Came the day. Self-driving cars are already on the streets of several cities. And it is not a question of functional tests in closed circuits, “far from reality”. Filled with sensors, these autonomous vehicles share the streets with conventional cars, buses, trucks, and even cross pedestrians.
Shanghai is the largest city in China and the financial hub of that country. In a corner of the huge city that contains more than 26 million people it works Robotaxi, a rental car without a driver that covers an area of 50 kilometers which make up the Jiading downtown district, the Automobile Exhibition Center, the business district, and reach subway stations and hotels. The initiative is from the DiDi mobility technology platform, a name that comes from “Ding ding”, which in Chinese means “call a taxi”.
Traveling in a Robotaxi is easy. You have to download an app and request the car from there without a driver to ride within the established limits. As these trips are officially still in the trial stage, they are free. This is also why passengers are never alone. For legal reasons, there is always an engineer on board, although he never takes the commands of the car.
Once the trip has been requested, it only remains to wait for the car to reach the point where the GPS locates the customer. Once in the car, the passenger must confirm the destination by touching a screen. The car, a Volvo XC60, will start up and go through the city avoiding traffic signals, pedestrians and other vehicles thanks to sensors and cameras that it carries. Also, for its enormous connectivity capacity.
“We currently have more than 40 autonomous vehicles taking passenger trips in Shanghai and more than 100 in our open road tests in Beijing, Suzhou and Hefei in China, and California in the United States, ”he told Clarion via mail Xing Meng, Chief Operating Officer of DiDi Autonomous Driving.
On the number of humans behind an autonomous car, Meng said that “DiDi began testing autonomous cars in 2016. And currently has a team of more than 500 talents dedicated to research and development; encompassing perception, HD maps, prediction, planning, control, infrastructure and simulation. Additionally, we will capitalize on data accumulated in our platform to run simulations, greatly complementing the volume of data that exists today as a result of field tests ”.
Also in the United States
On the other side of the world, driverless cars also circulate through streets and avenues, but in this case they are small cars dedicated to pizza delivery. The robotics company Nuro already delivers pizzas from the Domino’s chain in his friendly R2 vehicles in a sector of Houston, the most populous city in Texas. The manager of the pizzeria only has to load the vehicle and it delivers the orders to the consumer at their home. The only two humans involved in the operation are the salesperson in the business and his client, at home.
Domino’s randomly selects a customer from the area covered by the R2 to carry out the delivery order, and the customer receives text message notifications telling them where the little “robocar” is. Also you get a PIN that will allow you to access your order when arrive.
Once the car parks at the destination, the customer enters the PIN on the touch screen and the doors open and the pizza boxes can be removed.
“A million dollar development for a robot to deliver $ 8 pizzas? It’s unbelievable, ”American comedian and TV host Jimmy Fallon joked on his show when the news broke in April. And he added, as always controversial: “To make the transition from human delivery to the robot easier, they would add a little smell of marijuana to these cars.”
For its part, the pharmacy chain CVS Pharmacy is already testing delivery with an R2, also in Houston.
El Nuro R2 delivers pizzas in Houston, United States.
But the most striking thing is the recent investment in Nuro by the food company Chiplote. Although the amount that the Tex-Mex food brand put in was not revealed (Nuro received more than US $ 1 billion from various investors), it is known that they have the idea of designing a brand car from scratch, especially designed to transport your food without spilling or getting cold.
Previously, Nuro had partnered with the Kroger supermarket chain, from which it delivered its R1 autonomous vehicles ordered in Arizona.
Another step towards the robotization of automobiles was taken at the end of last year, when the state of California, USA, authorized the circulation of small autonomous vehicles for the delivery service of all kinds of products. It was done by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
The passenger of the Robotaxi that circulates through the streets of Shanghai can see on his cell phone how far away the car that will come to pick him up is.
“This first permit is a milestone in the evolution of autonomous vehicles in California. We will continue with our commitment to maintain safety in public spaces, while accompanying technological development, “said Steve Gordon, director of DMV, in a statement.
In that sense, they also spoke on the other side of the world. “We deeply believe that autonomous driving has to go from being a limited novelty to becoming a efficient and reliable option of daily mobility. We know that it involves a long road but we are determined to overcome the challenges to achieve it ”, concluded from Shanghai Xing Meng, of DiDi Autonomous Driving.