We Know Automated Cars are Here to Stay but Why in California?
Even though flying cars have yet to make their debut in the 21st century, automated self-driving vehicles are on the rise. From Google to Tesla, established auto manufacturers all want a piece of this new technology. In fact, just earlier this year Ford acquired SF-based startup, Cruise Automation, for $1 billion. Automated cars have already staked their claim in the marketplace, but some automakers are strategically planning to deliver the most innovative and effective models for the future.
The Chinese organization, Baidu, recently was granted permission to test its self-driving vehicles on California highways. The Golden State is an ideal location for these types of projects because of its innovative atmosphere specifically in areas such as Silicon Valley. The general manager of Baidu, Jing Wang, already has a facility in Silicon Valley with plans to have over 100 employees on-site by the end of this year. Not bad for an organization that debuted its autonomous prototypes in China in December of 2015. Since then, Baidu has received a plethora of investors and interested parties seeking partnerships. Just last month, they partnered with Ford to jointly invest $150 million in Velodyne, a Silicon Valley startup specializing in laser-based sensors designed for automated vehicles. After months of testing their self-driving cars in China, Wang is excited to run these evaluations in California telling CNBC, “Being able to do road tests will greatly accelerate our progress.” Baidu has officially become the 15th company to receive a permit for the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Google has been considered the pioneer of it all and popular manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Ford were also given the green light to run tests on Cali soil. In addition, Alibaba, the Chinese-based tech company, continues to invest revenue and resources for the launching of e-car startups and other similar ventures in California. Lastly, smaller startups such as Faraday Future were authorized to test their own vehicles in June.
Now if you’re wondering why so many self-driving enthusiasts are coming to California, you aren’t alone. Earlier this year, Tesla became the first organization to report a death from its automated technology. Since then, researchers and engineers have been scrutinizing how to avoid future vulnerabilities. The solution lies in the roads and infrastructure. In the 20th century when the automobile first started to hit the scenes, it became apparent that changes in the landscape would be required. The approach will be no different with automated vehicles except it may require even more sophisticated modifications. Take for example all of the public parking in Los Angeles that will have to be removed or the talk of safety mandates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, with these changes come big payouts. A previous study by the MIT Technology Review said that converting the total job force to a more automated approach could produce more than $3 trillion a year. Still, in order for any of this to manifest, the infrastructure has to match the needs of self-driving vehicles.
Is it possible that California has the roads needed for auto-suppliers to run their tests effectively? Or perhaps policy-makers envision that the Golden State will eventually be the leading consumer of automated cars and are planning ahead of time?
“Baidu is fully committed to making self-driving cars a reality,” said Jing Wang, SVP of Baidu and General Manager of Baidu’s Autonomous Driving Unit in a press statement. “Autonomous vehicles will save lives and make transportation more efficient. Baidu’s Silicon Valley car team will play a significant role in building the car of the future.”