Companies such as Carnegie Mellon, Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), AB Volvo (OTC: VOLVY), Citymobil2 and Robosoft have been testing electric cars for a few years. By January 2016, autonomous cars had monopolized the Consumer Electronics Show. However, the vehicles still had problems when encountering obstacles such as potholes, traffic control personnel or temporary traffic lights. These vehicles are also unable to recognize harmless objects, which cause them to veer unnecessarily. As of 2015, these cars have still not been tested in blinding snow or rain. Nevertheless, 10 countries have opted to take the risk and introduce cars that navigate by lasers, cameras and GPS. Some of these countries aim to commercialize these cars by 2020.
Four states and the District of Columbia have stated that they will give driverless cars conditional use of their public roads by 2020. Nevada consented in 2011, and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles stamped its first license for a Toyota Prius autonomous vehicle in 2012. Florida allowed driverless cars to test its roads in 2012. Michigan joined the queue in 2013, with the proviso that a human driver be in the car. California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that legalized the cars at Google headquarters in 2015.
Starting from January 2016, citizens could hail driverless Citymobil2 shuttles on protected roads in the city-state. Singapore aims to extend the service to driverless taxis by Summer 2016 and, from there, to public roads by 2018. Citymobil2 is a French program that promotes driverless shuttles in prominent areas of the European Union.
Battery-powered buses started trekking Trikala, a small Greek village, in November 2015. The project was piloted by Citymobil2 and tech organization Robosfot. Trips began with no passengers, but the vehicles started transporting people in March 2016.
Sweden's second-largest city, Gothenburg, will allow 100 DriveMe Volvo customers to test autonomous Volvo XC90 automobiles on certain roads by 2017. Sweden aims to make its cars death-proof by 2020. Part of its plans are to test and safe-proof the driverless car.
Dutch infrastructure minister Melanie Schultz is pushing for laws to allow driverless cars to hit Dutch roads. Meanwhile, the Citymobil2 V201 buzzes the Wageningen and Ede route in the center of the Netherlands at 15 mph. Dutch citizens can schedule a ride on the six passenger-carrying buses by using an app that programs the pickup location and destination.
In the United Kingdom, the town of Milton Keynes is testing driverless pods. As of April 2016, only 20 driverless pods cruised the region. The Engineer newspaper reported that by 2017, England will have 80 more of these pods. London is in the wings, with its GATEway project that aims to solidly test these autonomous vehicles before opening them to the public.
Citymobil2 paired with robotics company Robosoft and vehicle manufacturer Ligier Group to bring its electric shuttle to a university campus in Lausanne, Switzerland. As of April 2016, the bus, which was still in its test phase, carried only six passengers and drove up to 15 mph.
Chinese company Yutong (600066.SS) hit the streets of Zhengzhou, China, with its own trial driverless bus that logs 20 mph. As of April 2016, the service was still in its testing phase.
Japan plans to show off its commercialized driverless taxis for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Mobile internet company DeNa Co. Ltd. (OTC: DNACF) paired with ZMP, a robotics company, to create Robot Taxi. Residents in Fujisawa, Japan, were the first to test it, with a human in the driver’s seat.
The slim, white Citymobil2 Ez10 shuttle was introduced in Vantaa, Finland, in early 2015. By October of that year, the shuttles had successfully transported 19,000 passengers. Members of the public access it with the same app that Citymobil2 uses to reserve trips on its Ez10 in the Netherlands.
The Future of Driverless Cars
In November 2015, the World Economic Forum (WEF) surveyed self-driving vehicles and found that seven cities believe that self-driving vehicles will become a reality by 2020. Ten countries have already legalized and tested autonomous vehicles in their areas. The top issues and concerns are societal acceptance and technology. Driverless cars continue to need improvement in thoroughly and safely interacting with pedestrians, and some technology still needs approval. However, the WEF found that many consumers are open to buying and trying a self-driving car. Cities in Canada, Belgium, France and Italy have plans in the wings for testing and possibly approving the service as well.