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Autonomous Vehicles: The Sum of Their Parts

These days, you don’t have to dig deep into current auto news to find daily headlines detailing the advances in autonomous driving technology. Opinions differ on this divisive topic, but the timelines are growing evermore aggressive, as innovators seem to be tripping over each other to be the first one across the finish line. Reassuring, isn’t it (<< read with sarcasm)? But regardless of the race, thoughtful and well-executed plans are being enacted across the board, making the race interesting to observe, if nothing else. In fact, for an excellent depiction of where autonomous driving technologies stand (and are headed) as of 2018, here’s a thoughtful breakdown courtesy of TheHUB:

As touched on briefly, the forward momentum in the pursuit of automotive autonomy is the result of partnerships between leading automakers and leading technology companies. FCA, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan have already partnered with Google(’s Waymo division) to target a 2020 date for their first market release, while more self-contained innovators like Tesla claim to have laid out even more aggressive timelines. What that claim means (since we’re already being introduced to 2019 offerings) remains to be seen, but its safe to say that we’re firmly in the latter stages of the countdown to autonomy.

And these partnerships are massive in scale. Sure, such advances will impact the cars that we buy, but they will influence the evolving face of all road-faring transportation. Consider for a moment that August saw an additional $500 million investment by Toyota into ride-sharing giant Uber, for joint-development of their ‘Autono-MassS’ vehicle fleet. This comes on the heels of Uber’s self-enforced pause in development of such technologies, following the negligent killing of a Arizona pedestrian. Toyota’s offer of supportive safety technologies has empowered Uber to resume their plans and strengthens the $2.8 billion investment that the automaker has already made to accelerate development of their own technologies.

Regardless of your personal feelings towards the idea of self-driving cars and trucks, it’s hard not to appreciate what such advances represent. This unprecedented fusion of automotive engineering and Silicon Valley technology reminds us of just how far we’ve come since the days of being able to take your car apart and put it back together. Obviously, such integration of tech-centric operating systems will be largely outside the layperson’s skillset. Outside of the enthusiast community, this creates an even greater divide between car and driver, forcing us to become passengers who are ‘just along for the ride’ in more ways than one.

What are your thoughts on this rush for autonomy, and the changing face of owning, operating and being a passenger inside of motor vehicles?

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