Future Of Transport Is Driverless

Autonomous driving vehicles are still in their early stages. Numerous testing, constant software improvements and the current stage of AI systems halt the evolution of autonomous driving. We are still many years away from seeing self-driving vehicles on our roads, at least in large numbers. But humanity, as always, is working hard on bringing another tech revolution. There are already systems good enough to drive on highways, there are plans on making public transit systems that’ll use autonomous driving software, and we might see self-driving trucks before autonomous cars become a reality. Two companies, from different corners of the world, are trying to improve the self-driving technology and monetize at the same time.

FILE PHOTO --  An Autonomous trucking start-up Otto vehicle is shown during an announcing event in Concord, California, U.S. August 4, 2016.   REUTERS/Alexandria Sage/File Photo

FILE PHOTO — An Autonomous trucking start-up Otto vehicle is shown during an announcing event in Concord, California, U.S. August 4, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandria Sage/File Photo

The first one is called Otto. Otto is an Uber-owned startup providing self-driving freighters. The company managed to deliver more than 50,000 cans of Budweiser from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs; 120 miles long journey that showed how self-driving trucks indeed have a future. But, the bright future might wait a couple of years before it starts shining brightly.

The problem with Otto is that preparations for the historic beer delivery lasted for several weeks. Mapping the route was the toughest part of the project. Also, the freighter had to make its journey during light traffic hours; we are still far away from vehicles able to drive through a traffic jam. The real success will be constructing a car (and software) able to navigate through tight city streets, able to make instant decisions based on outside data, able to think like humans. For instance, Otto freighter wasn’t alone on the road – a full police escort had to be deployed, in order to secure the truck.

Will truckers be replaced in the near future? Well, Otto doesn’t want to let truckers stay without a job. The company stated, in a blog post, that “With an Otto-equipped vehicle, truck drivers will have the opportunity to rest during long stretches of highway while the truck continues to drive and make money for them. When you’ll see a truck driving down the road with nobody in the front seat, you’ll know that it’s highly unlikely to get into a collision, drive aggressively, or waste a single drop of fuel.”

So, there are no plans for making a completely autonomous vehicle, human drivers will play a big role, and software will drive while they are resting. This could drastically reduce the human factor, responsible for a better part of traffic accidents.

Far away from Colorado, in the city-state of Singapore, there’s a plan for making autonomous public transport lines. For a start, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority will use two buses to carry passengers between Nanyang Technical University and CleanTech Park (an eco-friendly business park). Although the route is less than a mile short, the project presents a great starting step for the development of completely autonomous public transportation system. As we said, constructing autonomous vehicles is hard because there are lots of steps needed to be taken before a machine becomes able to drive through city streets.

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For now, Singapore is focusing on just one short route but plan to extend the trial phase, driving passengers from CleanTech Park to Pioneer MRT, a transit station that’s a couple of minutes away from CleanTech Park. This public transportation project could push the evolution of self-driving vehicles since it will give researchers important info needed for constructing an autonomous driving car able to make its way out of a heavy urban traffic jam. When something like that happens, only then we can say that the future of transport is driverless.

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