“In the next five years, you’ll see somebody introduce autonomous vehicles,” Ford CEO Mark Fields said at a small dinner for press and analysts during CES. He was quick to qualify that statement (only in very defined areas, during good weather, etc.), but that’s one of the few statements that stuck out from the fog of war that is spending a week in Vegas during CES.
For years, self-driving cars looked like they were always at least ten years away from coming to market. If the notoriously conservative car industry thinks we are only five years away from somebody selling an autonomous car, then we’re probably even closer than they expect.
Every major car manufacturer now makes the pilgrimage to Vegas in January to present its latest advances next to Samsung, Toshiba and hordes of Chinese iPhone case manufacturer — and if there was is one topic that they all wanted to talk about, it was its self-driving cars. And it wasn’t just the car manufacturers, it was also the chip makers. Nvidia used most of its keynote to give us a rather boring lecture on how its new chips and recent advances in deep learning will enable self-driving cars using only cameras instead of expensive sensors (most car industry experts still think other sensors are absolutely necessary, by the way). All of the products it hyped up during its time on stage were for cars and its booth featured three sports cars. Qualcomm didn’t quite focus on cars quite as much, but it announced a number of concept cars that use its chips. Intel talked about autonomy in the context of drones, but there’s no doubt it also wants to put its sensors into cars.