What’s the latest on autonomous vehicles?

Here at SILA we love all things transportation, and the innovation that’s constantly occurring in our industry. We need to stay on top of the latest trends and assess how it can assist with our business, and that of our clients. Autonomous vehicles (and robots) are currently a hot topic, and will have a profound effect on the logistics industry, so we thought we’d bring you the latest! 

The technology for completely autonomous vehicles that can navigate highways, congested metroplexes, or harsh driving conditions does not yet exist; but plenty of clever brains are working on it, and we’re closer than ever. The year 2025 has been thrown around as a realistic time frame for working fully-autonomous transportation technology. Currently, there are no legally operating, fully-autonomous vehicles. There are, however, partially autonomous vehicles – cars and trucks with varying amounts of self-automation – from conventional cars with brake and lane assistance to highly-independent, self-driving prototypes.

Although autonomous tech cannot better human drivers just yet, the technology that is being developed by industry leaders is powerful: LiDAR, cameras, radar, and microphones work together much like the human senses to create an intelligent system for self-driving. Hopefully soon, self-driving cars will be a worthy match, if not superior to us.

So how are those clever researchers going? Let’s have a look at some of the latest developments in intelligent vehicles. 

MIT ShadowCam

MIT researchers are teaching self-driving cars to see around corners to prevent collisions. ShadowCam can sense tiny changes in shadows on the ground to work out if an object is approaching from around a corner, without having to see it directly. This technology will help driverless cars avoid hitting cars or pedestrians, and help guide robots working in shared spaces with people, such as in hospitals.

Hitachi Road Sensors

The next stop for our modern cruise control is Hitachi who are investing in analytics that help with preventative maintenance and measuring wear and tear. One example is their road sensing camera tech. It uses two cameras to detect potholes in the road and changes your suspension before reaching them. Not only does this mean a smoother and safer driver, it can also improve cargo transportation and vehicle damage on long trips. Eventually, Hitachi says this technology will be able to detect speed bumps and slow down your car accordingly.  

BMW iNext

Typically we look forward to getting OUT of the car, but many companies are looking to make the car our favourite place to be by integrating it into our lives, beyond just transport. BMW iNext is a concept that encourages lounging, rather than driving, on your morning commute. BMW is developing a car that will become the customer’s favourite space; putting people, their emotions and desires, at the forefront. The car’s mixed reality display system allows the driver to make video calls, manage their to-do list, read a book, and even watch TV, all from the comfort of their car. The iNext includes other new BMW technologies including smart fabrics, touch-sensitive door handles, and an AI-driven voice assistant. The car is designed to provide drivers – or rather, riders, – with a calm and luxurious experience. 

Self-driving trucks

American startups such as TuSimple and Starsky are working valiantly on technology for self-driving trucks. By automating long haul truck routes, they aim to increase safety, decrease transportation costs and reduce carbon emissions. As highway driving and routes are repetitive, they are thus predictable. At Starsky, autonomous trucks are not being designed to operate without any human intervention or relying exclusively on computers to make every decision. The trucks are monitored by teleoperators who guide them through tricky situations. So while ‘drivers’ are still needed, they are not required to be monitoring a single journey for many hours, and they don’t have to be in the truck itself, travelling across the country.

Scout by Amazon

Amazon delivery robots are delivering packages to customers homes during daylight hours on weekdays, navigating footpaths just as any other pedestrian would, at typical walking pace. Amazon’s Scout is operating in Southern Carolina, and although its technology is smart, it’s still learning. Specifically, this robot is learning to cross the road! Scout calculates a confidence score using several variables such as the presence of other vehicles, their speed, and other pedestrians crossing the same road. This confidence interval, if too low, signals a human operator for help to cross the road. If the confidence is high, it can cross the road without supervision. 

There you have it. What a time to be alive! Our cars already have tools that help them park, change lanes, brake, and avoid objects or obstacles – but there are many more developments to come that we could not have imagined. Not only is artificial intelligence and automated vehicle technology changing our experience when driving, it also has exciting benefits for logistics and the future of many industries. We support any technology that will help our customers streamline their business operations and reduce costs, but that also ultimately looks to create a more sustainable future and save lives on our roads.

For more information on how SILA can revolutionise the way you manage your supply chain, head to our website www.sila.net.au or get in touch with our friendly teams in Australia or New Zealand:

Email sales@sila.net.au
Phone +61 7 3908 1690

New Zealand
Email sales@sila.net.nz
Phone +64 9 390 7942