How Autonomy Will Really Start

Why Ford, Argo AI and Walmart are going to be making a difference in the implementation of the tech

By Gary S. Vasilash

Although many people think—or imagine—that autonomous driving is going to occur from a company like Tesla, which will allow people to do whatever while their vehicle chauffeurs them to wherever, in point of fact, that is not going to be the case for a variety of reasons, not the least of which that sensors and processors are expensive, and even though there are some people who are willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money for something that claims to be “full” but is really more than half empty, OEMs are going to need to have assurance that there are going to be many more than a few who are willing to buy the tech.

But while consumers might not opt to spend the money, commercial carriers are likely to if they can determine that the tech is going to provide them with an economic advantage.

Ford, Argo AI and Walmart are driving autonomous tech forward. (Image: Ford)

Which makes the announcement by Ford, Argo AI and Walmart about the retailer using vehicles from Ford (Escape Hybrids) and self-driving technology from Argo AI to launch an autonomous delivery service for the “last-mile” in Miami, Austin, and Washington, DC, all the more significant.

These are mass-manufactured vehicles that are going to be put work by the world’s largest retailer in urban settings doing driving that will conceivably provide an ROI to Walmart, if not immediately, then at some point in the future.

Tom Ward, senior vice president of last mile delivery at Walmart U.S., said, “This collaboration will further our mission to get product to the homes of our customers with unparalleled speed and ease, and in turn, will continue to pave the way for autonomous delivery.”

The way this will work is that the Walmart online ordering platform will send information to the Argo AI cloud-based infrastructure, which will then calculate the necessary scheduling and routing.

The point is that this is all predicated on business processes.

And that’s what is going to make actual autonomy a real thing long before something shows up in your driveway that will take you from somewhere to somewhere else while you sit in the back seat eating a hot dog and watching Netflix.

Know that this is something of a journey as Ford and Argo AI have been testing their tech on city streets since 2018, the same year that Ford and Walmart ran a test in Miami. It takes time, effort and consistency of purpose.

The technology needs to be developed, tested, validated and verified.

It is not the consequence of an over-the-air update that follows a tweet.

Driving Done Remotely

Imagine being driven in an autonomous vehicle that’s being controlled by someone who is remote

By Gary S. Vasilash

Most companies that are developing autonomous driving technology for vehicles—companies like Waymo and Argo AI and Cruise—are doing so such that the autonomous vehicle is. . .autonomous.

The sensors and the processors and the actuators necessary to making a given vehicle drive without human input are all embedded in said vehicle.

Teleoperation in Berlin. (Image: Vay)

Sure, the vehicle may access the cloud every now and then for an update of some sort (e.g., perhaps for some information regarding location), but otherwise autonomous is as autonomous does.

But then there’s a company out of Berlin named Vay.

Vay’s approach to autonomy is different.

Vay has developed a “teledriving” system.

This means that there is a “teledriver.” Someone who is not in the vehicle but who is in control of the vehicle.

Think of it, perhaps, like an air traffic controller combined with someone who is playing some version of Forza.

Vay co-founder and CEO Thomas von der Ohe: “As our system does not rely on expensive 360-degree lidar sensors, and is therefore comparatively inexpensive, our way of rolling out driverless vehicles will not only enable consumers to experience driverless mobility sooner, but also provide a highly scalable solution that can be integrated into every car.”

It seems that the plan is learn from the teleoperation so that they will be able to roll out autonomous features gradually.

Vay has vehicles operating in Berlin right now, but there are safety drivers on board. The company believes that they will be able to operate fully teledriven next year.