. I am excited to see what will happen in the future.

  4. Hakeem Marshall December 9, 2016 at 6:21 pm #

    Everyday I feel like we are moving into the future. When I say the “future” I mean the world envisioned by an great number of science fiction writers throughout history. I could imagine H.G Wells looking at our future being impressed by it, not only because we have achieved some of the things he wrote but also because of the things that he or anyone else could have dreamed of that were created as a result of innovation and various other factors. I get giddy every time I hear of a new technological innovation because it shows we are moving forward. However, this progress has consequences that we must speak about.

    Following the trend of disruptive technology taking over and fundamentally altering the landscape that is our economy, driving is the next thing on the chopping block. Automation and, specifically AI are showing themselves to be a powerful in doing away with basic labor. This, like all automation is double sided. Humans are wonderful creatures but we are also..well….human. We have to sleep and eat. We cannot work every minute of everyday. We have limits and these limits sometimes result in inefficiencies. Robots do not really have this issue. They perform all of their tasks on an unending cycle. They are far more productive than humans and by extension, when a robot takes on roles that humans used to, the economy becomes more efficient and we all become a little bit richer. There is however, a flip side to this. While it is true that these technologies make our lives better, it is also true that these technologies put people out of work and while that in and of itself it bad enough what’s worse is how we react to these scenarios. Rather than try to keep these people above water and retrain them so they can get new jobs, we pretend like this is not even happening and allow people to suffer. Our society is changing in pretty fundamental ways and we seem to be holy unprepared for dealing with the aftermath.

    Despite us being in the beginning of mass automation, our politics are already taking a big hit. Authoritarian Right Wing Populists are rising to power and, with their increasingly authoritarian rhetoric are putting western liberal democracy in jeopardy. Part of the reasons they are gaining in strength is because of perceived insecurity of labor, rising income inequality and depressed wages. The reason for this is often attributed to globalism, free trade and immigrants. However this is patently false. None of these things has been shown to have a negative effect on our society by the experts. However, there is an unspoken thing here that is causing these things, technology. Technology is a wonderful thing propelling our society into the future. However, it is also one of the reason for the insecure life that we are headed toward. Labor permanence as a full time affair is waning. We are rapidly entering into a gig economy where most of the workforce will be “independent contractors”. This kind of work is way less secure than the work of old and it is way less certain than old labor. The days of a man working a 9-5, living in a house with 2 kids and a dog is over. That life is over and technology is the reason. People will no longer buy houses as their labor is not nearly secure enough to justify such a purchase. A lot of the things our society is built on will no longer be in a few decades and technology, not globalism, or trade or immigrant, illegal or otherwise, is the reason.

    We need to be careful with this great gift of technology. It is a wonderful thing for lifting us out of poverty but it also comes with negatives that must be handled prudently otherwise we are headed for dark times.

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