Robotics play a huge role in manufacturing and automation, but researchers working in the development of robotics plan to take it to the next level: self driving cars. This term has been floating around now for a few years, so it comes to no immediate surprise that they will likely be the vehicle of the future. However, there are many ways in which the robotics technology is being used that we did not see coming.
Currently, every significant automaker is pursuing this goal, and it will be a battle to the finish line. Google is conducting their developments through Waymo, a company specifically started for tackling autonomous driving, and they have currently been working at the project for the longest. Also in the running is Lyft and Uber, who stand to make some serious profits when autonomous driving becomes a reality. Some tech giants are currently in the running as well, such as Apple, IMB, and Intel. There’s also some university programs involved, specifically Michigan State University’s CANVAS (Connected and Autonomous Networked Vehicles for Active Safety).
The most important risk that needs to be solved for autonomous driving is the safety impact. The biggest argument to not proceed with this development are all of the many safety risks that go hand in hand with a machine taking control. So these companies not only have to combat these safety concerns, but demonstrate to people that they can in fact be more safe than human drivers.
Researchers are currently trying to develop technology that can mimic the human brain, and then the focus will shift to develop the robotics machinery to go hand-in-hand with the tech. While there are prototypes on the roads in California and Michigan today, they are far from where they need to be to meet mass distribution. Another element to consider is how these autonomous vehicles will interact with each other once they have the majority of control on the road.
All of these companies and researchers are focused on solving the many challenges that come with automated and connected-car technology. The end goal of all of this work, research, trial and error is to end up with a product that is affordable and works for everyone, which would also come as a victory in the form of mass profits for whichever company reaches the finish line first. While they all have a ways to go before full solving the many challenges that lay ahead, autonomous vehicles seem like an inevitability of the future.