Would You Go Driverless?

We are always excited to see what is “coming around the corner” when it comes to the manufacturing industry. The advancement of technology over the years has greatly impacted the face of manufacturing in southwest Virginia. Today, we wanted to discuss a very interested advancement: driverless cars.

Driverless cars have been a human dream since Leonardo Da Vinci designed a hypothetical one in the late 1400’s. This may still seem like something straight from futuristic science fiction, but advanced technologies in sensors, mapping, and computer power are quickly making it a reality. Driverless cars are already being tested by major automotive manufacturers, with the goal for release as early as 2021. In other words, within the next five years you might be able to request a driverless ride from your cell phone.

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Ford is the latest automotive company to begin testing driverless vehicles. They are investing in a trial of delivery vehicles in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The vehicles are made to look driverless, but for now will still be driven by humans. Ford is testing the response to the vehicles to see if people are willing to walk to the vehicle and pickup their own products and how consumers respond to the idea of a robotic vehicle. Currently Ford is partnering with Dominoes for food deliveries and Postmates for takeout, groceries, and other purchases.

Ford is also testing a fleet of self-driving cars in the same area. The cars are powered by Argo.AI a self driving startup. Those cars are using cameras and sensors with the purpose of creating high-definition maps of the area.

The information gathered during these two trials will be used in the 2021 launch of Ford’s fleet of autonomous vehicles. The vehicles will be used to transport people during rush hour and then rather than sitting idle during off hours, they will be used during those times for delivery of goods.

The cars will of course need cleaning and tune-ups, so Ford has also planned an “operations terminal” for the cars to return to and be serviced as needed. This will likely be done by Ford dealerships.

Ford isn’t the only automotive company moving towards a self-driving fleet. Nissan Motor Company, Toyota Motor Corp., Alphabet Inc., and General Motors are all working towards the same goal. So how will this impact automotive manufacturing jobs? With the current auto industry trends manufacturing will continue to need more designers. As people become passengers on a driverless commute the interior of the vehicle will have to change as well. The interior of a driverless car could be used as an office space, a place to sleep, and traveling with pets or packages needs to be accounted for. The interior of the car could also be turned into a traveling gym, easily enabling exercises like rowing, chest-flys, and pull downs, all exercises that could be done with resistance bands or weighted straps attached to the car interior. Manufacturing will need designers to create these new environments.

We are excited about this new development, the interesting technology jobs it will bring, and its potential to impact our region. Autonomous vehicles will pave the way for other new technologies (maybe even flying cars!). Manufacturing is moving forward into new frontiers – what an exciting time!

As the technology of cars become ever more complex, manufacturing will also need more engineers and software developers. Self-driving cars require extra sensors and cameras to replace human eyes and reflexes, as well as specific technology to make the hardware and software work together.

How do you feel about this new fleet of autonomous cars? Would you go driverless? Start a conversation with us on Facebook and let us know!







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