The automotive sector is experiencing a flurry of technological improvements and modifications. Vehicles began to become truly smarter, with automatic climate control systems, parking sensors and other handy features. Simple car entertainment systems paved the way for in-car infotainment systems, and with the advent of Android Auto and Apple’s Car Play, we began to see OS involvement in vehicles, with applications designed specifically for them. I’ve spoken in detail about these traits in my Connected Cars article.
But a more significant innovation has been in the field of driverless vehicles. We’re already heading into an era where cars will no longer need the involvement of a human and will be driven perpetually on Auto Pilot mode.
What are the changes taking place in this field? What factors will prove to be conducive for the development of driverless vehicles, and what technologies and industries will be directly affected as a result? In this article, I throw some light on the latest in the automotive world: driverless vehicles.
FIRST OFF, IS THERE A NEED FOR AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES?
A valid question. All these years, we’ve been relying wholly on expertise to operate vehicles – be it cars, boats or even aeroplanes. And while all that has worked nicely, a few factors need to be considered too.
Firstly, there’s the safety factor. We’ve stepped foot into an era where we are inseparable from our mobile devices, and this has quite a few adverse effects. According to a statistic by MapOfWorld, over 90% of all car accidents are caused due to human error, and ultimately this results in a huge loss of life worldwide, every year.
With these accidents, it becomes all the more imperative for vehicles to be equipped with safety measures that can avert untoward incidents. In fact, the most foolproof solution would be to make the vehicle completely autonomous.
Besides the obvious factor of safety, there’s also the sheer growth of technology in general. I’ve already talked about the Internet of Things, which is facilitating the development of sensor technologies. Picture a car with sensors to detect obstacles and blind spots, which can sync with traffic conditions in real time, which can automatically take your calls and transport you safely to your destination. That would also imply more productive time for the driver: he/she can accomplish some more tasks in the transit time.
Moreover, there has been an inclination of consumer perspective towards driverless vehicles, as shown in the statistic below.
All in all, the advantages of driverless vehicles are manifold, and it’ll be interesting to see things in the future of automation!
INDUSTRIES THAT WILL BE AFFECTED
A revolution in one particular industry usually affects the growth of some related industries, and the development of autonomous vehicles will directly impact quite a few other industries too.
Well, this was a given. The development of driverless vehicles will directly impact the automotive sector. Car companies will all join the race for developing smart, safe and intelligent vehicles.
ELECTRONICS AND SENSORS
Here I’m mainly referring to the in-car infotainment systems. To make a completely intelligent vehicle, OEMs will have to rise to the challenge to develop dedicated hardware which will enhance the experience of a driverless vehicle, which also goes hand in hand with IoTs.
More than the infotainment systems, the sensors will undergo a huge boost too. The sensors and their working has to be done to tackle obstacles in real time. Ultimately, it is upto OEMs to develop an ecosystem that will make driverless cars accident proof.
With vehicles, comes insurance concerns. Over 80% of traffic accidents are caused due to blind spots, and behind the wheels of a driverless vehicle, the driver’s risk profile will obviously be different from older, conventional vehicles (aka non autonomous, manually driven vehicles).
This will compel insurance companies to underwrite the manually driven vehicles. Moreover, with the development of sensors and dedicated hardware in driverless vehicles, insurance companies wil surely look for ways to incentivise their usage.
Vehicle accidents still account for a massive chunk of ER cases around the world. With the development of driverless vehicles, hospitals will have to make radical changes to the way they handle such situations.
A simple example: if a driverless vehicle is in an accident, it could try to remotely contact the nearest hospital through its GPS and infotainment systems. Hospitals must be equpped with the technology to intercept the SOS signal and send medical assistance as soon as possible. This would create a synergy and efficiency like never before.
When Cloud services were being developed, a concern was security from malicious elements. Likewise, the need for improvement of security protocols for driverless vehicles will also come to the fore. Software services with the prowess to keep hackers at bay, who might try to take control of the vehicle remotely, will become more popular.
Okay yes, this concept of ‘SaaS in a vehicle’ might be a farfetched concept right now, but all factors considered it might just make it big in the coming years.
KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DRIVERLESS VEHICLE SCENARIO
As far as autonomous vehicles are concerned, a lot of companies are already building prototypes of completely driverless vehicles.
• Most noteworthy in this regard is Google, who have had a good history here. In fact, back in August 2012, Google had announced that its driverless cars had made it across 300,000 miles without encountering any accidents.
• Apple also has some plans up its sleeve, and back in February 2015, two vans with LiDAR sensor systems were seen prowling the streets of Silicon Valley.
• Tesla has established itself as a future-centric company, and the CEO Elon Musk says that Tesla would have semi-autonomous cars in three years times, and fully autonomous cars in five or six years.
• Following the same timeline as Tesla, General Motors, Nissan and Mercedes-Benz have also promised that some form of autonomous cars would be on sale by 2020.
• Talking about Toyota, they’re basically using two key systems: Lane Trace Control (LTC), which will read the white lines on the road and keep the car centered in the lane, and Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication, which Toyota refers to as Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control (C-ACC).
• Mercedes-Benz made heads turn at CES 2015, where they showcased their autonomous car – the F015 Luxury in Motion. They also have their Future Truck 2025 – a concept of an autonomous truck.
• But a true test might be undertaken by Volvo. The Swedish company plans on putting 100 customers in cars with autonomous capabilities in real life conditions, in 2017. This will ultimately build up to their plan on autonomous vehicles and improved vehicle safety by 2020.
• I’ll wrap up the highlights section with some info about Freightliner. Yep, just a few weeks back, Daimler Trucks North America unveiled the Freightliner Inspiration Truck – which is the first licensed autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the United States.
SO, AUTO PILOT / DRIVER MODE: ON?
Definitely! The way the car companies are working on their technologies, driverless cars will become a reality in the very near future. Already, major car manufacturers have assigned a deadline: by the year 2020, they want to implement some form of autonomous car successfully.
It is upto sensor and car electronics / infotainment manufacturers to take the step forward, so that driverless cars can be deployed successfully to the masses as soon as possible.
Sign up for our monthly mailing list