From Tesla to Apple to Google to Mercedes and beyond, it appears that the future of the auto industry lies, in part, in the development of self-driving vehicles. Now, one auto company has upped the stakes with an ambitious publicity stunt.
United Kingdom-based auto-parts maker Delphi modified an Audi Q5 SUV to drive autonomously. If that wasn't cool enough, the company had the car drive itself 3,400 miles from San Francisco to New York City. In all, the trip took nine days, starting out on March 22 near the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Nicknamed Roadrunner, the car navigated through mountains, heat, traffic jams, trucks, road construction and even tumbleweed, Delphi says.
The car arrived in Manhattan this week just in time for the big New York International Auto Show. Of course.
Delphi unveiled the car in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Roadrunner is equipped with six long-range radars, four short-range radars, three vision-based cameras, six lidars (light detection and ranging devices), a localization system, intelligent software algorithms and a full suite of Advanced Drive Assistance Systems, according to Delphi.
Delphi tested the self-driving car's capabilities on the streets of California and Las Vegas before undertaking the cross-country journey. "Delphi’s active safety technologies enable the vehicle to instantaneously make complex decisions, like stopping and then proceeding at a four-way stop, timing a highway merge or calculating the safest maneuver around a bicyclist on a city street. Many of these driving scenarios have been a limitation for much of the current technology on the market today," Delphi said in its announcement of the project.
But do people really want to give up their control to a car that drives itself? "There's some [interest]," Delphi CTO Jeff Owens said today on CNBC's Squawk Box. "There's a desire for mobility. There's a desire for more safety. We tend to think of this as an opportunity to improve our active safety equipment that will help provide the driver help when you need help. The car never gets distracted even when the driver is."
Even then, the legal and regulatory hurdles mean driverless cars are "at least" 10 or 15 years away from being available widely to consumers, Owens said.
Here's a look at Delphi's promotional video for the Roadrunner: