Self-driving cars: the industry is moving forward

Autonomous driving is helping the transportation industry, whose needs are screaming. And its technological tools are already seeping into our cars.

The first autonomous cars are already on our roads. Last winter, Mercedes-Benz tested an S-class sedan in Quebec that had all the sensors on the roof that were needed to move the car without human intervention.

In 2018, the Quebec Ministry of Transport and Sustainable Mobility issued a permit for three autonomous shuttle road tests, one of which is still ongoing. In the summer of 2021, equipment manufacturer chain Canadian Tire tested autonomous trucks that would allow it to move materials between warehouses and stores.

Thus, until last year, the development of this technology was going well. The economic turmoil of 2022 has hurt the tech and automotive industries, and self-driving companies have also paid the price. Ford and Volkswagen, in particular, have cut funding for several projects. American specialist TuSimple, considered a pioneer in autonomous driving of heavy trucks, also announced last month that it plans to cut its workforce in half.

But at CES 2023, the world’s culmination of techno, which, like every year, took place in January in Las Vegas, the tenors of this technology returned to business, reminding that even if we still can’t predict when exactly steeringless cars on-board wheel controls will be sold, autonomous driving applications will see the light of day sooner or later, and will support the economic health of certain industries.

Trucks are running out of drivers

The main driver behind the push for fully automated driving is in the trucking industry: there are not enough drivers.

The American Trucking Association has estimated that right now Canada, the United States and Mexico need 80,000 more truckers to meet the demand for continental trucking. By 2030, the number of missing drivers will double and reach 162,000 vacancies, the associations add. This is due to a variety of reasons, including a general rise in online shopping and the Near Abroad, which aims to repatriate manufacturing products to North America that have been located in China or elsewhere in the world for decades.

This situation is putting pressure on sectors related to commercial transport. The shortage of heavy vehicle drivers will cause another shortage of bus drivers in the transportation of people, in the sector of specialized vehicles such as mining transport, agriculture and so on.

Already at CES in Las Vegas, fully autonomous trucks and tractors were in full view. Caterpillar has unveiled a huge dump truck designed for the mining industry. John Deere is back to work with its unmanned agricultural tractor capable of plowing a field without human intervention. Several exhibitors also introduced autonomous shuttles, small driverless buses capable of following certain routes on the road, as trams and other small rail trains already do.

In short, autonomous driving will come first to the industrial sector, then to the commercial sector, in order to gradually spread to the general public.

Autonomous technology in your car

What’s more, certain applications related to the development of autonomous driving should appear on board most new cars this year, according to Steve Koenig, vice president of research for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), an association that represents the North American electronics industry and hosts CES already. 56 years old.

If you’re buying a new car these days, you may have noticed that cruise control has been given a boost. By integrating sensors such as lidars and cameras, governors not only take charge of a car’s speed, but they now ensure it stays in its lane for long minutes without having to constantly hold the steering wheel.

In some cases, you just need to turn on your turn signal when your car is on the highway in order for it to change lanes without further intervention from you.

This accessory, reserved so far for a few models and a few more high-end brands, will go mainstream in 2023, the manufacturers assure. It’s not perfect – snow and ice quickly render the camera in the grille or windshield of any car useless – but it does make driving less stressful on the freeway or in heavy traffic.

The manufacturers’ bet is that this will be enough to attract buyers who don’t see driving as a pleasant experience. And do not hesitate: there are many such motorists. Maybe you are one of them?

If so, don’t despair: fully autonomous vehicles are not dead. They’ve probably hit a big pothole in the last few months. But if the CES is to be believed, they will be back in force one of the next years!

Read also: New Cars Guide: over 160 cars tested

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