At Consumer Electronics Show 2019, Daimler AG presented an autonomous vehicle in the shape of a bubble, designed to move people and goods at low speeds. Exactly four years ago the Mercedes-Benzes maker German giant dazzled auto industry with a self-driving car in Las Vegas CES. The earlier version was more of luxury self-driving lounge. As driverless cars don’t seem to land on roads any time soon, shuttle services in limited areas may work in immediate future.
Running at slow speeds these cars are not riddled with technical complexities compared to luxury automobiles. The design simplicity allows for easier production than conventional automobiles. The potential is huge for autonomous driving and special purpose vehicles as autonomous shuttles sales is expected to reach 1 million by 2020 and by 2025 to 2.5 million.
Some of the concepts shown at CES2019, including Vision Urbanetic by Daimler which promises mobility on-demand to 12 people, the body can switch into a cargo with an electric-powered chassis. Bosch with its Driverless Shuttle concept offers to move 4 people with the ability to pay via Bosch’s e-payment service. Volkswagen’s Sedric is a four-seat autonomous vehicle expected to hot roads by 2025.
BMW backed startups wants to ferry Detroiters form parking areas to their office locations. Other major competitors in driverless shuttles include AG’s Cube. ZF Friedrichshafen, a major auto maker has collaborated with AG Mobile to make driverless vehicles in 2019. Technical as well as regulatory hurdles still makes the road to driverless automobiles challenging as situations on public roads are hard to predict and road safety remains an ongoing challenge. Collaborative efforts including Daimler and Bosch using driverless car-sharing service has already been unrolled in San Jose, California.
A London-based Automotive Industry analyst Arndt Ellinghorst, expressed optimism about the robotic automotive business while also pointing that the industry has realistic expectations about the future. Any large scale deployment of the technology will be possible only with enhanced technical improvements and still much work has to be done to get the robo-car on the road from the showroom, but the cost is huge if the industry misses the opportunity.
The shift to driverless cars is a path with many socio-political challenges awaiting. A recent Canadian government’s internal reports claim that driverless cars could threaten as much as 1 million jobs with additional 6,00,000 jobs at risk including auto-body repair workers, parking attendants and even police. Recently in Phoenix, Arizona reported 21 instances of locals attacking Google’s driverless cars, with many attacking throwing stones and slashing tires.