Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Delphi (Audi) winning self-driving race

delphidriveFor media attention in the self-driving car race Delphi, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla Motors have been winning, this week. Each company offers its own take on how to deploy connected car tech to its fullest with self-driving autonomous robotic cars.

Delphi Left its Start in San Francisco

Today, Delphi’s self-driving vehicle left the San Francisco area to head towards New York in time for the New York Auto Show. The Audi SQ5 with Delphi self-driving technology will be co-piloted by engineers who have devised several routes to use depending upon weather and road conditions. Delphi is an auto supplier that makes the equipment such as sensors to enable self-driving.

Delphi has been developing autonomous technology since 1991 when it separated from its parent company GM. The radar can see through fog and snow. In very highly complex environments the car uses laser scanners.

Reporters who have ridden in the Delphi autonomous car note that the ride tends to be cautious on city streets and human drivers only need to take over in the cases of unexpected problems such as road construction or detours.

It looks a little foggy in San Francisco today, so they will need their laser sensors. You can follow the team on Twitter.(#delphidrive)

Delphi estimates that making a self-driving car in 2020 will add $5,000 to the price of car. Delphi supplies automakers who are now looking at designs three-to-five years into the future.

Mercedes Luxury in Motion

Also showing of its self-driving skills off road was the Mercedes F015 that made its stage debut as “Luxury in Motion” at CES in January. The car is designed with the wheels closer to the bumpers so that passengers can turn their seats to the center to talk to each other or communicate to the screens around them. Anyone in the car can operate it through the screens around the vehicle. A camera shows the exterior view of the car on the screens. The car is summoned with an iPhone app. It communicates to pedestrians and other cars showing lights.

Members of the media went for rides on an abandoned runway in the Bay Area. Most of the coverage was about the high tech aspects of the car, not how it was driving. In fact, engineers are quoted as saying that Mercedes-Benz does not expect drivers to give up driving, but instead use the self-driving Mercedes-Benz F015 as a tool to be more efficient.

Tesla OTA Updates to Auto-Steer & Privately Summon

Also in the Bay Area, Elon Musk was busy talking about autonomous cars at NVIDIA’s GPU conference, saying legislators may outlaw driven cars because they’re too dangerous. After his talk he had to clarify via Twitter that “Tesla is strongly in favor of people being allowed to drive their cars and always will be.”

During a conference call, Musk announced software update 6.2 for Tesla S cars with battery charge alerts, emergency brake and side collision/blind spot warning.

The new almost autonomous features such coming to Tesla S cars with software 7.0 during the next quarter include auto-steering on highways and car summoning on private roads. The driver will have to perform other functions.

What Will Win the Self-Driving Car Race?

Nissan recently announced that it is working with NASA to work on autonomous technology. At Mobile World Congress, Renault-Nissan announced it will bring to market car models with the ability to drive autonomously in traffic jams, with the driver able to take his or her hands off the wheel and eyes off the road in 2016. The next level will be autonomous highway driving in 2018 and city autonomous driving by 2020.

In February Volvo Cars announced how its Drive Me autonomous car program will deploy 100  people in self-driving Volvos on some roads around in Gothenburg by 2017.

At CES in January, Audi showed its own self-driving Audi that drove itself on highways from San Francisco to Las Vegas.

Last year, Google announced its self-driving car and this year stated that it wants to work with automakers.

Rumors suggest that Apple is developing an electric car.

Ford GM and Toyota  are researching self-driving in Michigan.

Automakers around the globe have the ability to add autonomous features into their cars. The timelines have not been totally confirmed, most automakers seem to be working on technology to be deployed in the next three to five years.

What will Govern Driverless Cars?

The technology is moving very quickly. However, the laws governing self-driving cars are taking much longer. Currently only Washington D.C., Nevada, Florida, California and Michigan have self-driving laws. Autonomous car laws are working through several state legislatures.

Current reckless driving laws could be used to limit self-driving cars while NHSTA has not created any governing rules for self-driving cars.

This week Consumer Watchdog sent a letter the California Department of Motor Vehicles warning the department to make sure that a driver can always take over and that the DMV should not be swayed by companies such as Google with a vested interest in driverless cars bully it into issuing rules that are inadequate to protect public safety.

After the first self-driving cars are designed, then they have meet regulations.

What we have is a great show with a circus of self-driving acrobat seeking media attention.

More than likely, cars will have more and more self-driving features over time while  lawmakers, drivers and riders get used to the concepts. We predict that each automaker will claim to be the first with some variant of self-driving.

Autonomous Car Research

Research shows that self-driving cars could save tons of money. Some studies show that Americans want a driverless connected car  while others show that the public is worried.

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) found that people surveyed feel positive about connected vehicles, have optimistic expectations of the benefits, have some concerns, and generally desire connected-vehicle technology when it becomes available.

Pew Research discovered that the public wants autonomous, robotic, driverless cars even more than brain implants or cloned meat.