Colossal Landmarks In The History Of Autonomous Vehicles


To think of self-driving cars is to imagine a white, Google-emblazoned car whizzing around Silicon Valley. Or, your brain might jump to a Tesla zooming around a city without making a noise. The point is that autonomous vehicles have come a long way, especially in the last decade.

But, it hasn’t always been that way. In 1969, McCarthy’s paper about computer controlled cars was a pipe dream. No one ever thought it would happen because there were too many obstacles along the journey.

So, now that self-driving cars don’t seem too far away from becoming the norm let’s take a look at the major milestones.

Neural Networks

Part of the reason autonomous cars are 21st-century advancement is due to technology. However, it wasn’t as if people weren’t thinking about the possibilities before. McCarty was a pioneer in the 60s and 70s, but it was Dean Pomerleau who paved the way in the 1990s with his work on neural networks. In his paper, he theorized how these “nets” could take real-time images and input them into the steering controls. Earlier, researchers had tried to separate the photos manually, which was timely and costly. To do this day, neural nets are still used in the industry.



Parking Sensors

As early as 2003, there weren’t any serious contenders for autonomous cars. In fact, the inaugural “Grand Challenge” in 2002 was a bust. Expected to drive 142 miles across the Mojave Desert, self-operated vehicles could only manage 8. However, there were signs the tech was developing at a rapid rate, and parking sensors showcased it. Lexus and Toyota both had models in the early 2000s which could park a car without assistance. They did this by using cameras and sensors to map out the maneuver. Years later, parking tech would become the backbone of autonomous vehicles.

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Bumps In The Road

Companies soon started to test their products, and they were a few things which didn’t work out well. In March 2018, an experimental Uber car struck and killed a woman pedestrian as she crossed the road. As well as a car accident lawyer and their legal firms, it also alerted the attention of the whole world. People started to think self-driving cars weren’t reliable as the sensors detected the woman yet failed to serve. There’s no doubt it knocked confidence in the product and progression as slowed down as one more incident could spell the end.



Musk & Tesla

Founded in 2003, Elon Musk came to the company in 2004 and provided lots of capital to keep it afloat. Soon after, he took control of the business. Why is this a defining moment in current history? It’s because of Musk’s dedication to the cause. Investing at an early stage was critical, but so was the fact he used his own money to keep the firm running. In a time when the industry is on a knife-edge, he is a shining light in the dark.

Are there any landmarks you would like to add? What do you think is the biggest breakthrough?