Driverless cars are predicted to have a significant impact on the UK and global economies, with the UK market for connected and autonomous vehicles estimated to be worth £28bn by 2035 and 27,400 new jobs in the manufacture of autonomous vehicles predicted to be created over this period. Experts from the motor industry offer their thoughts on how an increase in autonomous vehicles on roads will impact a range of aspects of the industry.

Scepticism of the technology could be a barrier

There are a few factors that will impact whether or not autonomous vehicles will become widespread in the future. For one, there is a serious adoption curve for many consumers who are not sold on this technology, whether that be because they don’t feel safe in a driverless vehicle or because they aren’t ready to give up the freedom and independence that comes with owning their and driving their own vehicle. Another hurdle to consider is related to the technology associated with self-driving cars, as many speculate there will be a need for vehicle-to-vehicle communications across auto makers to make sure these cars can share the road safely.

In terms of potential impacts to companies directly in the automotive industry such as taxi services, new car dealerships and repair shops there is going to be a period of adjustment and pressure to keep up with the latest technology. Ultimately, industry players will evolve and react as they have in the past. From the aftermarket perspective, an increased number of autonomous vehicles could lead to an increased interest in car customisation with additions like advanced video technology to entertain passengers.

I think the adoption of autonomous vehicles will be gradual as we as a society adjust to the changes. While some are predicting we’ll see an influx of these vehicles in the next five to ten years, I believe a more realistic prediction is within the next 20 to 25 years.

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– Richard Reina, product training director, CARiD

 

New cities for new vehicles

There are many challenges in making autonomous and electric cars fit for our public roads. Electric, autonomous cars will need to become more integrated with national intelligent transport infrastructures and systems such as satellite navigation systems in cars; traffic signal control systems; parking information, weather reports, bridge de-icing, container management systems; variable message signs; automatic number plate recognition or speed cameras to monitor applications, such as security CCTV systems and similar.

We can expect smart cars to become more reliant on indestructible inbuilt road sensors that are embedded in the road and ‘turned on’ during preventive road construction maintenance or in emergencies alerting each vehicle to reduce speed or halt. Ultimately, we can expect the road beneath us to become more communicative with smart cars.

As smart cars on the roads will increase, a key component of future intelligent transport infrastructures will be support for charging stations. Some early prototypes are beginning to communicate with the grid, the cloud and other vehicles. It will not be long until smart cars by default will likely keep an activity log for service and debugging. Privacy, of course, will be an issue, whether it is the insurance company, the car maker, a local dealer, or even police authorities all seeking another means to track our every coming and going. Crucial components of the future will be the mobile networks, ad hoc (car to car) networks, vehicles to and from road sensors, and satellite communications.

– Dr Kevin Curran, professor of cybersecurity, Ulster University

 

The future of leasing

At least initially I would not anticipate any differences in how conventional and driverless vehicles would be treated from a lessor perspective. This is due to the fact that they would be leased through the same dealership channels to the same group of end users. Along similar lines, the technology will play a role because essentially all of the driverless systems currently available are retrofit into an existing vehicle platform or architecture. However, I do foresee the potential for differences from a leasing and/or purchasing perspective down the road. For instance, as driverless systems become better and more powerful there will be less human input per mile driven. This could translate to longer vehicle life or less wear and tear when vehicles are utilised on an autonomous basis primarily as opposed to being driven by a human more often than not. This could result in extended vehicle lifespans and ultimately higher residual values which are good for leasing consumers.

Interestingly there were a handful of states years ago that asked the same type of questions pertaining to automotive leasing when the idea was gaining popularity. Said differently, should the driver be held accountable in the event of the accident, or the owner of the vehicle, the leasing company? Ultimately, and rightly so, those holdout states opted to make the driver the responsible party. I understand this is not a perfect analogy due to the greater difference of who is actually in control of the vehicle as opposed to simply how the financing arrangements were set up, but many new issues come to light any time there is a significant difference to the standard or norm.

Who is liable will ultimately be decided by the technology in my opinion. With limited ability autonomous systems like the ones available now it is my opinion that the driver will be the responsible party. As the technology improves the liability will likely shift to the manufacturer. Another factor that will play into this is how quickly driver technology is enhanced, as well as adopted by consumers. In theory if all vehicles are driverless then there will be significantly fewer accidents, but the transition period to fully autonomous vehicles with humans and machines sharing the road will prove interesting.

– Scot Hall, senior vice president of operations, Swapalease

 

Financial considerations

Driverless cars will enable car sharing on much higher levels than current services like Uber do. If you don’t have to pay a driver’s salary, your Uber ride will be five to ten times cheaper. Which effectively means that it will be cheaper to use these shared cars than own one in the overwhelming majority of practical cases. Even now, many people decide not to buy a car but instead use public transport, taxi services and, occasionally, rental cars. Imagine what would happen if the price of taxi drops five to ten fold.

Driverless cars mean shared cars. Shared cars mean less space and infrastructure needed for transportation. Less infrastructure means less money spent on it. Driverless cars mean drivers free from driving. Drivers free from driving means more time for work and consumption – both are beneficial for the economy.

Now, you can spot many people that would say to you ‘I will never get rid of my car, ‘cause I love it!’ By the way, I am one of those people. However, if we talk about 20–30 years and more into the future, it is our kids who will decide whether they want their own car or will just use shared driverless ones. My son is four years old and I realise that he might never need a driver’s licence, should technology progress quickly enough. And I am 100% certain that his kids won’t need one at all.

I believe the possibility to adopt self-driving cars to global traffic will vary from country to country. In smaller, more compact and well-developed countries with modern infrastructure – think the Netherlands and the like – level 5 autonomy cars may become ubiquitous sometime between 2030 and 2040. For bigger and less developed countries it may be 2040-2050 or even later than that. Technology should be ready by the end of 2020s, but probably the infrastructure and law will be blocking widespread adoption of self-driving cars.

– Victor Haydin, automotive practice lead, Intellias

 

Technological advancements should answer safety concerns

Whilst there is a great deal of apprehension around the safety of driverless cars on our roads, the latest vehicular communications have been designed to enable continuous, reliable, high-speed, authenticable interactions between moving vehicles. These are usually divided into four use cases: communications of vehicles to other vehicles (V2V), vehicles to the road-side infrastructure (V2I), vehicles to pedestrians (V2P), and vehicles to the cellular network (V2N Together, these use cases are known as vehicles to everything (V2X).

V2X technology is projected to significantly improve transportation safety. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, ‘If V2X technologies alone are widely deployed, they have the potential to address 81% of light-vehicle crashes’. The landscape of vehicular transportation and urban safety is undergoing a fundamental change due to automation. Advances in V2X have the potential to dramatically reduce automotive collisions by utilising the latest technology to improve situational awareness.

– Houman Zarrinkoub, senior wireless project manager, MathWorks

 

Ride-sharing and automation

Automated vehicle technologies are likely to be pervasive in most developed nations by the 2030s, though the scale and form will vary from country to country. Expect to see near-universal lane-assist and automated braking features, as well as self-parking – level 1 to 2 – but very little in the way of true level 3 conditional automation due to insurmountable problems with driver inattentiveness.

Though automated ride-hailing fleets are likely to roll out in the next several years in the United States, they will be highly unprofitable due to software and cybersecurity complexity, computing hardware requirements for machine vision systems, and network management challenges at scale. It could take a decade before industry leaders find the right ‘formula’ for manufacturing and deploying fleets at scale, but that won’t stop them from operating these fleets in more limited circumstances. Circulator shuttles will deploy across college and medical campuses, and in major mixed-use developments. These vehicles will be purpose-specific and therefore only level 4 under the current taxonomy. Truck freight automation will be limited to corridors with dedicated infrastructure, due to engineering challenges of operating platooned vehicles in mixed traffic.

– Nathaniel Horadam, graduate research assistant, Georgia Institute of Technology

 

Driverless cars and individual behaviour

Travel behaviour is continuously changing. In some respects we are creatures of habit, settled into routines. However, as people move through life their circumstances change and the need to reconsider their mobility behaviour arises. As a result, there is an important underlying dynamic to behaviour which sets the stage for how use of autonomous vehicles might influence it. At one extreme, the use of autonomous vehicles in behavioural terms may achieve nothing more than substituting manual control of a vehicle for automated control, so the patterns of car use would be largely unaltered. However, the other extreme is the prospect for significant change. If vehicles are fully automated and can prevent motion sickness then scope is expanded for travel time doubling up as activity time, even for things such as sleeping. While humans are purported to have limits to how much time they are prepared to spend travelling, this could put an upwards pressure on journey distances with consequential effects on land use patterns. A crucial behavioural question is whether people will continue to own vehicles as opposed to paying to use them only when they need them and potentially sharing on demand services.

– Glenn Lyons, Mott MacDonald professor of future mobility, UWE Bristol

 

Improved communication and regulation

Driverless cars are an idea best suited to wealthy, developed countries, and soonest achieved in data-rich, urban and suburban technology ‘mesh’ areas. These landscape solutions will take decades to fully roll out globally. When all cars are driverless, they can be guided like a robot army. But at some point, a 60-40 mix of human and driverless cars will be on the same freeway and local roads. How’s that going to work out? During a rush hour snow storm?

That problem is vastly simpler if the human-driven cars have smartphones which can ‘talk’ to driver-less cars and mesh with urban traffic systems. Right now, the motor industry sees the smartphone mostly as an extension of their in-car displays. But smartphones can, and will, do much more. Driver augmentation via smartphones will improve road safety far faster than robot cars. Smartphone AI also provides the optimum bridge to integrate today‘s technologies with tomorrow‘s solutions.

We need a seamless bridge from existing to future systems. Asking individual insurance companies to play that role is a big ask. They are insurers, not technologists. The socially desirable outcome is beyond the capacity of a single insurer and its shareholder mandate. Government has a public interest here to bring about a well-regulated technology infrastructure which allows road safety authorities, technologists and insurers to manage risk optimally.

– Fintan Dunne, founder, The Alice Project

 

Challenges for infrastructure

Not to rain on anybody’s parade, but we simply don’t have the communications bandwidth to support a self-driving anything.  Due to overcrowding of the frequency spectrum, there just isn’t enough room left for the mounds of information needed to safely communicate between vehicles and the road. Couple that with ancient technology that hasn’t changed since the 1930s and you have an issue of spectrum overload. This is being realised in jam-ups for areas that are using high amounts of data. We continue to increase the amount of data that is transmitted as pixels, texts, and downloads fill the airwaves. We are stuffing communications lines in a manner similar to putting more cars on the highways without making the on-ramps and off-ramps faster.

What’s worse is the fact that investors think the only worthwhile investment is software when in fact, faster hardware is needed. The investors are misled by the success of Google, Facebook, and even Angry Birds. Meanwhile, the world increases its streaming with no regard for the data overload that’s occurring.

– Scott Deuty, blogger, Planet Analogue

 

Potential savings and safety for a range of industries

As is typical within the automotive industry, particularly given the very large installed base of vehicles, aftermarket solutions will play a very significant role in the lead-up to ubiquitous solutions. Autonomous vehicles and cars connected with aftermarket safety technology have the potential to create safer road conditions by reducing the amount of accidents caused by human error. Designed to avoid risks like mobile phone distractions, illegal manoeuvring and spontaneous decision-making along with crash detection technology, these solutions can reduce accident rates and expedite emergency response. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automated vehicles have potential to save lives and reduce injuries simply because 94% of serious crashes are due to human error.

These systems can log and share driver data with insurance companies, helping manage claims, estimate insurance premiums and lower costs. Autonomous vehicles can create savings for construction, trucking and logistics industries as well, by providing information on vehicle downtime, cargo status and predictive maintenance giving fleet managers transparency into their operations like never before. In addition to cost savings and efficiencies, self-driving and connected vehicles can help save lives with advanced crash avoidance and response technologies.

– Justin Schmid, senior vice president and general manager of telematics solutions, CalAmp

 

Static and dynamic changes

It seems to me that there are two kinds of things autonomous vehicles (AVs) need: what you might call ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ information. Static information is things that don’t change, like exact location of the road, so the car knows how to stay on it. Dynamic is something like the fact that a deer just ran out in front of you, or a pedestrian, or a little kid chasing a ball.

The static information is really just a matter of doing it. If we want to know where every road in a city is, we can just drive on every road. It’s the dynamic stuff that’s hard. People are making lots of progress here, but they’re making compromises as well and it’s not clear how truly robust the resulting systems will be.  Probably they’ll gradually get more reliable as time passes. But I don’t think that infrastructure changes will really help.

I expect that the vehicles will start out very expensive, this requiring sharing for economic reasons, and gradually get cheaper. When I went to college, the whole college shared one computer. Now, each of us owns many computers because they’ve gotten so cheap. A smartphone, a laptop, a desktop, the computers that run our microwaves and our cars. So initially, I would expect AVs to be shared, sort of like autonomous taxis.  But it’s incredibly convenient to own a car; my car, for example, contains a bowl for water for the dogs, some leashes, bags to put our shopping in, like that. The hardware costs of AVs are reasonably small; it’s the software that’s expensive. And the cost of reproducing that software is basically zero. So eventually, I would expect an AV to cost not a whole lot more than a regular car costs today.

– Matt Ginsberg, CEO, Connected Signals

 

Collaboration between companies and organisations could be key

Referring specifically to personal vehicles, ridesharing options, public transportation and the shipping and logistics industry, roadway infrastructure in the United States will see a major overhaul in technology and development strategies. Conceptually, it’s easy to contemplate a world of connectedness where our cars talk to our phones, which talk to our homes, which feed information back to utility companies to optimise their own networks, and municipalities create convenience for their citizens in the form of traffic control, emergency services, public works and public transportation.

The first step for any municipality to consider when contemplating how they can support the evolving technologies like autonomous vehicles is for them to examine their own existing infrastructure. Light poles, parks, city-owned land, city-owned buildings, public works assets and similar assets serve a solid baseline for municipalities in preparation for technologies of the future. By taking a hard look at what they already own, municipalities can prepare use cases whereby they capitalise on widespread deployment of fibre and wireless nodes. In leveraging these assets, they can work with telecommunications companies and equipment manufacturers through Private and Public Partnerships to realise the benefits of connectivity sooner than later.

Other areas’ municipalities should be prepared to look at are crosswalks and intersections. Given some of the autonomously driving vehicle incidents with Tesla and Uber, concerns around pedestrians sharing the road have escalated. Some mid-term solutions will involve broader deployment of public safety initiatives. While technology serves a key role in some of these initiatives, other plans examine more basic infrastructure changes. For example, Las Vegas utilises a series of elevated crosswalks across much of the city to prevent pedestrians from crossing busy intersections. This has proven effective by preventing the possibility of pedestrian/vehicle incidents. Similarly, cement barrier and bollard solutions have been deployed in NYC to try and eliminate incidents.

Greater collaboration between the telecoms, auto manufacturers, logistics companies, Departments of Transportation through P3 (private/public partnerships) initiatives will yield synergies in development and meaningful capital contribution. Use of assets for the placement of fibre and antennae can serve as a baseline for revenue generation through ‘right of use’ agreements.

– Keith Pennachio, executive vice president, SQUAN

 

Autonomous vehicles as a service

I don’t think the technology that self-drives cares – or makes vehicles autonomous – is the eventual objective or goal of companies such as Google, Amazon, Uber and Apple which are at the forefront of the driverless vehicle technology along with the vehicle manufacturers such as Toyota, Tesla and GM. An autonomous vehicle is just a means/medium for these technology companies to provide additional (paid) services to the eventual customers/users of these vehicles. This is similar to the email service offered by Google – a free email service is just a medium for Google to advertise its products and services to its users. Targeted advertisement – and the related revenue – is the main reason Google provides a free email service. In order to provide customised services to autonomous vehicle users, the self-driving cars will need to be designed to suit the needs of individual customers. Otherwise, people are not going to use it and technology companies will not be able to use it as a medium to sell their services.

However, I don’t see over-customisation happening – it won’t be cost-effective! In my opinion, private ownership of vehicles will slowly disappear in the future. Companies such as Uber, Google and Amazon will offer transportation as a service, customised to each user’s need, schedule and preferences, such that it will be much more cost-efficient to use this service than to own a car. Again a similar analogy; how many of us run our own email servers now compared to using the email service offered by Google or other companies?

– Dr Murtuza Jadliwala, assistant professor, University of Texas at San Antonio

 

Impacts on the legal profession

As a lawyer who focuses on car accidents, I am very interested in what the future of our roads will look like. Autonomous vehicles are a total revolution in transportation and they are only going to continue to grow in popularity. Self-driving technology will have a huge impact on the trucking and commerce industry. Fleets of autonomous semi-trucks will massively reduce shipping and labour costs to businesses within the next decade.

Safety is obviously a big concern when giving up the wheel to a computer, but people are starting to accept the idea of a self-driving car much more than they did five years ago. I believe that autonomous vehicles are safe, but the biggest issue with self-driving cars is teaching a machine how to deal with unpredictable situations. In other words, how is an independently-thinking car going to interact with the negligence of a human driver? Replacing a human driver with a self-governing machine should take away human error and should reduce the chances of accidents. So in theory, the more self-driving vehicles we have, the fewer accidents we should have. Autonomous vehicles communicate with each other better than human drivers so more autonomous vehicles should also mean less traffic congestion.

There are always issues, concerns, and resistance to new wave technologies and self-driving cars are no exception. Nearly half of the 50 states don’t even have autonomous driving laws on the books yet. Additionally, there have been plenty of newsworthy cases of autonomous vehicles being involved in accidents but I don’t think the autonomous driving trend is ever going to go away.

Right now autonomous driving is an upper-class luxury. As the technology expands the products will become more accessible to the middle class and our roads will be filled with cars that drive themselves.

– Jared Staver, managing partner, Staver Law Group

 

Autonomous vehicles could become widespread, but not dominant

Autonomous vehicles will not completely replace human drivers in the foreseeable future. However, they are likely to have a large impact in specific areas, such as urban ridesharing and long-haul freight transportation. An analogy is that ridesharing companies such as Uber have had a huge impact on many people’s lives, even though they have come nowhere near completely replacing car ownership. We will see a similar scenario with self-driving cars. Many people will see their lives transformed, but human drivers will still remain on the roads for a long time.

Everybody is moving very fast in this industry. Automotive and technology companies realise how transformative self-driving cars will be, and they are racing to capture that market. Some companies are working toward a driverless vehicle that will be owned by consumers. This means that the vehicle needs to be able to go anywhere, just like any car on the market today can go anywhere. Probably there will be some places, maybe highways, where the vehicle will be able to drive itself, and other places, maybe rural roads, where a human needs to drive.

This hand-off between human and computer drivers is controversial, and many companies do not believe it can be done safely. Most of those companies are jumping straight to driverless vehicles, without a steering wheel, that will operate as part of ridesharing fleets in specific geographic areas.

– David Silver, head of self-driving cars, Udacity

 

Changes in technology

I anticipate that autonomous vehicles will become more widespread in the future and will develop in phases. The technology behind autonomous vehicles is maturing every day and most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) within the auto industry are currently building fully or mostly autonomous vehicles. The most immediate change will be the mainstream adoption of autonomous-related features in consumer vehicles, i.e. lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, etc., which were previously only available in luxury cars. When it comes to commercial vehicles, public transportation systems – buses – and freight trucks will be among the first to fully adapt autonomous vehicles due to the relatively lower complexity involved in launching the product.

OEMs will continue testing their autonomous products with support from some of the states and counties that are creating test beds. Autonomous car safety and reliability will continue to increase with technology advancements. Public infrastructure will start to evolve to support autonomous cars. New business models will be created. Smart Mobility will become a reality as cities get ‘smarter’ and as cars become autonomous. Companies and auto manufacturers are ready for autonomous vehicles – the biggest unknown is whether or not our society is ready.

– Raj Paul, vice president of IoT and connected services at DMI

 

Accessories could improve safety and experience

In level 3 autonomy where there is transfer of control between car and human, driver monitoring technology can play a vital role by accurately assessing the driver’s state to determine the right time for the handoff of control from car back to human. Cabin occupancy detection can further detect the passengers present, allowing the vehicle to adjust safety mechanisms in real-time, such as airbag deployment, according to the occupants’ body posture and mass.

In higher levels of autonomy, and in particular level 5, the in-cabin passenger experience will be of great focus and cabin sensing technologies are a key to enhancing interactions. Cabin monitoring systems can not only detect the passengers present, but can also identify each passenger to present personalised content on infotainment, trigger settings, or launch specific passenger profiles. To augment this experience, vision-based gesture control allows seamless navigation of infotainment content with simple movements of the finger and hand. Therefore, in-cabin vision systems not only serve as the key to increasing safety, but also will play a key role in shaping the in-cabin experience as we head to full vehicle autonomy.

– Gideon Shmuel, CEO, eyeSight Technologies