Trend #14 Technologies from Self-Driving cars

Continuing on the review of Top 25 Digital Startup ideas and technologies for 2017”  In this section, we evaluate and highlight aspects of “Trend #14 Technologies from Self-Driving cars”

Modern automobiles have come a long way from the time Karl Benz invented Patent-Motorwagen in 1886, and the widely accessible mass cars 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 on 2000s-era cars. These controls include a steering wheel, pedals for operating the brakes and controlling the car’s speed (and, in a manual transmission car, a clutch pedal), a shift lever or stick for changing gears, and a number of buttons and dials for turning on lights, ventilation and other functions.

Controls for automobiles continue to evolve and technologies for autonomous or ‘self-driving’ are advancing at a rapid pace. The biggest players in the autonomous 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. There is significant ongoing investment and activity by traditional and disruptive players that will make autonomous vehicles a reality.

self driving truck:


Overview of Self-Driving Vehicle technologies

What exactly are Autonomous vehicles? As per Wikipedia

An autonomous car (also known as a driverless car, auto, self-driving car,robotic car) is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input….. Some demonstrative systems, precursory to autonomous cars, date back to the 1920s and 1930s. The first self-sufficient (and therefore, truly autonomous) cars appeared in the 1980s, with Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab and ALV projects in 1984 and Mercedes-Benz and Bundeswehr University Munich’s Eureka Prometheus Project in 1987. A major milestone was achieved in 1995, with CMU’s NavLab 5 completing the first autonomous coast-to-coast drive of the United States. Of the 2,849 miles between Pittsburgh, PA and San Diego, CA, 2,797 miles were autonomous (98.2%), completed with an average speed of 63.8 miles per hour (102.3 km/h). Since then, numerous major companies and research organizations have developed working prototype autonomous vehicles.

The advances in the field are being driven by autonomous technologies of the traditional and disruptive players. Some of these factors, including limitations and opportunities of key enabling technologies are summarized in the figure below.

“Traditional Players vs. Disruptive Players” Source: Dave Philips


Google stands out among the technology giants when it comes to investments in autonomous car technologies, and the project has been renamed Waymo. As per the company “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. Google’s model is simple: its vehicles communicate with other Google resources.

Other tech companies aren’t far behind. For instance a recent article in highlights how “Intel—the brains behind many an autonomous test vehicle—has found a new home for its self-driving technology in Silicon Valley.”

“Google’s Self-Driving Car explained” (

There are several building blocks and emerging technologies that are being integrated to realize the moonshot dream of self-diving cars in our neighborhoods.

Technology What it does? Drawbacks & Opportunities


Steering systems that use cameras that watch road markings and radar and laser sensors that track other objects Machines do not yet do a good enough job of extrapolation – artificial intelligence can improve this capability
LIDAR Optical remote sensing technology to measure distance to target by illuminating with light Noise removal, including weather. Interpolation to fixed point spacing. Triangulation issues
GPS Space based satellite navigation system that provides time and location information anywhere Accuracy of a GPS receiver is ±10 meters, not practical for locating a car which is 3 meters
DGPS Enhancement to GPS to improve location accuracy to 10 cm Shadowing from buildings, foliage causes temporary losses of signal
Digital Maps Process by which a collection of data is compiled and formatted into a virtual image Only parts of the world mapped; need critical mass to enter and cross validate data in order to achieve required accuracy

Table: “Enabling Technologies for Self-Driving cars”


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


Technology advances from autonomous cars are already starting to find their way into other industries too. Many of these like advances in GPS, digital mapping, LIDAR and others are individually contributing consumer experience while we await full-blown autonomous cars. While the focus of articles is on showcasing self-driving cars, business leaders are also eying the autonomous transportation – automating fleets of trucks that ply on highways across the country.

Partnerships are already emerging between big auto makers, tech companies and startups as entrepreneurs place a variety of bets in the space. Self-driving, coupled with advances in electric vehicle technologies are expected to revolutionize transportation.

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

  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. Despite a shift toward shared mobility, vehicle unit sales will continue to grow, but likely at a lower rate of about 2 percent per year.
  3. 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.
  4. City type will replace country or region as the most relevant segmentation dimension that determines mobility behavior and, thus, the speed and scope of the automotive revolution.
  5. Within a more complex and diversified mobility-industry landscape, incumbent players will be forced to compete simultaneously on multiple fronts and cooperate with competitors.
  6. Once technological and regulatory issues have been resolved, up to 15 percent of new cars sold in 2030 could be fully autonomous.
  7. New market entrants are expected to target initially only specific, economically attractive segments and activities along the value chain before potentially exploring further fields.


Digital Startup Solutions in the news

Many large technology companies including Google, Apple, Blackberry and others have announced large programs to explore and exploit autonomous driving technologies. In addition, emerging tech companies and Startups innovating on Self-Driving Automotive in the news include:


Zoox is a robotics company founded by Tim Kentley-Klay and Jesse Levinson. We’re developing fully-autonomous vehicles and the supporting ecosystem required to bring this technology to market. Sitting at the intersection of robotics, machine-learning, and design, Zoox aims to provide the next generation of mobility-as-a-service in urban environments. We believe the transition to self-driving vehicles requires a combination of elegant vision and uncompromising execution.



nuTonomy is an MIT spin-off that builds state-of-the art self-driving cars and autonomous mobile robots. They are working with major automotive manufacturers and small, disruptive startups to reinvent personal mobility for the twenty-first century. is a Silicon Valley startup founded by former lab mates out of Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab. They are creating AI software for autonomous vehicles using deep learning, which they believe is the key to the future of transportation. They founded because they believe that this technology has the potential to save lives and transform industries, and they think this is the right team to do it.

Varden Labs

Varden Labs is a small, tight-knit company that’s been building self-driving vehicles together for the past year. They’re a proven team who’s built multiple self-driving vehicles and tested them in the real world. They have big competitors who are pouring billions of dollars into self-driving, but they believe team, passion and focus will win out over raw size. Their experiences in self driving showed them a better, faster, cheaper way to bring the benefits of self-driving to the world. Since spring 2016 they’ve been working in stealth mode on an amazing new self-driving strategy.
NURO is a seasoned team of entrepreneurs and engineers, designers and scientists who believe the advancements they are making in robotics and machine learning today will dramatically improve the way we live tomorrow.


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Compiled and Edited by: Mohan K || Click on the links above for more details, examples of other businesses that have succeeded in the space. | Research assisted by Sanwar Tagra, who is currently pursuing his Bachelors in Engineering at BML Munjal University. | Reproduction with permission only | Contact us if you have a startup story you wish to feature