What future awaits us: robotaxi or self-driving cars


Robotaxis or perfect self-driving cars? Would you prefer to ride a soulless cyborg-driven robotaxi or hit the road in the ultimate self-driving car?

What TV show did you watch on lockdown? My wife and I constantly discussed “The most scenic rail travel in the world.” Since we couldn’t travel, we watched a travel series. People love to travel. New places, new views, new cultures, new memories. Travel is an important part of the human experience. They are fun, they are filled with stimuli and information. We plan them carefully and look forward to seeing them.

What about moving? You can move from one house to another, or move the piano. Or you can arrange a transitional life stage and “live on the way.” Moving and moving is necessary, but like flossing your teeth, it’s boring. When was the last time you asked someone what brand of dental floss they use?

So when I heard the slogan “You move the world. We help you move around ”I was not thinking about high technology. I thought about laxatives.

Probably, this is not at all the reaction that the specialists from Motional (as the joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv is now called) expected when they published their promo video. But after all, human perception is very complex and unpredictable (whatever the AI ​​and deep learning experts might convince us of).

Predictability is boring. Look back and remember self-isolation. It looked like groundhog day? The same four walls? The same computer screen? You wanted something different? People need change: that’s why we love to travel so much. We may not always be happy about these changes, but our brains are not adapted for boring, non-stimulating, and rehearsal activities. It’s like torture for us.

That is why I have doubts about the real experience of using a robotaxi. Fleets of robots carrying human goods. All robot cars are the same, all robot drivers are the same, all robot cars are the same. You will know exactly what service you will receive in advance. But just like in the case of fast food, the result will be boring and you will instantly forget it.

I have no doubt that self-driving vehicle developers (such as Cruise, Motional, and Waymo) think they know what people want. But, as with the lockdown, I’m wondering how quickly people get tired of the boring, soulless, and repetitive nature of the robotaxi experience?

It always seemed to me that the very concept of robotaxi underestimates human nature. Every time I see pictures of straight lines of robotic cars, I think of the Borgs from Star Trek. Is there a future with roborgtaxi, in which resistance will be useless?

Robotaxi developers could well have spent many billions of dollars to develop functional, practical, predictable and creepy (like Borgi) technologies. But the resistance is not useless yet. All is not yet lost. We still have a chance …

Tech Wars: the return of the automaker

If this whole scenario implies that self-driving technology will lead to complete assimilation, defeat automakers and a world in which all drivers give up their driver’s license, then the rebel alliance will lead BMW. It is worth remembering, however, that almost the entire tech industry is focused on humanizing the experience of using cars.

In recent years, a lot of attention has been paid to using AI and deep learning to replace human drivers with self-driving systems. All of this was done in order to make travel safer and improve the user experience of being in the car.

At the forefront of this area is BMW’s iNEXT platform, and I want to highlight three technologies that I believe will be used by their new i4 coupe and i5 SUVs.

At the end of September, Cerence presented its “conversational AI”, which makes the car more human. If you have ten minutes you can watch the slides this presentation by link… If you have an hour and a half, you can watch the video of the entire presentation below.

Humanizing the car experience involves the use of advanced augmented reality displays (AR-HUDs). I think that Continental will become the supplier of such displays for iNEXT, you can learn more about their developments here.

Human factors research, gaze monitoring and tracking are key aspects of driver tracking systems. I think Seeing Machines will become the solution provider for BMW in this area.

A brief description of the development of the technology is presented below, and the capabilities of the “driver monitoring algorithms” remain a closely guarded secret.


As discussed recently in EE Times and New Scientist, the technology of visual observation of drivers may well help in the detection of drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Human factors and behavior research will play a pivotal role in the development of shift control technologies to combat the factor of drunken drivers. I look forward to hearing about these developments. More information about Seeing Machines can be found on these slides

The combination of conversational AI, AR-HUD and driver tracking systems will revolutionize the in-cabin user experience, and I applaud BMW – it looks like a significant step forward in terms of technology. I don’t think other players in the market are lagging far behind. Surely Google is already working on an eye tracking system for the new version of Android Automotive OS.

In the video below, you can see a presentation from Motional. I suggest that you look at it in full and decide whether you care about robotaxi more (or less) than other technologies described in this article.

Centenary perspectives

When I watched The World’s Most Scenic Railroad Travel, I was very surprised by the fact that many railroad tracks took more than a century to build. Companies went bankrupt (some went bankrupt several times), and construction took many lives.

All of these projects were more complex, took longer and required more investment than originally anticipated. The costs were almost completely covered by advances, revenue appeared only after the construction of the plots was completed, and sometimes there was no profit at all. Will the future of robotaxi be the same?

Assuming that self-driving technology and systems can be successfully developed and deployed, would consumers want to ride soulless Borg-driven robotic taxis, or would they want to drive perfect self-driving cars with an immersive in-car user experience?

The beauty of this story is that everyone can decide for themselves. I know for sure that I am looking forward to seeing cars on the iNEXT platform on the road next year. Apparently BMW appreciated and understood human nature (and perhaps even surpassed Tesla)

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NPP ITELMA is always glad to young specialists, graduates of automotive, technical universities, as well as physics and mathematics departments of any other higher educational institutions.

You will have the opportunity to develop software of different levels, test, launch into production and see in action the finished automotive products that you had a hand in creating.

The company has organized a special testing center, which makes it possible to conduct research in the field of ICE control, including in a car. The testing laboratory includes motor boxes, drum stands, temperature and climate control units, vibration stand, salt fog chamber, X-ray unit and other specialized equipment.

If you are interested in trying your hand at solving the problems that we have, write in a personal.


We are a large development company automotive components. The company employs about 2,500 employees, including 650 engineers.

We are, perhaps, the strongest center of competence in the development of automotive electronics in Russia. Now we are actively growing and have opened many vacancies (about 30, including in the regions), such as software engineer, design engineer, leading development engineer (DSP programmer), etc.

We have a lot of interesting tasks from car manufacturers and concerns that are driving the industry. If you want to grow as a specialist and learn from the best, we will be glad to see you in our team. We are also ready to share our expertise, the most important thing that happens in automotive. Ask us any questions, we will answer, we will discuss.

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