'Amazing' developments re: self-driving cars

Monday, September 19, 2016
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

Google self-driving carSelf-driving cars and the technologies behind them continue to make headlines, and not always for positive reasons.

Auto and tech companies are in a race to get self-driving cars to the public, but as with many cutting-edge technologies, there are not enough trained engineers to meet the demand for talent. So the online higher education company Udacity has created a "nanodegree" to train self-driving car engineers. Applications for the program opened Monday, September 12, and Udacity says more than 3,000 people applied for the 250 spots.

Scribner

"More training options are great," says Marc Scribner, transportation policy analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). "But right now, at least where we are, I think a general sort of educational program like that is less useful in the self-driving car settings, at least as things are currently being done by the major developers, primarily because the technology is so proprietary."

Scribner says there are common elements between all of these various prototypes, namely they all tend to rely on the same classes of sensors. But the underlying software can be dramatically different.

"So, I'm all for more education on that," he tells OneNewsNow. "I'm just not sure how far that will actually go in the real world, and I think the training that needs to be done will take place within these developers."

As for those developers, Scribner thinks, "It's actually pretty amazing."

"Over the past few years, you've seen all the major automakers move into the development of self-driving cars," he observes, "or at least some levels of automation, but ... the top sort of players right now -- Google is still a major player, Volvo, Ford, and then Uber, which has partnered with both those companies."

General Motors (GM) is also involved, while Toyota has reversed its position on fully-automated vehicles to the point that Scribner says it is moving in the same direction as other companies.

Still, all this comes at a time in which Tesla has been in the news for at least two accidents that some people believe may have been the result of Tesla's so-called auto-pilot system. That includes a fatal crash in the U.S. that is under federal investigation. Scribner says that is not the same thing that other developers are pursuing.

"It's certainly a level of automation, but it's a lower level," he explains.

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