A wide gamut of sectors have undergone a radical change in the latter part of the last decade. While the primary scope for ‘smartification’ has most often been narrowed to consumer electronics, mobile phones and IoT in particular, there are quite a few disruptions in the horizon for the automotive landscape. And that shall be the crux of this article, wherein this author humbly tries to decipher the changes which might be visible in the near future, when it comes to cars.
Let’s begin with the obvious : DRIVERLESS CARS
A concept which has captivated people’s imaginations – right from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to even the Batmobile – self driving cars have always been portrayed to be the future of transportation.
Jump to the years 2015-2016, and you’ll see quite a few developments which are bringing the concept of a driverless vehicle more feasible and accessible to the consumer sector. Through improvements in the field of Artificial Intelligence, vehicle safety and automation, aided with the involvement of big organisations such as Google and Tesla, we’re now seeing an increased potential for driverless cars.
Artificial Intelligence has proved to be the groundbreaking force behind driving (pun intended) the autonomous car movement (again, pun intended).
The most notable example in this case has to be the Tesla self driving cars. The cars intuitively sense the direction of the road, and correlate all the readings with the information gathered (in real time) from maps, traffic data and a multitude of sensors around the car which enable the car to comfortably gauge driving conditions to a near-human level.
But more interestingly, it’s the sheer connectivity between the cars. For example, if a Tesla car is being driven around automatically, and the driver feels that the car is turning a corner at a slightly fast speed, he/she can slow the car down. The car actually records the driver’s response to its hard-coded algorithm, uploads it to a central server, and this bit of information makes its way to all Tesla self driving cars.
The outreach is definitely not on the same level as that of conventional vehicles, but we’re getting there. Google’s self driving cars have reportedly driven 1.2 million miles on actual roads, and 3 million miles every day running scenarios. Besides autonomous cars, we have the following evidences which suggest the popularity of autonomous transportation:
- Komatsu is an organisation which makes autonomous trucks for a mine in Australia.
- Mercedes-Benz and Daimler have developed the first autonomous truck, which operates in Germany.
- Driverless tractors, driverless buses, semi autonomous trucks – all these concepts are currently under development and will be seen in mainstream applications pretty soon.
- Intel is developing a software technology called RealSense which combines data taken from multiple sensors and recording devices to intelligently enable the car and driver to gather a deeper sense of understanding about the surroundings.
And the key advantages? They would make roads safer, imply fewer vehicles per person and reduced vehicle production. This would in turn lead to less pollution, traffic congestion and more contribution to the GDP of a country. But more importantly, it would reduce the number of deaths due to automobile accidents, which stand at 1.2 million deaths every year (Source: WHO). KPMG believes that self-driving cars would lead to about 2,500 fewer deaths between 2014 and 2030.
The impetus for the evolution of driverless cars has largely been affected by a few major factors:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Internet of Things
- The involvement of major players such as Amazon, Google, Tesla, Apple and Uber.
Smart cars with enhanced infotainment systems have been around for quite some time now, so I won’t delve into those. What I will discuss though, is the potential of smart add-ons: things which can plug into any old car to make it a smarter vehicle.
Take for example technologies such as Caruma and Vinli. These are not packages that are incorporated within smart cars, but are stand alone hardware devices, linked to cloud services, aggregators and an ecosystem of sensors, to fetch data and sync it with multiple devices.
Smart cars might be the next big thing in the world of automobile tech. But I believe that the more practical development would have to come in the form of smart add-ons, which offer a more modular approach to existing cars.
EVOLUTION OF EXISTING MODES
While we’re on smarter cars, a valid point to add to this would be the evolution of keyless entry modes. Although existent for quite a few years, companies such as Volvo hope to reshape the way car owners can access their vehicles.
The Swedish car giant has cited 2017 to be the turning point for the physical key or remote fobs, stating that car owners and drivers will be able to enter their cars through dedicated smartphone applications and Bluetooth technology. Moreover, with fingerprint sensors being incorporated into smartphones, the question of security is no longer an issue.
Some creases in the plan do need to be ironed out, but otherwise keyless entry might just prove to be the entry mode for cars in the near future.
FRACTIONAL CAR OWNERSHIP
Fractional ownership is still a very nascent concept, mostly limited to sharing hotel time or jets. According to a relevant article on TechCrunch, trends such as the increasing traffic congestion and reduction in parking spaces are now dissuading people from jumping on to the whole ‘buying a car’ deal. Conversely, this trend has also been a key motivator behind the popularisation of cab and taxi services, such as Uber and Ola.
Automotive manufacturers such as Ford and Audi have initiated an experimentation of the concept of fractional car ownership. What this entails is that multiple people can jointly lease out a car together, and this scheme does seem practical on certain levels. For instance, a British startup called Orto hopes to make luxury cars more accessible to the average consumer through the fractional ownership schemes.
The fractional car ownership scheme has its fair share of pros and cons, but whether it is a concept that will stick around is a question that can only be answered when the concept becomes more mainstream.
ECOMMERCE FOR CARS
With the world now conducting operations seamlessly online, we might just be heading into a time wherein cars and vehicles can be purchased online, without having to go to a car dealership.
Brands such as Tesla, and companies such as Drive Motors often act as the bridge between a car customer and a dealership. Add financing and reliability to the equation, and buying a car online can actually turn out to be an elegant concept.
Suggested Read : Digital Trends that will dominate in 2016
The automotive sector still has a long way to go before it can gain the momentum associated with the mobile sphere. But that being said, here are a few predictions which can be safely made:
- Concepts such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and more robust and intelligent sensors will pave the path for driverless vehicles.
- Alternate fuel sources will be explored. Following the footsteps of brands such as Tesla, more companies will come which will produce electric sports cars.
- Smart, intercommunicating cars will be more in vogue.
- The growth in the automotive sector might directly be impacted upon by the development of the mobile and wearable verticals, along with ecommerce and application ecosystems.
All in all, after the mobile and wearable revolutions, the automobile sector might be geared up to see major disruptions. Whether it is in the form of hardware enhancements, software algorithms or just intriguing concepts, technology as a whole will play its part in the growth of the automotive space.