Time to Re-Think When Robocars Arrive and Impact – Future Watch

September 12, 2013

in Intelligent Transportation

google teslaThis well-linked article below may be the best summary of recent links on the future of robocars, self-driving cars or autonomous vehicles. I’ve also linked to a series of articles that refute the view that they will be decades in the making and point to Google applying new pressure by negotiating with Tier One suppliers like Continental. Underlying this should be a realization that maps aren’t about mobile (as in smartphones) anymore. Rather maps are about mobility and rather than point to point they are about what’s in motion at any time. So underpinning Google’s map/location/car efforts is a complete reframing of how we look at the world and perhaps how it is managed in the future.

We do not think someone will have a fully autonomous production vehicle that soon,” said Daniel Flores from General Motors’ advanced technology group. “Vehicles that can drive themselves are years — maybe decades — away. The technology will develop in steps to allow the vehicle to do more and act incrementally as sensors get more robust and costs come down.

That might be, but such talk isn’t about to diminish Google’s ambitions. Google is leading the charge on this one. It’s prodding the auto industry — not to mention regulators and the insurance business — to push the whole effort at a Silicon Valley pace.
via How Google’s robo-cars mean the end of driving as we know it | Cutting Edge – CNET News.

A key element is timing. Self-Driving cars will be very disruptive to business models and could radically change transportation planning. Fundamentally they will completely redefine Transportation and obsolete current “Intelligent  Transportation” frames of reference. Self-Driving cars are like comparing smartphones with dumb phones. Their launch date is just a few years away. If my perspective has changed in the last year (when it was 2020) I suspect it could now be sooner / earlier. These new potential partnerships suggest phase two is now in motion. The traditional automakers would like this transition to be gradual with all of them reaching the market at the same time. I think that increasingly unlikely. The wild card is one company will launch a self driving car in just a few years. It will launch at a higher price. (Tesla Model S is a good scenario model). The core challenge is. We have pre and post self-drive cars. Not much different to the dumb and smart phones. What it means for consumers is…. the more we know and expect the next generation of vehicles will be self-driving the less likely we are to plump down change on a new dumb car.

Indeed, one of the people with direct knowledge of the effort says Google wants to pressure major car brands to embrace autonomous-navigation technology, whether they partner with Google or not. This person added that Google already feels it has spurred carmakers to embed more self-driving features. Of course, car companies have been conducting research on self-driving car technology for years, well before Google unveiled its effort in 2010
via Exclusive: Google Designing Its Own Self-Driving Car, Considers ‘Robo Taxi’ – jessica lessin.

2017 is likely to be very limited although Uber or Zipcar could be a revolution at that point. The challenge is the price point. My guess has been 2x the price of a dumb vehicle. Example we can go to one vehicle or we can share it out like an AirBnB. However, I suspect Google ambitions are much greater than doubling the price of the current car. When self-driving comes for a 10 or 20% premium everyone buys one.

It’s an Inconvenient Truth, but vehicles capable of driving unmanned could be with us by 2017.  That’s based on what Ron Medford of Google said at the recent TRB Workshop on Road Vehicle Automation, and on what Sergey Brin (Google co-founder) said at the signing of the California Autonomous Vehicle Bill on 25 Sept 2015.  (Since confirmed on numerous occasions – and in particular by Anthony Levandowski of Google to a question that I asked the panel at the California Public meeting on the Friday after the main Workshop).

via Autonomous Vehicle Impacts.

Yep you can count the days for “dumb cars” and the current “feature cars” are just transitional. We still await the “smart car” which like the smartphone will have an iPhone like moment.

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