Glimpsing the Self-Driving Car

LAS VEGAS -- Super Mobility Week -- Connected cars and the ultimate goal of a self-driving vehicle has been a hot topic in Vegas and beyond this week.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) CEO Lowell McAdam predicted this week that autonomous autos could be on the road in the US within three to five years. His statements are predicated, however, on the US government spending money on upgrading roads with sensors and cameras to enable the self-driving revolution. (See Verizon CEO: Self-Driving Cars Could Hit Road Soon.)

Light Reading asked Chris Penrose, SVP of emerging devices at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), on Wednesday when he thought self-driving automobiles might arrive. Penrose didn't give an actual date, but suggested that the technological and infrastructural challenges mean that autonomous vehicles are still "years" away.

"It all depends on how you define it," Penrose said of driverless cars. He suggests, however, that "assisted driving" systems will become more common and popular in the coming years.

Want to know more about the connected car? Check out Light Reading's dedicated automotive channel.

For example, AT&T has cooked up a haptic steering wheel system that could help drivers navigate without being distracted. The system works with the car's navigation system and location, and will vibrate on the right side of the wheel when the driver needs to turn right and vice versa.

"That's... built, we built it in our labs," says Penrose, adding that there is "no specific timeline" for when it might be in vehicles. AT&T has been building various technologies around the connected car to show off to automobile OEMs, and see if they are interested.

"If you want it to be in a car, it's typically three to four years from drawing board to road," Penrose added.

And despite being more conservative than some about self-driving cars, Penrose says that autonomous vehicles are part of the future of transport.

"We are seeing the concept accelerate," Penrose says. "The dates are getting pulled forward."

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

COMMENTS Add Comment
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MikeP688 9/30/2014 | 4:33:09 PM
Re: Glimpsing the Self-Driving Car What is clear is that how we're doing things today is insanity.    Google, to its' credit, has given a roadmap of what can be possible when it first began its' quest.     Look at the evolution of the electric car--anyone remember the EV1?   Look at now what Tesla is doing.   It is also quite striking to me, though, that the AT&T Rep was not too enthusiasitc.   IT seems to me that such should be welcome w/open arms.    

brooks7 9/17/2014 | 10:19:06 AM
Re: Glimpsing the Self-Driving Car We already have this kind of government paid for transport systems in ciities....busses, trains and subways.  Its called Mass Transit.

You are making an assumption that a government will provide a car for everyone exactly when they want it and where they need it.  That seems completely unlikely.  Rideshare sites and capabilities are not new.  

jabailo 9/17/2014 | 10:09:39 AM
Re: Glimpsing the Self-Driving Car Could be a combination of organizations...maybe Transit Authorities, or mabye ridesharing services like Uber will convert to automated vehicles for hire, or traditional rentals like Enterprise.

It could be a "price fixe" that is payed by monthly subscription for all transportation-transit, or, using a smartphone, pay as you go, per mile, per hour.  Maybe the "last mile" golf carts would be something you own, or your apartment complex owns.   You would be zoned in neighborhoods to only be able to drive the golf carts-cars.   Google's fully automated car, which they've displayed in test situations, has no pedals and no steering, somewhat already resembles the golf cart car.  The larger standard cars would be available at depots,park 'n' rides.

In some cities, like Copenhagen, they are now writting transit apps which integrate small vans and on demand ridesharing as part of a trip.


DanJones 9/17/2014 | 9:34:46 AM
Re: Glimpsing the Self-Driving Car Again, if you don't own these vehicles who pays?
DanJones 9/17/2014 | 9:32:26 AM
Re: Glimpsing the Self-Driving Car That seems, er, optimistic to me. US local government isn't paying to fix crucial infrastructure right now (bridges), why would it pay for this massive upgrade?
jabailo 9/16/2014 | 4:24:31 PM
Re: Glimpsing the Self-Driving Car Another consideration is ownership.  With a fully automated car, it can be part of a generic transit system.

How does this help the issue of driving around the neighborhood.

Well with needing a person to drive a car, the person also has to own the car.  That means that you have to use the same vehicle for transporting yourself to work, for transporting an extra peson when on a date, when transporting children to sports practice or when ferrying a package from the mall.

Amazon is already having an effect on the last one, since now many of us get our packages delivered in a UPS truck.  That part of transportation is already "automatic".   

So how about the neighborhood?  Well, who says you have to use the same vehicle for each road type?  I mean cars are designed like tanks because they have to be able to go 65mph and withstand crashes.   But do I need all that hardware on local streets?    So, suppose I would start off from my house with a spongey little golf cart with a 15mph max speed.   After that when I get to the main boulevard, I transfer into a larger, speedier craft like a small car.  Then for intra-city I jump on an express bus.   And finally I take a maglev over highway distances.   When I return home, I use these vehicles in reverse order!


danielcawrey 9/16/2014 | 3:51:27 PM
Re: Glimpsing the Self-Driving Car I would assume the government would pay for the upgrades to the road. Isn't that what the gas taxes are for?

Of course, we're using less gas over time, since many cars are becoming either hybrid or electric. 
DanJones 9/16/2014 | 3:50:23 PM
Re: Glimpsing the Self-Driving Car In New York we call that the L train!
brooks7 9/16/2014 | 2:13:17 PM
Re: Glimpsing the Self-Driving Car Self-driving cars underground...Subways?



jabailo 9/16/2014 | 1:49:57 PM
Re: Glimpsing the Self-Driving Car With fully automated cars, you can do all sorts of cool things.

For example, as mentioned, they would not require sunlight if they use a combination of electromagnetic radiation.   You could have them travel in underground tunnels in total darkness, since a human would not have to see to steer them.


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