It appears that self-driving vehicles will be here quicker than anticipated. There have been many test runs, but autonomous vehicles without any human backup will be sent out to roads potentially as soon as early 2018. This will take place in France through the cooperative effort of Delphi and the French transport company Transdev.
Two autonomous taxis and a shuttle van will be the first things used in the project. They will run small routes between a local rail station and a university. Both of these will have some humans on board within 2017 with the goal to go fully autonomous by mid-218. They have said that the van won’t have any sort of mechanisms to control the vehicle and that any employees inside of it will be to communicate with the passengers, not to drive the vehicles. However, there will be humans stationed at the center it dispatches from that can take full control of the vehicle if necessary. I had not considered this option in public autonomous vehicles.
This will be one of the first projects that will execute carrying passengers on roads without human backup drivers. There are similar projects that are currently in development in California and the Netherlands.
The idea of autonomous driving seems to becoming more familiar to the general population. The chief performance officer at Transdev said that they found from a survey that people accepting autonomous driving may not be as farfetched as once imagined. In their survey they found that more than 90% of users were excited about the survey and that “they were not afraid of the fact that there was no driver.” (Durbin & Krisher, 2017).
The partnership between Delphi and Transdev for this project arose less than a month after Delphi joined with BMW, Intel and Mobileye in an effort to develop autonomous vehicles and tame ‘the tyranny of data’ (Snavely, 2017). Delphi has an operations based in the United States as well that is near Detroit. They make the computing platform that brings together the information from the car’s sensors, cameras and computers. (Durbin & Krisher, 2017).
With great power comes great responsibility. Autonomous vehicles are are predicted to reduce the cost of travelling due to improvements in productivity and comfort. This increase in travel could potentially increase energy consumption by 4% to 60% (University of Michigan, 2016). We will see what the future holds.
Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan. 2016. “Autonomous Vehicles Factsheet.” Pub. No. CSS16-18
Durbin, D, & Krisher, T. (June 7, 2017). Autonomous Cars May Hit the Road Next Year. Retrieved from https://www.rdmag.com/news/2017/06/autonomous-cars-may-hit-road-next-year.
Snavely, B. (April 6, 2017). Delphi invests in technology for self-driving cars. Retrieved from http://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/2017/04/06/delphi-autonomous-car/100083842/.