Autonomy Summary By Lawrence D. Burns

*This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn an affiliate commission without it ever affecting the price you pay.

Autonomy (2018) is a book that looks into the history of automation, from US Defense Department sponsored races in the Mojave Desert to traditional car manufacturers' innovations.

Written by an auto-industry insider, Lawrence D.

Burns, you get an insight into a fascinating world of Silicon Valley geeks and rugged inventors.

This amazing book offers a peek into the future; it will give you both facts and predictions of what is about to come.

Autonomy covers topics related to driving simulation, software engineering, artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomy from different perspectives.

Ready for your journey? It's time to discover the world of Autonomy!

Autonomy Summary

Book Name: Autonomy (The Quest to Build the Driverless Car – And How It Will Reshape Our World)

Author(s): Lawrence D. Burns

Rating: 4/5

Reading Time: 23 Minutes

Categories: Technology & the Future

Author Bio

Lawrence D.

Burns has an impressive background when it comes to understanding how autonomous vehicles work.

He was a corporate vice president of research, development and planning at General Motors between 1998 and 2009.

On top of that, he was also a professor of engineering practice at the University of Michigan from 2010 to 2016, as well as serving as an advisor to the Google self-driving car project (now called Waymo).

Currently he resides in Franklin, Michigan.

The Brave, Wild and Nerdy People Who Revolutionized Transportation: From Snowplows to Self-Driving Cars

Revolutionized Transportation

We are on the brink of an automation revolution.

From clean, self-driving vehicles to apps that allow us to summon a ride with the touch of a button, it’s no wonder why we have become increasingly eager to take advantage of all the available resources.

We can free ourselves from pollution and traffic jams, as well as human errors at the wheel.

But how did this future become so close? It all began with a dream of automation in a freezing university campus and the contribution from a robot called Minerva.

All these polar opposites from Detroit and Silicon Valley then worked together to make this dream into reality.

Now, you can plug into this automation revolution by taking advantage of all the amazing resources available.

With autonomous rideshare services already here, you can be part of history in more ways than one!

Why We Should Do Away With Gas-Guzzling Cars As We Know Them

Gasoline-powered vehicles are everywhere, but they’re shockingly inefficient when it comes to energy and space usage.

For example, only 30 percent of the energy from the gasoline that goes into your car is actually used to power it – the remainder is wasted as heat and used to power accessories like headlights and air conditioners.

Plus, for cars with more than enough room for five adults, there’s an average occupancy of just 1.1 people per vehicle – a highly uneconomical use of space!

When you consider the amount of traffic jams caused by gas-guzzling vehicles, wasting much-needed fuel in process as well as taking up valuable real estate through parking lots full of empty cars, it starts to become clear that maybe we don’t need cars as we know them today.

Larry Page’s Vision for a World Without Cars Was Rooted in Frustration and an Urgent Call for Change

Larry Page's Vision

Frustration with the gas-guzzling world of personal vehicles drove some of the most innovative minds to start dreaming of a more efficient form of transport – automation.

This was very much felt by Larry Page, co-founder of Google and creator of its self-driving car project, Chauffeur.

Page was studying at the University of Michigan where he didn’t own a car.

Especially in winter months, without reliable transportation, it would be pitch dark by 5PM and painfully cold outside.

Every time Page would go to catch the bus back home, he couldn’t help but watch everyone else pass him by in their cars while traffic gradually moved slower and slower due to so many people relying on vehicles.

This frustration pushed him to dream up an alternative system with rapid transportation systems powered by two-person mobility pods that could be summoned instantly whenever needed.

A dramatic event further motivated him to look for alternatives; on a trip to Frankfurt working for General Motors research department, he got called back to his hotel after watching the second plane crash into World Trade Center and concluded that responsible usage of oil from Middle East could have prevented this tragedy from ever happening– leading him to believe that using gas combustion engines had been deeply irresponsible act over the lifespan of events that led to 9/11 attack.

DARPA’s Great Robot Race: A Story of Sweat, Tears, and Technical Leaps

Robot races were an important early step in the development of automated vehicles.

That’s because, when US generals began looking for ways to transport supplies without risking the lives of soldiers, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) decided that a race in the Mojave Desert offered a unique opportunity for American teams to innovate quickly and provide a 1 million dollar prize for the team whose robot could finish first.

The contest consisted of robots from all over the country, including Red Team from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, led by roboticist Red Whittaker, who created “Sandstorm”.

Despite their best efforts, Sandstorm didn’t make it very far before becoming stuck on the road.

Although this was an enormous let-down for everyone involved, DARPA’s director saw potential in what had been achieved and announced another race with a larger prize of 2 million dollars.

It is thanks to these early struggles that we can now enjoy modern-day automated vehicles like self-driving cars.

By providing an exciting challenge and financial incentive to develop these technologies early on, DARPA allowed teams like Red Team to create workable robots that would pave they way forward.

How DARPA’s Robotic Races Pushed Critical Innovations for Autonomous Cars

DARPA’s robot races of the early 2000s were a critical moment in automation.

During these races, innovators from around the world gathered to test their creations and push forward the autonomous vehicle industry.

One major advancement that was made during this time was Sebastian Thrun’s invention of Minerva – a robot museum guide for Washington’s Smithsonian Museum.

Using laser range-finders and machine-learning algorithms, Thrun gave Minerva eyes and a sense of caution, allowing it to navigate even in crowded environments.

Another key increase was Red Whittaker’s team development of what they called “shake and shimmy” motion which enabled their robot to reassess its environment when it encountered an obstacle or uncertain terrain.

It would stop, reverse slowly, and then move ahead until it had determined the right path again.

This technique proved not only invaluable for these competitions alone but would be a fundamental foundation for advanced automated driving systems far into the future.

The Dar

How Detroit and Silicon Valley’s Automation Revolution Combined Hardware and Software

Detroit and Silicon Valley's Automation Revolution
Industry 4.0 concept . Man hand holding tablet with performance check screen software and automate wireless Robot arm in automobile smart factory background.

When talking about the history of automated vehicles, one has to consider both Detroit and Silicon Valley.

While Detroit was established as a powerhouse of car manufacturing in the early twentieth century with Henry Ford’s innovations, Silicon Valley’s expertise was in software development and computing.

In Detroit there was a focus on automobiles’ hardware- nuts and bolts, pistons, and chassis – while those innovating automated vehicles in Silicon Valley were computer scientists working in air conditioned labs.

Following Ford’s legacy, Detroit focused on traditional car making while Silicon Valley experimented with alternative solutions.

It wasn’t until General Motors pushed forward the development of alternative-propulsion vehicles that the two worlds met and catalyzed the automation revolution.

The Epiphany that Marked the End of an Era for the Automotive Industry

GM’s engineering of electric vehicles left no doubt that major changes were on the way.

After GM invested money in researching and developing alternative-propulsion vehicles, Byron McCormick (a lead technician works on GM’s E-Flex Architecture electric vehicle) took the author to GM’s Vehicle Assessment Center.

By seeing a Chevy Malibu, Toyota Prius, and a E-Flex Architecture side by side, it was clear how much less complex an electric vehicle is with thousands fewer parts than traditional gas powered vehicles.

This meant supplying companies like Denso and Visteon would have to adapt to survive or face going out of business.

Additionally, constructing electric vehicles would require far fewer workers–creating rarer forms of individual expertise–and therefore be much cheaper to make than the traditional cars we are used to today.

When this technology was revealed to General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner he emphasized these innovations would mark the end of the interconnected auto industry as we know it with fewer mechanics needed since most functions will be digital rather than relying on individual parts.

The End of Private Car Ownership – The Impact on Modern Society

End of Private Car Ownership

We are entering a new age of automation that will be enormously disruptive.

Autonomous vehicles are on the rise, replacing the need for private vehicle ownership and contributing to a decline in traffic jams.

Businesses will benefit from lower costs for long-haul delivery and trucking, while others could be severely impacted by the decline in people needing to drive such as Uber drivers.

Autos manufacturers too face a huge shift as they transition from selling vehicles to individual customers to fleets of self-driving taxis.

This change won’t just affect us physically, but have psychological implications too.

We can imagine what this future world might look like through science fiction, but it remains hard to predict how it will all turn out.

One thing’s for sure though – we are on the brink of an automative revolution!

Advances in Technology Make for a Seamless Commute and Enhanced Quality Time as a Family

A typical morning commute could look a lot different in the future.

A family like the Wilkersons, for example, living in the distant year of 2031, are a great example.

On this particular morning, they all gather around to have breakfast, before their car-sharing ride from Maghicle arrives and they set off on their daily commute.

Their experience is nothing like that of their parents’ back in the traffic-packed days of the past.

The children play virtual-reality computer games and text friends while their parents swipe through holographic newspaper.

Their ride is smooth and air-conditioned with no risk of carsickness due to algorithms that ensure safe distances between cars, eliminating traffic jams and crashes altogether.

The outside world looks different too; instead of parking lots there are parks, plazas and bustling cafes while wide green sidewalks make it a safe environment for pedestrians.

After being dropped off at school by their automated ride, Mary and Thomas give each other a kiss goodbye before heading off to work on their own respective sidewalk – something that was almost unthinkable years ago!

Wrap Up

In conclusion, Autonomy by author John Millington makes the case for why going with automated vehicles and alternative-propulsion engines represent the future, one that promises higher levels of freedom, more time and cost savings, as well as less environmental impact.

One way we can make a difference now is to use public transport whenever possible!

Doing so will not only benefit us individually but help contribute to reducing our car dependence and lobbying governments for better public transport links.

Ultimately, through automation, we have the potential to improve our current situation and create a sustainable future.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.