The Timeline to an Autonomous Future Keeps Getting Longer, but the Wait is Worth It
When auto manufacturers first spoke of their moonshot projects in the space of semi and fully autonomous vehicles, visions of a science fiction laden future captured the imagination of consumers and publications alike. Drivers began imagining a world where they could have their autonomous car drive itself around town as an autonomous cab while they enjoyed the Super Bowl of family parties. Publications predicted a not too distant future where you could hail a driverless car from your couch, hop into a vehicle with no driver (and no awkward forced conversations, too), and arrive at your destination without lifting our head from your newspaper (but more realistically, it would be your smartphone, right?).
Manufacturers around the world pushed a vision that by the end of the past decade, fully autonomous vehicles would be shuttling us to and from our desired location and we wouldn’t have to glance at the road once. We could skip the bus and train, speeding down the freeway as we watch our favorite movie or work on that excel in the back seat while the car cruises without a driver to guide it. But, 2020 has arrived, and we still have to suffer through those awkward conversations with ride-sharing drivers or make it seem like our headphones are playing music just so we can sit in silence. So, when will this fully autonomous future arrive? Who knows. But, although Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey may have over-imagined how advanced our space-travel capabilities would be by 2001, auto manufacturers continue to roll out self-driving features to their day-to-day offerings and they continue to develop new technologies and adapt old-technologies in new and improved ways.
Every day a manufacturer rolls our next-generation features in the space of autonomous vehicles as they look to gain that competitive edge against their rivals. If you caught Kansas City’s punishing win over San Francisco in the Super Bowl this past weekend, you may have caught a glimpse of Hyundai’s “Smaht Pahk” (or “Smart Park” for those not used to the Boston accent) tool which automatically parks your car in too-tight-to-fit spaces, allowing you to avoid that awkward climb out of the trunk when the space is too tight. Last week, GM’s Cadillac division announced the addition to automatic lane-changing to certain 2021 models through GM’s SuperCruise self-driving platform with a plan to roll the SuperCruise system to 23 new models by 2023. Meanwhile, Tesla, one of the largest cheerleaders of self-driving systems, announced the near launch of their Robo-Taxi service, initially with drivers behind the wheel as Tesla looks to further refine their self-driving technology.
As manufacturers continue to refine their technology offerings in the self-driving space, we can expect to see the number of vehicles hitting the market with more advanced features increasing. Further, expect to see entry-level vehicles reap the benefits of self-driving tech as more and more technology moves down the production category, out of the luxury segment and into the day-to-day vehicle segment.