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Self Driving Electric Vehicles: The Future Is Almost Here

A self driving Waymo Jaguar

The dream of a self driving car has been around for decades. Movies and TV shows set in the future always seem to include self driving vehicles. Even fanciful movies like “Herbie” showed us what life could be like with an automated chauffeur. But one area that seems to be moving forward with great speed is the self driving electric car. Electric vehicles are already home to a flurry of new technology, so it seems only natural to add self driving capability to the list. Let’s take a look at where things are in regards to self driving technology and the electric vehicle world.

The State of the Self Driving Union

First let’s talk about which cars have self driving features for 2022. There are various levels of self driving definitions from Level 0 to Level 5. A Level 0 system mainly just warns the human driver so they can take action. At the other end of the spectrum is a Level 5 system which is more akin to a traveling living room than a vehicle. Just get in and the Level 5 vehicle takes you wherever you wish while you sit back and enjoy the ride. But for now most of the cars with self driving features you will encounter are in the Level 1 to Level 3 categories. Level 4 autonomous cars are closer than ever but are still a few years away from mass production.

For 2022 here’s a few of your options when looking at self driving EV cars:

Audi E-Tron
Audi Q4 e-tron
Ford Mustang Mach E
Ford F-150 Lightning
GMC Hummer EV
Jaguar I-Pace
Kia EV6
Lucid Air
Nissan Leaf
Porsche Taycan
Rivian R1T
Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model S
Tesla Model X
Tesla Model Y
Volkswagen ID.4

Of course none of these are fully self driving, most are Level 2 automation which gives the vehicle control of the throttle, brakes and steering but the human driver still has to pay attention.

EV Self Driving System Examples

Let’s start out with Tesla self driving car features called Autopilot. As far as self driving electric vehicles go, Tesla Autopilot is impressive. It isn’t fully hands-off but it can control steering, braking and acceleration duties while under driver supervision. The Navigate feature can help as a driving partner by making lane change suggestions and assisting with highway interchanges. The Tesla Smart Summon feature can actually move your Tesla vehicle to you without ever having to touch the vehicle itself. Using the Tesla app on the driver’s phone the Tesla vehicle will self-navigate from a parking spot (or similar private property) to the location of the driver’s phone. The driver must keep their finger on the Tesla Summon app button the whole time. Once the button is released the vehicle will stop moving. The system is not perfect though as recently shown when a Tesla under Smart Summon control accidentally collided with a parked private jet!  

Ford has included their BlueCruise system in the Mustang Mach-E and the F-150 Lightning all-electric vehicles. This system has the familiar steering, braking and acceleration control over the vehicle while still requiring the driver to monitor the situation. An interior camera actually watches the driver’s eyes to make sure they are paying attention to the road. Ford has mapped roughly 130,000 miles of roads in North America for BlueCruise navigation. In order to use BlueCruise  in full hands-free mode you must be in a Hands-Free Blue Zone. 

GM is making their Super Cruise hands-free driving system available on the Chevrolet Bolt and GMC Hummer. Similar to Ford’s system GM has mapped over 200,000 miles of North American roadways into their system. When a vehicle is traveling on a compatible roadway the steering, braking and acceleration functions will be controlled by the vehicle but only while the driver supervises. Super Cruise also has means to gauge whether the driver is paying attention to the road. The driver must pay attention as Super Cruise cannot react to emergency situations or sudden changes.

Self Driving Into The Future

Google began experimenting with self-driving cars over a decade ago. Today that Google self driving car project has morphed into Waymo. Most of the test vehicles have been internal combustion engine powered, but the Waymo One taxi service uses Jaguar I-Pace electric vehicles as part of its fleet. Waymo has also partnered with Chinese automaker Geely (which owns Volvo) to create an electric autonomous taxi under the Zeekr brand. Waymo will handle the driving technology while Geely builds the taxis. These futuristic looking electric vans will be part of the Waymo One fleet.

Not to be left out Apple has also been working on a potential electric fully autonomous self driving vehicle of their own. While no official word about the project (dubbed Titan) has been given by the tech giant, it reportedly has a large number of employees dedicated to it. Apple has been testing autonomous vehicles on the roads for years already. Apple even bought an autonomous vehicle company for its technology. Given Apple’s history of extreme secrecy and desire to revolutionize, the public will likely be kept in the dark until the Apple car is perfected for prime time.

The bottom line is that we still aren’t at the point of fully autonomous self driving vehicles whisking us to our destination while we sit back and watch a movie or take a nap. Like many new technologies that see their first use cases in high-end luxury cars, the bits and pieces of self driving tech are filtering down to everyday transportation. Electric vehicles are a natural space to fit such new tech. While we hesitate to look into a crystal ball, with the current progression in technology and adoption it won’t be too many more years until the future is finally here.

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Brian Medford View All

With an automotive writing career spanning over two decades, Brian has a passion for sharing the automotive lifestyle. An avid DIYer he can usually be found working on one of his many project cars. His current collection includes a 1969 Olds Delta 88 convertible and a slant-6 powered 1975 Plymouth Duster.

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