Elon Musk may have just predicted Tesla will have full self-driving capability by the end of 2020, but other cars are already operating while driverless. At least, in a limited fashion. As you can see in the video above, a Dutch outfit called Amber, using the BMW i3 as a platform, is driving cars without drivers. Technically, these are not autonomous vehicles since they are platooning — following a single lead vehicle. Still, it is interesting and impressive to watch.
Amber operates an electric car-sharing service. In order to make sure its customers have their reserved car available, it has to shuttle vehicles to its various hubs. What this technology will allow them to do — it’s still in the testing phase — is to have one driver move several cars at the same time. With help from the city of Eindhoven and Smartwayz, they’ve started testing in bus lanes at night.
It is not clear exactly how the system operates. In the video, we see that the following cars perform the same turning moves as the lead vehicle, but it seems they can’t yet drive independently. Once the autonomous tech is more developed, we expect vehicles will be able to drive themselves to staging points without the need to follow a leader. On highways, however, driving in formation could be valuable as it would allow vehicles to follow more closely than what is now safe, thereby conserving energy.
Amber currently has 140 cars in its fleet, which are shared among 2,525 users. We have embedded a second video below featuring Joep Sloot, the person responsible for conducting this testing, explaining more about the program. It is in Dutch, but does have English subtitles. Enjoy!
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