Taxi! Have Google & Uber Been Pipped to Self-Driving Cabs?
A number of major companies are developing self-driving taxis. But have they been pipped to the post by a Singaporean start-up?
Over the past few years, a number of organisations have been in a race to develop, and launch, self-driving vehicles.
Google and Ford have both entered the market for self-driving cars, while Uber has been more active in the taxi market. It’s even rumoured that Apple are set to join the competition in 2021 with ‘Project Titan‘.
But it appears that they have all lost the race to put a car on the road to a small, US and Singapore-based start-up.
Self-Driving Taxis in Singapore
nuTonomy was founded in 2013 by two MIT researchers, Karl Iagnemma and Emilio Frazzoli. It has both a US and a Singapore base of operations.
On Thursday last week, nuTonomy started a trial of its self-driving taxis in the business district in Singapore. The company is starting its test with just six cars, but hopes to double this number by the end of the year.
However, the timing of the test makes Singapore officially the first country to allow autonomous, self-driving cars on its roads.
Passengers in the business district will be able to hail the cabs using a smartphone app. In the early stages at least, nuTonomy engineers will be sitting in the vehicles, partly to monitor performance, but also to take over driving if needs be.
Significant Market Developments
The nuTonomy testing marks a significant development in the self-driving car market. Ford has made large investments in new technology companies, and increased its development team in Silicon Valley.
This is all part of the company’s ‘Ford Smart Mobility‘ plan, which aims to make Ford a leader in autonomous vehicles, particularly those for ride-sharing.
Uber have also confirmed that they will start testing of autonomous taxis in the coming months in Pittsburgh. As with nuTonomy, cars will be hired via their smartphone app, and a driver and engineer will be in the vehicle too.
However, there are questions about how much autonomy the cars will be given on the Pittsburgh streets. Experts have pointed out that there are still limitations behind Uber’s, and other companies’, vehicles, and that completely self-driving cars are still a way off.
“The reality is these cars will be closely supervised systems because it doesn’t matter if they are 80 percent self-driving or 99 percent self-driving, you will still need a human involved for the bit that is not,” says Bryant Walker Smith, an assistant professor of law and engineering at the University of South Carolina.
Significant Issues to Overcome
It raises an interesting question as to when truly driverless vehicles will be on the road, and on the market. There still appears to be a number of issues that must be overcome before this can happen.
As one article from The Register points out, no matter how advanced the technology has become, there are still glitches. While the rules of the road are common nature for many of us, it takes a lot longer to programme this into a computer.
Google’s self-driving cars are prone to be confused by traffic lights (or things that look like them), poor road markings, and glare from sunsets. Junctions, cyclists, bad drivers, and adverse weather conditions also create issues that need to be solved.
And, of course, there’s no accounting for human interactions. Tesla have recently been forced to tweak the definition of their ‘Autopilot’ software to a “driver assist function”. This comes after confusion that it was actually a self-driving function you might find in an aircraft, or science-fiction movie.
There is an argument that people want a self-driving car that doesn’t require them to have any input. But, without the technology to support this, there will be a reliance on some level of human interaction for some time yet.
Would you be happy to get into a self-driving taxi? Or buy a self-driving car? What would be holding you back from taking this journey?
In a week full of scandal in the procurement press, we’ve been scouring the headlines for the hottest topics…
Major US Retailer to Investigate Fake Cotton Claims
- Major US stores are investigating if bedsheets and pillowcases are made from non-Egyptian cotton despite being labelled as such.
- The investigations follow Target’s severance of ties with large textile manufacturer Welspun India.
- Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, Costco and Macy’s are all supplied by Welspun India.
- Welspun has announced the appointment of an external auditor to audit supply systems and processes.
Read more at the Chicago Tribune
Australian Companies Embroiled in Foreign Bribery Scandals
- Two major Australian companies have been implicated in bribery scandals relating to foreign contracts.
- Staff from mining company, Sundance Resources, have allegedly bribed the leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo to secure approval for a major iron ore project.
- Additionally, Snowy Mountains Engineering Company staff allegedly bribed officials to secure a $2.3 million sewerage project in Sri Lanka, and a $2.2 million power plant project in Bangladesh.
- The list of Australian companies implicated in foreign bribery continues to grow, with recent allegations implicating Tabcorp, Leighton Holdings and BHP Billiton.
Read more at The Age
Safety fears as Mylan Hikes EpiPen Prices
- Pharmaceutical company Mylan is under intense scrutiny after raising the price of its epinephrine delivery system, the Mylan EpiPen, from $57 to over $500 in the US.
- Mylan acquired the EpiPen auto-injector in 2007, but has only recently raised the price after the demise of its competitor Auvi-Q.
- The single-use EpiPen delivers approximately $1 worth of epinephrine per injection.
- Commentators fear patients will stop buying the EpiPen, opting instead to inject by syringe. This risks an incorrect dosage or accidental injection in a vein, which can be fatal.
Read more at Forbes
Fire Services Told to “Collaborate” on Procurement
- The UK Government has told fire authorities across the country that they need to collaborate more on procurement.
- It comes after a report that many authorities are paying vastly different sums for similar items.
- The government said in a statement it was “determined to help authorities adopt a collaborative approach”.
- This is the first time nationwide statistics on fire authority procurement have been released.
Read more at Supply Management