CES in Vegas this 2016 was dominated by three areas of tech & digital innovation: drones and driverless cars. Now that there are a number of mature driverless car projects gaining miles on the road, this was a timely point to look at where the major players have got to and where they’re headed next. The veteran of driverless car testing Google, embraced the smart home underpinned by the Internet of Things concept. This paved the way for other organisations to show how they intend to keep up with Google as we get well into the driverless car race to be the first company to put one officially on the road.
Nvidia announces supercomputer first keynote
GPU innovator Nvidia announced its driverless car 12 CPU supercomputer which boasts a power output comparable to 150 Apple Macbook Pros – but into the size of a small lunchbox. Named the ‘Drive PX2’ this computer fits efficiently into your car’s boot.
This incredible computer recognises the differences between cars, humans and street signs. Nvidia’s supercomputer has been tested in Volvos, BMWs, Daimlers, Fords and Audis. In these tests they managed to train the cars using cutting edge deep learning to read German road signs better than any other computer, and even humans could. This superhuman learning achieved via artificial intelligence (A.I) is allowing driverless car technology to develop at an accelerated rate. The blocker of motorist common sense is being worked through as we speak.
CEO Jen-Hsun Huang “Humans are the least reliable part of the cog. We represent almost all of the fatalities that are caused all over the world – over a million (road) deaths every year. ” For more just check out these fascinating video highlights of the keynote:
The battle between tech companies and car manufacturers is hotting up
Ford were reportedly setting up a partnership with Google – but has not and didn’t mention anything of this nature in their CES presentations. Tech specialists like Google and Nvidia are trying to reshape and redefine the landscape of the automotive industry by making the long term computerization efforts the most important element of the motor car.
Such competition benefits the early adopters keen to acquire a semi or fully autonomous vehicle.
Ford’s trademarked ‘Ultra Puck’
Ford used the CES platform as a major publicity vehicle for their campaign to gain a leading spot in the driverless cars movement. The first statistic was that Ford have tripled their Fusion Hybrid autonomous research car fleet. The second shows off the Ultra Pucks impressive range of 200 metres, which Ford states makes the sensor capable of handling different driving scenarios and will accelerate their driver learning software.
”Adding the latest generation of computers and sensors, including the smaller and more affordable Solid-State Hybrid Ultra PUCK Auto sensors helps bring Ford ever closer to having a fully autonomous vehicle ready for production,” said Jim McBride, Ford technical leader for autonomous vehicles.
General Motors partner with Lyft
At CES 2016, General Motors announced its $500 million investment into Lyft, who have raised $1bn to fund their next stages of driverless car development.
On the Lyft blog there were some great quotes showing what this investment meant to the senior management team: “We see the future of personal mobility as connected, seamless and autonomous,” said GM President Dan Ammann. “With GM and Lyft working together, we believe we can successfully implement this vision more rapidly.”
John Zimmer, president and co-founder of Lyft, said: “Working with GM, Lyft will continue to unlock new transportation experiences that bring positive change to our daily lives. Together we will build a better future by redefining traditional car ownership.”
Simply put – this arrangement dovetails a tech specialist and an automotive giant – with General Motors providing the metal on the roads for Lyft to test straight away in U.S cities.
BMW show off their i Vision Future Interaction Concept
Similar to General Motors, BMW were keen to illustrate their driverless car tech plans and in typical BMW style unveiled a beautiful concept car that is an extension of the BMW i range. The i Vision Future Interaction is similar looking to the i8 Spyder and contains the first demonstration of AirTouch, which is a large in car screen allowing you to interact via hand and depth movements (not touch screen).
The concept car has 3 driving modes: driving yourself, active assistance and highly automated. BMW also introduced the prototype of ‘BMW Connected’ which is a prototype of networking devices to the car – allowing the car owner to send the car to a destination or call it in from a location. The sophistication in this concept was there to see and very mesmerizing –but here is the list from their original press release.
Thinking about how the innovation within driverless cars could impact on the car trade as we know it is absolutely mind blowing. Thinking about fundamentals like car supply & acquisition methods, we spoke to Paul Brown, CEO of a leading UK automotive leasing company.
“At Cars on Demand, as well as being leasing specialists, we are also car enthusiasts, and therefore the initial idea of a driverless car does not fit well with our driving enthusiasm. On reflection however, there are many mundane journeys, especially in cities, that may well be made more bearable if the need to drive yourself is taken away.
As with train journeys, the opportunity to work whilst travelling is open, and there could also be potential safety benefits. As well as the benefits, consideration to other forms of transport needs to be made, Buses for example, which follow a pre – determined route every day – do they need a driver? Taxis could also be driverless in cities – no more having to listen to idle chat about the last ‘celebrity’ in the cab yesterday!
Providing the driverless car does not take away the ability to continue to enjoy the freedom to just go for a drive for pure enjoyment, and is not another extension of the ongoing tracking of our every movement then it is something that we cautiously look forward to becoming part of the future of an more integrated transport system.”