Autonomy & Beyond!

Autonomous vehicles have long seemed to be something that we would experience “In the FUTURE!” (imagine those words intoned by someone with a booming voice, like in a movie trailer). Yet thanks to some very clever technologists, engineers and programmers at OEMs, supplier companies, and, well, Google, autonomous vehicles are quickly becoming everyday reality.

Autonomous vehicles have long seemed to be something that we would experience “In the FUTURE!” (imagine those words intoned by someone with a booming voice, like in a movie trailer).

Yet thanks to some very clever technologists, engineers and programmers at OEMs, supplier companies, and, well, Google, autonomous vehicles are quickly becoming everyday reality.

G

A Google artist’s rendition of a self-driving Google car

A recent example of the magnitude of autonomy—literally and figuratively—is the Freightliner Inspiration, which had its global introduction last week in Nevada, a state that is allowing this vehicle to run on its public roads.

The truck is an on-highway rig powered by a Detroit DD15 engine, producing some 505 hp. It is a Level 3 autonomous vehicle. Meaning that it can accelerate, brake and even steer without driver intervention. (And it is “smart” enough to tell the driver when intervention is required.)

W

See that semi?  It is an autonomous Freightliner on a public highway in Nevada

On this episode of “Autoline After Hours,” host John McElroy, IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley, Automobile magazine Detroit bureau chief Todd Lassa, and I discuss the present and, yes, future of autonomous vehicles. (Yes, it seems that even a keen driving enthusiast like Lassa sees that self-driving cars are going to become more ubiquitous.)

Speaking of auto enthusiasm, we also look at the solid sales of muscle cars in the U.S. Is it just because gas is cheap?

And we note, with sadness and some stories, about the passing at age 88 of automotive legend Denise McCluggage, who, if you never watched her compete on a race track or read her columns in Autoweek, is one of the auto industry’s most fascinating individuals.

One thing that does come up during the show is a discussion of tool and die maker Riviera Tool of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was acquired by Tesla, not Magna, as I mistakenly maintain. Mea culpa.

You can see it all (including my boo-boo) here: