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Self-driving cars

These days you can easily make use of driverless taxi cabs in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Such a great product developed by Google became a catalyst for increasing interest in the science of artificial intelligence (Williams, 2013). The idea of self-driving cars was born a long time ago along with many related projects run by different people over years. We want to indicate the most important achievements made for development of driverless car. The idea was born approximately a century ago, at a time of a motorcar invention. Later Francis Houdina, in 1925, invented the car that can be driven from outside by using radio-controller. He presented the invention in Manhattan. The self-driving car invented by Francis Houdina had an ability of autonomous starting the engine and autonomous shifting the gears. Many people at first thought that it was a trick, as they confused Francis Houdina with famous artist and illusionist Harry Houdini. In 1969, a prominent scientist and one of the founders of artificial intelligence John McCarty, wrote an essay called “Computer-Controlled Cars”. In the essay, he depicted an idea and primary goals of self-driving cars. The idea was quite similar to what we watch today. The goal was to make cars autonomous so they can drive the user to the destination he wants. In his proposal users could make any spontaneous decisions while on the route, such as stopping at a restroom, restaurant, speeding up, and etc. But unfortunately, he didn’t complete his mission and had to pass it to other researchers. Dean Pomerleau in his Ph. D. thesis, in the beginning of 1990s, wrote about neural networks and benefits that autonomous car concept can get from it. Later, Pomerleau along with Todd Jochem, tested their invention on the trip from Pittsburgh to San Diego. But speed and brakes on the car still had to be controlled. In 2002, main researchers of self-driving technologies were offered a one-million-dollar prize from DARPA Grand Challenge. In order to win, a self-driving car had to cross over 142 miles in the desert. Unfortunately, none of the competitors were able to do it. It remained as a concept of the future. But at the same time parking systems were showing up that in turn, were giving more intensive to researchers. For example, Toyota in 2003 launched its first parking system. Ford offered its models with parking assistance in 2009. All these achievements prove that the concept became closer to reality (Dormehl, 2019). Google, from 2009, secretly launched the driverless car project. “The project is initially led by Sebastian Thrun, the former director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-inventor of Google Street View” (Dormehl, 2019). Two years later Google was able to incorporate the self-driving technology to such models as Toyota Prius and Lexus RX450. They were tested successfully (Driverless Cars, 2016). Testing, in turn, faced many problems related to regulations. These obstacles did not work well for the project and Google started lobbying campaigns in government to get rid of unpleasant bills (Driverless cars: From fantasy to reality, 2016). After seven years of successful operating, Google’s autonomous vehicle project became a stand-alone enterprise called Waymo (Google’s self-driving car project gets a new name: Waymo, 2016). Intensive Competition (Cengiz) Self-driving technology attracted many companies from the industry. In 2014 companies started getting permits for testing their autonomous vehicles in California. The number of new applicants is still growing. The industry is growing as well as private investments made by various entities. Only one quarter in 2018 had more investments in R&D than combined four prior years. In a one-year period from 2017 to 2018, an estimation of the Waymo’s equity raised dramatically. It went from 70 billion to 175 billion dollars. The industry itself faced many changes due to acquisitions made by General Motors, Ford, and Intel toward Cruise, ArgoAl, and MobilEye respectively. In addition, partnerships of Bosch with Daimler, Daimler with BMW, and Baidu with Apollo also were made in order to develop competitive product. Nonetheless, the biggest competitor of Waymo, General Motors, elaborated formula for success. They successfully incorporated self-driving technology to Chevrolet Bolt. Many competitors were copying GM’s formula. This achievement brought great new future prospects for both GM ad Cruise. In 2018, Softbank invested 2″,25 billion dollars to Cruise. Ford has its own division for driverless cars, which is open for investment. Daimler who used to be a leader in the science of artificial intelligence nowadays heavily depends on its partnership. Toyota has never been successful in self-driving technologies, and instead of creating own projects or acquisitions related to self-driving technologies, they invested 500 million dollars in Uber, which is a very distinctive approach. By looking at the competition and the investments made by various companies, it is clear that the Waymo’s competitive advantage will not last long. For example, GM and Cruise are already planning to manufacture their first driverless car. Other companies are on their path too. Even though, nowadays Waymo has a big competitive advantage, overtime an advantage based on technology is going to decline, and Waymo should think about building their advantage based on different values (Hars, 2018). The biggest advantage of Waymo is being first in the market. Waymo gained a reputation which helps them to create a strong network and services that may help to take out a significant part of market share from such taxi services as Lyft and Uber. In August of 2018, before Waymo launched the service, Morgan Stanley estimated the worth of 80 billion dollars. Plus 96 billion dollars of value was added due to licensing opportunities and driverless trucking project. But competitors do not sleep. They work hard and make big investments to the concept in order to get their piece of the pie. General Motors is planning to launch its taxi service this year. Other competitors, such as Daimler, Tesla, and Volkswagen are in product development stage but are ready for competition. It is only a matter of time (Randall, 2018). Tesla’s former director of Autopilot department, Sterling Anderson said that in 2018 every competitor in the industry possess a huge base of knowledge and such start-up as Waymo had are “less significant as they have been”. “A mile driven in 2010 is not a mile driven in 2018” (Hawkins, 2018). Cost of Self-Driving Vehicle Projects (Cengiz) Since 2009 till 2015, Google has spent over 1.1 billion dollars on their project of self-driving cars. In 2015 Waymo accused Uber in stealing their R&D secrets. Waymo’s financial analyst, Shawn Bananzadeh, estimated the damage accused by Uber by calculating all expenses spent from project’s start till 2015, which as was mentioned earlier is over 1.1 billion dollars. Waymo estimated each their trade secret of 1.1 billion dollar worth. In the end, Otto Trucking, a self-driving truck maker and Uber’s partner, called Waymo’s intention speculative and asked the court to dismiss the claim. Another competitor Intel bought Mobiliye for 15″,3 billion dollars which is the most expensive acquisition in the industry. Waymo tries to preserve their achievement from competitors as they understand that ongoing huge investments, acquisitions, and partnerships are a real threat. Nonetheless, Waymo can be proud of themselves as they achieved a leading role in the industry by spending much less than competitors (Harris, 2017). Waymo also announced that they along with Jaguar Land Rover are planning to make the first self-driving luxury car (Chimbelu, 2018). Benefits of Self-Driving Cars. (Cengiz) The innovation of self-driving technology is a great step forward that brings many benefits to the economy, society, and the environment. The system helps to choose the fastest route toward the destination, therefore help to reduce traffic on the roads. Consequently, reduced hours in traffic will reduce spreading carbon emissions to the atmosphere, which is very important for our environment and a great achievement in combating global warming. There is also a big benefit in the safety of people. Self-driving systems help to reduce deaths caused by car accidents. McKensey & company estimated artificial intelligence have a potential to prevent 90 percent of car accidents and save about 190 billion dollars for US in health costs and other damages (Driverless cars: From fantasy to reality, 2018).

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