Since the automobile industry’s earliest days, innovation has been a fundamental element of progress. A requirement, really. Pioneering a better way to get around doesn’t just happen on its own.
In fact, the entire industry is an innovation in itself. Automobile inventors originally were seeking alternatives for steam locomotives, the dominant method of transportation in the 1800s.
The vehicles we drive today—while a far cry from the first automobile, a three-wheeled, steam-engine-powered cart, and even Henry Ford’s Model T—exist because of the idea of YES. Yeses that fueled the industry’s evolution.
Perhaps the most newsworthy innovation lately has been the rise of self-driving cars.
Uber and Volvo partnered to pilot the first-ever self-driving car service in Pittsburgh. Drivers will still be present, for the time being, in modified Volvo XC90s but will serve merely as supervisors. The SUVs are “outfitted with dozens of sensors that use cameras, lasers, radar, and GPS receivers,” according to a Bloomberg article.
Volvo and Uber signed a $300 million agreement to develop a fully self-driving car that will be road-ready by 2021, according to the Bloomberg article. To further its autonomous innovation, Uber recently announced that it acquired self-driving truck startup Otto.
Google and many other companies are also innovating in this space. Google currently has prototypes on the road in California, Texas, Washington, and Arizona, and claims to have driven more than 1.5 million miles.
And startup Drive.ai is using deep learning to create new ways for self-driving cars to communicate with people outside—to give them a voice of sorts.
Companies and startups aren’t the only ones having a hand in the self-driving-car revolution.
A recent New York Times article reported that Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and Representative Debbie Dingell are trying to open a self-driving car test center where automakers and regulators can collaborate together to design and test the vehicles.
“[Autonomous vehicles] are inevitable. It’s only a matter of time,” Andrew Chatham, senior staff engineer and off-board software lead for Google’s self-driving car program, told FastCompany. “They are the most logical next step and will have socio-economic and other effects on our society—some good and some bad—quite possibly changing our whole way of life…”
It will be interesting to continue to watch how all these innovators will continue to collectively say yes to evolving the auto industry and to finding new and better ways of getting from point A to point B.