Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

Hands-Free Innovation Continues

Hands-Free Innovation Continues

Audi automated car delphi

As a kid, how many times did you try riding your bike with no hands? Today, kids are still trying to ride bikes without holding onto the handlebars, and driverless vehicle innovations are taking it to the next level, too.

The driverless car movement is yet another example of what we’ve written about before—that the world is not only changing, it’s changing FASTER than at any point in history. Will the driverless movement help with the driver shortage? Will safety be enhanced because we don’t have to worry about driver fatigue? Will these vehicles help ease traffic and make us more productive?

One innovator, Google, is at the center of much of the driverless vehicle discussion, which I find interesting. Why does Google want us in driverless cars? Isn’t their business search engine optimization? In the consensus of the people I’ve asked, Google might be betting we’re about to be on our mobile devices even more than we already are. That would mean more Google searches and more clicks on more ad words. I’m not completely convinced. When I drive around, I still see a lot of people on their phones. I’m guessing they’re texting—not searching the internet. But, it does raise an interesting question. What is safer: a driverless car, or a car being driven by someone on their phone?

A rumor is also circulating that Google is pursuing driveless cars so it can compete with Uber. Last month, the head of Google’s driveless car project said he would like to see his company’s cars used by multiple strangers at once. Pretty cool concept. Rather than optimize orders of widgets, they are optimizing orders of people. Not bad for carbon emissions, either. Ironically, guess what mapping technology Uber uses? You guessed it. Google. I’m guessing Uber has provided Google with some pretty cool information on the demand for transportation by geography. There must be something to this rumor, because Uber is building a robotics research center so it can build its own driverless cars, and according the website TechCrunch, Uber has hired more than 50 scientists from Carnegie Mellon’s University to work on the project.

But Google and Uber aren’t the only innovators in the driverless vehicle space. Just last week, Delphi Automotive, launched a groundbreaking journey. They embedded their technology in an Audi Q5 and sent it on the first 3,500 mile, coast-to-coast trip by a car without a human driver. Only the highway leg was truly driverless—engineers were in the car to ensure the vehicle worked properly and that safety was not a concern, and a driver did take over when the vehicle entered crowded city streets. But the experiment was yet another milestone of innovation.

It’s still too soon to say how quickly driverless vehicles will arrive in the transportation industry. But we are pretty excited for Delphi and salute the work that brought them this far. We’ll all be watching for what this could mean—for them, and for all of us.