Self-driving cars, the 400 billion challenge. Here’s how it ends


Only three months ago Kyle Vogt38 years old, now former CEO (and founder) of the company Navigation, a robotics company controlled by General Motors, told the story of a little girl struck and killed in San Francisco. And he argued that the only way to reduce road fatalities is to rely on autonomous driving. Because self-driving cars, he said, unlike humans who might be distracted or drink too much, are programmed to drive safely first and foremost.

A few weeks later, Cruise was forced to halt its 950 self-driving taxis (Level 4), after the DMV suspended the license it obtained on August 11 (along with Waymo, an Alphabet company, Google’s holding company). from California. Reason: On October 2, another vehicle hit a pedestrian who was thrown under the wheels of a robotaxi. He did not stop, but stopped and dragged the woman several meters. Kyle Vogt resigned on November 19, leaving the company with a loss of $8 billion since 2016 and over $700 million in the last quarter alone. And the CFO of General Motors, Paul Jacobsonhe has already talked about hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts in 2024.

Robotaxis and human control

“The right question – comments the professor Sergio Savaresi, professor in the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering at the Polytechnic of Milan – it should be this: could a person have prevented the accident? The answer is no. Do Cruise robotaxis cause more accidents than normal taxis? No. This is a case where the good of the individual plays against the good of the community. We are not willing to accept a single flaw in this technology. In Italy, we count 3,000 deaths a year due to human error on the roads, but the lethality of a self-driving car is unacceptable.”

Competitors: from Google to Amazon. And the Chinese?

In short, a definitive debacle? Not yet. And this despite the fact that in the United States there is no shortage of criticism of the service, which for many complicates transportation rather than facilitating it. But the technology exists, and Cruise’s competitor, Waymo, Continue. “We offer tens of thousands of paid trips per week 24 hours a day in San Francisco and Phoenix, and our passengers have made over 700,000 fully autonomous trips this year,” explains a spokesperson for Il Sole 24 Ore. Alphabetthe holding company that controls Google. “We have solved many technical challenges and now we are focused on turning autonomous vehicles into a growing business.” Although Waymo put its trucking efforts on hold indefinitely in July.

But there is another big technology in this area: Amazon. Acquired in 2020 for a reported $1 billion, Zoox, a Foster City, Calif.-based subsidiary, has been around since 2014. It’s working on a robot taxi without a steering wheel or pedals, which began testing on public roads in February. “It’s designed from the ground up for the customers, not for the ‘human driver,'” explains Roberto Dlacic, the engineer who designed the three-time Formula E world champion Renault. Making the streets safer. Robotax of Zoox it also uses cameras, radar and lidar as sensors and is built from the ground up specifically for autonomous driving. From zero. The natural outcome should be a public service like Uber. The California company is also testing its technology with modified traditional vehicles such as the Toyota Highlander.


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