Autonomous vehicles are upon us…they are here.  We have been fed the “bread crumbs” for years…automatic transmissions, cruise control, stability control, anti-lock brakes, collision avoidance, blind spot detection, lane departure warnings, electric steering, self-parking, all are very real and lead us to the autonomous vehicle and new transportation realities.

 

The long standing DNA of the automotive industry will rapidly or even abruptly change from being product centric as it has been since 1886, to an new industry era of service or transportation centricity.

In the product centric automotive DNA, the vehicle as a product was central. Vehicles were mechanical, fossil fueled and combustion engine powered. They were stand alone and general purpose in nature and they were owned and operated by humans! 


Change to the traditional DNA has been slow in coming, despite rapid advances in technology.  The traditional automotive infrastructure was both broad and integrated, complex with many co-dependencies.  These co-dependencies were both business and societally significant.  Further there is a huge inertia to overcome, on a massive scale with strong vested interests involved.  Over 130 years the industry has developed myopically, addressed by individual technologies and individual business sectors.


The machines are rising.  We will see the automotive industry DNA change to a service DNA.  The new DNA of the auto industry will be zero emission, electronic and digital, connected and coordinated, shared, tailored to purpose/task and most importantly, driverless.


The most important benefits will be safety…cars do not create accidents, humans do. Other benefits include increased convenience, greater productivity for both the autonomous vehicles and their passengers, greater personalization and applicability to need and they will be more affordable, preserving capital.


In fact, as the machines (autonomous vehicles) rise, societal costs will be dramatically lowered.  Focusing on safety again, there will fewer injuries, fatalities and lower health care costs.  The machines will use less energy and will produce fewer CO2 and other emissions. There will be less congestion on our roadways and we will achieve better land use…no need for huge parking lots. Access to appropriate transportation will be more equitable.  Services like Lyft, and Uber have their place, at least for today.


But even with significant investment from traditional automotive manufacturers and their suppliers, pushed forward by the technology giants including Apple and Google and others, and fueled by the US government offering $58 million for green vehicle projects and the US DoT/NHTSA aggressively modifying “rules” to facilitate the proliferation of driverless vehicles there remain very large obstacles in front of the machines.


Security, sharing the road with today’s driver operated vehicles, trust, willingness to adapt, and many other things stand ready to slow or impede the rise of the machines.  And many of us, like me, “like” to drive, plus ownership says something about me. 


The machines “will” rise.  For a look into the future, its benefits and challenges why not join us on SAP Game Changers Radio as GM’s Otto Schell and Heater Ashton from IDC join me to discuss our transportation and machines perspective on The Future of Cars!

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