Video: Gadgets On Wheels. How Tech Companies Are Reimagining The Automotive Industry
Cars are too important a part of the modern world for big tech companies to ignore this sector of the economy. Global players in the IT market are increasingly looking towards the automotive segment. Less often, this interest is embodied in their own automotive projects, more often in work on technologies for cars.
In 2017, BMW conducted a study that found that the majority of respondents (73%) would easily change one brand of car for another if a new car gave them the opportunity to transfer their social networks, instant messengers, music subscriptions and other internet services.
Tech companies are picking up on these sentiments. Today's Internet giants are willing to invest billions of dollars to include cars in their ecosystem of services. To do this, they do not always need such an ineffective way as starting their own car production. They operate in the field where they have expertise - they develop unique technologies that will gradually turn the car into another device. Such as a phone, laptop, game console or smartwatch. Here are the most notable projects.
Google + Waymo
The American giant Google started thinking about developing technology for cars more than ten years ago. And this is a good example of how, starting with one service that became part of a large ecosystem, a company came up with another big idea.
In 2007, Google launched Google Street View, which translates to Google Street View. It enables a virtual “walk” through the city streets: using Google Street View, you can see how a particular place in the city looks like. To do this, the company's cars physically drove through the streets and filmed everything around. It turned out to be a convenient addition to the map.
The project was led by the director of the artificial intelligence laboratory at Stanford University, Sebastian Thrun. In 2009, Google Street View and the data collected by the service began to be used by the company to implement self-driving car technology. At that time and until 2016, the project existed as one of the many experimental divisions of Alphabet Corporation, the parent structure of Google. And only in 2016, the project was allocated to a company called Waymo. By then, Waymo prototypes had driven thousands of test kilometers.
The prerequisites for the emergence of Waymo technology on road cars appeared 11 years after the start of the project - in June 2020, a subsidiary of Alphabet announced an agreement with the Swedish Volvo. True, so far, within the framework of an exclusive partnership, Waymo technology will equip cars only for use in taxi transportation. The consumer market is out of the question yet. Waymo has worked with automakers in the past - for example, with the concern Fiat Chrysler - but then the joint work of the parties was limited to tests of unmanned technology.
In addition to the autonomous control system, Google is working on another automotive direction - the company is developing a car version of Android. In 2017, the technology giant announced the beginning of the creation of a multimedia system, in 2019 there were reports of the installation of this system on future Polestar cars (the brand is owned by Volvo), a year later General Motors chose the system for its cars from 2021. Google's car operating system is called Android Automotive OS. At the same time, Chinese brands, without waiting for the appearance of a separate operating system, are actively integrating the Android mobile OS into serial machines that are already available for sale now.
Apple + Project Titan
At the beginning of 2015, the news thundered that surprised both the high-tech world and the automotive industry: Apple no longer wants to remain a manufacturer of gadgets. The company intends to create its own car. And not just a car, but an electric drone.
In subsequent years, the mysterious project was overgrown with new details. The name of the project is Titan. Work on it began in 2014. Apple launched a special secret laboratory and involved "several hundred" people in the creation of the car. It was reported that the company is hiring specialists from major automakers - in particular, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz and Ford - and is also considering partnerships with a number of companies: BMW, Nissan, Mclaren Automotive and Volkswagen. In 2017, there were rumors about road tests of the prototype and even about the accident of one of them.
Концепт Apple Car, дизайн Car And Driver
Концепт Apple Car, дизайн студии Motor Trend
However, no photographs of the prototypes have appeared. Only one thing can be said with certainty: the company was at least developing an autonomous machine - in 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed this for the first time. If the Titan project is implemented into a full-fledged product, there is no doubt that it will become part of the larger Apple ecosystem. And perhaps a new main gadget. This is what the iPhone once became.
Yandex + unmanned taxis
Today Yandex is a prime example of how a technology company is able to combine many services into one ecosystem, and research in the field of autonomous cars is becoming a part of this process. Yes, Yandex technologies for unmanned vehicles have not yet been embodied in a real product that everyone can use. But, given the speed with which the Yandex. Taxi service has entered the daily life of many residents of Russia, there is hardly any reason to doubt that the new technology, after full readiness, will be applied precisely in commercial passenger transportation.
Yandex presented its first self-driving car in 2017. It was built on the basis of ToyotPrius. Since then, the company has updated its prototypes several times, and in June 2020 announced the fourth generation of "drones" based on the modern Hyundai Sonata sedan. The company is testing its developments at two Russian test sites - in Skolkovo and the city of Innopolis in Tatarstan, as well as in Israel and the United States. To date, Yandex's prototypes have traveled over 5 million test kilometers and the company has become the first to be allowed to send a drone without an engineer behind the wheel on public roads. And not in Russia, but in the United States - during the CES consumer electronics exhibition. It is noteworthy that the test program passed its first million in 2019.
The company plans to create a complex of software and hardware that can be easily integrated into most car models. This will allow the company to supply its technology to automakers, not just optimize the taxi service. Moreover, now Yandex is not only engaged in software development, but also designs its own lidars, which will be cheaper and more reliable than those available on the market right now.
Baidu + Apollo Project
Baidu is a Chinese technology company, the largest search engine in the PRC. It can be called Beijing's answer to Google. Baidu invests in everything from artificial intelligence to cloud computing. Baidu is also active in self-driving car research.
Baidu is not the only Chinese company that works in this direction, but it accounts for a large share of the total distance traveled "unmanned" in China - over 90%.
The Baidu project was named Apollo. The Chinese company did not rely only on its own strength in its work and attracted dozens of companies for cooperation. In three years, the company has grown into a giant international cooperative with over 100 companies including BMW, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen and Honda. As part of the project, a giant Apollo Park test site was built, in which self-driving cars learn to interact with each other, as well as with the surrounding infrastructure. To date, the main brainchild of the project is the Apolong Minibus - an unmanned minibus for 14 passenger seats. And you can rest assured that it will integrate all the services that Baidu has right now and which will appear in the near future.
Sony + Vision-S
In early 2020, Japanese manufacturer Sony made a splash at the International Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Then this company completely unexpectedly showed a car prototype called Vision-S. You cannot buy this car, and it is unlikely that such an opportunity will appear in the future.
Sony says it was developed not as a competitor to Toyota, Honda, Mazd and other automakers on the public roads, but as a kind of exhibition of its own achievements. The Vision-S is crammed with Sony electronics. The prototype demonstrates to consumers and potential customers in the automotive industry how Sony can take the driving experience to the next level.
What in other cars is a trivial dashboard, in the Vision-S turned into a large monitor of five displays, the width of the entire cabin. Between the driver and passenger there is another display at the knee level.
Monitors are both a control for car settings and a way to indulge in interesting content, such as a huge Sony-licensed music library or games. The car has a 360 Reality Audio system with speakers built directly into the seat. What happens inside and outside the car is monitored by 33 Sony sensors.
Sony built the Vision-S in partnership with engineering company MagnSteyr and in collaboration with Nvidia, Continental, Bosch, ZF and Qualcomm. All of them are actively developing unmanned technologies.
Amazon and Zoox
In June 2020, American tech giant Amazon announced a $ 1.2 billion purchase of startup Zoox. This California-based company has one characteristic that sets it apart from the vast majority of projects developing unmanned technologies. Zoox intends to create not only the efficient software and hardware needed for an autonomous vehicle, but the vehicle itself from scratch. This ambitious plan has already been called the most expensive way to enter the drone market possible.
Zoox is working on a car with symmetrical front and rear, which will allow it to move freely in both directions without having to turn around. The vehicle will not have pedals and steering wheel. Four passengers in the car will sit in twos opposite each other.
For Amazon, this is not the first investment in autonomous transportation, but the largest one to date. If Zoox succeeds, Jeff Bezos' company, already successfully operating in everything from retail to military orders from the US government, will enter a completely new market for itself - personal transport, taxi and car sharing. In addition, these technologies can be used for the unmanned delivery of goods.