My colleague, Peter Abatan, Program Manager, Mobility Services at Cognizant, has spent some time pondering connected smart cars and shares his predictions and insights with us today.
Google leads the way in terms of autonomous driverless cars. Their vehicles have altogether logged over 700,000 autonomous miles, and there is still a lot more to do in terms of development. The latest developments are of a model without a brake, gas pedal, or steering wheel making it a 100% autonomous vehicle.
Tesla has achieved a great deal to overcome the barriers of running electric cars over long distances (the current Tesla Model S can do over 250 miles on a single charge). They are also leading the way in making cars that are more software driven. With all these rapid developments in the automobile industry, it is quickly becoming apparent there will be a significant social impact on all of our lives.
Parking: When you commute into work you will never need to worry about parking. Your driverless car will drop you off at your office, and go back to pick the children up for school, or better still earn you some income by running as a taxi for fare. The implication of this is that local council authorities would have to find new sources of revenue as income from parking drops, it may be that in countries like the UK where the road tax goes to central government it may have to be redirected to local government. Airports and other businesses that derive income from parking are likely to need to find alternative revenue streams.
Car Ownership: Expect the car ownership model to change significantly. In this case a group rather than the individual would own the driverless smart car. In other words 2 or more people would leave their street in the morning all heading in the same direction for the next 20 miles, but passenger “A” gets off at a driverless smart car terminal to join another smart car that is heading in his direction of work, which is another 15 miles from the current terminal. The journey home at the end of the day heads in the reverse direction, where Passenger “A” joins his neighbours at the smart car terminal to make his way back home. This model results in a situation where you never need to own a car again, instead you rent what you use. Also if you have to work late, the driverless smart car can leave your street to pick you up at the office. Expect companies like Zipcar to be at the forefront of this new business model
Change in Work Patterns: The smart driverless car would become a workstation where you can work normally as you would in the office, so instead of starting work as soon as you step into the office, the driverless smart car is your office or a part of your office. Hence, if you have to travel 2 hours to work, and 2 hours back, you only need to spend 4 hours in the office if you are contracted to do 8 hours on a daily basis. Expect, the driverless smart car to have all the gadgets like superfast broadband, video conferencing, electronic wipe boards, telephones, etc. to make work seamless. Expect the configuration of the seating arrangement in the smart car to be flexible enough to host meetings, and at the same time allow for privacy if needed.
Connected Smart Cars: Smart cars can be connected to each other in every way. For example, if you have to take 2 or more cars to arrive at your destination you can program your journey such that you are not left waiting between connections. Smart cars would enable you to connect with your home, your office and other smart devices, this means there is never a time that you would not be reachable, unless you do not want to be contacted.
Car Insurance: With the Google car, so far having no accidents related to autonomous driving, it is hard to see how insurance companies can maintain their current economic model going forward. These cars are making millions of decisions per second that the possibility, and are likely to have a far better safety record than humans currently do. On the other hand, if the system is hacked it could be that Google or whoever owns the software is held responsible for any accidents. At the moment it is still too early to determine what the fate of motor insurance companies will ultimately be.
Less Time on the Road: Expect smart cars to do most of the running around for us. So on weekends when we usually visit Wal-Mart or Tesco to do our grocery shopping, we can simply send the driverless smart car and our shopping can be delivered from a conveyor belt into the car. Will this reduce the need for retail floor space as less people visit the shops? It seems likely as retailers are already trying to adjust to rapidly changing consumer behaviors as a result of online and mobile commerce. Other activities like dropping the children off at their weekend activities may not require a parent or guardian to be there, because they can be monitored via live video feeds. All this means means potentially more discretionary time.
More Accurate Travel Time Estimates: The driverless smart car through predictive analysis on road conditions would be able to let you know when to leave a location so you can arrive at a destination on time. By the time the driverless smart car becomes prevalent on our streets it would be able to communicate with other smart cars to make decisions on how to manage the traffic such that it always flows at a steady rate.
Predictive analysis used in smart cars also means these machines can predict the travel rate, the current weather conditions and use the information obtained to regulate speed in order to reduce the possibility of a congestion happening. The use of predictive analysis means you can forecast the probability of getting to work or reaching your travel destination on any particular day.
Connected Diagnostics: The driverless smart car would enable owners to see their car's performance and maintenance needs; the manufacturer or service provider could also alert the car owner of any maintenance issues. Any software anomalies or upgrades can be corrected through wireless technology. Fewer moving and vibrating parts mean that the total cost of ownership falls.
These are just a few ways that driverless smart car could impact our lives. While it is rumored that Google may not build their own car commercially, but sell its technology to other car companies, it will not be long before the driverless smart car becomes a commercial reality.
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.