Whether we want it to or not, the future is pressing onward at an alarming rate. Slowly but surely, we’ve become a throw-away society with rodent-like attention spans, constantly looking for the next piece of technology we can purchase. It’s a painful existence, and it would seem that living a life like this will result in never being fully satisfied, but if there’s one futuristic threshold worth breaking through, it’s the world of automated vehicles. According to recent statistics released by the World Health Organization, nearly 1.25 million people die in car accidents each year, on average 3,287 deaths per day. Though the technology behind self-driving vehicles is still in its infancy, imagine a network of cars communicating with one another, resulting in a drastic decrease in human error, i.e. no more car accidents.
On a lighter note, self-driving vehicles won’t just improve the safety of automobile passengers and operators, but will hopefully alleviate stressful traffic conditions. For those of you who drive, or have ridden in cars, I can assure you’ve encountered a scenario where, all of a sudden, cars slow down for what seems to be no apparent reason. Traffic experts refer to this phenomena as “phantom traffic jams.”
If every car traveled at the exact same speed, changed lanes in perfectly syncopated patterns, these jams would not be a problem, but as any driver knows, no one on the road is consistent. “These traffic waves arise from a small perturbation in uniform traffic flow, like a bump in the road, or driver braking after a moment of inattention.
These phantom jams arise in the absence of any obstacles,” says Benjamin Seibold, a mathematician at Temple University. He goes onto explain that the small “perturbations” that occur: one car braking slightly, and the ones behind it brake more to avoid a collision, creates the traffic-inducing chain reaction.
Waymo, a former Google self-driving startup that ultimately became its own entity under the auspices of Alphabet (GOOGL) today announced that the Michigan Economic Development Corporation officially voted to approve the company’s request to develop a manufacturing facility in Michigan to begin mass-producing autonomous vehicles. Given the close-knit fabric of the American automotive industry and the State of Michigan, it was only natural that Waymo looks to set up shop there.
“Waymo will first identify a facility in Southeast Michigan and, over the next few years, aim to create hundreds of local jobs in the community. We’ll be looking for engineers, operations experts, and fleet coordinators to join our team and help assemble and deploy our self-driving cars. This will be the world’s first factory 100%-dedicated to the mass production of L4 autonomous vehicles. As we begin to commercialize our business and vehicle supply grows, we’re laying the foundation for a scalable, robust vehicle integration plan, starting in Michigan.”
–an official announcement from Waymo
Per the official announcement from Waymo, the location of their Michigan facility has yet to be decided, outside of their plan to build in southeast Michigan. Additionally, the factor will create up to 400 new jobs, according to TechCrunch.
In early August 2018, Waymo set up shop in Shanghai. The new business was suspiciously named “Huimo Business Consulting,” according to a business registration filing uncovered by CNN. In response to a very real future where all cars on the road may not have humans behind the wheel, China released a set of national guidelines for companies looking to get their self-driving vehicles on the road.
According to the regulation, issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, test vehicles must be able to “switch between self-driving and conventional driving in order to ensure the test driver can quickly take over in case of a malfunction.”