Technologies from Self-Driving cars – 2018

Modern automobiles have come a long way from the time Karl Benz invented Patent-Motorwagen in 1886, and the widely accessible mass cars like 1908 Model T manufactured by the Ford Motor Company. Cars are now equipped with controls used for driving, passenger comfort and safety, and occasionally by voice connected to smartphones. Auto manufacturers, ride share and technology companies are advancing research and development of self-driving cars. 2017 also saw a lot of mergers and buyout of niche technology companies.

Controls for automobiles continue to evolve. The biggest players in the automobile industry including Ford, GM, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi and Volkswagen are in the race, along with tech giants like Google, Apple, IBM and even Blackberry. Several startups are also investing in tools and technologies to enable self-driving. Partnerships are already emerging between big auto makers, tech companies and startups as entrepreneurs place a variety of bets in the space.

self driving truck:

A recent McKinsey report  highlights the opportunities and impact of advances in autonomous vehicle technologies :

  1. Driven by shared mobility, connectivity services, and feature upgrades, new business models could expand automotive revenue pools by about 30 percent, adding up to $1.5 trillion.
  2. Consumer mobility behavior is changing, leading to up to one out of ten cars sold in 2030 potentially being a shared vehicle and the subsequent rise of a market for fit-for-purpose mobility solutions.
  3. Within a more complex and diversified mobility-industry landscape, incumbent players will be forced to compete simultaneously on multiple fronts and cooperate with competitors.
  4. Once technological and regulatory issues have been resolved, up to 15 percent of new cars sold in 2030 could be fully autonomous.


Self-Driving Vehicle technologies

According to a recent report by the Brookings Institution (link) , nearly $80 billion has been invested in driverless car technology over the past three years. The report tallied all the investments associated with self-driving cars and technologies from August 2014 to June 2017.


Auto manufacturers in Detroit and Europe continue to research and integrate technologies to enable self-driving cars while hi-tech companies are also entering the space.

Google stands out among the technology giants when it comes to investments in autonomous car technologies, and the project has been renamed Waymo. The company claims “We’ve accumulated the equivalent of over 400 years of human driving experience, largely on complex city streets. That’s on top of 1 billion simulated miles we drove just in 2016.”  Google’s fleet of autonomous cars is continuously learning from each other through expanded digital mapping, and up-to-the second information from the Google “cloud” information ecosystem about road conditions, traffic and travel times.

Image: “Google’s Self-Driving Car explained” (

Apple has been a bit more modest about its automotive ambitions. According to NYT, the company has put off any notion of an Apple-branded autonomous vehicle and is instead working on the underlying technology that allows a car to drive itself.  A paper by Apple researchers Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel, submitted to an independent online journal arXiv (link), is making waves among researchers. The research describes how self-driving cars can better spot cyclists and pedestrians while using fewer sensors.

Other tech companies aren’t far behind. A recent article in highlights how Intel’s processors have found a new home in its self-driving technologies. The mobile devices giant BlackBerry, that almost died after competing smartphones took off, is trying to reinvent itself in the autonomous vehicles space. The company has been pushing ahead with its QNX Platform that automates instrumentation in automobiles. (link).

Why should corporate executives pay attention to the Self-Driving car technologies?

While we await fully-autonomous cars on our roads, advances in GPS, digital mapping, LIDAR and other technologies are already contributing to better consumer experiences. Technologies from autonomous cars are starting to find their way into other industries too.

Business leaders are also eying the autonomous transportation – automating fleets of trucks that ply on highways across the country, autonomous buses and public transport etc. Operators of large fleets and other logistics companies, along with rideshare are likely to be the early adopters of these technologies.

Business and technology leaders continue to watch advances in autonomous vehicle technologies. A recent Technology Review article indicates how “Sensetime, one of China’s most impressive young machine-learning companies, is about to start developing new autonomous technologies for one of the world’s biggest automakers.” It is also expected that the advances in driverless car technology are advancing developments in other artificial intelligence areas.

The Brookings reports summarizes:

“If autonomous vehicles are the leading edge of artificial intelligence investment and development, then the $80 billion or more invested in that sector is a precursor of things to come in fields like natural language processing, image recognition, and others as these technologies gain commercial momentum.”


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Edited and compiled by: Mohan K | Reproduction with permission only | Contact