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Driver-less Cars...A thing of the present?

posted 04 May, 2017 by Kakoli Roy
Education, Spiffy Blog

Autonomous Cars-Not too far away...Google, tesla, along with a host of others are investing in reserach and development in this technology

As we stand on the brink of making history, where watching self-driving cars in action will no longer be a part of the futuristic science fiction movies, but a “soon to be reality” in our lives, we realize how technology is changing our lives completely! The future is knocking at the door! An era of innovation beckons, and as Elon Musk said in a 2017 Business Insider article, “I think we will see autonomy and artificial intelligence advance tremendously. My guess is that in probably 10 years it will be very unusual for cars to be built that are not fully autonomous.”

An autonomous car

At an auto expo in circa 1956, General Motors, had aired a short film on self-driving cars as our future. Little did they know their fantasy-like prediction in the 50s was so close to becoming a reality. What seems straight out of a science fiction movie will no longer look futuristic but will become routine in our lives. The paradigm shift will come in the way we process our thoughts. Artificial Intelligence will dominate our universe. Rapidly emerging technologies like machine learning, data mining, and predictive analytics will calibrate into every arena of decision making from simple to complex.

Vintage Cra with a lady driver

Autonomous cars will save lives that are lost in tragic car accidents every year and also reduce costs for the consumer and government on their spending. According to US Dept. of Transportation, on average, 40,000 people die in car crashes every year and apart from the loss of human lives, the associated cost is around 250 billion dollars. It will also reduce resource consumption in terms of energy and fuel. Along with safety, cost-saving economics, and resource reduction, it will add to the convenience factor. Think of going on a train or bus ride where you have the luxury to attend to other important things while being taken to your destination. In countries like India and China you have chauffeurs driving you, even in this day and age! Indeed the user experience of driving a self-driving car will be exhilarating! In simple terms, it will allow you to work on your laptop, take a nap if you so wish to, or even play a quick game of chess if you need to think through a business strategy before an all important meeting with your boss.

Google vs Tesla - Interestingly enough, the momentum and popularization of autonomous cars were driven by Silicon Valley technology companies rather than the automobile manufacturers. The two giants who pioneered the autonomous car technology are Google’s Self-Driving Car (SDC) division and Elon Musk’s Tesla. Although Google and Tesla are actualizing their end goal around the same deadline of 2020, the two companies differ both fundamentally and philosophically and therefore their approaches are very different too. “Tesla is introducing more advanced autonomous features to eventually get to full autonomy, while Google thinks it is safer to jump into completely autonomous driving once the technology has matured. The two companies also have different approaches to hardware. Google relies on LiDAR, while Tesla thinks it’s unnecessary and that a combination of cameras and radars should do the job.” Google vs Tesla.


A self driving car from Google

Uber is not far behind and has also been testing their prototypes for trial runs. UK based NuTonomy, launched its autonomous taxi service, the first in the world, as a pilot project in Singapore {Information sourced from Wikipedia}. Santa Clara based NVIDIA is being touted as a key technology provider once autonomous cars are in the commercialization phase of development. Recently, automakers like GM, BMW, Mercedes, and Nissan among others have jumped on the bandwagon and each of their autonomous cars are in various stages of trial testing.

Semi-Autonomous Car from Tesla

The need for developing autonomous cars falls in the disruptive genre. This is a market space that simply didn’t exist. That is not exactly true; certainly it existed, but only in the realms of our imagination! It is the rapidly emerging technologies that provided the base algorithms, for autonomous driving, so that reality could replace imagination very soon!

Uber Semi autonomous car

Technology can sound very highbrow and intellectual but the reason it keeps on evolving is its ability to simplify our lives. The advent of autonomous cars will take away some of the stress that is associated with driving in the 21st century where every household has two or more cars. The millennials are also not as obsessed with driving their cars unlike their predecessors. Most would rather use that time to download music from an app or apply to jobs. One of the reasons Spiffy came into being was the founders’ ability to look ahead and sense the need of the future generation of drivers. The future for any business lies in its ability to provide an excellent consumer experience on demand so consumers can add it into their lives seamlessly. As Spiffy CEO Scot Wingo points out in Can the on-demand economy make it out of the Trough of Disillusionment? “if you don’t provide an amazing zero friction experience, someone else will and the way these platforms work, your customers are a click, app-install, tap, or swipe away from switching.”

Autonomous Car- A portrait

All images are sourced from Creative Commons.

Posted in Education, Spiffy Blog

Written by Kakoli Roy