Academia and Autonomous Vehicles

The development of self-driving cars is one of the great stories for academic engineering departments of the last twenty years. While the cutting-edge of software development and research has moved to open-source and commercial projects, robotics is an area where university researchers have made huge contributions, arguably the dominant contributions.

It feels like that dynamic has changed, though, as more and more companies pour resources into autonomous driving technology. Universities can’t keep up.

A headline crossed my inbox this morning, “CAMBRIDGE WIZ TECHS HAVE DEVELOPED NEW GIZMOS FOR AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES“.

It’s telling that my first though was, “this probably isn’t relevant”. As great as the Cambridge technology is, and it may be more cutting-edge than anything any commercial vendors are doing, it must be so far from commercialization.

Elon Musk recently made the point that getting an autonomous vehicle to work for one team is a whole different animal than getting it to work in the wild, with millions of customers. He wasn’t talking about academic labs at the time, but he probably could have been.


Originally published at www.davidincalifornia.com on December 23, 2015.

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