There’s a surprising boom in vehicle engineering and autonomous cars going on right now. News reports indicate that companies are investing a vast amount of money in new automotive technology much of it related to self-driving cars.
Some of the most interesting and intriguing developments in the field include:
- Volkswagen (OTC: VLKAY) – The world’s bestselling brand of auto is setting up a centralized engineering and product development center in Chattanooga that will employ up to 200 engineers, USA Today reported.
- The privately-held Uber has set up a robotics research center in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, and is hiring robotics researchers away from Carnegie Melon University to staff it.
- The University of Michigan has unveiled a 32-acre autonomous car testing facility in Ann Arbor. The state of Michigan spent $6 million on the facility. Ford (NYSE: F), General Motors (NYSE: GM), Toyota (NYSE: TM) and Honda (NYSE: HMC) will each spend $1 million to conduct research there, The New York Times reported.
- Not to be outdone, Florida Polytechnic University is building its own self-driving vehicle testing facility in the Sunshine State, The Times
- Ford has opened an office in Palo Alto, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley as a headquarters for a self-driving vehicle effort, according to The Times.
- Volkswagen and Daimler AG (OTC: DAI), parent of Mercedes and Freightliner, have research facilities in the San Francisco Bay area, The Times pointed out.
- Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is now testing its famous self-driving cars in Texas.
- A Center or Automated Vehicle Systems has been set up at my dad’s alma matter, Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg. It is funded by state and federal agencies and undisclosed private companies.
- Around 70 miles of roads in Northern Virginia have been designated for autonomous vehicle testing.
It looks as if the self-driving vehicle revolution is spreading, and such autos could soon be coming to your neighborhood. One has to wonder when popular fear and dislike of such robotic autos will lead to some sort of political backlash. I’m surprised some politician has not already started capitalizing on the hysteria against soulless machines driving on the same roads as our children.
The amount of investment in this field is incredible. It looks as if predictions of a brave new highway system filled with autonomous vehicles are about to come true whether we are prepared for it or not.