- Business Insider/Danielle Muoio
There’s been a lot of action in self-driving cars in the past two years.
In short order, we’ve gone from sophisticated cruise control to experimental fully self-driving vehicles to semi-autonomous systems installed on actual cars that you can buy today.
With this much going on, all at once, there are bound to be similarities and differences.
So here’s a helpful rundown:
Adaptive Cruise Control
- Ford Media
This technology is quite common now, on both mass-market and luxury vehicles. The basic technologies to enable it have been around for two decades. Nowadays, lasers, radars, sensors, and cameras are used to manage a vehicle’s speed relative to other cars on the road.
Effectively, the car can sense when to slow down and when to speed back up.
It varies in cost, and can be found in cars and trucks across a wide range of price points.
Autopilot came online on properly equipped Tesla vehicles in October of 2015, with a software update. The system uses cameras, radar, and a sort of sonar to enable both adaptive cruise control, lane changing, emergency braking, and – controversially – auto-steering.
Hands can be remove from the wheel for short period (Tesla doesn’t recommend it), but signals prompt the driver to grab hold again.
The hardware is completely integrated into Tesla’s vehicle architectures. There’s nothing obtrusive about it. The systems themselves can be updated and improved with regular software releases. And Tesla employs “fleet learning” to enable Autopilot-capable cars to share information.
Teslas with Autopilot can also be summoned remotely from a parking location and can return themselves to the same spot.
It costs $3,000 as a pre-order, and that goes to $3,500 if it’s added after a sale.
The Google Car
The Google car combines lidar, a type of laser-radar hybrid, with cameras and sensors, as well as powerful mapping technologies.
The adorable little podmobiles are an advancement from the first-generation Google driverless cars, which were SUVs that had the autonomous systems strapped to their roofs. Everything is now integrated into a modest package; the most obvious autonomous element in the lidar “bubble” on top of each Google car.
We don’t know how much it costs. Google cars haven’t yet been unleashed on consumers and may never be.
The Apple Car
Really, who even knows? All we’ve seen are minivans with hardware on the roofs. Some of it looks like lidars or cameras.
The speculation is that Apple is developing a self-driving technology that it will eventually integrate with a masterpiece of industrial design. The iCar will change everything we ever though we knew about getting around.
Apple could have spent billions on this. Right now, we have no idea.
Ford’s driverless cars
Ford is testing a fleet of driverless Fusion sedans, with the stated goal of putting fully autonomous vehicles on the road by 2021.
From the looks of it, Ford will make considerable use of lidar, and they’ll get the units from Velodyne, a Silicon Valley company that the automaker invested in earlier this year.
Lidar ain’t cheap, and Ford’s Fusions appear to be using at least four lidar cylinders per car, prominently spinning on a rig bolted to the vehicle’s roof.
We’re guessing tens of thousands for this setup, which of course is still very much at the experimental stage.
Uber’s Pittsburgh fleet
- Business Insider/Corey Protin
Uber unveiled a fleet of driverless Ford Fusions in Pittsburgh last week. This was a bold and unexpected move from the ride-sharing service, which is valued at more then $60 billion. (It was also a vindication of the Ford Fusion, which has been the platform of self-driving choice for Ford itself!)
Eventually, Uber plans to put its tech on Volvo XC90 SUVs.
This is most extensive self-driving rig we’ve seen yet, a massive combination of cameras and lidars that looks profoundly pricey.
We wouldn’t be surprised if we’ve talking hundred of thousands of dollars.