Suddenly, a future full of self-driving cars is not just a dream sci-fi pipe. What used to be a scary, uncertain technology for many Americans seems like an effective tool to protect ourselves from a rapidly spreading, contagious disease.
COVID-19 – the name for the disease caused by the new coronavirus – keeps most of us at home, making it harder to get around or to drive safely. Forget about socializing, stocking up on groceries, toiletries, and basic medicine and products is a dangerous challenge. Suddenly having robots and computers helps us not too far. All that money has been funneled into testing self-driving cars – $ 27.5 billion in 2018, according to company data Statista – is starting to look more and more profitable.
Before the coronavirus pandemic began, the sentiment was clear: We were not excited about autonomous cars. Especially after an Uber driver’s car seriously injured a woman in Tempe, Arizona, in 2018, the general fear of technology is dying. A March 2020 AAA survey found that only 12 percent of Americans surveyed trusted riding a car that was driving.
Consulting and consulting firm Deloitte surveyed 35,000 drivers from 20 different countries. Americans from the early 2020 study have decided to worry about autonomous vehicles, with almost 50 percent worried that cars aren’t safe. More than two-thirds of American respondents said they were “concerned” about autonomous vehicles on the highway.
Simulation software company Ansys’ CTO Prith Banerjee wrote in an email this week about how space requirements are needed giving people a whole new perspective. “The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the demand and opportunity for automation in every industry, including autonomous driving,” he said.
“The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the demand and opportunity for automation in every industry, including autonomous driving.”
This is not a quick move. “In the future, autonomous vehicles (cars, drones, robots, etc.) will surely have many positive applications, including some that will contribute to a global pandemic (and even daily life) – food delivery, drug delivery, transporting people while keeping people away from society, “he wrote.
Eitan Grosbard, VP of business development of the autonomous software company Tactile Mobility, also sees how autonomous vehicles come out during a pandemic, and more. “We don’t want any human interaction,” he said in a call this week. “These types of services are more and more in need.”
In China, companies like Neolix are investing in in-person delivery services, with autonomous vehicles coming down to food, groceries, or whatever you want.
Optimus Ride, the Massachusetts-based autonomous shuttle, had to pause its own commute driving programs as workers in New York, Boston, and beyond began working from home. But as CEO Ryan Chin explained in a phone call, in a Northern California community, the Optimus Ride’s automatic shuttle was moved immediately to make food deliveries to seniors unable to assemble at times of food.
“Automobile companies are positioned to come out on COVID-19 more strongly,” Chin said in the call after explaining the pivot from autonomously moving people to food deliveries.
Anuja Sonalker, CEO of Steer Tech, a Maryland-based self-parking tech company, said in a recent phone call that she was also seeing a shift in perception.
“There has been a unique warming up to human-no-contact technology,” he said. “Humans are biohazards, machines are not.”
Automobile automation is still under development, but people are suddenly craving less-than-human transportation options.
It seems that if we can get a completely driverless vehicle to deliver us or deliver supplies, the technology scares us a little bit. Now people see a driverless car as a useful alternative to the crowded, risky transit train and bus rides we use. After the end of this pandemic, “personal mobility is preferred” – meaning private, individual ways to get around, Sonalker predicted.
Waymo even suspended all paid self-driving car services (called Waymo One) in the Phoenix area, and its test programs, earlier in March, were the company’s CEO. a car driving Google records the value of its service. “Removing the human driver holds great promise not only for the safety of our roads, but for helping our riders stay healthy in these uncertain times,” John Krafcik wrote in a LinkedIn post.
So even though only 14 percent of the 22,000 people surveyed by Ansys last year said they were ready to ride in an autonomous car today, the past few weeks of the coronavirus pandemic have likely redefined what really people are afraid. Let’s see what happens next month.