- Cruise has designed its own silicon that it intends to include in its vehicles that will execute the autonomous driving.
- Cruise is increasingly using simulation rather than real-world driving to iron out the kinks in its autonomous driving software.This is done by mapping a real-world city and then recreating that city within a simulation so that the software’s ability to navigate that city can be tested and refined. I am pretty sceptical about the ability of simulation to produce an algorithm that can drive reliably and safely in the real world.
- I think that we are still pretty far away from true driverless vehicles although there will continue to be vanity projects launched here and there.
- I do not see anything that would lead me to change my estimate of 2028 before autonomous driving is properly commercialised meaning that many start-ups are going to run out of money.
- There has already been considerable consolidation and I expect more to come.
Not surprisingly, coverage will also be an issue for autonomous vehicles. Regulators throughout the world are increasingly requiring remote control or teleoperation as part of proposals to allow the operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads. Clearly the limitations of cellular wireless coverage open the door to requirements for satellite connectivity – which have not yet been identified.
Car companies have been forced to confront the limitations of cellular wireless coverage since the first General Motors vehicles with OnStar were delivered more than 25 years ago. At the time of OnStar’s launch the primary concern was that there was cell coverage in the proximity of all GM’s thousands of dealers.
More recently, auto makers have had to confront new safety mandates and requirements including everything from cybersecurity to over-the-air software updates and driver assistance systems designed with a dependency on connectivity. The Intelligent Speed Assistant (ISA) requirement – calling for an always visible and accurate speed limit icon in instrument clusters – will require vehicle connectivity to a cloud-based application.
The ISA requirement, which will impact all cars sold in Europe beginning in 2024, is one of several low-bandwidth applications requiring predictable and ubiquitous wireless connectivity. While content delivery to cars is also a high priority, the emphasis on safety is providing impetus to the automotive satellite connectivity conversation.
It is in this context that the LEO satellite business is gaining the attention of auto makers. About 2,000 operational satellites currently orbit the Earth, and nearly two-thirds of which are in LEO. Within 10 years that number is expected to explode to 50,000, creating new opportunities for connecting cars while simultaneously driving up hardware demand and driving down costs.
Speaking at Mobile World Congress earlier this year in Barcelona, SpaceX founder Elon Musk indicated that his short-term focus was on leveraging Starlink satellites and network to support wireless backhaul for rural broadband access. Such an effort might also help improve the cellular coverage of rural highways – but with cellular not satellite service.
The current satellite connectivity path to market for vehicles as matters stand will continue to flow through armored luxury vehicles, military, mining, and agricultural applications, and autonomous vehicles. All of these activities will contribute to improvements and cost reductions in antenna technology setting the stage for the even wider deployment of satellite technology supporting internet connectivity in the large volume passenger vehicle market.
Thanks to a rethinking of emergency applications and the emergence of autonomous vehicles, automotive satellite connectivity is getting a rethink. Only satellites can deliver ubiquitous wireless coverage and can do so with an increasingly attractive price.