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“Must Do” waypoints along the highway to driverless vehicles

Technology is propelling us toward the age of the driverless vehicle…whether we like it or not.  Personally, I am cynical, having been a car guy for all my life and appreciating the thrill of the road and performance!  I also have deep misgivings about placing my safety in something I have little control over.  But then, the argument for a driverless vehicle is “safety”. 

What is clear to me is that there are a number of challenges that must either be overcome or mitigated to get to the new driverless world.  These are those waypoints that must be achieved before the highway is free of drivers. Here are just a few that come to mind:

  • Cyber Security – Security is required NOW. Today’s vehicle is terribly open to “attack”.  There are many ways in…the infotainment system, Bluetooth/ cellular connection, Wi-Fi in some vehicles, you name it.  In light of previous hacks and the recent takeover of a 2014 Jeep…and FCA’s recall of 1.4 million vehicles to fix this this vulnerability, this is at the very top of the must do, must resolve list! Legislators are forcing laws into the industry in the desire to prevent these insecurities…but words and laws never fix anything…only talented developers do in this case…and they know the way point on the path.

  • Ethical and Moral considerations – How do software developers write code that recognizes and distinguishes, or rather how does it assign value on objects detected in the vehicle path and decide on what to “care” about?  Or do you take the zero tolerance approach to this and possibly cause other unintended consequences for vehicles and their passengers?  Shares the top spot with security!

  • Motor Vehicle Laws vary from state to state…crossing double yellow lines for example…allowed in some states based on circumstances, never allowed in others…do we have state unique code in each vehicle?  It was bad enough when we had separate emission standards…what about this?  Of course this can be resolved but will require much haggling among the various state agencies.  Or perhaps GPS can flip switches in the vehicle software based on location to conform to legal variances among states.

  • LIDAR – Light Detection and Ranging, this is the remote sensing technology that uses laser generated light to guide and provide inputs for the control of vehicles…however…in rain and snow conditions its current performance is restricted and not entirely sufficient for driverless vehicles.  The technology simply is not there yet.

  • How much does all this cost?  Will consumers be willing to pay?  There is currently some talk about mandating autonomous or driverless vehicles in the future.  Will driverless technology be reasonably priced for all to afford? Or will there be the haves and the have not’s with the entire attendant mix environment risk of unintended interaction?  How much time will it take from mandate to reality?

  • And what about the insurance industry?  Are they ready?  What about responsibility if something goes wrong?  Is this about Legislation or about Litigation?  And where does “personal responsibility” come into the equation…yet another set of way points to be conquered in our quest for a driverless landscape.

  • And one final point…what happens to the campaigns of car companies that we have grown up with…such as BMW’s Ultimate “Driving Experience”? How do you market that it is not necessary to “drive” and stay true to your brand?  Never really considered this…but it goes to the fabric of a “car” guy.

All of these issues, all ultimately important way points along the way to driverless vehicles, some technology, some bureaucratic matters, some social-economic and some business, all must be addressed along with a countless number of others before the dream of “no drivers” can ever become reality!

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