This book is well written and an enjoyable read. The author writes engaging and the book starts off between the history of DARPA and a court case between Waymo and Uber.
The first part of the book covers the start of the autonomous car race in 2001 with a government defense budget and leads us through a race to win a million dollars by crossing the Mojave dessert with a completely autonomous vehicle. The author describes it as resembling mad Max, personally the first race came across as a real life wacky races.
Following on from this there is another intro to the history of academics and engineers who have contributed to automating driving. This book is written in an excellent style with an accessible narrative and doesn’t use overly technical language, whilst bringing the cars it features to life.
Stanley carried on unaware that for a brief moment it had surpassed its creatorsChapter 5
This book provides a well written outline of how DARPA have been innovated over the years and provides insight into the relationship between the military, universities and businesses.
So from two desert races, 2007 saw the introduction of an urban challenge into the mix. Two of the competitors played their part in google street view and the charismatic Red Whittaker finished the chapter and third race to build a lunar space buggy engineer. If you ever wondered what it takes to become a leader of technical innovation then this book will introduce you to the people driven to succeed in building autonomous robots.
The second part of this book reminds me of European telecom’s companies in the mid nineties. Where every telecom’s company in the UK, Germany, France and Spain have owned each other at some point. The main driving force behind autonomous vehicles started off competing against each other, then working together, then competing for leadership positions in the same team and finally trying to steal years of research for well paying competitors.
This book has been a pleasure to read, the author has made this both highly readable and also packed full of interesting information. As the final chapter runs through the outcomes and consequences of the many leading figures who took part in the DARPA grand challenges.
This book is available at Amazon UK & Amazon US
To add my own ten cents I would say the thing this book highlights most is that self driving cars are going to be a lot harder to produce that flying cars. Dealing with other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists is a lot harder than keeping a vehicle airborne.
Another point would be that the book covers how Google have invested in autonomous cars for the past ten years and didn’t really actualise a real self driving vehicle. The technology that they used couldn’t emancipate machines from their safety driver overlords. With time AI will probably fill in the gaps and Levandowski is probably right that lidar isn’t up for the job. AI looking through an high definition camera will probably suffice as we enter the 2020’s.