Self-driving cars had a big year in 2016. Uber launched a pilot program for its self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, followed by a short-lived one in San Francisco before ultimately going to Arizona. Tesla also started installing hardware that can enable full autonomy in October. But traditional automakers will be making some big moves in 2017 to advance its autonomous car efforts as well. Here are the biggest milestones to come:
Volvo is on a mission to make its cars “deathproof” by 2020 the 2017 trial will be a big step in that direction.
2. Ford will also begin testing its self-driving cars in Europe in 2017.
3. General Motors will look to gain an advantage in the self-driving car space by conducting tests in snowy conditions.
GM’s Marry Bara has been vocal about the importance of testing in difficult road conditions like snow, while many in the space still have a long way to go to prepare their cars for inclement weather.
4. BMW is seriously ramping up its self-driving car efforts in 2017 to take on Uber.
“Ride hailing is nothing more than manual autonomous driving,” Tony Douglas, Head of Strategy for BMW’s mobility services said, according to Reuters. “Once you dispense with the driver you have a license to print money.”
5. Google’s self-driving car company Waymo could launch a robot taxi fleet with its partner Fiat Chrysler in 2017, but that has yet to be confirmed.
Waymo has been testing a fleet of cars of roughly 60 self-driving cars in Mountain View, California; Metro Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Kirkland, Washington. But in 2017, Waymo will test a fleet of roughly 100 self-driving Chrysler minivans on public roads.
The Information reported that Waymo will leverage its partnership with Fiat Chrysler to launch a fleet of self-driving taxis in 2017, but that has yet to be confirmed.
Still, Waymo will be expanding its testing in 2017 and exploring ways to bring its product to market. Google is currently exploring working with Honda on self-driving car tech.
6. Baidu, a Chinese internet company referred to as the Google of China, will test self-driving cars on public roads.
Baidu teamed up with China-based car manufacturer BAIC to test Level 3 self-driving cars on public roads in 2017. Level 3 autonomy means the car can handle a variety of tasks but still requires human supervision. Uber’s self-driving cars could be considered to have Level 3 autonomy.
Baidu let members of the public take rides in its self-driving cars in November, but the trial lasted less than a week and was on a short, two-mile route. Baidu plans to produce self-driving cars for a public, shuttle service in 2018, and to mass produce the vehicles in 2021.
7. Perhaps the biggest milestone to prepare for in 2017 will be when a self-driving Tesla drives itself from Los Angeles to New York.
Tesla began installing new hardware in Tesla cars that improves Autopilot’s capabilities and will allow the cars to become fully autonomous in October. When the cars’ fully autonomous capabilities will become available depends on the regulatory environment and further validation testing by Tesla, but CEO Elon Musk said the hardware will support full autonomy.
To demonstrate the technology, Musk said a fully self-driving Tesla will drive itself from Los Angeles to New York before the end of 2017.