Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are still far from being commonplace on roads and driveways, but recent developments in the space are pushing the tech closer to reality. Here are some of the latest advancements big tech companies are making in AV development:
- Facebook’s latest AI research has the potential to boost the performance of AV systems exposed to new situations, according to VentureBeat. Facebook AI researchers’ proposed algorithm, called other-play, can communicate and cooperate with partners, such as drivers or traffic patterns, to which it has not been previously exposed. Researchers demonstrated the algorithm on card games but it can be applied to AVs to lower the time it takes for an AI-powered system to identify and avoid new obstacles on the road.
- Uber resumed efforts to bring an AV to market with on-road tests in San Francisco, 2 years after it halted tests due to a fatal collision, according to TechCrunch. The rebooted testing regime is a signal Uber believes it has solved the issues, which caused its cars’ self-driving systems to react to obstacles on a track slower than a human operator, and that the AV system is ready for public roads again. Testing on public roads is crucial to refining a self-driving car system, because the world is more complicated than a simulation or closed test track.
- Alphabet’s self-driving subsidiary Waymo unveiled the latest iteration of its Waymo Driver autonomous driving system, which can be produced more efficiently at scale. Waymo Driver is the company’s package of sensors that are installed in a vehicle to make it autonomous. The newest iteration of the technology doubled the range of its sensors while also slashing the cost in half. Additionally, the company says the design and manufacturing process of its latest generation of AV sensors has been simplified to make its sensors production-ready. The combination of reduced cost and a simpler production process will allow Waymo to more effectively mass produce its AV systems.
As AVs edge closer to wide commercial availability, they will present opportunities for connectivity providers to work together with AV developers.
AVs are expected to send and receive mountains of data, leaving connectivity providers with a lucrative opportunity to provide high-bandwidth, low latency connections. Autonomous vehicles’ sensors can generate around 1.2TB of data per day, the equivalent of 500 HD movies or 200,000 songs, per Cisco.
Because a car doesn’t have the capacity to process that amount of data locally it must be transmitted to the cloud, which requires companies that are developing AVs to cement contracts with connectivity providers to ensure their vehicles have a constant connection, no matter their location. Globally, these contracts could be worth up to $200 billion annually for connectivity providers, per Morgan Stanely, cited by The Motley Fool.
Network operators can also provide connectivity to passengers who can use time not spent behind the wheel to engage in data-intensive media content. Without the need to drive, consumers can regain around 8 hours per week that could be spent engaging in other in-vehicle activities, such as watching videos, playing games, or engaging in interactive content like AR or VR.
For instance, several automakers are already developing experiences that could translate to AV entertainment systems: Honda teamed up with DreamWorks to create a concept interior that uses telematics to display animated characters in the vehicle, and Audi partnered with Disney to create an in-car VR gaming experience. This presents an opportunity for telecoms to provide in-vehicle connectivity subscriptions to AV ride-hailing fleets so passengers can maintain a constant connection when accessing media on the go.
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