Google May Lose the Autonomous Car Race
Everyone is talking about how Google has this driverless car, and how the company is changing the world with this amazing invention. I hate to break it to you guys, but the only reason everyone is yakking about this car is because it has the word “Google” attached to it, and while it is indeed autonomous, it sure isn’t the only self-driving car on the market. Sure, it’s quirky and cute, and it can be parked anywhere, but it doesn’t have much storage space and its crumple zones are non-existent.
Instead, imagine rolling around autonomously in something sleek, like a Tesla Model S, which can now zip to 60 in three seconds flat, all while having the interior of the future and an engine that is electric. While this may sound a hair far fetched, Tesla and Jerusalem-based tech firm Mobileye have been working on making a driverless version for a while now.
Mobileye may be a hell of a lot smaller than Google, but they’ve been making all the right moves to insure that the search engine behemoth isn’t the only one in the autonomous car game. They’ve teamed up with everyone from BMW and Ford, to Nissan and Volvo, with General Motors accounting for 30% of its revenue, according to Automotive News. As a fervid demand for the brand’s safety technology continues to grow, revenue surges forward 57%, with over $53 million heading to the bank during the second quarter.
Meanwhile, Google is working feverishly to get their little electric micro machine figured out so that it’s legal and marketable, and just when they think they have the upper-hand, this technological beast from the Middle East comes out swinging and releases this YouTube video. In the video report conducted by Bloomberg Middle East Editor Elliott Gotkine, Mobileye CEO Ziv Aviram is seen cruising in his fully autonomous Audi, illustrating how Mobileye’s driverless technology works, and how the company owns the future of autonomous cars.
But unlike Google or Apple, Mobileye does not want to create its own vehicle brand. It instead has wisely opted to play it safe and continue outfitting automakers with tomorrow’s technology. But there’s a problem: Even though Mobileye is ready to roll, the world’s roadways and vehicular infrastructure is not prepared in the least. Even though the technology so far works flawlessly, insurance companies, highway safety departments, and governments are far from being ready. Even the automakers themselves are trying to figure out how to cover their liabilities if something goes wrong one morning and driverless cars suddenly start sending people off cliffs.
When we reported on the Delphi Audi going from San Francisco to New York City without anyone at the wheel back in April, it was huge news — this was the longest trip any self-driving car had completed in America. Since the entire trip was incident-free, it signals the dawn of a new age, where driver fatigue is non-existent, and putting a Double Windsor in your necktie while driving won’t put you in the back of a hearse. What we didn’t report at the time was that a healthy chunk of the software used on this voyage was supplied by Mobileye, and that the company is now supplying technology and software to 23 automakers worldwide.
How far out are we on getting a Mobileye-equipped Audi for review time? Not right away, but with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board calling for collision-avoidance technology to be a standard feature in all new passenger and commercial vehicles sooner than later, and with the company already working with 90% of car makers on driver assistance systems, the odds are good that we will see it on cars in the next five to six years. According to the Boston Consulting Group, “the market for autonomous driving technology will grow to $42 billion by 2025.” In order to get their fare share of the market, Mobileye plans on introducing its semi-autonomous driving system in three stages over the next six years, starting with highways, then country roads, and finally city streets.
According to Mobileye, if Aviram gets his way and automakers are able to produce driverless cars as soon as 2021, then a vehicle that has been outfitted with their technology will only cost $1,000 more. This is an extremely inexpensive approach — while the Google car will not be pricey either, it seems far more likely that people will stick with brands they know and trust as dealers tack-on the additional autonomy package to the final sale price.
Unlike Google’s cars, which navigate via their reliance on vast amounts of stored data regarding street layouts, Mobileye’s technologies interprets visual data like a human would. If you watch the aforementioned YouTube video, you will see exactly how the system works, constantly focusing on potential threats, speeds, and roadways, like a surreal video game from the 1990s with precious cargo on-board, speeding through morning traffic and forward into the future.