Your trip will be recorded for training purpose

A Google self-driving car

With the news that Uber is expanding its self-driving car service in SF, the day of automatic driving cars dominating the world is one step closer (Although DMV says it is illegal for Uber to do it).

Automatic driving cars started to sparked my interest in 2004. That year, the first DARPA Grand Challenge showed off a bunch of self-driving vehicles trying to drive themselves to the destination — 150 miles of dessert, highway and other obstacles. The vehicles were pretty bad at that time. I saw a motorcycle fell to the ground a few feet from the starting point, a truck wondering around at the starting point, a golf cart stopped right in the middle of the road etc. No one finished the race that year. The best one travelled only 7.4 miles. It was the Red Team from Carnegie Mellon University led by Professor William Whittaker.

Documentary of the Sandstorm vehicle

People learned from their failure quickly. The next year, in the second DARPA Grand Challenge, some vehicles did finished the race. Stanford’s Stanley won the race.

Google won’t miss the chance to grab the future. They hired Sebastian Thrun, Michael Montemerlo and some key members to start their self-driving project — Waymo.

Google self-driving car

The car has been underdevelopment for many year. It was so long that even Sabastian cannot wait for it (he left and founded Udacity). And they also lost several key members.

Google’s self-driving car has the best technology. It is the safest and most reliable self-driving car. I was sad to not seeing it as the first one to hit the consumer market as the competition becomes fierce.

Tesla is trying to catch up with the game. The leverage the partnership with Mobilieye. When they announced on Oct 2015 that all their current models can support auto-pilot, I was so happy to see the first auto-pilot car that can be used by people. It turns out to be a half finished auto-pilot system, where the reliability is not at the level I would expect. At least two people were killed in auto-pilot mode (here, and here). Tesla did learn from these and took actions to improve the safety by upgrading the sensor system. I have the best hope for this to become essential missing piece to bring the safety to the standard I want.

Uber is yet another player recently enter the game. But it is a really fast moving player. Only recently they announced self-driving truck has successfully run a delivery and self-driving cars in Pittsburgh. Their technology is based on an acquired company called Otto. This acquisition speeds up their development of the self-driving Uber service.

All of these self-driving car relies on collection driving data. Then they run the data in the machine learning system. The data are called the training data. Therefore, if you are in a self-driving vehicle, your trip will be recorded for training purpose.