Self-Driving Cars Are Underway; Are You Ready?

by CXOtoday News Desk    Apr 19, 2017

self driving

Self-driving cars, once limited to science fiction movies is already becoming a reality. The technology is here, and several companies are already testing them on the roads. It is interesting to understand the progress of autonomous vehicle, when they will finally hit the road and most important, are, we the humans, ready for the ride?

Crowded road ahead

The enthusiasm surrounding the autonomous vehicles is very much there, thanks to Google, whose enthusiasm in making driverless cars acted as the catalyst that sparked the race to commercialize these vehicles. Recently, Apple too confirmed it is joining the fiercely competitive race to design self-driving cars, as the California Department of Motor Vehicles granted it clearance for trials of the autonomous driving technology on public roads for the first time, and if this has raised the possibility that whether a company that has already re-shaped culture with its iPhone may also try to transform transportation, recent reports suggest that China’s search engine giant Baidu has also joined the bandwagon by planning to launch its self-driving cars, with fully autonomous driving capabilities on highways and open city roads by 2020.

The race to master self-driving technology is intense and crowded, with leading auto and tech companies, as well as ambitious startups, with 30 companies now allowed to test robotic cars in California alone. These companies are working with partners who provide vehicles, sensors and other components for the new technology.

Alphabet’s Waymo, created last year to commercialize Google’s Self-Driving Car Project, is adding 100 Chrysler minivans to its test fleet with self-driving hardware and software it designed, and is in talks to supply the system to Honda. 
Meanwhile, GM’s Cruise Automation unit in San Francisco has begun a major expansion of operations with plans to add 1,100 more people to its team, and may have thousands of automated cars running in a rideshare service starting next year. GM’s Cruise unit has 27 test cars in the state, with more being tested in Michigan, and Tesla has 24 registered in California, according to DMV data.

Tech companies’ efforts to disrupt the auto industry and take the lead in self-driving cars may get a lot of press, but the companies that actually build cars still have the advantage, a new Navigant Research study ranking companies’ progress in developing self-driving cars predict. Navigant surveyed 18 companies, including both traditional automakers and tech firms.

Surprisingly, the automakers came out on top, with Ford ranked as the leader in autonomous-car development, followed by General Motors and the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Newer business model, more collaboration

However, this doesn’t limit the importance of technology innovators and giants. As Kelly Brock, Director-Marketing for the industrial products and automotive segment at UPS in a blog mentioned, “When we think about the future of self-driving cars, we realize they’re not just about getting around any more than a smartphone is just about making calls. They will create a new ecosystem of activities and services that change the way we live our urban lives. They will offer solutions to long-standing problems that plague today’s cities and challenge us to consider a host of new societal, technological and ethical questions.”

Technology and automotive leaders contend that cars of the future will be capable of completely driving themselves, revolutionizing the transportation industry, with virtually all carmakers as well as companies such as Alphabet’s Google, Apple and parts supplier Delphi investing heavily in developing the technology.

Read Also: Connected Cars, Kitchens To Drive IoT By 2020

A Gartner report says that more than 250 million vehicles will be connected globally by 2020, with a 67 percent increase in the number of installed “connectivity units” in vehicles worldwide.

There is also expected to be a doubling in consumer spending on in-vehicle connectivity solutions. For example, Lynk & Co used Ericsson’s Connected Vehicle Cloud service to demonstrate in Shanghai what it calls the world’s first built-in car sharing function. With Ericsson cloud technology, the company also wants to enable new services through connectivity.

Winning amidst challenges

While both tech innovators and traditional companies are upbeat on the future of self-driving cars, researchers at J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Tech Choice Study shows an increased wariness of fully self-driving technology since last year even as consumers continue to want technology that assists drivers. The study highlights a risk automakers are concerned about - the negative impression that high-profile but isolated accidents can have on the perceived safety of driverless cars. And yet, both J.D. Power researchers and industry experts say consumers will eventually come around.

In fact, KPMG, the audit and professional services firm, estimates the adoption of self-driving cars eventually could reduce accidents by 80% in coming decades, to just one accident for every 1.6 million miles driven by 2040. By 2030 or 2040 accidents may become so rare that stand-alone car insurance could become a thing of the past. Auto coverage simply could be a rider on your homeowner’s policy.

Also, fewer accidents also means cars could become lighter – and cheaper. As self-driving cars become cheaper to build and operate one can see new alliances formed between traditional automakers, Silicon Valley players who understand software interfaces and the ride-sharing services in the form of robo-taxis.

Read more: The Ethical Dilemma Of Self-Driving Cars

Experts believe, for automakers, building trust is key to expanding interest in automation. Automakers and tech companies will need to focus on making the consumer’s initial experience positive. Making sure the technology works in the various types of driver assistance technology will be the “baby steps” to build trust toward the next level of automation. In the end, the winners are going to be the folks who can do that the best, believe experts.