Car development Being able to drive without humans is a unique challenge. There are many types of events that fully automated vehicles must be prepared to handle in milliseconds, and mistakes can have dire consequences. Solving these problems requires innovation in several areas, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, advanced sensors, simulation software that can mimic real-world driving. and computer frameworks to evaluate system performance.
In 2007, I participated in the Urban Challenge run by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) to test and develop autonomous vehicles (AVs). I vividly remember the first moment our car, the Junior, drove itself in the parking lot using the software I was working on just a few hours earlier. It was a turning point for me. This is clearly the most interesting and influential engineering problem of our time, which I have devoted all my time to studying ever since.
Over the past decade, the autonomous vehicle industry has tackled many technical challenges. For example, as of 2020, residents in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona, have been able to open the Waymo One app, order a ride, and get where they need to go in a vehicle without a driver. It’s hard to overstate the significance of that breakthrough. AV is now entering a new phase of scaling and expansion—which will make 2023 a pivotal year in which AV can begin to benefit more people in more places.
The progress the industry will make in 2023 will be the result of years of testing and deploying AV across different geographies. As a result, the AV industry is currently focused on mastering generalizable drive technology as it moves toward scaling commercial deployments. This is important because AVs don’t make commercial sense if they can’t easily work in different places. In the United States, the same technology needs to be able to handle the traffic density, hills and fog of San Francisco; Phoenix’s scorching temperatures and monsoon season; New York’s cold winters and heavy traffic; and the highways of Los Angeles. It also needs to be able to safely and consistently operate different types of vehicles.
By 2023, this will lead to the rollout of AV across multiple markets. Over the years, many AV companies—we at Waymo and others in Aurora, Cruise, Motional, Nuro and Oxbotica, to name just a few—have made tremendous progress in cities. as diverse as Las Vegas and San Francisco in the US and Oxford in the UK. Due to the underlying complexity of the matter, consolidation in the AV industry is inevitable and will continue. However, based on technical progress shared by the industry’s core, we should also see rapid and exciting expansion. Racers in San Francisco and its cities Wuhan and Chongqing In China it is also possible to call cars without a driver in the front seat. Over the next year and beyond, we will see the industry enter a new phase as fully self-driving ride-hailing services expand rapidly into new markets.
Trucking will also see progress. Self-propelled trucks have transported thousands of tons of goods for equal, ups, FedEx, Coca-Cola—and even Girl Scouts of North Texas. By 2023, large self-propelled rigs will become more common, especially in Texas and Arizona. AV companies will enter into more partnerships with carriers, freight brokers and major consumer brands. Cargo volumes will increase, demonstrating how AV can help untangle supply chains and fill critical trucker shortages. (According to the International Trucking Union, the world has lack of more than 2.6 million truck driver in 2021). If you live in the Southwest US, chances are your new coffee table, sofa, or winter sweater will be shipped automatically.
Ultimately, the automatic movement of people and goods will have as many impacts on our daily lives, economy and society as the invention of the automobile. Using self-driving technology to safely transport people and goods could create hundreds of billions of dollars in economic value and bring increased mobility to more people who need it. In 2023, as more people in more places use AV, we’ll see a preview of what the future of AV support will look like—and how that future is closer than you think.