Look ma, no hands
Several companies are ready to roll out robot cars to take over the steering
WAYMO, the self-driving car unit in Google, and Lyft, the main competitor to Uber in the U.S., have signed a collaboration agreement to co-operate on selfdriving cars.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, spun Waymo out of Google’s X project lab in December after more than eight years of research.
Lyft is the fastest growing rideshare company in the U.S. and is available in more than 190 cities.
Reuters reports the alliance between the two companies is the tip of the iceberg in current developments in the autonomous car sector, which many believe will soon grow into a multibilliondollar industry.
The New York Times reported Waymo and Lyft will work on pilot projects and product development efforts.
Details on the deal are scant, but Lyft is on record that it wants to match its network of drivers and passengers with other partners active in transport, like General Motors, with which company Lyft last year entered into a deal to test autonomous Chevrolet Bolt vehicles using Lyft’s network.
GM said it will invest $500 million in Lyft to help the company continue the rapid growth of its successful ridesharing service.
In addition, GM will hold a seat on the company’s board of directors.
Waymo also last year announced a deal with Fiat Chrysler to equip and test a fleet of minivans for autonomous driving and recently said it is negotiating with Honda to test the Japanese manufacturer’s vehicles.
Waymo is already piloting a ride-hailing programme in Phoenix using self-driving Chrysler minivans and Lexus models to give more intrepid passengers free rides around the city.
Waymo aims to bring its selfdriving technology to the general public in the next few years, using such partnerships to fast-track the culmination to a decade of development that saw the robot cars log over 4,8 million kilometres of real world driving.
The vehicles have been tested on closed tracks and open roads in Arizona, California, Texas and Washington, where state law allows the testing of autonomous vehicles.
Waymo went on record to state its self-driving-car technology is ready to be applied commercially.
And in the left corner
Ford also predicts the robot car is coming soon, and earlier this year announced a $1 billion investment in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence founded by former Google and Uber employees. Ford plans to have a fully autonomous vehicle in commercial operation for a ride-hailing service by 2021 — a scant four years hence.
It is not just European companies testing robot cars. Chinese Internet company Baidu began testing autonomous technology last year in vehicles of three domestic automakers, aiming to deploy cars commercially as early as next year. And in Singapore, former General Motors parts division Delphi as well as rival nuTonomy — a Massachusetts Institute of Technology start-up — are testing autonomous vehicles.
Uber has also partnered with automakers to roll out prototype vehicles in Pittsburgh and Tempe, Arizona.
These plans will be affected by Waymo’s litigation against Uber over self-driving technology that Waymo said a former employee had stolen to found Otto robotics, a company owned by Uber.
As for other players, Apple recently received a permit to test vehicles in California and Tesla cars maverick Elon Musk said on a TED Talk last week he plans to speed up traffic by putting cars on bogeys in deep tunnels using his new Boring company.
Robot cars are halfway here, as Alwyn Viljoen discovered while testing the new 2017 Mazda CX5’s ability to keep itself between the lines on the N4 outside Pretoria West with the speed control set at 120 km/h.