As autonomous-vehicle (AV) technology is advancing with significant leaps and bounds, it progresses from needing driver assistance to having full autonomy. With several companies making ambitious efforts in this space, driverless cars are expected to become a reality soon. The surge in the autonomous vehicle industry has also caused drastic shifts in value chains, profit pools, and needed capabilities that could merge entirely new industries within the automotive world.
In the past year only we saw some major shifts and developments that took place across the automotive and tech industry in order to flourish the autonomous vehicle market. From partnerships to predictions, Analytics Insight cites several new developments that took place across the autonomous vehicle/self-driving cars industry in 2019.
Strategic Alliances 2019
In 2019, owing to the ever-growing trend and demand for electric and autonomous vehicles, Japanese automakers Subaru and Toyota announced that they will expand their 14-year-old collaboration to develop new vehicles for the new era. The alliance will span joint research, development, and production of electric and autonomous vehicles. Toyota announced its plan to raise a stake in Subaru from 16.8 percent to 20 percent and the two companies will invest more efficiently in new technologies suitable for the connected, autonomous, shared and electric (CASE) vehicles.
Moreover, Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen announced a worldwide partnership aiming at saving the two companies millions on the development of pickup trucks, vans, and transit vehicles, with an eye toward working together in the future on self-driving and electric cars. Through this alliance, both the auto companies will design and produce cars for the other. According to an executive, in Europe, Volkswagen will begin to sell Ford-produced medium pickups and commercial vans by 2022, and Volkswagen will develop a city-oriented van for Ford that would arrive by 2023. Also, each company would enjoy the flexibility to brand and market the new vehicles according to its own strategies. It has been made clear that this partnership is not a merger and will not involve either company taking an ownership stake in the other.
In July 2019, BMW announced a partnership with another German automaker, Daimler which is just the latest partnership for Munich-based BMW. The alliance is ambitious to create an open standards-based platform for bringing self-driving cars to market, aiming to put its first vehicle, the BMW iNEXT, on the road by 2021 (which we will explore later in this report).
Significant Trends of Autonomous Vehicle Industry 2019
The past year has been an exciting year of launches in the automotive industry that provide a perfect opportunity for an integral transformation in urban mobility. This could even lead to developing more accountable, healthy and greener cities. Here are some key trends followed by the autonomous vehicle industry in 2019.
For an autonomous vehicle to become street legal, a number of regulations come along its way. In the US and other cities as well, regulations are changing as per the rise in technology all around the world. In fact, there are currently at least 47 cities around the world that are piloting self-driving cars.
Moreover, the regulations in all places will need to be changed to accommodate the manufacturing and operations of autonomous purpose-built vehicles. Their evolution from driver-assisted systems to fully self-driving ones has compelled the guidelines to be updated to address potential remote operations, as well as licensing and permit changes. For example, the EU, China, and Canada are passing legislation and working on frameworks to move beyond allowing AV pilots in constrained areas. Such guidelines comprise rules around occupancy requirements, reporting requirements, electrification and considerations for land use and transit planning.
Staying at par with ever-evolving technology and building an innovative vehicle is an expensive process and requires huge investments. And due to such high-rated innovation, several companies are seeking collaboration with significant others to mitigate any risks.
Usually, it is hard for startups to raise funds and those who have the most to offer and have true potential have been able to find a company to collaborate with.
Improved Autonomous Vehicles
As we observe the state of development of autonomous vehicles, it is expected that the first on-road self-driving vehicle will be owned by service providers operating a fleet in urban or suburban areas. Such improved autonomous vehicles will be electric and fully wirelessly connected and will allow over-the-air software updated, as well as monitoring for safety and notifications.
Moreover, 2019 expects wide autonomous taxi services to flourish in the near future. Currently, it is hard to tell if they’ll be cheaper or more expensive, but they’ll be safer for sure.
Top Industry Players of Self-Driving Cars 2019
The technology is spreading all over the place and many companies are venturing into autonomous vehicle genres in order to stay relevant in the market and gain profits from positive prospects. However, some companies have made it to the top of the list of major industry-players of self-driving cars in 2019.
Waymo LLC, a self-driving technology development company is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. It originated as a project of Google before it became a stand-alone subsidiary in December 2016. Waymo’s mission is to make it safe and easy for people and things to get where they’re going. The autonomous technology-enabled Waymo Driver can improve the world’s access to mobility while saving thousands of lives now lost to traffic crashes.
The company puts the Waymo Driver through the world’s longest and toughest ongoing driving test, through millions of miles on public roads and billions of miles in simulation. Waymo has tested its self-driving vehicles across multiple locations in the US. By driving every day in different types of real-world conditions, the company teaches its cars to navigate through all sorts of situations.
As noted by ZDNet, Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor who studies autonomous vehicles considers GM Cruise in a pretty good position in the market. Notably, General Motors subsidiary, Cruise is also a big name in the autonomous vehicle game.
According to Michael Ramsey, senior research director of automotive and smart mobility at Gartner, “With billions of dollars in investments from SoftBank, Honda, GM, and T.Rowe Price Associates, GM Cruise has a significant number of vehicles on the road: 180 vehicles in testing, which is by far the second largest number of vehicles in testing. They’ve been very ambitious about their timeline for launching.”
Argo AI is a technology platform company that is working with leading automakers to deliver a fully integrated self-driving system that can be manufactured at scale for safe and reliable deployment in ride-sharing and goods delivery services. The company is developing “self-driving” technology according to the strictest interpretation of what the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) calls “Level 4” automation: a system that can drive a vehicle — under specific conditions — that does not require passenger supervision.
By partnering with academic communities and trusted automakers, Argo AI is uniting the latest advancements in machine learning and computer vision with over 100 years of hardware development, safety engineering, and manufacturing expertise. With the support of its first customers and partners, Ford, and soon, Volkswagen, the company’s self-driving technology is poised to move people and goods worldwide.
Non-Automotive Companies Working on Autonomous Vehicles 2019
Apart from auto companies, there are certain other organizations as well who are trying to thrive in this market matching the pace with ongoing advancements. According to CB Insights, tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Cisco, Baidu, and Microsoft are taking initiative and investing in technologies to produce something relevant to the autonomous vehicle market.
Recently, Amazon has invested an increasing percentage of investment in autonomous vehicle technology. In February 2019, Amazon invested in Aurora Innovation which is an autonomous tech startup run by former executives from two other firms with strong ties to self-driving technology: Google and Tesla. Also, in January 2019, the e-commerce giant introduced the Amazon Scout, a six-wheeled electric-powered delivery robot out of which 6 of them are currently making deliveries in a Washington neighborhood during daylight hours, Monday through Friday, under the supervision of a human associate.
Apple has cut more than 200 employees from its self-driving car initiative, Project Titan, in what was internally described as a “restructuring” in January 2019. Five months later, Apple confirmed that it had acquired Drive.ai, a self-driving startup backed by more than US$77 million in funding at a US$200 million valuation. The move is reported to be an “acqui-hire,” with Apple’s interests lying more with Drive.ai’s talent than its proprietary technology.
Baidu claims 1M+ miles of autonomous driving and its main hub of automation efforts is Apollo, the company’s open-source autonomous driving platform, which originally launched in 2017. By July 2019, Baidu had 300 autonomous vehicles on the road and had logged 2 million kilometers (1.2 million miles) of urban driving. In January 2019, the company unveiled Apollo Enterprise which is a new line that will focus primarily on use cases including highway driving, valet parking, autonomous mini-buses, and mapping technology.
In the past few years, Cisco has done tremendous work in exploring the potential in building out the data collection and analysis layer of the autonomous driving and smart car industries. At CES 2018, the company announced that, through a partnership with Hyundai, it would focus on bringing gigabit-speed Ethernet connectivity to smart cars — enabling both faster-than-ever OTA (over the air) updates and setting the foundation for better self-driving technology. Moreover, Hyundai reports that this technology from Cisco should be integrated into production vehicles in 2019.
Through its capabilities and relationships of its Azure cloud computing platform, Microsoft is focusing its autonomous vehicle efforts primarily on “connected car platforms” — back-end networks tasked with crunching the data that cars produce. The first cars to use the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform was anticipated to launch by the end of 2019 and including the Renault Clio in Europe and select Nissan Leaf models in Japan and Europe.
Recent Developments 2019-2020
The evolution waits for none; as we blink our eye here, somewhere across the world, new innovation must have taken birth in the same fraction of seconds. Although 2019 saw various autonomous technology advancements through the year which are impossible to quote. So we have brought you some fresh and latest developments that took place as soon as we left behind 2019 and entered into 2020.
Sony is developing a silicon-based vision sensor for autonomous vehicles in order to gain a foothold in the next big electronics market. The company being the world’s leading provider of camera sensors is joining the global race to develop the “lidar” vision-sensing technology that is a crucial component of self-driving cars’ safety and functionality. The move comes as a slew of other companies is racing to produce similar lidars for improving the critical technology and lowering its price.
Reuters recently reported that German automotive supplier Robert Bosch said it has developed a sensor that lets cars “see” a three-dimensional view of the road, aiming to lower the cost of technology that could speed the development of self-driving vehicles. Privately-held Bosch said the internally-developed lidar sensor, which it will show at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2020, will cover both long and close ranges on highways and in the city and will work in conjunction with the company’s camera and radar technologies.
At the end of 2019, Tech giant Baidu announced that it has secured 40 licenses to test driverless cars carrying passengers on designated roads in Beijing, making it one of the first to do so in the Chinese capital. It also revealed that its self-driving cars have travelled more than three million kilometers (or about 1.8 million miles) during tests in 23 Chinese cities to date, up from 2 million kilometers (roughly 1.2 million miles) across 13 cities as of July.
Top Self-Driving Cars Models 2019
Leading automakers across the globe are investing their best to stay ahead with the innovation and to harness such position in the market, companies like Tesla, Toyota, Nissan, Volvo, and BMW revealed their respective best models for the autonomous vehicles in 2019.
2019 Toyota RAV4
- Fully redesigned RAV4compact crossover
- One of the most affordable vehicles
- Safety Sense 2.0 pre-collision system includes features: pedestrian and cyclist detection with automatic emergency braking, road sign recognition, and lane tracing assist
2019 Nissan Leaf
- Electric compact car
- Its ProPilot Assist, which is available with the optional Technology package in all but the base model and standard in the top trim, is the Nissan’s semi-autonomous driver assistance package.
- ProPilot Assist helps the Leaf steer, accelerate, and brake
- It is a hands-on system where the driver is required to participate
- It can take some of the stress out of stop-and-go traffic
- Has front-facing cameras and sensors that keep pace with surrounding vehicles.
2019 Tesla Model 3
- Automatic emergency braking
- Forward collision warning
- Side collision warning
- Includes the Enhanced Autopilot system, which can steer, accelerate, brake, and even change lanes.
2020 Volvo XC60
- Volvo’s XC60can scan the road for imminent collision risks, including cyclists, pedestrians, and large animals
- It can help brake or perform evasive maneuvers to avoid a crash.
- Informs if the vehicle is too close to the vehicle ahead of it
- The optional Pilot Assist system can help accelerate, steer, and brake while traveling up to 80 mph.
2019 BMW 5 Series
- Advanced safety features
- Pedestrian detection
- Adaptive cruise control
- Front and rear parking sensors.
- Its Driving Assistance Plus Package includes Traffic Jam Assist, which is like cruise control specifically for stop-and-go traffic.
Predictions and Ambitions of Top Automakers in 2019
Based on insights from Jon Walker’s article published in Emerj, Analytics Insight compiled the list of 2020-2021 predictions and ambitions of some of the major automakers of 2019 regarding deployment of the autonomous vehicle in upcoming years.
General Motors (GM)
As of 2019, Cruise Automation (acquired by GM in 2017) is focusing on testing their autonomous vehicles in select cities including California, Arizona, and Michigan. According to former GM President and current Cruise CEO Daniel Ammann, “In order to reach the level of performance and safety validation required to deploy a fully driverless service in San Francisco, we will be significantly increasing our testing and validation miles over the balance of this year, which has the effect of carrying the timing of fully driverless deployment beyond the end of the year.”
Additionally, General Motors has asked the federal government for clearance on developing self-driving cars that do not possess steering wheels.
In 2019, Ford’s Argo AI invested US$15 million into creating an Autonomous Vehicle Research Center at Carnegie Mellon University which is famous for its machine learning department.
The research center for the next five years will focus on improving self-driving technology, including more refined sensors and more robust algorithms.
Ford’s President of Mobility, Marcy Klevoran, said, in general, Ford tests its self-driving cars in cities in which it’s “really difficult… to prove capability” (in other words, cities with a lot of people, construction, and unconventional roads and intersections). This could train the algorithms that supply the self-driving capacity of the cars for more unexpected, hectic situations. As a result, these cars would be more likely to stop, turn, or a slowdown in a variety of nuanced situations that call for it.
Honda’s goal was to have cars that can at least drive themselves on highways by 2020, however, this aim may not be possible due to recent developments. As Honda ended its talks with Alphabet’s Waymo in 2018 over differences in how both parties wanted their work together to roll out, it shortly after that, bought into GM’s Cruise to create an autonomous vehicle specific to Cruise.
Apparently, Honda is having a tough time incorporating self-driving technology as compared to GM and Ford.
Since 2015, Toyota invested US$1 billion over five years in the Toyota Research Institute to develop robotics and AI technology as the company hoped to launch products based on its Highway Teammate programs in 2020.
According to Gill Pratt, the CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, “none of the companies in the automobile or IT industries are close to achieving true Level 5 (learn more about self-driving cars’ autonomous levels) autonomy. They are not even close.”
This year the company made an announcement that it will be employing NVIDIA’s technology to bolster its autonomous vehicles.
Renault-Nissan has partnered with Waymo to work on self-driving car technology for its vehicles and is planning to release 10 different self-driving cars by 2020. According to CEO Carlos Ghosn, “So we know that autonomy is something of high interest for the consumers. This is the first brick — one-lane highway. Then you’re going to have a multi-lane highway, and then you’re going to have urban driving. All of these steps are going to come before 2020. […] 2020 for the autonomous car in urban conditions, probably 2025 for the driverless car.”
As Volvo is betting that self-driving cars will change both the ride-sharing industry and the luxury car market, it entered a joint venture worth US$300 million with Uber in 2016 to develop next-generation autonomous driving cars. Volvo is providing the physical vehicles for Uber’s self-driving tests and both the companies are still working together as of 2019. According to CEO Hakan Samuelsson, “It’s our ambition to have a car that can drive fully autonomously on the highway by 2021.”
Hyundai partnered with Russian search company Yandex, which has been working on self-driving car technology, in 2019. Reportedly, as admitted by Yandex, the goal of the partnership is to “to create a self-driving platform that can be used by any car manufacturer or taxi fleet.”
An investment of US$ 30 million has been made in self-driving developer Aurora, to integrate the latter’s technology into one of Hyundai’s vehicle lines.
Daimler and BMW
In 2019, Daimler partnered with BMW for flourishing their own ride-sharing service in competition with Uber, combining five of their ride-hailing services. According to Harald Kreuger, CEO of BMW, “The five services will melt together more and more into a mobility offering with fully electric and self-driving fleets…This will be a central pillar of our strategy as a mobility provider.”
Daimler’s Mercedes and BMW also formed an alliance to work on creating Level 4 self-driving cars. Both the companies are eyeing 2024 for the commercial release of the vehicles.
Fiat-Chrysler began work with Waymo to test self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans in 2016. Also, Fiat-Chrysler’s late CEO Sergio Marchionne suspected self-driving cars could be on the road by 2021. The company has continued to work with Waymo. John Krafcik, Waymo’s CEO, stated that the company planned to launch 10 Chrysler Pacificas through Lyft at the end of June 2019. Additionally, Fiat-Chrysler entered into a partnership with Aurora as well in 2019.
Tesla has announced its plan to provide its vehicles with a software update sometime by the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020 that would allow “full self-driving.” According to Wired, Tesla head Elon Musk elaborated on this timeline, suggesting that Tesla will be fully autonomous by the end of 2020.