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Self-Driving Cars: Are We Close to Getting Them?

The race to roll out the first road-worthy autonomous vehicle in the market continues. A lot of players have laid their cards in the competition with the goal of producing their entry in the segment by the start of the next decade. Let us take a look at how far the major players have gone in the development of self-driving cars.

Mercedes-Benz

mercedes-benz self-driving cars

Mercedes-Benz is very close to their goal of producing their first ever road-legal self-driving car. Most of the technologies that they are using now in their premium cars show semi-autonomous driving capabilities like auto-steering, auto-braking, lane assist, Pilot Parking, and many more.

The German brand also revealed the F015 Luxury in Motion concept car in 2015 which possesses full auto-driving features. Based on the press release of the company, the vehicle is electric-powered and it is equipped with a fully-digital interior that uses touchscreens coupled with smartphone integration. This enables the occupant of the car to set his or her destination conveniently. Then, the on-board sensors and computer of the auto will help identify obstacles along the way and safely maneuver itself during the trip.

A self-driving truck was presented by the German brand too back in 2014 called the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025. It successfully navigated itself on auto-pilot along the way.

Fast-forward in 2017, Mercedes launched the actual road test of its S-Class with self-driving tech at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The car just finished its testing in the public roads of Germany, China, Australia and South Africa. The last leg will be in the U.S. in time for CES in Vegas. However, the company seems to be hurdling with legal and regulatory issues concerning autonomous vehicles. The automaker estimates that they will be able to have their self-driving cars ready for consumers within a decade.

Waymo

waymo self-driving cars

Waymo stemmed from Google’s self-driving car project. They are aggressively developing their self-driving cars and the program has already accrued over 4 million miles of testing. The company successfully fitted their tech in a Chrysler Pacifica and some of them are now operating in Phoenix.

However, it is only confined within a certain geographical location because of its limited mapping data. Like Mercedes, their reach is roadblocked by legal elements.

Uber

uber self-driving cars

After its disruptive innovation relative to taxi services worldwide, the company is also dipping its hand in the self-driving car contest. It started its project early this year. So far, Uber in hot waters with the authorities in California according to Forbes because of the operation of its autonomous cars without a permit in San Francisco. They were recently sued by Waymo too for allegedly stealing trade secrets. Add to that the rollover accident it was involved in last March in Arizona.

Despite the mentioned hiccups, Uber is determined to push through with their self-driving car program. At present, they have accumulated 2 million miles in their testing and they are looking for another million mile early next year.

A Ride Inside the Waymo Self-Driving Car

waymo self-driving car

Waymo has gone a long way from a small project under Google focused on the development of self-driving cars to a company of its own, which is now under Alphabet, Inc. Recently, Waymo’s tech for self-driving car was integrated on a Chrysler Pacifica and it was put to test.

Andrew Hawkins of The Verge, got the chance to become a passenger of the minivan during the test. He described it as “smooth, yet totally unremarkable ride” because it had no driver and other passengers on-board. However, he stated that he felt completely safe in it.

Hawkins claimed that he already took similar rides before inside other self-driving cars. The only difference with the Waymo-equipped Pacifica was that there was no safety driver. Everything was handled by the car’s AI, which showed the true meaning of autonomy.

The self-driving Pacifica only ran at low speeds, but it was more than a slow crawl. It was able to move itself around cyclists, pedestrians and someone standing beside a stalled Hyundai. It should be noted that the people in the scene were merely actors, but everything was made to emulate real-life traffic conditions. Another demo also showed the SUV dodging moving autos along the way.

At present, Waymo has covered 3.5 million miles in its testing. The company was tight-lipped about the nature of the tests at first. It wasn’t until Monday when it opened its testing facilities and vehicles to the press to show them how far they have gone. The presentations demonstrated how Waymo could handle basic and complex tasks involved in driving better than humans.

John Krafcik, the CEO of Waymo, revealed that they are targeting to reach the “level four mode” wherein the cars possessing their tech could already locate and approach passengers.

So far, we learned that Waymo has successfully integrated their tech with the Pacifica and Lexus SUVs.

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