Self-driving vehicles are here - if you know where to look
The automatic car a has become like an idea that is always a few years away from reality. But we may not be looking closely enough.
According to two women who are at the forefront of efforts to commercialize autonomous vehicles, the technology has arrived well and truly - and while it may be limited to specific areas for now, they believe that it could become much more common in the next few years.
Jody Kelman heads the automotive driving division of tour division company Lyft, which has been testing self-driving taxis in Las Vegas since 2022.
Aubrey Donnellan is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Bear Flag Robotics, which redesigns tractors to make them automated.
Kelman and Donnellan spoke to WIRED HQ staff writer Aarian Marshall at WIRED HQ at CES, a groundbreaking event exploring the stand-alone tools, technologies and ideas on display at the major trade event.
"He's already here - that's good news," says Donnellan when asked when self - driving vehicles finally arrive. "We've been out in the market for a year or two now."
Areas open to autonomous vehicles are less challenging than busy roads, so limited forms of independence have become a feature of tractors in recent years. Donnellan says she expects her company to make more independent tractors in the next few years.
Farm equipment giant John Deere acquired Bear Flag in August. At CES, Deere also announced their own fully autonomous tractor, which could encourage more farmers to install robots in their fields.
Lyft, which offers self-driving tours in Vegas in collaboration with autonomous vehicle company Motional, has shown that autonomy works in limited conditions, Kelman says. Lyft users can sometimes call an autonomous car using the same app they use for other trips. Kelman says the company has completed more than 100,000 autonomous flights, and plans to expand the offering with a dedicated self - driving taxi service in 2023, as well as further deployment elsewhere.
"What we're going to see is that this is really going to start next year," Kelman says. But autonomy will not be universal. “This is going to happen in pockets over time, in certain cities, in certain weathers, at certain times of the day. ”
Lyft announced in April that it would sell its Stage 5 self-driving subsidiary to Toyota Woven Planet's subsidiary, but the company still has a product team dedicated to supporting self-driving regularly and continue to work on the technology with other companies.
The development of self-driving cars has been hampered by technical challenges caused by weather and other factors, and some attempts to push the technology forward have led to fatal crashes.
Both Kelman and Donnellan state that an understanding of how people interact with autonomy will be critical to ensuring safety and successful adoption. "The companies that do this, which are worth their salt, are arguably putting the human at the heart of their robotic innovation," says Donnellan.
According to Kelman, companies working on self-driving cars can learn not only from successes in other industries, such as agriculture, but from each other. She says Motional shares data collected from autonomous driving with other companies. She says that this approach, which is accelerating in Europe, could accelerate the development of technology.