Like many other automotive companies, General Motors is getting involved in the driverless car scene. However, some people are wondering if the long time car company can beat Google when it comes to the new technology.
The company plans to equip its Cadillac brand with “Super Cruise”. While the system isn’t completely self-driving just yet, it’s a major step towards achieving the technology. The mode works by combining cruise control with lane centering capabilities. By doing this, drivers will basically be able to let the car drive itself when it is on the highway. And this technology will be available very soon. Cadillacs will start featuring Super Cruise by 2017.
Still, it might not be fast enough. Tesla already offers an autopilot mode, while Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Volvo have such a system in the works. Perhaps most ahead of the game though is Google, which wants to go directly to a full-blown self-driving car that doesn’t even feature a steering wheel or a gas pedal. Reports indicate that Google is currently leading the pack when it comes to the new technology, despite the fact that the technology company has never even sold a car to the public.
Making matters worse for GM is that the Super Cruise mode from Cadillac still doesn’t function perfectly in heavy traffic. It can also fail in situations with heavy glare. The company is still quite far away from being able to eliminate a steering wheel entirely.
GM is at a disadvantage when compared to Google. While GM may have more experience in the auto industry, Google has a fatter wallet. The technology company can essentially dump endless amounts of money into its driverless car program. Meanwhile, GM has a stricter budget, and it has to slowly work on developing its cars, one small step at a time.
Google has another trick up its sleeve. The company actually wants to get the public to abandon vehicle ownership completely. In Google’s world, a fleet of autonomous cars will self-drive themselves around town and pick anyone up who orders one with a push of a button on their smartphone. It will pick you up, drop you off and go on to the next fare.
According to Stanford professor of artificial intelligence Sebastian Thrun says that Google’s ultimate goal is to sell a mobility service rather than a consumer product. This could mean the end of the auto industry in Detroit and a transfer to Silicon Valley. Professor Thrun ran Google’s self-driving car project from 2009 until 2013.
For GM, time is running out. If it doesn’t make self-driving innovations soon, it could very well cease to exist in the future automotive market. Right now the company, which is clearly not ready to produce its own driverless car, needs to find the proper balance of driver assistance and autonomous technology to produce a car that will win over buyers. Only then can it start focusing on a completely self-driving car.
No matter how one looks at it, GM needs to make sales. If it can’t, the company won’t be able to fund its research. If that happens, new companies entering the market will simply drive away.