Everyone’s getting on board with robotic cars. Now Tesla has joined in by providing new and existing cars (all models since the 2014 S) with nearly full robotic features. Just as we discussed in earlier blogs, car manufacturers have been rolling out alla carte robotic features for some time now. Tesla’s 7.0 operating system ties together the sensors, cameras and navigation system to provide a near autonomous car driving system. Is it time to take your hands off the wheel? No, not quite yet. Still, Tesla’s semi-autonomous “auto-pilot” system is enough to get car drivers to dip their toes into robot controlled driving.
One of the fascinating signs of the future is that older cars were upgraded to the features of Tesla’s OS 7.0 by sending out an automatic upgrade. This gave last year’s cars almost all of the features of the newest model. There is an additional $2,500 upgrade package (more sensors) if you want it, but otherwise old and new cars are betting most of the features. Presumably, other car companies will also automate the release of new features. From what different car manufacturers are saying, fully robotic cars are nearly here.
By 2020 fully robotic cars by even the major car manufacturer should be mainstream. True robot cars might not be available until 2018 or 2019, but the robot revolution will start now! If all goes well, and automated driving becomes as popular as airbags, everyone will want to upgrade their cars overnight. Older cars might not get 100% of the features of fully autonomous car driving, but you will get a feel of what it’s like. When we hit that tipping point, and owners let their car do the driving, we will suddenly have a mix of 3 to 5 years of cars that can suddenly drive. That’s a lot of cars! That is in fact, a robot revolution!
Remember that little company called Uber? Uber’s problem is that their $50 billion valuation is based on their self-identification as a ride sharing mobile app company, which has been challenged by their drivers definition of Uber as their employer. If Uber drivers are employees, then it is just the world’s biggest taxi company, and not worth a fraction as much.
New rulings in the courts may redefine Uber as a taxi company, with human employees. Employees that at the moment are thinking about striking for higher wages and full benefits. If Uber can untangle itself from these drivers, and become the works biggest software developer AND robotic service provider, Uber becomes a visionary company that might even replace Apple as the world’s most valuable company.
If only there were some way to get rid of those pesky human drivers. It may only be a few years until cars go fully robotic, but that’s not soon enough for Uber. They are racing against the clock, hoping that they don’t lose a major lawsuit that could crash their valuation. That’s why Uber is on the prowl to find resources that know robotics. The prestigious Carnegie Mellon University’s “National Robotics Engineering Center” has been bought out (or hired away) by Uber. Uber NEEDS robotic cars, and they have an enormous amount of cash to buy whatever it takes to keep up their momentum. Remember, robots don’t have rights, and they never go on strike… unlike flesh and blood Uber drivers.
Tesla may release the 1st fully robotic car, or Uber may beat them to the punch with robocabs. Or maybe GM or another main stream car manufacturer will be the first to launch a fully autonomous car. Tesla is betting that it will attain autonomy in 3 years. Whoever is first, the rest won’t be far behind! Once the robots take over the road, everything will be changed… forever!
In 2010, there were 5,419,000 car crashes in the United States which resulted in 30,296 fatalities, and 2,239,000 injuries. The autonomous car 1.0 may not be perfect, but neither were the first factory robots. Today factory robots make virtually no mistakes, and by autonomous car 2.0, our cars will be pretty close to perfect drivers. Sooner or later humans will be so inferior to robot cars that they won’t be able to buy insurance. Of course, robot taxi drivers will never go on strike or demand high wages. Yep… robot cars will be here to stay. At least that’s my Niccolls worth for today!