The age of autonomous vehicles is appearing on the horizon, and further evidence of that comes from GM and its Cadillac automotive line. The news is just the latest effort toward self-driving cars from big players in the automotive, payments and commerce industries.
According to a recent report, “Cadillac unveiled its second vehicle with Super Cruise, the 2020 CT5 sedan, at the New York Auto Show.” Super Cruise is “the highly automated system developed by Cadillac that is really about as close to autonomous driving as anyone can get today. It’s less well-known (than other autonomous driving systems) because, since its debut two years ago, Super Cruise has only been in one vehicle: the CT6 sedan.”
More specifically, Super Cruise, according to the report, “uses cameras, radar and LIDAR mapping data, combined with a robust driver monitoring system, to take a lot of stress and headaches out of highway driving. When engaged, drivers can take their feet off the pedals and hands off the steering wheel, and the car does the rest.” But the technology does not offer full autonomous driving – a camera inside the vehicle monitors the driver’s eye movement for signs of exhaustion or sleep.
The further deployment of Super Cruise signals yet another advance for autonomous – or near-autonomous – driving, technology that in turn could enable more drivers and passengers to conduct commerce and make payments from inside their autonomous vehicles. As PYMNTS research has shown, the average American has a 51-minute round-trip commute five days a week, and those commuters already power some $230 billion worth of commerce.
What was once a task associated with boredom, frustration and even alienation is transforming into an experience that could be among the most connected of consumers’ daily lives – one that turns the commute from a period of wasted time into one associated with getting multiple things done efficiently, and which is closely tied to payments.
That opportunity is among the motivations driving various companies to up their game around autonomous vehicles. For instance, Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently said he will launch the company’s robotaxi program by 2020. “I feel very confident predicting that there will be autonomous robotaxis from Tesla next year – not in all jurisdictions, because we won’t have regulatory approval everywhere,” he told a reporter, although he didn’t mention specific regulations.
Not only that, but Waymo, a company under the umbrella of Alphabet, which owns Google, has picked a Detroit factory to make self-driving cars. Waymo’s CEO John Krafcik said the company was teaming up with American Axle & Manufacturing to redo a Detroit factory, with the aim of it being operational by the middle of 2019. Waymo is thought by many to be at the forefront of making self-driving technology a reality, even if many experts think it will be a few years before the tech is actually viable.
Uber, General Motors and, of course, Tesla are all competing to be the first to bring the cars to the masses. Waymo already has a robotaxi fleet in Arizona consisting of retrofitted Chrysler Pacifica minivans, with plans to expand the program.
Other major payments and commerce players also are striving for power in this emerging industry. Apple is reportedly in talks with four or more companies about being suppliers for the next generation of self-driving sensors as part of its autonomous vehicle efforts. The company is looking for suppliers for lidar, a sensor that gives drivers a 3D view of the road. Apple wants the sensor to be smaller, less costly and more easily mass-produced than what is currently available. One person told Reuters that the company is calling for a “revolutionary design.” The sources wouldn’t say which companies Apple is talking to, the report noted.
The talks are new evidence that Apple is taking the self-driving car market seriously, pouring its focus into Project Titan, its top-secret, self-driving car project. It also implies the Cupertino, California iPhone maker wants to play a role in all aspects of hardware to control self-driving cars. It is in a race with car makers as well as technology companies to find the technology that prevails. In recent months, Apple has been making key hires, poaching engineers from Tesla and Google, and increasing road testing to get ahead of rivals.
Get comfortable and put on your seat belts – the race to the autonomous vehicle future seems to be speeding up.