Self-Driving Vehicles Are Here—If You Know Where to Look

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self driving car What is starting to sound like an idea is always a few years away from reality. But maybe we’re not watching closely enough.

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According to two women leading the effort to commercialize autonomous vehicles, the technology has well and truly arrived — and though it may be limited to a few specific ones for now, they believe it will be there for the next few years. May become much more common over the years.

Jody Kellman oversees autonomous driving division of ride-share company Lyft, which has been testing self-driving taxis in Las Vegas since 2018.

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Aubrey Donelan is a Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Bear Flag Robotics, which retrofits tractors to make them autonomous.

Kelman and Donelan spoke to Nerdshala staff writer Ariane Marshall at Nerdshala Headquarters at CES, a virtual event that explores the standout gadgets, techniques, and ideas on show at the huge trade event.

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“It’s already here — it’s good news,” Donelan says when asked when self-driving vehicles will finally arrive. “We’ve been out of the market for a few years.”

Open fields present fewer challenges to autonomous vehicles than busy roads, and limited forms of autonomy have become a feature of tractors in recent years. Donelan says he expects his company to make more tractors autonomous in the next few years.

Bear Flag was acquired by farm equipment giant John Deere in August. Deere also announced its fully autonomous tractor at CES, which could inspire more farmers to deploy robots in their fields.

Lyft, which offers self-driving rides in Vegas in collaboration with autonomous vehicle company Motional, have shown that autonomy works in limited scenarios, Kelman says. Lyft users can sometimes call up an autonomous car using the same app they use for other rides. Kelman says the company has completed more than 100,000 autonomous rides, and it plans to expand the offering in 2023 with a dedicated self-driving taxi service as well as further deployments in other locations .

“What we’re going to see is really starting next year in earnest,” Kellman says. But autonomy will not be available everywhere simultaneously. “It’s going to happen in pockets over time, in some cities, in certain weather conditions, at certain times of day.”

Lyft said in April that Sell ​​your self driving subsidiary Level 5 to Woven Planet, a Toyota subsidiary, but the company still has a product team dedicated to supporting autonomous driving, and continues to work on the technology with other companies.

The development of self-driving cars has been affected by technical challenges caused by weather and other factors, and some attempts to advance the technology have resulted in fatal accidents.

Both Kellman and Donelan say that understanding how humans interact with autonomy will be key to guaranteeing both safety and successful adoption. “Companies that are doing things that are worth their salt, ironically, put humans at the center of their robotic innovation,” Donelan says.

According to Kelman, companies working on self-driving cars can not only learn from successes in other industries such as agriculture, but learn from each other. She explains that Motion shares the data it collects from autonomous driving with other companies. She says the approach, which is gaining momentum in Europe, could accelerate the development of the technology.

The data collected by autonomous tractors has been promised to be protected more closely, and some farmers worry that without access to it they would have less control over their land and operations.

Broadly speaking, the spread of autonomy could have a major impact on both agricultural workers and taxi drivers, leaving many of them relieved of their jobs.

Donelan argues that the continued lack of farm hands makes robotic tractors essential. “We are freeing people from difficult and dangerous jobs,” she says. “But the real issue is the problem of labor shortage.”

Kelman paints a more complex picture of the impact of automation on the taxi industry. She says autonomy will help Lyft expand its ride-hail operations, creating more jobs for human drivers, even as robo-taxis have become more common.

Kelman also suggests that new jobs will be created for cleaning and servicing autonomous vehicles, for example. “There’s a lot of room for that pie to grow,” she says. “We believe that drivers will have even more earning opportunities.”

It’s certainly an optimistic view—and one that can ignore the complexity of how artificial intelligence and robots can transform the workforce. But if Kellman and Donelan’s predictions hold true, we need to stop wondering when self-driving technology will arrive, and start thinking about what will happen next.


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