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Developers Face Challenges in Deploying Driverless Cars Outside of Major Cities

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【Summary】The first (and most daunting) step in bringing autonomous driving to far-flung locations in the US is accurate mapping.

Michael Cheng    May 21, 2017 8:15 AM PT
Developers Face Challenges in Deploying Driverless Cars Outside of Major Cities

Self-driving cars are generating a lot of buzz – around major US cities. But what about small towns and flyover cities located in middle America?

These locations are somewhat neglected in the race to build and deploy autonomous vehicles. Most of the focus is around urban locations with reliable infrastructure, such as Boston, Austin, Seattle and San Francisco. Even ridesharing, which doesn't require a mature self-driving platform, lacks adoption in flyover cities, as most prefer to get around in private vehicles.

"Even though driverless cars may be shoehorned to fit the traditional urban environment in the short term, it won't be a long-term solution for maximizing potential benefits," explained Lili Du, an assistant professor of transportation engineering at Illinois Tech.

How will developers cater to the needs and requirements of residents outside of developed US cities? Find out below.

Prioritized Mapping

The first (and most daunting) step in bringing autonomous driving to far-flung locations in the US is accurate mapping. At the moment, developers are having a difficult time keeping maps constantly updated in urban cities. But once they are able to, the technology should also be applied to other states and regions.

The main challenge with mapping for autonomous driving is keeping the information updated. This requires using data from the city, vehicular sensors and infrastructural components around the location. According to George Arison, Founder and CEO of Shift, private companies will play a big role in deploying maps to areas that lack updated infrastructure.

During CES 2017, Mobileye expressed the importance of maintaining accurate map logs. Self-driving cars must be capable of receiving updates to maps in real-time to prevent service disruption.

Mapping low-population areas in the US is advantageous for both city dwellers and those residing in rural locations. With comprehensive mapping, individuals based in the city could command a self-driving car to go across the country for a weekend road trip, passing through several small towns along the way.

Improving Adoption Rates

Individuals who aren't exposed to the life-saving benefits that driverless technology has to offer are naturally apprehensive about one day replacing their car with one. Even Ford CEO Mark Fields is having a hard time convincing the company's investors that self-driving is a vital part of the future of the transportation industry.

"Just paint a picture of what the business could look like by that point in time, how big it might be, what type of margins," said Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks. "It would help investors look beyond this quarter, look beyond this year and see the business is transforming and you really do have to participate or you'll get left behind."

Field's solution is to educate and showcase the company's latest developments and milestones related to autonomous vehicles. This classic approach is currently missing in boosting adoption rates of modern cars. Consumers aren't the only group that needs a crash course on driverless cars. City officials based in rural locations also need to stay in the loop about the latest advancements of the transportation sector. They will be the ones to approval upgrades to critical infrastructure and spending for maintaining dilapidated roadways.

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