The state of California
almost certainly has more autonomous (self-driving) cars and operators on
public roads than the rest of the world. That California has so many of these
cars and operators should not come as a surprise. For a start, it is reliably
mild and dry, and the sunny climate is perfect for road-testing early
generations of vehicles that would balk at snow, fog, and/or heavy rain.
Moreover, virtually every technology company and most mainstream automakers have offices in California’s Bay
But the main reason for California’s supremacy in autonomous
vehicle development is the presence of a single company in Mountain View, California.
While Google did not invent the self-driving car, it can lay claim to having
invented the industry of self-driving cars. It purchased start-up businesses,
hired experts, and developed essential mapping and navigation technologies.
From the word go, Google has usually remained one step ahead
of the competition. It was the first to: test experimental vehicles at scale
(i.e., provide test results that can be scaled up to represent an entire fleet
of cars); move from relatively safe highways to unpredictable city streets;
and, test a purpose-built, steering-wheel-free, and self-driving prototype. Even
after the arrival of global carmakers and upstarts like Tesla, Google has
nearly twice as many autonomous vehicles and drivers on California’s roads as
all other carmakers combined. If, as some observers suggest, Apple is also
working on its own high-tech car, California will likely continue to boast the
most roads with self-driving cars in the world well into the future.
Read the full
article in IEEE Vehicular Technology Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 1, March 2016.