A vehicle smart enough to drive itself adds enormous value to the lives of people.
Imagine a typical workday a decade from now. Your vehicle drives itself to the dealership for an oil change. It picks up passengers along the way to subsidize the trip. Then it picks you up at work and drives you home. Along the way, it asks you if you’d like to warm up the oven for that leftover pizza in your fridge.
When we talk about autonomous vehicles today, it’s mostly about taking our hands off the steering wheel and letting a bot do the driving. That’s a vital discussion, for sure, but it’s not the only chapter in the book of autonomous travel.
Self-driving vehicles will use AI, data science and high-speed wireless networks to do things like sync our calendars, anticipate our purchases and help get us where we want to go. When we hand off the driving duties, vehicles create countless possibilities.
Everybody in the auto industry needs to be talking about the broad ramifications of automated travel. DMI developed CATE (Connected Autonomous Transport Ecosystem) to help automakers and OEMs frame these conversations. The CATE framework has three phases:
- Connected: Where we are now. Mobile technologies and in-vehicle apps connect us to the world via cellphone networks.
- Hybrid: 2020+. Vehicles use faster networks, more powerful processors, AI and data science to automate more driving functions and optimize travel experiences. New revenue models based on in-vehicle transactions will help monetize the hybrid phase.
- Autonomous: 2025+. The evolution of hybrid technologies enables fully autonomous travel, reshaping travel experiences well beyond the vehicle’s cabin.
We discussed the hybrid phase in a previous post. Today, we’ll focus on the fully autonomous phase of driving.
Planning for the autonomous future
The best way to plan for the future is to start with an anticipated outcome and work backward. When we developed CATE, we identified each phase of automated-vehicle evolution, imagined how evolving technologies would help travelers along the way, and identified the technologies that would enable the transition.
These are some of the outcomes we think auto industry leaders need to think about as they plan for the autonomous era:
Let’s say I have to travel 300 miles for a sales meeting. Today, it’s a six-hour drive, or three hours of hassles to make a 40-minute flight. When my vehicle drives itself, I can dig in for six hours and focus on a big project.
With a high-bandwidth wireless connection, I can get all my work done as if I haven’t even left the office. If a couple of my collaborators live along the way, I can pick them up and have a two-hour face-to-face brainstorming session—creating the kind of personal connections you rarely get in a videoconference.
Multiply this scenario by millions of business travelers and you can see the kinds of value autonomous vehicles will create. The potential for recreation and other travel options is even greater.
The automated era will plug people into a vast travel ecosystem. Data science and machine learning will empower digital personas that follow travelers from vehicle to vehicle, and to all their destinations. Travel and purchase habits will help the vehicle deliver customized services to each person in the vehicle.
When you leave for the airport or the train station, your vehicle will know your departure time and real-time traffic flows. If the weather’s stormy, the vehicle might remind you to grab your umbrella before you leave. When delays crop up, the vehicle adapts dynamically.
Will people need to own vehicles in the future? Or will automated ride-sharing make vehicle ownership obsolete? Given that most people’s vehicles sit idle most of the time, vast mobile capacity is collecting dust.
Today, automakers rue the possibility of people buying fewer vehicles in the automated future. But we can’t be sure how humans will adapt to the new travel landscape. Perhaps people travel moreif they derive more value from moving than staying in place.
A vehicle is one of the most easily tracked devices people use. Carmakers and service providers in the autonomous era will have to develop ethical models to protect people’s privacy in autonomous vehicles. Moreover, they’ll have to work out the creep factor of coexisting with vehicles that seem to know us better than we know ourselves.
The buzz in connected-vehicle circles today is that Apple might introduce a four-wheeled version of the iPhone in a few years and disrupt the entire automotive ecosystem. The quantum leap in complexity in building a vehicle vs. a smartphone might reduce that likelihood, but given Apple’s legendary secretiveness and enormous pile of cash, who can say for sure?
One thing seems certain: The hundreds of companies angling to deliver self-driving vehicle technologies—and the billions of dollars invested in them—suggests the marketplace sees vast potential for automation to drive value. Companies that stay focused on value stand the best chance of thriving in the era of automated travel.
Michael Deittrick – SVP, Digital Strategy & Chief Digital Officer
Brian Drury – Business Development Director