The autonomy of the future
The advance of autonomous cars is an indisputable phenomenon, and I am not referring to electric cars but to those that are capable of driving autonomously, regardless of the type of combustion it has. In one way or another, EVs are more associated with intelligent driving since their entire system is integrated in a simpler way, but that does not take away from the fact that it is a feat of engineering. Connecting the thousands of sensors to the computer, which are used to achieve automation, is one of the focuses towards the future of automobiles, and some companies are already in a race to come up with the best system.
The company Mobileye Global (NASDAQ: MBLY) has designed its own chip capable of managing more than 176 billion operations per second, coordinating different types of sensors and giving level 4 autonomy to the car; that is, it is able to achieve autonomy in all directions, longitudinal and horizontal, it should be noted that level 5 is the highest and there are no cars in this category; at this level, the driver takes a back seat and is not required to perform any task. This chip is being manufactured by one of the largest semiconductor companies in the world, Intel, under a 5-nanometer process, providing a very remarkable efficiency.
While this technology is just beginning to be developed and the company expects to see the first EyeQ Ultra chips by the end of 2023, it is estimated that much of the production and rollout will be in 2025, the year in which several manufacturers aim to have new cars on the market.
This may sound quite futuristic, but it is the same thing that happened when computers came to work, making them more efficient and automating certain aspects. Here, something similar is happening, for some years now, we have been seeing the different driver assistances, which are translated into different levels of automation, but it is only a matter of time until a turning point occurs and automation as such reaches most cities, perhaps in 2025, as Mobileye Global (NASDAQ: MBLY) has planned. According to company data, there are already more than 100 million cars on the road with its technology.
Thinking about how autonomous cars are today and how they will be in the future, I would not be surprised to see that in the future, cars will be more than vehicles that transport us from point A to point B; Tesla cars were the pioneers in autonomy, but Honda and Sony are planning to go further, creating their own autonomous car, thinking about technology and also entertainment. At CES in Las Vegas, they presented Afeela, a level 3 autonomous car focused on entertainment and comfort. Will we see a car with an integrated PlayStation? Sony claims that it is technologically possible. Perhaps the time will come when we will be able to travel without having to keep our eyes on the road and play video games with our children while we travel to our destination.
The biggest challenge will be to perfectly combine autonomy and comfort, making the trip as premium as possible, something like a Swiss watch, where in addition to its aesthetic beauty all mechanisms and systems must act in coordination to achieve high fluidity. It is important to overcome this challenge because it will bring more confidence to those who wish to use this type of autonomous car, delegating everything to a computer, as they are in their early stages, and improvements are always welcome.
To achieve the perfect functioning and synchronization of all the sensors and cameras that enable autonomous driving, Mobileye Global (NASDAQ: MBLY) creates a digital map, but not just any map, but one that identifies cars parked on the side, pedestrians wishing to cross the street, traffic lights that control traffic, making this not an ordinary street map, but one in real-time and this is where the full potential of the EyeQ Ultra chip, with its enormous processing power, is needed.
The fascination with autonomous cars makes it a global phenomenon, and several companies, if not all in the automotive industry, are conducting extensive research to see how they can incorporate these systems into their products, making us move rapidly towards a more autonomous future. While Level 4 autonomous cars are in their early stages, something that seemed far off to me in movies a few years ago, today, it’s a reality.
Electric cars were just the beginning of a revolution in the automotive industry, and while I have not yet had the opportunity to test drive fully autonomous cars I imagine the next step is to make cars smarter than they already are.