The Jetson’s Future We All Signed Up for …

TU-Automotive West Coast Telematics Convention, Oct. 13-14

What a difference a year makes. Last year’s Telematics get-togethers and focus was all about; Apps-Apps-Apps.

This year it was about; Connectivity – Ridesharing – Autonomous.

Transportation is a fundamental issue that touches all of our lives.

While Stephen Hawking carefully wonders whether Artificial  Intelligence will save or kill humankind, AI rides into the future at break-neck speed. So, how might science and the automotive world come together and not breed a monster?  Is it that after more than one-hundred years, “auto” is beginning to claim its rightful dominance over “motive”?

Tesla recently announced it’s cars will be the first in the nation fitted with hardware to drive themselves. Says Elon Musk, “The S, X and forthcoming Model 3 are being outfitted with The hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver”. When exactly the software would be ready is another story, and regulatory hurdles would have to be vaulted first. This next-generation of Tesla’s “Autopilot” (a tag hereto banned in Germany) will have all the necessary surround cameras, radar, sonar, and ultrasonic sensors needed for 100% hands-free.

The road-less-traveled to level 5 autonomy is quickly becoming a busy freeway. The ultimate goal for automakers and high tech companies is the production on an assembly line of self-driving vehicles by 2021. That is because many of these big-brains speculate over half of all rides by 2025 will be autonomous and by 2050 – hardly anyone will even own a car! It was just last year this industry was predicting that to get to level 2 or 3 autonomy, it would take five years, then to get to level 4 would take another ten.

At this year’s event, forty-three highly respected speakers spent hours-on-end lecturing largely on autonomous vehicles. Since they would be essentially data systems on wheels with virtually unlimited analytical power, cyber security was a hot issue. In particular as noted by Sachin Lulla from IBM/Watson stating that, ”An autonomous vehicle will develop a gigabit of information per second!” Lulla also said that we should have really seen this coming, reminded us all about the “Night Rider” TV show from the early 1980’s! (lol)

As we all know from experience, the one thing sure to slow down this Juggernaut is that the regulatory path. Currently, the majority of the public feel autonomous vehicles can be sometimes unpredictable. Occasionally they have got in accidents even though they are being used in what might be considered simple traffic scenarios. The major question about autonomous vehicles is; Who is going to be responsible for an accident? The manufacturer -The insurance company – The government or the owner? For now, the federal government is staying out of it, allowing state and local government to regulate what autonomous vehicle testing it will allow on its roads.

It’s All About Urban Mobility

Ride-sharing was a big topic here too. Today, on average, your car is used only 5% of the time and on top of that, if purchased new, the minute you left the dealership its value sank 20%. Financially, that’s considered a bad asset. Twenty-plus years ago getting your driver’s license and buying your first car meant freedom. For young people today, a car is a burden and smart phones are the new freedom. Also, twenty-plus years ago you were either a Chevy guy or a Ford guy. Now you are either an Apple or Google guy. Mobility is where it is at.

As “megacities” see 50-65% increases in population by 2025 there will be a giant urban mobility puzzle to solve. How will people get around? Uber, Lyft, Car2Go, ReachNow, and other mobility service providers like WaiveCar are all alternatives to owning a car.

Death of the Uber Driver 

There is already a big change in the way people move around. For now, companies like Uber is an answer and maybe that is why it is so popular. However, Uber drivers should be making bales while the sun still shines as that hay-ride is soon to be over. If you take a $10 dollar ride, 8 dollars goes to the driver and 2 bucks goes to Uber. A few weeks ago, Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick stated publically that when anonymous cars become available, he’s…”Going to purchase a half-million of them”. (guess TK want’s the whole 10 bucks)

As this industry moves forward, there are no real answers to the many questions on how transportation will change over the next decade. The reality is that O.E.M’s will have to be nimble and keep  watch over companies like Apple and Google if they are to circumnavigate the storm building in the cloud.

PS: Lauren Smith, chief policy council of the Future of Privacy Forum coined the Jetson’s phrase above. Lauren was the guest speaker for the “Data Privacy and the Connected Car” session.

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