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Self-Driving is the Future of the Auto Industry


For millennia, the idea of self-driving cars has sparked people’s imaginations. In the late 1400s, Leonardo Da Vinci drew out blueprints for a hypothetical self-driving cart, while mechanical autopilots for airplanes first appeared in the 1930s. Visitors to General Motors’ (GM) Futurama exhibit at the New York World’s Fair were introduced to the concept of a self-driving car as part of its vision of the future. A real self-driving car, on the other hand, has proven elusive until lately. An autonomous vehicle was designed in the 1960s as a potential moon rover for the Apollo astronauts.

How self-driving cars became a reality?

Thanks to technological breakthroughs in global positioning (GPS), digital mapping, processing power, and sensor systems, it has finally become a reality. DARPA, the US military’s research arm, as well as the private sector, including the auto industry and, most notably, Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Waymo self-driving car project (GOOG), have advanced the creation of practical self-driving cars that are safe and efficient on any modern highway.

What are the potential consequences of self-driving cars for the automotive sector and the broader economy?

The Automobile and Related Industries are affected:

Historically, the automobile industry has been reluctant to respond to technological advancements. Traditional automakers have been hesitant to produce a fully functional electric vehicle, so start-ups like Tesla Motors (TSLA) have sprung up to fill the gap.

• If self-driving cars become common, technology companies like Google or Apple (AAPL) will likely lead the way, putting a severe dent in the profits of traditional car companies like GM, Ford (F), or Toyota (TM).

• One profound implication of a world dominated by driverless cars is that private car ownership may become obsolete. There would be no need for a user to own a car, let alone many cars if driverless cars could be called by a user using an Uber-like app.

• The self-driving car will pick you up, drop you off, and then leave to make room for another user or user.

As a result, a decentralized fleet of self-driving cars may be shared by many people in need of a ride. If this happens, new and used car sales will undoubtedly suffer unless manufacturers and dealers can quickly react.

Is it safe to travel in a self-driving car?

Manufacturers of self-driving cars claim that their vehicles will be safe and reduce accidents. Inebriated passengers will be chauffeured by their mechanical Hobsons, making drunk driving a thing of the past. As a result, the frequency of hazards might drop drastically, putting vehicle insurance businesses like Allstate (ALL), GEICO (BRK.A), and Progressive (PGR.A) in serious jeopardy (PGR). Because there would likely be fewer accidents, insurance costs would fall, as insurance firms’ profits. However, despite progress, the industry has yet to identify the best technology template for semiautonomous vehicles (for example, those at SAE level 3) and is still in the test-and-refine phase.

Three technological solutions have been identified thus far:

  • The hybrid approach combines light detection and ranging (lidar), radar, camera systems, and sensor-fusion algorithms to understand the environment more precisely.
  • Camera over radar relies predominantly on camera systems, supplementing them with radar data.
  • Radar over camera relies primarily on radar sensors, supplementing them with information from cameras.
LevelWho Does What, When
Level 1All of the driving is done by a human.
Level 2A vehicle’s advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) can sometimes help the human driver with steering or braking/accelerating, but not both at the same time.
Level 3An advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) on the vehicle can itself control both steering and braking/accelerating simultaneously under some circumstances.  The human driver must continue to pay full attention (“monitor the driving environment”) at all times and perform the rest of the driving task.
Level 4In certain circumstances, an Automated Driving System (ADS) on the vehicle can conduct all driving functions and monitor the driving environment – in other words, do all the driving. In those circumstances, the person does not need to pay attention.
Level 5In certain circumstances, an Automated Driving System (ADS) on the vehicle can conduct all driving functions and monitor the driving environment – in other words, do all the driving. In those circumstances, the person does not need to pay attention.

All this tells us two crucial things:

1. Those start-ups, like many others in the industry, misjudged the sheer difficulties of achieving the fabled Level 5 of vehicle autonomy (full driving automation, no human required). They ran across too many roadblocks in their study and testing, and they didn’t have enough time to make substantial advances. Some, though, came close!

2. The divisions as mentioned above are worth millions, if not billions, of dollars. The companies making the deals — behemoths like Amazon AMZN, 0.66 %, GM, 0.26 p%, and newcomer Nuro — recognize the long-term value of achieving the holy grail of autonomous driving and are willing to pay a premium for the know-how and R&D already put in by these hard-working trailblazers.

Some topics which still needed to be discussed:

Is car hacking possible?

That said, things aren’t perfect in that department either: Researchers from Regulus Cyber discovered that spoofing attacks on the Tesla GNSS (GPS) receiver may be carried out wirelessly and remotely, leveraging security flaws in mission-critical telematics, sensor fusion, and navigation capabilities, in 2019.

  • One Tesla TSLA, 0.70 %, suffered a remote attack that prompted it to abruptly slow down and make a quick turn off a busy road.
  • Despite being attentive and switching to manual control, the driver could not prevent the automobile from leaving the road.
  • Tesla responded by correcting the issue and then used the incident to emphasize the importance of vigilant awareness for Tesla Navigate on Autopilot users.
  • Although the incident occurred over two years ago, the cyber security problem remains as pertinent as ever. As automobiles become increasingly open to external data streams, their vulnerability to intrusions grows.
  • Is the convenience of self-driving cars worth the risk of having your vehicle remotely hijacked?
  • Although attacks that exploit security vulnerabilities in such systems can be avoided by using inertial measurement units (IMUs) and sensors that don’t broadcast or download external data, attacks that exploit security weaknesses could have the same negative impact.

A way forward

So, is there a future for autonomous driving?

As you can see, there are still a number of challenges that manufacturers and researchers must overcome before Level 5 autonomy becomes a reality.

  • This isn’t to imply that fully autonomous vehicles are unattainable; instead, the technology isn’t there yet. National legislative frameworks and industry standards for autonomous driving safety and security must be well-defined, which is now lacking.

Is there a timeframe?

Some experts have an idea:

“This is a transformation that is going to happen over 30 years and possibly longer,” says Chris Urmson, an executive and expert of Nursing Essay Writing Help in a comment to the Sydney Times.

Whether or not the schedule is accurate, one thing is certain: Level 5 autonomy will not be a revolution, but rather an evolution of next-generation sensors that can compete with human eyesight and AI that can match human-driver-like reasoning, along with more strong safety and security systems. Mass acceptance will be a question of time once these roadblocks are removed.

  • For the time being, automakers should concentrate their efforts on increasing the features of currently existing semi-automated vehicles, demonstrating that they are safer and more reliable than traditional automobiles.
  • This strategy should result in increased market adoption, lower prices, and greater accessibility, resulting in a cash boost large enough to fund even more research and development needed to reach Level 5 autonomy.
  • On the plus side, these businesses would have to pay out fewer claims. However, policy price is heavily influenced by claims experience.
  • Driverless cars are also expected to be more energy-efficient, which could have an influence on petroleum demand.
  • According to Morgan Stanley (MS), self-driving cars may save the economy $488 billion in annual savings from fewer traffic accidents and another $158 billion in annual savings from lower fuel costs.

Impact on the Economy at Large

Commuters will be able to do productive work instead of sitting behind the wheel because the cars will drive themselves.

  • According to Morgan Stanley’s report, replacing traditional automobiles with driverless cars in the United States could add $507 billion to the economy as a result of increased worker productivity; additionally, traffic and congestion will largely disappear, adding another $138 billion in annual savings as people are able to get where they want to go more efficiently.
  • The overall annual savings are anticipated to be upwards of $1.3 trillion, or more than 7% of gross domestic product, a truly enormous beneficial impact on the economy.
  • However, the news isn’t all rosy. Driverless automobiles and trucks will primarily replace overland trucking and other transportation services that rely on human drivers.
  • Those low-skilled people may find it challenging to find new occupations in the increasingly technology-driven economy, including truck drivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, and chauffeurs, as well as, to some extent, heavy machine operators.

Final Thoughts

Driverless cars, which were once only a pipe dream, are now technologically viable and maybe coming to a roadway near you sooner rather than later. Autonomous cars will undoubtedly disrupt the automobile and associated industries, wreaking havoc on the bottom lines of corporations who do not adapt quickly enough. Simultaneously, the advantages to society and the macroeconomy will be considerable and favourable.

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