Autonomous Vehicles Are Coming…and the Impact Will Be Huge.

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Safety, Savings, and Systems: the Possible Futures of Autonomous Vehicles

Impact on Industry

Autonomous vehicles (AVs), or self-driving cars, are a form of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence that will ultimately hand off drivers’ responsibilities to machines. An AV relies on cameras, sensors, and software that allows it to evaluate its environment and to respond accordingly. Ultimately, these cars will most likely be able to  communicate with one-another, coordinating to maximize safety. An estimated 10 million AVs are expected to be in use by 2020, and the global value of the AV technology industry is expected to be EUR 1 trillion by 2025, with an annual growth of 16 percent. This will impact the entire auto supply chain, from the OEMs to the smallest part supplier.

For example, self-driving trucks will allow for more economic deliveries—one of the most important costs in an e-commerce dominated world—by eliminating or reducing driver breaks and increasing road-time. Autonomous trucks can be programmed to operate at their maximum fuel efficiency, as well as coordinated into train-like convoys which reduce wind drag through drafting. In 2016, Uber Technologies Inc. and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV teamed up to test an autonomous truck by delivering Budweiser beer.

Because the current appeal of car manufacturing has caught the attention of tech-focused businesses, producers must remain alert, tirelessly chasing new suppliers to incorporate novel technology. Designs will likely see comfort and entertainment heading to the forefront, electronics are predicted to account for 50 percent of auto-manufacturing costs, and perfecting software that can simulate driving over a variety of surfaces and among thousands of other AVs is essential in the testing stages.

Do not expect self-driving cars to be zooming by on every corner too soon. Even if prices dramatically dropped from the estimated $250,000 a full outfitting of an AV may cost, there are many other steps needed to establish AVs as the new norm. Changes in laws and regulations and adapting a city’s infrastructure to make room for electric, cordless charging are just the beginning. The final stage is too far to fully grasp, but what we do know is that AVs have the potential to save lives.

Safety First

Texting has caused an increase in the formerly-declining number of car-related fatalities. Worldwide, the number of people killed in a vehicle (1.24 million) is more than double the amount of murder and war-related deaths, combined. There is a clear similarity among these consequences: the cause is human judgement.

Machines are not impulsive. They do not succumb to emotion.

There has only been one fatality connected to AVs—specifically a Tesla Motors car—and, following an investigation, no defects were found in the system and a recall was deemed unnecessary. The cause was misuse by the vehicle’s owner. Considering that the average active driver has three to four accidents in his or her life, a self-driving car with imperfections will likely be safer than even the best driver behind the wheel.

And with companies already battling to dominate this new territory, very few imperfections will remain.

The Players are Piling In

BMW, Mercedes, and Tesla have already familiarized us with certain self-driving features in semi-autonomous cars on the market. But progress has far surpassed what we have experienced.

Worldwide, Google’s Waymo project has had its autonomous minivans—with no safety drivers—successfully cruising down Arizona’s public roads for about a month. With an average of two minor incidents per 16,093 km, all due unexpected and unique conditions, Waymo’s technology is superior to Nissan’s average of 68 incidents and Cruise Automation’s 185 incidents, both also per 16,093 km. BMW and Mercedes Benz is rushing to catch up, too, though they haven’t yet covered enough distance for a fair comparison.  Tesla and General Motors will be joining the race by late 2017/early 2018, and by 2020, Hyundai, Renault-Nissan Alliance, Volvo, Toyota, Honda and Ford plan to have incorporated self-driving.

The AV competition is shaping up to be an exciting showdown. CEE, one of the most dominant regions regarding automobile production, has begun a fervent defense of its title. A test track for self-driving cars has begun production in Budapest, Hungary, and the Czech Republic introduced its first semi-autonomous bus this past summer.

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