The following is a guest post by THOR AVAS
We are living what many sociologists call the “second industrial revolution” or the 5th era. Technologies like robotics, IA, 3D printing, nanotechnology, bioengineering, genetic engineering, full connectivity, and others were science fiction only fifty years ago. Globalization helped to speed up the process, helping to spread new ideas and technologies all over the world. Besides, the latest technological innovations and easy access to technology allow people to create their own start-ups at a relatively low cost. Credits, angel investors, and other kinds of investors are alert and eager to invest in the technology business.
Transportation is also evolving faster than ever.
Actual high-end and mid-range vehicles have fabulous interiors with big screens, digital dashboards, active and passive security systems, and driving aids that were unthinkable twenty years ago. Commercial self-driving vehicles are around the corner; technology is available, but there are some obstacles to be solved. Manufacturers of these vehicles have to prove and convince the authorities that these vehicles are completely safe.
Meanwhile, governments need to create new laws to regulate this kind of transportation, and the public needs to approve it as well.
Technology companies have been developing self-driving vehicles for about fifteen years, and the results are amazing. These vehicles wouldn’t be possible without modern, powerful computers, artificial intelligence, radars, laser, and other technologies that, when combined, can be used to drive a vehicle safer than a human. Like most technological processes, it’s a vicious circle; progress leads to new inventions and breakthroughs that help to develop the new technology faster and much more advance than anyone could have thought.
The sensors mounted on these cars scan the road a million times a second, and their complex computers are capable of devising multiple solutions to avoid obstacles and choosing the best way to avoid them in nanoseconds.
There are several approaches to controlling self-driving vehicles, but the most practical and amazing development is the artificial driver approach.
Waymo, former Google’s self-driving division, uses this method and calls it “Waymo Driver.” This concept is revolutionary, and Waymo isn’t the only company that is working on it; Pony.ai is using a technology called PonyPilot. The idea is to use AI and extremely fast computers to create a universal diver which will be able to operate any kind of vehicle just by changing a few parameters in its configuration. This allows companies to fit the CPU along with the software and sensors to virtually any vehicle, no matter the make, type, and model, and they can have an autonomous vehicle in no time. These “drivers” can even operate 18-wheelers and lorries, as you can see in the Daimler-Waymo joint venture “Waymo Via”, where “Waymo Drivers” are connected to the tractor trucks of the new Daimler’s Cascadias.
Competition is fierce in the autonomous driving industry, bringing massive inversions to the sector, helping to speed up the process, and bringing more and more innovations.
While many of these companies claim that they are not going for people’s jobs, they openly dream about tireless, focused, reliable, experienced, and even sober, they say, drivers.
Spoiler alert! In the new Paramount Channel series “Super Pumped”, about Uber’s beginnings, you will find the real reason why Uber got involved in the autonomous driving industry.
Luckily for Uber drivers, the giant app stopped pursuing that goal in 2020, selling its technology to a new player in the market called Aurora. However, Uber is about to launch a self-driving version of Uber Eats in California sometime this year.
Until the beginning of this year, all the companies have been conducting tests; they carried people as part of pilot programs, but they didn’t charge their passengers any fee. Carrying goods was different; some companies managed to charge small amounts for hauling cargo; however, the cost was derisory compared with the huge operation costs all these companies have.
Things might change this year now that Pony.ai and the Chinese giant Baidu have managed to have licenses granted to operate their robotaxis in several Chinese districts commercially.
Meanwhile, vehicle manufacturers are becoming increasingly interested in exploring this market. Companies like Daimler, Jaguar, Hyundai, Lexus, Fiat-Chrysler, and Ford, among others, are already involved somehow in the business, and more companies are probably following the same steps soon.
Everything is set for these vehicles to communicate with the road, as well as with other vehicles.
Traffic regulation agencies will probably have to work to make a communication protocol that makes possible the communication of all unmanned vehicles no matter the brand or the model, as it happened with traditional road signs, and in other fields like the Internet, with protocols like the TCP/IP.
The debate about robots vs. jobs or human flesh drivers has already begun.
Governments and motor vehicle agencies still have a lot to do, but there is another important pending issue that is sound. Unmanned vehicles are based on hybrid or electric vehicles. It’s very important that as these vehicles can anticipate other vehicles and objects’ movements to avoid collisions, they also have any sort of sound warning system to alert pedestrians, visually impaired people, and human drivers that they are coming.
Hybrid vehicles are extremely silent, but electric vehicles are deadly silent, making them very dangerous for pedestrians, even more in modern cities full of distractions and sound pollution. Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems (AVAS) are mandatory for most electric vehicles.
Still, it’s a pressing matter that unmanned vehicle designers take sound as seriously as they take all the safety aspects of driverless driving. If you browse a little, it seems that sound is not one of the main concerns of any of these companies. Maybe it’s a wrong impression, but the fact is that just googling “self-driving” or “unmanned vehicle” and “AVAS” just as an example doesn’t bring any relevant results is worrying. No matter how many anti-collision measures these vehicles have, sound is an effective tool to avoid accidents involving pedestrians and bikers, among others. Hopefully, governments, regulation agencies, and engineers will address this issue before any severe accident happen.
About THOR company (Car Systems, LLC):
The manufacturing company THOR was founded in 2017 and the first successful project was a revolutionary electronic exhaust system for gasoline and diesel vehicles. The company is actively developing in all areas: acoustics, hardware, and, most importantly, the creation of musical compositions. At the beginning of its work, the sound studio’s team of engineers paid great attention to original sounds – powerful engines of real cars. And for the last 3 years, it has been actively engaged in the creation of synthetic sounds for electric vehicles. Since 2020, the THOR AVAS project has been launched – an acoustic warning system for any type of electric transport. It is a turnkey solution with advanced proprietary acoustic technology software, electronic control unit and speakers. The project contributes to the improvement of acoustic ecology in the cities of the future and safety for electric transport.