Although there has been some form of electric cars for several decades, recently the quest for lower-cost transportation and—for environmentalists—the pursuit of alternatives to fossil fuel has led to the growing popularity of electric cars. The leader today is Tesla, and its founder Elon Musk, who has just campaigned using the medium of “Battery Day”. He is in lockstep with California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, who is joining a dozen-plus other countries in prohibiting sales of gasoline/diesel-fuel-powered cars. For this to occur, there will be a need for a lot more electric car charging stations and more standardization. Although the new law appears to exclude current cars on the road and ones that will be sold before the deadlines, owners of cherished models will be able to retrofit them with electric motors.
Electric cars have been around since 1902 when the Studebaker Brothers started production of their Studebaker Electric. More than 100 years later, we were impressed with the Tesla electric car. We love our Mini Cooper S. When we bought it in 2019, we wanted to buy one that was powered by electricity instead of gasoline, but they were sold out.
There have been enough crashes, including ones that killed people (sometimes the drivers and passengers), that there needs to be improvements in the technology. For example, a woman driving a Tesla on May 11, 2018, was using its “Autopilot” feature crashed into the back of a fire truck in Utah. Unfortunately, autonomous vehicles won’t make roads completely safe.
For at least the last two decades people (almost always male) have been tinkering with a wide variety of designs of self-driving cars that they have been dreaming of starting at least two decades earlier. Tinkering continues to be a very challenging pursuit. Finally, in early 2020 there was a modest step forward, in the form of an autonomous grocery delivery vehicle from a low-profile company named Nuro that met the requirements of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But it will take a lot of time before there will be vehicles with performance and creature comforts similar to cars driven by human beings. Perhaps those vehicles will initially be permitted only on freeways or well-defined streets and roads.
A 2020 Lyft blog post lists the advantages of the partnership between Lyft, Dublin-based Aptiv, a self-driving vehicle firm. Through 2020, Lyft and Aptiv provided 100,000 commercial ‘robotaxi’ rides in Las Vegas.
This partnership runs through Aptiv’s Command Center, and has been very successful with the Vegas customers. Lyft reports that is Vegas riders became Aptive advocates after experiencing their self-driving technology.
In September 2019 Aptiv (NYSE: APTV) and Hyundai Motor Group announced their $4 Billion autonomous driving joint venture. Their partnership will provide advanced mobility solutions that include perception systems, software algorithms, compute platforms, and data and power distribution.
Car manufacturers use Artificial Intelligence and other technologies, especially Lidar, in Self-Driving Cars. Conservative manufacturer Volvo, especially, supports Lidar. General Motors mentioned in the 2018 Self-Driving Safety Report that they envision a future with “Zero crashes, Zero emissions and Zero congestion”. (Source: General Motors)
Self-driving, or climate cars, are the future. Today, 66% of people believe that autonomous cars are smarter and safer than most drivers.
General Motors surprised everyone at CES 2021 with their Flying Cadillac which looks like a cross between a drone and a helicopter. The Flying Cadillac has a 90-kW electric motor to power four rotors for vertical takeoff and landing. It is slower than an airplane, with a maximum speed of up to 56 mph. General Motors is also planning to have about 30 electric vehicles by 2025, as well as self-driving buses with automatic doors.
We have a weekly meeting in Mountain View, CA and every week we see at least one Waymo car (with one or two people inside) driving along the streets. (Since the company’s headquarters are in Mountain View, this is not surprising.) But Mountain View’s streets are easy to navigate compared with the myriad driving environments that self-driving cars face. In March 2018 a driver of a Tesla X was killed when its navigation system failed to recognize a fork in a freeway and crashed the car into a traffic barrier. And this situation still is a lot easier than many others: bad pavements, hard-to-see fences or barriers, etc. While we and millions of other people continue to be excited by the notion of self-driving cars, we believe that it will take a long time for manufacturers to build the needed database of conditions these vehicles face.