The Impending Release Of Fully Autonomous Automobiles
The future may be here before we know it. A fully autonomous vehicle, a car that operates without human back up or intervention, could be tested on the road as soon as next year. Automakers have made great strides recently in improving autonomous technology. However, no fully autonomous vehicles have been tested on the road among other vehicles.
All that is about to change. Two French companies, Delphi and Transdev, have collaborated to bring fully autonomous vehicles to the road before long. Delphi makes electronic auto parts and manufactures components for self-driving technology. Transdev operates trains, buses, and ferries in 19 countries world-wide, including the United States. The collaboration will result in the joint venture rolling out taxis and shuttle buses to carry passengers in France next year. In the meantime, the vehicles will actually be ready for use in 2017 with human assistance and override.
The companies will deploy two Renault Zoe autos operating as taxis in Rouen, Normandy, France. A shuttle van will carry passengers and their cargo between a trail station and the university section of Paris. No humans have boarded the vehicles yet. That will come later this year.
The shuttle might give riders pause the first time they embark on a journey in the vehicle. The van does not have a steering wheel or pedals. Transdev understood that people were uneasy the first time they rode in a car without a human driving. It took people a while to get comfortable. However, 90 percent of the people Transdev surveyed told the company that they were excited about the project. The riders were also questioned about service and quality of the ride. The shuttle passed the tests. Most riders said that they were not apprehensive about their safety even though there was no human backup. In fact, the only human interaction passengers had was with an employee, who was onboard the shuttle and responsible for interacting with the passengers.
That does not mean passengers are at the mercy of the faceless machine as they ride to and from campus to the railroad stop. Operators in the company command center will control the vehicle. Until the companies receive approval to operate in a fully autonomous mode, the controllers will operate the shuttle. Delphi's engineers are confident that the operators can intervene in an emergency.
The companies intend to spread the technology throughout Paris and the rest of France in the near future. Soon enough, driverless cars will share the road with conventional cars. As the reach of the autonomous vehicles expand, Delphi indicated that it will constantly update its software and will continue to do so until the project is fully operational. In fac, the joint venture believes that the vehicles will reach full operational status by 2019.
Testing of fully autonomous vehicles has spread internationally. Projects in California and the Netherlands are developing but have not attained the testing stage yet.
At least one other car company and two other technology companies have joined Delphi to develop completely driverless cars. BMW, Intel, and Mobileye have joined forces to develop a driverless car of their own.
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