As technological development continues to accelerate, the possibilities for new applications continues to expand rapidly and allows for the creation of newer, safer products. One such improvement that is receiving an extensive amount of funding and research is the autonomous vehicle (AV). Not only are they seeing growth and development from current auto manufacturers, but many other companies outside of the auto sector are also investing their time and money into developing technologies for AVs. Partnerships between software and hardware companies and automobile manufacturers are growing at such a rate that it is challenging to keep track of them all. Though some are receiving more attention than others, each partnership will hopefully lead to the ultimate goal of AVs as soon as possible.
Each of the major international automobile manufacturers has entered into partnerships with at least one tech company, with some such as Ford balancing several partnerships as they try and bring AVs to the public first. Ford has partnerships with Velodyne, a leading developer of LiDAR sensors; Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company; and Baidu, a Chinese web services company. Other manufacturers, like Honda, are investing their research and development funds into one particular tech company, Nvidia, whose graphic processing units (GPUs) and chip units (SoCs) will be applied to the automobile’s sensing tech.
Another relatively young segment of the automobile industry that is seeing increased partnerships as the autonomous vehicle nears completion, is the car-hailing service. Services like Lyft, Uber, Grab, Ola, and Didi Chuxing are joining forces with various tech and automobile companies as AVs approach commercial deployment. Uber has established partnerships with Volvo and Daimler, including signing a deal to purchase up to 24,000 AVs from Volvo and bringing self-driving cars to its network. Lyft, Uber’s biggest international competitor, is partnering with Ford in an attempt to deploy AVs to its platform by 2021 as well as launching its own self-driving division that would create a system that could be plugged into self-driving vehicles. Didi Chuxing, a ride-hailing app that bought Uber’s Chinese business last year, has opened a US lab to develop AI and self-driving car tech that are resistant to external attacks and threats.
Software giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft have also teamed up with various hardware, automobile manufacturers, and ride hailing services as well. Apple has famously been developing a “secret self-driving car” with Velodyne made LiDAR sensors, radar units, and a number of cameras for sensing and safety. Google on the other hand, has its own separate development company – Waymo – which includes partnerships with Lyft and Avis. Waymo has become the first to put fully self-driving cars on US roads without humans onboard. A huge milestone for the industry as a whole. Microsoft has joined forces with Baidu, trading cloud technology for access to Baidu’s open source autonomous driving platform, Apollo.
By far the biggest beneficiaries of the AV partnerships however, has been the hardware manufacturers. Velodyne, the leading developer of LiDAR sensors which has partnerships with Ford and Baidu, has more than quadrupled its production for AVs thanks to its development of the VLS-128 which can handle high-speed trips. Nvidia has launched its own autonomous car platform, Nvidia Drive PX, which introduced a computer that enables automakers, truck makers, tier 1 suppliers, and startups to accelerate the production of AVs. They also have partnerships with most of the automobile manufacturers developing the technology including Tesla, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo, Audi, BMW, and Daimler allowing them to develop the tech faster than many of their competitors.
Though self-driving cars may still be a few years away from fully integrating into our lives, its thanks to these and other partnerships that the widespread adoption of the technology is approaching reality. In the next decade, our roads will be safer and our lives easier as technology partnerships grow and develop into level five (fully autonomous) AVs.