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商业 - 汽车

谷歌无人驾驶汽车会不会颠覆传统汽车制造业格局

Doron Levin 2014年06月03日

尽管数码技术正在迅猛发展,但汽车生产商并不愿意将对汽车“大脑”的控制权拱手让人。不过,谷歌研发的无人驾驶汽车已经具备了这样的潜力。

    谷歌(Google)宣布,公司正在研发一款没有方向盘、刹车和油门的原型车,并称这款车将于一年之内发布,此举使得无人驾驶汽车的商业化进程又向前迈进了一大步。

    这家公司打算证明,让乘客安全地通过无人驾驶汽车抵达目的地是可以实现的——尽管速度不会超过每小时25英里(约合每小时40.2公里)。汽车行驶期间,乘客只需要确定目的地,不需要做其他任何事情。

    项目主管克里斯•厄姆森认为,无人驾驶技术通过降低车祸率,减少因此导致的伤亡事件,从而有可能“减轻痛苦,产生广泛的社会影响力”。厄姆森引用数据称,美国每年都会发生大约3.2万起车祸,而每年全世界会发生120万起。他在本周三的电话新闻发布会上表示,研发这项技术的另一个动机是让老年人和残疾人也拥有行动能力。

    汽车业的高管已经开始推测谷歌在无人驾驶技术上的商业策略。谷歌从2009年起开始研发这项技术,并在丰田(Toyota)和雷克萨斯(Lexus)的专用车型上进行了论证。尽管谷歌扬名立万主要是靠它的网络搜索和广告服务,但这家公司的研究人员已经与全球的汽车生产商探讨过无人驾驶项目,增加了它寻求同盟或合作的可能性。

    有些人对谷歌是否有能力成为大型汽车生产商提出了质疑。不过,特斯拉(Tesla)过去也没有生产汽车的经历,却迅速地摇身一变成为汽车生产商。

    谷歌原型车的蓝图像是一辆小型的城市轻便车,而不是传统的轿车。汽车外部也许会比较柔软,以此保护可能不慎撞上它的行人或骑自行车的人。

    厄姆森并没有排除谷歌联合其他汽车生产商的可能性。不过谷歌开发自有汽车的决定可能会影响、甚至促使汽车业高管和工程师的思路和规划加快步伐。到目前为止,全球的汽车生产商仍着眼于循序渐进的步骤,比如自适应巡航控制系统、帮助司机的自动制动器、在汽车上提供后备系统等等。他们还没有考虑彻底让汽车自己控制自己。

    主流的汽车生产商通常会采用高科技传感器及高科技元素,这些在许多高端汽车上已经得以采用,比如“辅助驾驶”功能。少数汽车公司已经开始关注软件和人工智能领域的飞速发展,利用它们或许可以让汽车比在人类的操控下更安全地行进。这些公司已经提出了研发无人驾驶汽车的计划。法国雷诺(Renault)和日本日产(Nissan)的首席执行官卡洛斯•戈恩已经确立目标:在2020年推出一款无人驾驶汽车。沃尔沃(Volvo)也向记者展示了一款不需要司机,可以自动泊车的产品。这家公司表示,这款汽车将于2017年上市。

    我们可以理解,尽管数码技术正在迅猛发展,但汽车生产商并不愿意将他们对汽车“大脑”的控制权拱手让给谷歌或其他第三方。最有远见的思想家已经开始设想将汽车作为电子商务的平台,驾驶员可以在光临沃尔玛(Wal-Mart)或麦当劳(McDonald)时得到折扣或其他优惠。如果谷歌的思路没错,那么汽车以后便不必时刻搭载车主,也可以根据需要空驶、搭载旅客或运送货物。

    对许多人来说,乘坐自动驾驶的汽车出行就算不吓人,也似乎是不现实的事情。但是谷歌已经实现了几十万英里的驾驶测试,而且没有出现事故。其他公司也一样。汽车业,尤其是其中的新秀,正在证明高科技汽车将会拥有曾经只在科幻小说中描绘过的能力。(财富中文网)

    译者:严匡正

    Google pushed the commercialization of self-driving cars a giant step forward by announcing it is building a prototype vehicle – without steering wheel, brakes, or an accelerator – and will demonstrate it within a year.

    The company aims to prove that the means are within reach to allow passengers to travel safely to their destination in a self-driving vehicle – albeit at a speed not exceeding 25 miles per hour. Occupants will have no other role in the vehicle's operation beyond stating their destination.

    Chris Urmson, director of the project, hailed driverless technology's potential "to alleviate pain and to have a broad societal impact" by reducing the number of accidents, deaths, and injuries from accidents. He cited the roughly 32,000 automotive fatalities annually in the U.S. and 1.2 million worldwide. Another motivation for developing the technology, he said, during a phone press conference Wednesday morning, was to provide mobility to the elderly and disabled.

    Auto industry executives have speculated about Google's business strategy for self-driving technology, which it has been developing since 2009 and demonstrating on specially adapted Toyota (TM) and Lexus vehicles. Though known mostly for Internet search and advertising, Google researchers have discussed the project with global automakers, raising the possibility that it was shooting for an alliance or collaboration.

    Some have questioned Google's (GOOG) ability to mass manufacturer vehicles. Then again, Tesla (TSLA) had no history of building cars and it turned itself into a manufacturer in short order.

    The drawing of Google's prototype suggests a small urban runabout that looks nothing like a conventional car. The exterior will be soft, to protect pedestrians or bicyclists that might bump into it.

    Urmson didn't rule out that Google might join forces with another automaker. Yet the company's decision to create its own vehicle could influence, affect, and perhaps accelerate the thinking and plans of auto industry executives and engineers. Until now, global automakers have thought in terms of incremental steps, such as adaptive cruise control and automatic braking that aid drivers and provide backup systems, without assuming complete control.

    Mainstream automakers often refer to high-tech sensors and features, already available on many premium models, as providing "co-piloting." A few auto companies have kept an eye on the rapid development of software and artificial intelligence that arguably can drive a car more safely than a human and have announced plans to offer a driverless car. Carlos Ghosn, chief executive officer of Renault and Nissan, has targeted 2020 for introduction of a driverless model. Volvo has demonstrated a car that can self-park, without a driver, to journalists; it will be available in 2017, the company says.

    As digital technology proliferates, automakers are understandably reluctant to relinquish control of their vehicles' "brains" to Google or any third-party. The most far-sighted thinkers are beginning to imagine the car as a platform for e-commerce, where drivers might receive discounts and other offers as they approach a Wal-Mart (WMT) or a McDonald's (MCD). If Google is right, that motorists no longer need to drive, cars may wind up carrying no occupants at times and could ride empty, picking up travelers or delivering merchandise as needed.

    For many, the thought of traveling in a car that drives itself may seem improbable, if not horrifying. But Google already has logged hundreds of thousands of accident-free test miles. Others have as well. The auto industry, particularly its newest members, is proving that highly advanced vehicles will possess abilities once only described as science fiction.

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