The race between car manufacturers to develop a truly autonomous vehicle will accelerate in the coming months as technology begins to mature and the dates for the commercialization of the first cars without a driver are approaching.
The kick-off occurred a few days ago when General Motors (GM) and Honda announced an alliance to develop autonomous vehicles through Cruise, the US manufacturer's division dedicated to the development of cars without a driver.
According to the terms of the alliance, Honda will contribute in the next 12 years with "around 2,000 million dollars" and will also immediately contribute 750 million dollars to Cruise in exchange for 5.7% in the division.
The investment will aim to "finance and develop an autonomous vehicle for Cruise that can serve a wide variety of services and can be produced on a large scale for global sale."
In addition, Cruise, GM and Honda "will explore global opportunities for the commercialization of the Cruise network".
The announcement of the financial and technological contribution of Honda is added to the 2,250 million dollars that the SoftBank financial institution recently made in the division of GM.
But what is more important, the alliance between the two manufacturers means that the Japanese brand has decided that the autonomous driving technology being developed by Cruise is better than that of Waymo, the Google division that works in the same field.
Over the past few years, Honda, like other automakers, has been paying close attention to what Silicon Valley companies, such as Google or Uber, are doing to develop autonomous driving systems.
For many, Waymo, which is currently allied with the Fiat Chrysler Group (FCA) but is open to alliances with other manufacturers, such as the Indian Tata through Jaguar, would have the lead in some key aspects of the technology thanks to the amount of information accumulated by their test vehicles.
In fact, in the second quarter of the year, Waymo revealed that it was close to signing a collaboration agreement with Honda to produce autonomous vehicles used to transport goods instead of passengers.
But finally Honda has abandoned the option of Waymo and has opted for GM.
Another sign that GM may be ahead of its competitors in the development of technologies that will allow the existence of vehicles without a driver is a report by the renowned magazine "Consumer Reports" (CR) in the United States on semi-autonomous systems that already They are in the market.
Last week, CR placed the autonomous driving technologies of Cadillac, GM's luxury brand, ahead of its competitors, including Tesla, which for many is the manufacturer with the best system on the market today.
According to the magazine, the Cadillac system, called Super Cruise, is superior to the Tesla Autopilot, Nissan ProPilot Assist and Volvo Pilot Assist.
But these systems that equip vehicles that are nowadays circulating on the roads, and that combine cameras, radars and other sensors to assist the driver, are far from the systems that one day will allow cars to circulate without any human help. through streets, roads and highways.
Another sign of the acceleration in the race to finalize the technology of autonomous automobiles was the decision of Ford during the summer to unify all his activities in the field in an independent company, Ford Autonomous Vehicles (AV).
Its president, Sherif Marakby, recently confirmed that in 2021 his first truly autonomous vehicle will be ready and that same year the company will create a passenger and merchandise transport service with driverless vehicles.
The work is so advanced that Ford published a few days ago a set of standards for autonomous vehicles as a proposal to be adopted by other manufacturers before the imminence of the arrival of the first units of cars without a driver.