Round Table: What Would You Do With an Autonomous Car?

photo: Wenyu Xu
A vehicle participates in a test lap at Self Racing Cars (click photo for post); photo: Wenyu Xu

Recently, the 360 Blog asked Velodyne LiDAR team members what they would do if they had an autonomous car. Here’s what they said!

Mircea Gradu, Senior Vice President of Validation

I would use autonomous cars as a valet service. Sometimes for luxury and sometimes for practical purposes. The autonomous valet can take me to a restaurant or museum with friends, and it can take us home at the end of the night. If my personal autonomous car requires regular maintenance service, I can send it to the shop on its own. Then a loaner valet car shows up to take me to work. When my car is serviced it drives itself back home. My autonomous valet essentially brings more efficiency to my life. I’m not wasting time driving to the mechanic nor am I missing a day of work because of car issues. On the fun side, it can help me with one-way trips for downhill mountain biking, down-river kayaking, and down-wind kitesurfing, to retrieve me at the end of the “course.”

Mike Jellen, President & CCO:

First, I would use the hands-free time to and from work to conduct more business. To this end I would rather step into a car set up as an office. During weekends, I would use the benefits of autonomous cars to convert trips from a burden to a joy. Captive time with the family is a rare treat today… My ideal vehicle of the future would be a train-like viewing platform, more like a living room than a car. We could sit at a table as a family and really watch the scenery, play board games, etc., with no rush to the end destination. No need to speed if we’re enjoying the journey!

An autonomous vehicle participates in the 2007 DARPA Challenge (click photo for post); photo: DARPA

John Eggert, Director of Automotive Sales & Marketing:

I need at least a Level 4 autonomous vehicle, not a Level 3 vehicle, which I see as a glorified driver assist system. I would give the vehicle to my father, who at age 86 has had an assortment of eye maladies that render him unable to drive. A Level 4 vehicle represents a return to autonomy over his life. And since my father has “blessed” me with his genetics, I suppose I will be able to use the vehicle some years from now as well…

Rachel Hamelman, Office Services Coordinator:

My autonomous car would take me around the world! First, I take off from California—with stops in Nevada, Arizona, and Maryland—to pick up family and friends. Together, we visit the Caribbean, Paris, Italy, Africa, China, Japan, and Australia. The car will be big, luxurious, and stylish. Everywhere we go, passersby stop and ask, “What is it?” They don’t know, but they want one! When we reach water, my autonomous car turns into a boat. And did I mention it can fly, too?

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Read how science fiction has imagined the mobility revolution (click photo for post)

Laurel Nissen, Vice President of Web & Marketing:

I’m extremely excited for autonomous cars to reach public roads for a number of reasons. But the main reason is my son. This may seem like a pipedream, but someday I hope for zero deaths from distracted, drunk, and aggressive driving. A level 4/5 car could take my child safely from point A to point B, and that’s something I can’t wait for. Autonomous cars will create safer roads and reduce the tragic number of roadway fatalities. They’ll provide safe transportation for new drivers and distracted teens who never put their phones down—just like my son. An autonomous car will be a true blessing for me and all parents.

Jeff Wuendry, Solutions Engineer:

My family likes to vacation at a different national park each year. We travel by car because most parks are far away from an airport. An autonomous automobile would make the journey more enjoyable for everyone. The kids can play on their smartphones in the back seat while the adults play cards in the front seats. Everyone enjoys the mountain scenery in Colorado and sleeps while traveling Interstate 80 in Nebraska.

Mike Bezemek, Senior Content Manager:

As an avid cyclist, I’ve seen more than my share of dangerous driving. Simple side swipes, car door obstacles, and aggressive cut-offs are the mellow stuff. I’ve watched in horror as an impatient driver made an illegal left-turn into a young rider who was hurtled a dozen feet into the air—luckily, he survived but with nasty injuries. Another time, a swerving work truck sped past me on a blind curve, scattering foundation stakes across both lanes. I veered onto the shoulder, but an oncoming BMW was impaled through its grille. With an autonomous car, I’d do a few things. First, I’d run it as a safety car behind me and my cycling friends to protect our blinds when we ride roads frequented by dangerous drivers. Second, I’d use it as a resupply vehicle, delivering water and snacks during our longer rides. Third, I’ve heard my autonomous car will have a particular fondness for fresh hot pizza at our end-of-ride gatherings. And I plan to encourage my autonomous car’s passions.

The 360 Blog imagines the road trip of the future (click photo for post)

Andrew Hussey, Director of Communications:

In addition to the standard use as a commuter vehicle, my autonomous car would also be the perfect tow vehicle. I’m a car guy and a lot of weekends see me driving to and from the racetrack in a Lotus or Miata. They’re low and loud, with cramped interiors and virtually no storage. With most racetracks in the area located about two hours away, I usually wake up early to get to the track by 7:30 am, then scramble to get everything ready before the day really starts. Lack of sleep is definitely an issue as the day wears on. With my track car strapped to a trailer behind an autonomous vehicle, I could snooze an extra couple hours on the way to the track and wake up refreshed and ready to go. As an extra bonus, I could also have a celebratory beer with friends after the day ends.

Learn about how Velodyne Labs is inventing the future of LiDAR for autonomous driving!

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