While the autonomous vehicle industry is booming, companies are experiencing growing pains. Car companies are looking to bypass operational errors and safety concerns to bring their vehicles to roadways across the world.
Ranging from popular car manufacturers to tech titans, autonomous vehicle companies are gearing up to bring their advanced driver-less vehicles to roadways across the globe. In California alone last year, more than 50 companies were approved by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test Autonomous vehicles, according to ABC News.
These companies are looking to capitalize in the new frontier of the advanced robotic cars, which operate with the assistance of algorithmic software and sensor technology.
There are obviously many benefits to having these autonomous vehicles on the road, from reducing accidents due to human error or the financial-savings of not owning or maintaining a personal vehicle, to name a few. While the industry is growing, the industry still has a lot of hurdles to overcome before autonomous vehicles are let completely loose on the roadways.
Uber, the popular ride-sharing service, recently surpassed a major hurdle and restarted testing their autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh following a highly publicized incident involving pedestrian fatality in Arizona last March.
In response to the incident, the company released a 70-page safety report to the U.S. Highway Traffic Safety Administration detailing the company’s plan for the Pittsburgh self-driving program.
Among those changes, Uber is currently testing the autonomous vehicles with two specialists, who will be inside the vehicle while in operation. Uber states, “the Pilot, or operator behind the steering wheel, is solely focused on ensuring safe operation of the vehicle, while the Co-Pilot, the second operator in the right front seat, is tasked with monitoring and annotating the behavior of the self-driving system via a laptop.”
The New York Times reported Uber would further take safety precautions by not operating the vehicles at night or in wet weather, plus the vehicles would not exceed 25 miles per hour. A company spokesperson previously stated the vehicles from their Advanced Technologies Group (or ATG) future “is predicated on successfully passing our rigorous track tests and having our letter of authorization from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in hand.”
Uber is not alone in their struggles in bringing their autonomous vehicles to the mainstream; The Times also reported that the residents of Chandler, Arizona have shown distaste for the Waymo taxi-like service. In addition to tire slashing and throwing rocks at the hybrid vehicles, one resident was warned by local law enforcement to stop attempting to run the self-driving vans off the road using his own vehicle.
The resident and his wife told the Times, that they turned against the company after a Waymo vehicle nearly hit their 10-year-old son, who was playing in a cul-de-sac. Several media outlets have reported the vehicles have also experienced difficulty in certain traffic situation, like changing lanes with fast moving traffic or merging into highway traffic.
The Verge recently interviewed Chandler resident Shawn Metz, after he was selected to use Waymo One. Similar to Uber, this service allows a person to hail a vehicle via an app. During the interview, Metz did mention some flaws in the service like noticing a person was behind the wheel when hailing a vehicle during a rainy weather, presumably present as a precautionary measure.
During the interview, Metz also reported in one instance that his autonomous vehicle “timed-out” and required remote support after struggling in a Costco parking lot with customers walking in and out of the store.
Regardless of his experience, Metz was reportedly optimistic about his experience with Waymo, which is a subsidiary of Google. The Verge states that Metz and his wife use the service six to eight times a week.
While autonomous vehicles may need more time to advance, other challenges are on the horizon for the industry regarding changing state legislation, fears of hacking and the impact on the car insurance industry.
Regardless, autonomous companies are expected to have a major impact in the transportation industry. In fact, the autonomous vehicle market is expected to reach $54.23 billion by 2026, according to Allied Market Research.
Level Zero: No Automation. Vehicle is under complete control of a human driver.
Level One: Driver Assistance. Under certain conditions these vehicles control steering or acceleration, but not simultaneously. The human driver controls the rest of the vehicle with the responsibility of monitoring the roadway. The driver would take over should the system fail. A very good example of this would be cruise control.
Level Two: Partial Automation. Under this level, the vehicle can steer, brake and accelerate in certain circumstances. While the human driver will be responsible for responding to traffic signals, changing lanes and looking for hazards on the roadways. At this level the human driver should be alert with hands on the wheel.
Level Three: Conditional Automation. The vehicle is able to manage most aspects of driving during ideal conditions, which include monitoring the vehicle’s surrounding environment. The human driver would only take control when the vehicle encounters a scenario it cannot navigate.
Level Four: High Automation. Depending on factors such as road type and geographic area, this vehicle can operate without any human oversight. According to Car and Driver, a privately -owned level four vehicle would allow a human driver to operate vehicle on surface streets then transition to a passenger as the vehicle enters the highway.
Level Five: Full Automation. The vehicle is completely driverless on any road and in any condition. The only involvement from a human would be entering in a destination.