The future of self-driving cars coming to your neighborhood soon


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Throughout the years, self-driving cars have slowly made its way onto public roads.

“It’s the future,” said Patrick Saperstein, talking about the autonomous cars.

He along with around 70 other people attended the “God View Is My Copilot in Self-Driving Cars” panel at South by Southwest.

The speakers included Tim Higgins with The Wall Street Journal, Doug Newcomb with C3 Group, Seval Oz, CEO of Aurima Inc. and Dr. Kay Stepper, vice president of Automated Driving at Robert Bosch LLC.

The panel discussed various things from the safety aspect of self-driving cars to the newest technology.

“As human beings, we don’t do a very good job of it,” said Stepper. “We had 40,000 fatalities just in this country, 1.3 million worldwide, so one could argue we are not doing a fantastic job of operating these machines.”

But there’s still work to be done before self-driving cars make its way to your neighborhood. “This is basically affecting every part of our human ecosystem as we know it in the digital world,” said Oz.

Oz’s company builds autonomous vehicle sensor fusion software and right now, she says the goal is to incorporate radar technology into the self-driving vehicles to enhance the sensors, which she says generates a safe ride.

“Perception technology that’s better than the human eye,” she said.

Oz and others say these vehicles will shape the future of cities. “The way we move people, goods and services worldwide,” said Oz.

Google’s sister company, Waymo, announced it’s launching a pilot program involving self-driving cars in Atlanta, Georgia. During the pilot program, self-driving trucks will be tested by having the trucks haul cargo to Google’s data centers. Google has tested these trucks in California and Arizona, but they want to see how it would work in Atlanta’s heavy traffic conditions.

Besides the transportation of items, Oz and others say there will be a need and we will see an increase in the teleoperations industry.

“Expect a grid that manages remotely these vehicles and enables to make backup decisions for the vehicles,” said Oz.

She understands some may worry about the future of their employment, but, she says, for example, truck drivers would not have to be unemployed if self-driving trucks hauling goods became a common trend in the decades to come. Oz says those individuals would just have to be retrained.

“The first people that can be deployed in that industry are the truck drivers who are so careful and knowledgeable about load factors and how to manage large haul vehicles across countries,” she said. “These would be the ideal people I would want to transfer over and retrain in terms of skill sets to be able to remotely manage traffic flow.”

Oz says the teleoperations industry it would be similar to the aviation command control and would become a part of the commercial enterprise.

“That’s the nature of human beings we have to evolve,” she said. “You’re going to have a whole industry evolve to be able to remotely manage these self-driving vehicles.”

A soon-to-be reality in California, after the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, gave the green light for self-driving cars to begin testing on public roadways without a person inside in February under the condition the car would have a person operating remotely in case of an emergency. The law goes into effect on April 2.

Oz also says infrastructure will play a role in the future of self-driving cars as well as federal and state regulations.

And, although some may be wary of what’s to come, they say they’re ready.

“It’s coming,” said Saperstein. “We will work with whatever comes.”

SXSW will be hosting future panels focusing on self-driving cars:

On Friday, Mar. 11 from 3:45 to 4:45 p.m. SXSW will host ‘Google Self-Driving Car Project’ at the Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D 531 E 4th St.

On Monday, Mar. 12 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. SXSW will host ‘How Cities will Drive Autonomous Vehicles‘ at the Four Seasons.

On Wednesday, Mar. 14 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. SXSW will host ‘How Uber Designs for a Self-Driving Future‘ at the Fairmont Hotel.

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