The race for driverless cars is on.
During this pandemic, it seems like autonomous driving is more relevant than ever before as people try their best to avoid touching surfaces. Driverless cars could also be used for taxis of the future, limiting human interaction. While Tesla has long been leading the race for this technology, new car manufacturers such as General Motors (GM) are throwing their hat into the ring.
Previously, GM made headlines after creating its “Super Cruise” technology for autonomous driving on highways. In 2020, GM is putting the finishing touches on a new feature called “Ultra Cruise.” The technology will allow drivers to navigate city streets with minimal input, and it’s now in direct competition with Tesla’s Autopilot technology.
That being said, there are no official launch dates for Ultra Cruise. In contrast, Tesla has already installed its Autopilot technology on available cars today, and drivers are actively testing this breakthrough technology every day. There are concerns, however. The technology is still in beta, and people are wondering whether allowing humans to be the “guinea pigs” for this new feature is really a smart move.
The controversy that surrounds this move probably influenced GM’s more cautious, safety-centric approach to autonomous driving. It’s interesting to note that the name “Autopilot” inherently implies that humans don’t need to control any aspect of Tesla’s tech when it’s activated. In fact, the name conjures up images of a driver sleeping behind the wheel or reading the newspaper, completely oblivious to the road and its dangers.
Although the name for GM’s tech isn’t set in stone, “Ultra Cruise” does not evoke those same kinds of images and connotations. Indeed, the leader of GM’s product development division was quick to stress this point at the Citi 2020 Car of the Future Symposium. Although Doug Parks provided very few details on the tech, he did make sure to underline the fact that Ultra Cruise is not “driverless” in the complete sense of the word. Human input will still be required, it’ll simply be very minimal.
Like Tesla, GM has been testing driverless tech as well, albeit a much more limited version. In fact, they’ve already released a finished product that customers can use today – the aforementioned Super Cruise. Currently, Super Cruise is only operable on highways, but it’s a start. It may also be a safer way to test the feature for drivers who aren’t familiar with autonomous driving and the limitations of this technology.
One thing’s for sure: autonomous driving is no longer a one-horse race, and it hasn’t been for quite some time. Although Tesla is leading the charge, virtually every car company worth their salt is in the process of developing this technology. These brands include Audi, Volvo, Volkswagen, Toyota, Nissan, Renault, Jaguar, Land Rover, Hyundai, Honda, Ford, BMW, and many others. In addition, many tech companies are joining the fray as well, such as Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet.
So how does GM stand out from the crowd? While they’ve been doggedly pursuing autonomous driving for some time now, they’re also stressing that safety is a huge concern for them. Compared to many other car companies, GM is also unique because it has already created a successful piece of technology with Super Cruise. In addition, GM is focusing on creating an entirely separate, driverless ride-hailing service that will use cars that are not available to the public. In short, GM is definitely one of the leaders in the race for driverless cars.