Paris on Monday launched its first driverless electric shuttle bus service, aiming to curb congestion and pollution. Sensors and cameras tell the EZ10 bus when to stop and start, how fast to go and in which direction.
The 130-metre test route links the Gare de Lyon and Austerlitz train stations, two of the city’s busy transport hubs on either side of the Seine River. Other routes will be introduced this year, the city’s authority said in a statement.
Self-driving cars are no longer a futuristic idea. Companies like Mercedes, BMW, Honda, Tesla and many others have already released, or are soon to release, self-driving features that give the car ability to drive itself. Tech companies including Apple and Google are also trying to pioneer the self-driving car.
There will be 10 million such cars on the road by 2020, according to Business Insider. According to Morgan Stanley, complete self-driving cars will be here by 2022, followed by massive market penetration by 2026. The cars we know and love today will be entirely extinct in another 20 years.
These robotic cars will sense their surroundings using technology. The sensory information will then be processed to navigate appropriate pathways, avoiding any obstacles and also obeying the road signs.
The cars will use a digital map, which can be constantly updated according to sensory input. This will allow the vehicle to adapt to changing situations, as well as travel through previously unknown territories.
Yet this technological revolution in the auto industry, like many of its predecessors will bring with it massive job cuts.
It has been estimated that in the USA alone, nearly 4.1 million truck, bus and tractor drivers and chauffeurs would gradually lose their jobs. The estimate gives an indication of the coming devastation in the job market globally.
“For millions of Americans, particular those without a college degree or advanced training, driving a bus, cab or a truck can provide a decent income. They would be replaced by an autonomous vehicle, so we have to make sure this technology not only enables better productivity, but it doesn’t disqualify millions of Americans from good, solid jobs.” Senator Jack Reed observed during a debate on the ethical and economic impact of self-driving cars.
All major car makers are now in a race to bring out self-driving cars to grab the auto market of the future. Companies like Uber will see their profits jump when they will keep 100% of fares instead of letting drivers keep 70%.
Karl Brauer, an auto analyst with Kelley Blue Book, also sees a treasure trove for companies that gather data about passengers who use driverless cars: “They will know when he’s going, where he’s going, what he’s doing. Talk about opportunities for targeted advertising.”
Google has already driven self-driving cars in the San Francisco Bay Area. More recently, it has also been testing cars on the streets of Phoenix, Austin, and Kirkland, Wash.
Pittsburgh, home to pioneering self-driving car research at Carnegie Mellon University, has just formed an alliance with Uber to provide a driverless version of its service. Boston has announced a test of autonomous vehicles on its streets in partnership with the World Economic Forum.
Singapore is pioneering the world’s first taxi service using autonomous vehicles in a limited circuit. Chinese company Baidu is attempting a similar feat in Beijing. Helsinki is operating the first driverless bus system. Japan and UK are performing similar trials with driverless vehicles. Tokyo, the largest metropolitan area in the world, aims to have autonomous vehicles on the roads in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The driverless car revolution is unlikely to reach India in near future in a big way. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick recently said that India would be the last place to get the company’s automated cars. Google CEO Sundar Pichai has observed that India would never have completely automated cars.
However, one company – Tata Elxsi – is looking to test an autonomous, or driverless, car out on the roads of Bengaluru soon. This will be a first in India.