Self driving cars are usually considered the realm of tech titans like Google, Uber and more secretly, Apple. But traditional automakers have not been sitting idly on their hands waiting for Silicon Valley upstarts to eat their lunch. No, Detroit, Munich, Yokohama, Gothenburg and other centers of automobile innovation have been working rapidly to develop their own self-driving vehicles.
In WIRED, Jack Stewart writes about how Ford is using real world tests like delivering pizza with its self-driving research vehicles to better understand the future of autonomous driving.
“Society is, in essence, completely unprepared for the complexities of the transformative change that is ahead in the automotive, mobility space,” says Bryan Reimer, who studies autonomous vehicles and human factors at MIT. “Does the pizza delivery man need to be there? That’s just one of the many hundreds of questions we don’t know.”
Which is why Ford says understanding pizza delivery is crucial to its future. “We don’t want to wait until we have autonomous vehicle technology all ready to launch to start understanding these businesses, so we’re doing things in parallel,” says Sherif Maraby, Ford’s head of autonomous and electric vehicles.
Maraby believes Ford, which has promised fully autonomous robocars by 2021, has to learn from experiments like this, and factors that its engineers perhaps haven’t even thought of. Things like, are people prepared to walk to the curb for pizza? Will they try to leave a tip in the robot car (definitely not required)? Will they rest pizza boxes on the car’s roof and block its sensors? Do they freak out if their code to open the window doesn’t work, or if there’s a problem with their order? Ford will then modify its vehicles, software, and operations before bringing its promised driverless car to market by 2021.
Read more here.