A coming milestone in the automobile world is the widespread rollout of Level 4 autonomy, where the car drives itself without supervision. Waymo, the company spun out of Google’s self-driving car research, said it would start a commercial Level 4 taxi service by late 2018, although that hadn’t happened as of press time. And GM Cruise, in San Francisco, is committed to do the same in 2019, using a Chevrolet Bolt that has neither a steering wheel nor pedals.
These cars wouldn’t work in all conditions and regions—that’s why they’re on rung 4 and not rung 5 of the autonomy ladder. But within some limited operational domain, they’ll have the look and feel of a fully robotized car. The question is how constrained that domain will be.
Building cars that can drive themselves through busy downtown streets safely and efficiently is above all a staggering achievement in artificial intelligence, which is why tech companies were first off the mark to develop them. Traditional car manufacturers are now spending billions to catch up, hoping that their well-known brands will give them an edge. Ford, which plans to roll out a fleet of autonomous vehicles in 2021, ranked No. 1 in Newsweek ’s survey of automobile brands. We caught up with CEO Jim Hackett in Miami in November to talk about Ford and the future of transportation.
Rush hour in Singapore, a crowded island city of nearly 6 million people, is much like rush hour in almost every major city in the world: a living hell of clogged highways and stressed-out drivers. The dilemma, if left alone, will only get worse if, as is expected, Singapore adds a million more residents in the next decade. But city planners have no intention of leaving it alone. They have in mind a solution that is radical and all-encompassing: to replace car ownership with ride-sharing.
Chandler, Ariz.— On the chilly October day the New York City subway opened in 1904, the marvel of engineering and grit was greeted with horns, steam sirens and stations overrun by thousands of revelers. “Fast Trains in Tubes,” blared one headline.
On Wednesday, 114 years later in sun-swept Arizona, the launch of the 21st-century equivalent came in a blog post and an email invitation.
Google offshoot Waymo announced it is launching the nation’s first commercial self-driving taxi service in this and other Phoenix suburbs. The 24/7 service, dubbed Waymo One, will let customers summon self-driving minivans by a smartphone app, a la Uber or Lyft.