Some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley are taking on the challenge that awaits in terms of being able to provide millions of Americans with self-driving cars in the years to come. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, as well as Microsoft and Amazon are deploying huge amounts of resources to become big players in autonomous vehicles.
Sebastian Thrun from Google started Google’s journey with autonomous cars back in 2009. Nearly a decade’s worth effort has produced dozens of key insights into autonomous vehicles and Google’s own self-driving car, called Waymo. The remarkable thing about Google’s efforts with Waymo is that the self-driving car is a complete system unto itself, including Google’s own proprietary software and sensors.
Google is now in the works with the rental car company Avis. Google plans on allowing Avis to offer autonomous cars using Google’s proprietary software and over a decade’s worth of insights to consumers across the nation. A pilot program of sorts was already undertaken in Arizona insofar as people involved in the program were allowed to use Google’s self-driving cars to get to and from work.
Apple Going Beyond iPhones
Tim Cook, Chief Executive Offer over at Apple, had to disabuse a spate of rumors that Apple had been working on an entire lineup of autonomous vehicles. The truth is that while Apple doesn’t have any near-term plans for autonomous vehicles and Apple cars (Apple mini?), Tim Cook pointed out that Apple is working feverishly on the back-end software that could one day come to power autonomous, self-driving vehicles.
It seems like every big tech company these days is getting involved in autonomous vehicles in one way or another. In the same way that Google partnered with Avis to hopefully deploy rentable autonomous vehicles, Apple has teamed up with Hertz. The plan is for Apple to offer Hertz the use of its software. Apple’s software would ultimately power the autonomous features on some of the SUVs that Hertz offers its customers.
These rumors have been confirmed by the city of San Francisco, where the Apple/Hertz pilot program is slated to be unveiled. Who knows? This might all work out in Apple’s favor in that “drivers” who are free to take their eyes off the road might be more apt to download songs, purchase exciting movies, and listen to music on their smartphones.
Microsoft Also Interested
Microsoft has taken a slightly different tack when it comes to autonomous vehicles. Instead of developing an end-to-end system like Google, Microsoft has decided to provide an open-source platform to auto makers eager to get first-mover perks in the autonomous car market. In the future, taking out a loan for a BMW, Nissan, or getting a car title loan for Toyota might also mean being able to use Microsoft’s open-source autonomous software since Microsoft has partnered with all three auto firms.
Amazon and Autonomous Transportation
Reducing transportation costs has always been a key concern at Amazon. The aim is to get products out to customers as soon as possible and to automate as much of the supply chain as possible. After all, automation of any kind cuts down on costs long term.
Still in the embryonic stages, Amazon did outline a self-driving food-delivery service in partnership with Toyota. There are reports from the Wall Street Journal and others that Amazon is highly focused on driverless delivery for its millions of products. Amazon already has a team dedicated to making deliveries more convenient for customers and less labor intensive for Amazon.
To this point, Apple is taking the early lead in its quest to corner the autonomous car market. While a few tech companies like Cisco have teamed up with automakers like Hyundai, Apple seems to be the only huge Silicon Valley firm with its own vehicle, proprietary software, and end-to-end system.