Automotive Electronics
Licensed Autonomous Vehicles
Bill Fleming

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 Area.

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.

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Licensed Autonomous Vehicles
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