Science

Industry. 2021, the first shift towards self-driving cars

Residents of Silicon Valley are starting to get used to seeing R2, a 4-wheeled robot, delivering everyday items to them. Its designer, Nuro, was allowed to scale it up. Completely autonomous Toyota Priuses will therefore begin deliveries of packages and food in two counties in California. Not all roads are open to them, they can only travel in good weather and must not exceed 40 km / h, but here we go.

Baidu’s autonomous taxis have been crisscrossing 700 kilometers of roads in Beijing since September, and the service is set to expand. This Chinese giant is somewhat the equivalent of Google, the country’s most consulted search engine and site, and one of the world leaders in artificial intelligence. Its autonomous driving system “Apollo Computing Unit” (Acu), based on 5 cameras and 12 ultrasonic radars, seems to be one of the most successful of the moment. It is cheaper than its competitor, the Lidar, a laser remote sensing system, the price of which can amount to several tens of thousands of euros per vehicle, according to a recent study by the firm Gartner. Didi, the Chinese Uber, launched its autonomous vehicle for carpooling in Hunan province in December.

In France, Transdev is starting to provide driverless shuttles for public transport, the next ones are planned in particular at Paris-Saclay, during off-peak hours. The objective is enshrined in the 2019 orientation law on mobility: “The autonomous car will be useful as part of a shared mobility service”, with the ambition to switch from automated transport, such as line 14 of the Paris metro, to autonomous, in 2021 and 2022, with shared taxis and driverless shuttles. For delivery and autonomous logistics, it will not be before 2022 in France. On the other hand, this remains the priority area of ​​Amazon, whose strategy is the checkbook: to buy and finance specialists in the field, to offer both autonomous robots and drones for last mile delivery, and to hope to deploy this year 100 000 electric vans without driver. But, according to him, it is Google the most advanced, its subsidiary Waymo has for three months more than 600 non-flying taxis in Arizona. The giant is the most complete in the industry and manufactures its cameras, Lidar systems, software package and AI … And especially regularly attacks Tesla and Mercedes, whose high-end cars are autonomous on the highway and for park, but not fully as the Waymo taxis are.

Automakers are coming, but with partnerships

The attentive reader will have noticed that automobile manufacturers are quite absent from this list of pioneers of autonomous vehicles. They are coming, but with partnerships. Renault has teamed up with Transdev and driverless Zoé vehicles are being tested on the Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray bus tracks. Volvo for its part was seduced by the technology of Baidu, with which it has just signed an alliance, and the Titan project, the electric and autonomous car from Apple, would be carried out in cooperation with the Korean Hyundai for a presentation expected in March. next.

In these partnerships, the balance of power clearly does not seem to be in favor of the automakers and real questions arise about the distribution of value. On his LinkedIn account, the CEO of Volkswagen was not mistaken: “We are waiting for new competitors who should accelerate the change in our industry and bring new skills to it. Their incredible value and their almost unlimited access to financial resources call for respect. “ A whole set of new players are invited: detection technologies (Lidar, Acu), artificial intelligences that drive (Didi, Baidu, Google, etc.), on-board computer manufacturers (Nvidia, Intel) , those who will ensure the computer security of the whole, not to mention the service and entertainment providers for idle passengers, for whom Amazon has already placed its Alexa voice assistant on the next models of Audi, BMW, Ford, Fiat Chrysler or even Toyota.

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