Self Driving Car – Automation and the Future of Transportation


VO:”If the manufacturer could equip every car with an automatic driving mechanism…” VO:”…the car would always do what it should do when it got on the road.” We’ve been promised a future with self-driving
cars for a long time, but the technology available today is finally starting to pay off on that
100-year-old promise. There’s an incredible number of companies racing towards the autonomous
vehicle future, which I’ve talked about before. Tesla’s approach to that future
is based on radar and computer vision, which is what powers Autopilot, enhanced summon,
and at some point, more self-driving features. But there are some other pioneers in the space
making interesting progress on autonomy from a completely different angle. Waymo was kind
enough to invite me out for an event to meet some of their team, learn about their self-driving
technology, what motivates them, and ride in one of the Waymo One taxis operating in
the Phoenix, Arizona area. My takeaway from the experience surprised me. Before walking through what I saw, take a
moment and hit the subscribe button and notification bell, so you don’t miss out on future videos
just like this one. I’m Matt Ferrell … welcome to Undecided. Taking a step back and looking at the history
of self-driving cars is kind of amazing. This isn’t a new idea at all and has been floating
around in our collective imagination for nearly 100 years. In the 1920’s, Houdini Radio Control showed
off a radio-controlled car called, “American Wonder” in New York City. In the 1930’s General Motors sponsored Norman
Bel Geddes’s Futurama exhibition with a radio-controlled electric car using electromagnetic
fields. Jumping to the 1950’s, RCA Labs demonstrated
a car guided by wires and embedded circuits in the roadway. In the 1960’s we saw the United Kingdom’s
Transport and Road Research Laboratory test a Citroen DS with embedded magnetic cables
in a road. By the 1980’s we started to see vision-guided
systems from Mercedes-Benz. And DARPA-funded Autonomous Land driven Vehicle (ALV) in the
United States that used LiDAR, computer vision, and robot controls. In the 1990’s those technologies continued
with tests across the United States, like the Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab
project that drove cross-country 98.2% autonomously. And in 2009 is when we see companies like
Google jump into the fray with their X lab self driving project. But in 2016, that project
was spun off as its own company, Waymo, under Alphabet. When it comes to self driving, there are some
guidelines for the different levels of automation from the NHTSA: Level 0 – No Automation. This is the majority
of cars on the road. Level 1 – Driver Assistance. This vehicle
can assist with steering or braking, but not at the same time. Think adaptive cruise control. Level 2 – Partial automation. This vehicle
can assist with steering and braking at the same time, but still requires the driver’s
full attention. This is where most modern cars that have some kind of “automation”
fall today. It’s basically lane assist and adaptive cruise control. Level 3 – Conditional automation. This is
where a driver is still required, but they don’t have to keep their eyes on the road.
The car handles almost everything. Level 4 – High automation. This is where companies
like Waymo currently operate. A driver is only required in certain circumstances, so
if the conditions are right, then the car can completely drive itself. Level 5 – Full automation. Exactly what you’d
expect. This is when no human driver is required at any point. So I’ve been an avid user of Autopilot on
my Tesla, which is a next level driver assist feature. It’s not self driving, but on the
5 levels of self driving, it’s somewhere around a level 2 or 3.(fn) But Waymo has been
operating at level 4 autonomy for some time now and has been operating a taxi service
called Waymo One in the Phoenix area. When Waymo asked if I’d be interested in coming
out to meet some people from their team and experience their technology first hand, it
was an instant yes. And to be clear, even though Waymo provided the trip, that in no
way has colored my perception of what I saw. My opinions are my own. One thing that’s a common misperception
with Waymo is that it’s operated by Google. I had thought that myself for a long time,
but Waymo isn’t part of Google at all anymore. After they were spun off in 2016, they’re
a completely independent company under the Alphabet umbrella. The name “Waymo” comes
from its mission statement of “a new way forward in mobility.” And after my meetings
and conversations with employees, that mission statement really seems to be ingrained in
their culture. There is a genuine passion and excitement around changing transportation
to make it safer and more accessible. It was apparent to me how much they believe in the
mission and how moved they are to see their technology is impacting people’s lives,
such as the first blind person to ride on their own in a self-driving car. ++Look up
the name of the blind man++ You can also see it in how the Waymo One app has been designed
around accessibility. When the car comes to pick you up, there’s a button in the app
to honk the horn to help someone who has difficulty with sight to find the car. Where Tesla is relying completely on radar
and computer vision for their self-driving features on their fleet, Waymo has gone the
path of computer vision, radar, and LiDAR in their technologies. Pair that with the
high resolution mapping that they do for the areas in which they operate and you have a
car that can easily achieve level 4 autonomy today. Tesla is relying heavily on perfecting
their machine learning models to achieve full level 5 autonomy at some point in the future,
but that means their cars are around level 2 and 3 today. Waymo’s path has pushed them
to level 4 very quickly and reliably, but just like Tesla, are now refining and developing
their models to hit level 5 at some point in the future. The big difference between the two is that
Waymo is operating a fully functional taxi fleet today within the zones where they’ve
created high resolution maps. I’m not trying to stir up a controversy, but Elon Musk has
been very vocal that LiDAR is a crutch for true level 5 autonomy. So is it a negative
that Waymo is reliant on LiDAR and high resolution mapping? I don’t think so. Far from it.
There’s multiple paths to the autonomous vehicle solution and what Waymo is doing is
extremely impressive. Before the trip, I knew that Waymo had been
operating for a while in the Phoenix area, as well as branching out to test in other
cities in limited zones. But the scale of the operation was much larger than I was expecting.
They have hundreds of cars in their fleet that run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
But they’re also testing cars in other areas of the country to stress test their technology
with extreme weather. Right now they’re doing rain testing in areas of Florida. And
they’ve also been doing winter weather testing in Michigan. For the actual ride in the car, we went on
a 20 – 25 minute road trip around the Scottsdale area. My brother, Sean, went with me on the
ride and was just as excited as I was to experience it. “Robots are driving the car.” The route took us through a pretty wide
variety of environments like office park areas, residential streets, to multi-lane roads with
heavy traffic. I have a little more experience with riding
in a car that’s driving itself than my brother, but even I was a little anxious the first
couple of minutes of the ride. Pulling up to a stop sign and then pulling out into traffic
had me a little on edge at first. But something really strange happened to both of us after
the first couple of minutes. The car drove exactly like a person would in every situation
we were seeing. It was like a switch flipped and went from something novel and crazy, to
something pretty mundane. It was kind of crazy how normal it felt. As my brother put it,
“Okay … it’s just a car that’s driving.” As a UI/UX designer, I immediately focused
in on the passenger screens in the back seat. I was completely blown away by how well they
were designed, and how much thought, testing, and iteration must have gone into it. During
our conversations with the team, they talked about how much time they put into trying to
understand how to make people comfortable with a self-driving car. And this UI design
was proof of that effort and time. It communicated exactly what the car was doing at every moment,
as well as what the car was seeing. The screen would show a ping-like effect every
couple of seconds that showed you the LiDAR dots of what the car was seeing in the surrounding
environment, which included everything from parked cars, to people, to vegetation. When
the car was about to speed up, the route line would get a pulse of brighter green. If there
was a stop light coming up, a small stop light would show up in the upper left corner of
the screen and show you that the car recognized it as red, yellow, or green. Every piece of
the UI was carefully constructed to show you what the car was seeing and why it was doing
what it was doing. I was blown away by that. And to Tesla, I really hope they take a look
at that UI because it’s incredible. I’d love to see them take cues from that with
the Autopilot UI. With the high resolution mapping that they’ve
done, the car also took speed bumps and dips in the road like a champ. And near the end
of the route we took the car had to turn left at a very busy multi-lane road. The car slowly
edged its way out into the center of the intersection, waited for the light to turn yellow, and waited
for a break in oncoming traffic before making the turn. It took that turn exactly like I
would have done. The only issue I had was how aggressive it was with the pumping of
the brakes as it worked its way into the intersection. Other than that, it was a flawless ride. My one big takeaway from this weekend was
that autonomous vehicles in our lives isn’t something in the distant future, but is limited
to where you can experience it. It’s not something that’s a year or two away from
widespread use, but is something we’re going to see more and more of over the coming decade.
Waymo’s current fleet of modified Chrysler Pacifica’s are about to be joined by their
next generation car that’s built on a Jaguar iPace. They’re also testing semi-trucks
decked out with their self driving technology, and are doing test runs with empty trailers
to fine tune that system. It’s a good example of how this technology can be modified to
run on a very wide assortment of vehicles. These types of autonomous systems have more
awareness of their surroundings than we do. They can process that information much faster
than we can. And have quicker reaction times than we’re capable of. In the end, these
systems will be better and safer drivers that the rest of us. There’s no doubt in my mind
that this type of thing will eventually be ubiquitous and that this is the future of
transportation. It’s something we’ve been promised for decades, but the technology had
too many compromises to make it viable. But that promise has hit a point with technologies
like LiDAR, computer vision, radar, and machine learning that are bringing it much closer
to reality. It’s Waymo’s thoughtful user experience design that impressed me the most
though. For autonomous cars to be accepted, it’s important to have a system that’s
designed from the ground up to be useful for those with special needs; to address people’s
fears and anxiety around getting into a car without a human driver; to not focus on the
technology alone, but how this technology can and should be integrated into our lives. This isn’t to say that I don’t have reservations
about self-driving technology, I do. As excited as I am, I’m also concerned by the ramifications
of drivers losing their jobs. What this will mean for our daily lives and the future of
transportation is going to be profound. It has the potential to be a paradigm shift and
change a lot of things we’ve accepted as immutable. I think there’s far more pros
than cons to this shift, but it’s something that we need to think about and address as
self driving becomes more widespread. What do you think? Are you excited for self
driving to because a part of everyday life? Jump into the comments and let me know. If you liked this video, be sure to give it
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43 comments

  1. I would love to see just how this system could handle high pedestrian traffic zones cyclists and random drivers such as ny manhattan north to south as well as tunnels to Brooklyn

  2. Love your videos Matt. Wonderfully insightful information. I learned a lot from this video and now can better see that while I think the Waymo model is limited, it certainly is providing a platform that demonstrates the viability of the technology…TODAY. I love my Tesla and use autopilot every day, but thanks to this video I have a new appreciation for what Waymo is doing. Thanks again!

  3. Self driving does pose some challenges – not least of which is that we badly need to find ways to retrain the tens of millions of drivers world wide who will loose their jobs as a result of this. I think true self driving is still at least a decade or two away, not least because the legal frameworks that are necessary haven’t even begun to address it. But the challenge is there nonetheless.

  4. My bet is that Tesla will not be the first to acheive level 4 or 5, however, they will be cheaper!
    Not only that, the hardware necessary to when they get the software and neural network done is in every car since 2018, puls, the cars that don't have the hardware can be cheap and easily upgraded.
    Maybe with the path that Tesla has chosen, they will not be 1st in level 4, but they may be for level 5.
    Waymo may have a great advantage on installing their technology on trucks. that can be intresting for a company that already have a flet. It will be cheaper than change the whole fleet.
    Also, Peugeot is developing level 4 autonomous driving too, and there is robot racing, a very good way to develop and test autonomous technologies in extreme drivng conditions with no risc to humans.

    In the end, the more players the better!

  5. The detailed mapping of Waymo is an important ephemeral data set. Waze uses a more detailed map than just the routes provided. Debris, police etc are added and removed as ephemeral data. The Waymo mapping is the bridge between Waze updated maps and Tesla real time processing. I just don't see any advancement as the better choice. It's all data that is useful and it's significance will only be known in hindsight. If anything, the difference between lidar and non-lidar self driving is a business model choice. Also, Waymo is currently conditioning people to be comfortable with the idea of self driving. When Tesla is ready, the emotional groundwork of fear abatement will be laid.

  6. Hello, Matt. This video surprised me. I did not know there were self-driving technologies like this. I live in Peru, South America and I can’t wait to test them in environments like Peruvian traffic; probably, one of the most heavy and not well organized traffics in the world. Please do tell me if I can help them do that. Waze is a very good app because they did their beta testing over here for years.

  7. Dude, I love your videos but you seem to underestimate TESLA. Not to mention Comma.ai are doing some great things with self driving models with models using less resources than TESLA and Waymo. Waymo doesn't have enough data!

  8. IMHO It's great that two strong, well funded (potential) competitors are working on this problem from two approaches. High resolution mapping, LIDAR, or perhaps some type of assistance from the roadway itself will be necessary to achieve full Level 5 within a reasonable time frame. Social and employment issues aside, there really seems to be no downside to this race, and it's great that not all eggs are in one basket.

  9. What Wamo is doing is really great. I'm impressed by the quality of what they've achieved. Thanks for sharing that. However, I think there is a vast difference between Tesla and Wamo approaches. Tesla aims to offer the self-driving car at an affordable price for most of the people. I don't think there is anything cheap or affordable in Wamo technology; they have both totally different targets.

  10. I am concern with self driving, and monopolizing the industry! Every big business that have been hijacked! (e.g. " oil, banking, housing, food") have contributed to the poor quality of life we all have today. Only very few make it rich, and the rest become slaves of the system. Today we have freedom of going anywhere we want to go, by driving a car and get away from busy life. when autonomy is here with us, we will loose freedom of traveling…We will become robotic society! Over 150 years ago, we lived off the grid, with self sustainable houses… And today we are slaves of industries that tied all of us to the grids; and take a good look at whom is controlling the grids around the world today. Most of us today work for three basic things, "Housing, Transportation, Food". Am very worried this industry will be hijacked as well.

  11. It's not that it's negative that they use Lidar and HD Maps. It's that to get to L5 autonomy, you MUST solve for vision (i.e with cameras) and once you do, Lidar is no longer necessary. Waymo's L4 is impressive, no doubt. But it only works in very, very small places. Bring a Waymo car to any other place on the globe, and it'll be useless. On the other hand, when Tesla hits L4 it'll be available everywhere in the modern world, instantly. And L5 for Tesla will be the same, whereas Waymo won't get to L5 without solving for vision. Hard to do when you're gathering real world data in only fenced in areas, and at a rate that is orders of magnitude less than Tesla does.

  12. Not sure how well waymo can scale compared to the exponentially increasing Tesla tidal wave that rolls out everywhere at once, on a per country / region basis.

  13. Interesting video but I've been curious, with the Lidar mapping approach, if the previously mapped route changed within minutes or seconds of the Waymo car approaching, how does it react? For example, a traffic accident closes the normal path of travel and they are re-directing cars on the wrong side of the road one lane at a time which would force traffic to flow in the "wrong" direction via previously mapped data. Like construction forces temporary changes to the "wrong" side of the freeway occasionally. I can see the car could just pick an alternate known route but getting to it from an unknown route would be handled how? Would these be "edge" cases like Tesla is still figuring out their own but different ones too?

  14. Lidar is not necessary at all. I don’t have it in my head and I drive good. Same will be with cars. Computer vision is enough. Waymo will be doomed soon by Tesla tech.

  15. That user interface looked awesome. I still don’t know how I feel about lidar, but as long as there’s this much effort put into it, it looks great. Still want a Tesla though 😭

  16. Just a thought does anyone else this will cause push back from law enforcement agencies because this would drastically reduce traffic stops especially ovi ???

  17. Driving across Phoenix stop n go streets is not fun; tough to get across town. Waymo and Tesla FSD Autopilot will be greatly appreciated. Love that fume less p3 though! Great video!

  18. I have never been permitted a recognised qualification so have never found a career path. This of course has limited my choices of living in society, no money, less choices, but…. I do follow (if I can) the expansion of the burgeoning non-combustion engine market. This short film proves we are indeed seeing the beginning of the end with regards the petrol and diesel poisonings of our living environments and people, globally. It makes me a little less troubled to know that the knock on effect for they yet unborn will be having the ability to enter city surroundings and not lose years from their lives in the process. Who knows, we may yet lift this curse and extend our lifespans to 150 years, possibly more. Banning petrol and diesel will certainly go a long way to influencing this. With us no longer having to set man against man for profiteering sake (capturing/protecting oil fields), it will in turn lessen more than the negative effects of war, with all energy now produced locally (wind, sea, solar) from any nation round the world, with them now having the capability to generate what they need when they need it, it is goodbye to the murders of oil companies and their ruining of our biologies and so spirituality.

    Great great theme that has shareholders shaking in their proverbial boots.

    Kind regards
    LM

    This capturing of our biologies must also be seen as the capturing of our spiritual paths.

    God bless

  19. Concerning automation and job loss, we are a long long way off mass unemployment, and this time isnt different than past technology advancements in farming, clothes, etc which seen many people lose their jobs in those industires. Technolgy advancement reduces the cost of living and hours needed to work. Interference to stop it forces people to have a lower standard of living and work longer hours.

    Also the myth that the economy cant handle 1/2 a million drivers losing their jobs should be squashed by a brief look at history (or look up why countries can handle immigration, in part immigrants demands for food etc creates employment). Ie when millions returned from war theyre absorbed into the economy in a short space of time, roughly two years.

    So many economic fallacies based off "this time is different" mentality about the new thing to be scared off. Multiple times per century theres fear of the brand new technology and the unemployment caused from it, with zero understanding of why we've never faced mass unemployment in the past.

    For 1 work is not limited and set at fixed amount which is built into this fear assumption. If work and demand was limited there would be a point but we've a long way to go.

    Cheaper goods increases purchasing power to be transfered to other goods. New technologies employ people themselves. By reducing the cost of living you reduce the hours needed to be worked (think of how far we are from the 5hour work week and you realise how far away we are from mass unemployment), and a whole other bunch of reasons more too long to go into. In short there will be no mass unemployment, and trying to interfer and tax robots etc will only ensure the cost of living stays the same. Making technology advancement pointless.

    We dont live to work, we work to live mostly. It annoys me cause there was a bunch of economists in the 80s bringing up all these fears, and these so called experts were predicting unemployment as high as 50% come early 2000. Theyre were wrong then and every bit as wrong now!

  20. I am curious as to how effective autopilot works on snow covered roads. I have a Model Y on order and cannot wait to get it.

  21. They are both good for their goals. Waymo – (expensive with lidars) city taxis that canot go out of the mapped zone, but soon will not require a driver even for legal reasons. Tesla – drives well on highways.
    Issues with high definision maps based systems are: it is almost impossible to keep them up to date. And it is very expensive to map every road out there. People do not need high definision maps to drive. The ultimate goal is to make vision systems sufficient for driving anywhere in any situation.

  22. As always, you don't disappoint with your well thought out, insightful, educational, and informative videos. Thank you for doing the leg work for us all.

  23. Can it really be called Full Autonomy if the cars only work in carefully and thoroughly maped out places where the cars have driven for a long period of time so they after a while know every bump and every scratch on those streets beforehand?
    We are most certainly going to need those types of autonomous vehicles but what happens if, for example, something changes in the map, on the road, that the car haven’t been taught yet? I sudden hole in the road that wasn’t there before that isn’t on the updated map that the car has. What happens?
    For me full autonomy is the car driving itself from anywhere on the road to anywhere on the road and making decisions in real-time like a person would but a million times faster and safer.

    Mapping a city is like mapping out your own home, it’s not difficult if you have the time. I’m not saying what Waymo is doing is easy but if you’re going somewhere you haven’t been, and you have no map, nothing but the sensors and cameras in your car how will you find your way if you’ve never been there?

    That is the difference that I see with Tesla and Waymon or any other autonomy company that is mapping areas so they can one day drive autonomous on it.

  24. So was that your brother in the driver seat? Because you were saying nobody in the driver seat but there’s clearly somebody there

  25. I would love to have Level 5 autonomy and I would love to keep the ability to drive for leisure whenever I want to as I love to drive to unwind.

  26. Arizona is fine and dandy but until you can show one driving on the BQE, with pavement that looks like Swiss cheese, thirty feet up in the air, in New York City, and actually getting somewhere you wanna be, I'll stick with Uber.

  27. I am a commercial truck driver in the USA for 26 years I have over 2.4 million miles under my belt and I look forward to autonomy driving including semis. I have already begin preparations of a career change do do this technology it's coming very soon. I enjoy your videos you do a really good job I appreciate you

  28. Now they need to try this in NEW YORK RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC. New York needs to have infrastructure communications back to the vehicles.

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