Future of Autonomous Vehicles Is Bright With Uber, Toyota Collaboration

Future of Autonomous Vehicles Is Bright With Uber, Toyota Collaboration

by Lindsey Slusher Monday, 08 October 2018 21:10

An Uber self-driving Ford Fusion sits at a traffic light on Beechwood Boulevard and waits to turn onto Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / Tribune News Service

Uber badly needed a pick-me-up.

After a successful start, the ride-hailing service has recently encountered numerous issues while trying to stay ahead of the curve---most notably, deadly driverless car crashes. After failing to adjust previous issues, Uber now must accept its faults and seek help or else face an inevitable downturn in business.

The driverless car trend came after the development of the Tesla by Elon Musk, which supposedly has full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver. Of course, other companies---like Volvo, Audi, Toyota and even Uber---want to be able to compete at the same level and have developed their own autonomous models.

However, these developments do not come without consequences, especially for Uber. The cars were having trouble driving through construction zones and next to tall vehicles---like tractor trailers. In addition, Uber’s human drivers had to intervene much more frequently than the drivers of competing autonomous cars. To compare, Google’s self-driving car project went on average 5,600 miles before the driver had to take control, while Uber drivers were barely going 13 miles without having to take over. Obviously, Uber was encountering engineering obstacles, but not a lot seemed to be happening in the way of fixing the issues before they became serious.

Unfortunately, Uber didn’t heed the warnings. The straw that ultimately broke Uber’s back was the fatal crash of one of its autonomous cars in March 2018. A Volvo traveling in autonomous mode struck a woman walking her bicycle across the street outside of the crosswalk. Although the car system detected the woman about six seconds before the vehicle struck her, it failed to take any corrective action. After seemingly brushing over previous issues, this was Uber’s much-needed wake-up call.

The first question that comes to anyone’s mind: How do these things keep happening? Strangely enough, before the fatal crash in March, Uber engineers had intentionally disabled the Volvo’s emergency braking system to reduce the potential for erratic behavior, but did not program the system to alert the human driver to manually brake. Such glaring negligence on the part of Uber engineers demonstrates a potentially life-threatening shortfall in their technological knowledge. To avoid possible crippling of its widely used service, Uber desperately needed the guidance and expertise of a true car manufacturer.

Toyota could provide this guidance. As of August 2018, Toyota is investing about $500 million in Uber Technologies Inc. as part of an agreement by the companies to work jointly on autonomous vehicles aimed at improving safety and lowering transportation costs. Per their agreement, Uber will integrate self-driving technology into Toyota Sienna minivans for use in Uber’s network, which will begin testing in the next few years.

This partnership is much needed for both parties involved, especially Uber. For the ride-sharing service, the expertise of an actual car company will likely improve the engineering of its obviously flawed driverless technology. Hopefully, Toyota will be able to assist Uber in the engineering upkeep and regulatory compliance it so horribly lacked in its autonomous vehicles.

For a company like Toyota, hesitant at first to enter into the autonomous vehicle race, the potential of having self-driving cars in a service like Uber represents a challenge to an industry that is dominated by individual car ownership. Additionally, this move by Toyota marks a trend in partnerships between car manufacturers and tech companies to further autonomous technology. A successful collaboration can only aid both brands in their respective markets.

With the collaboration of Toyota and Uber, it won’t be much longer before the autonomous vehicle and subsequent autonomous ride sharing are, as Tesla suggests, capable of a safety level higher than that of a human driver.


Popular posts from this blog

Report: World’s 1st remote brain surgery via 5G network performed in China

Visualizing The Power Of The World's Supercomputers

BMW traps alleged thief by remotely locking him in car