Robots have been building cars for many years with the full acceptance of the general public, but the thought of robots driving cars is a different matter. That interface between the automaton and the human suddenly creates fear. Of course, in this respect, we don’t mean that robots will actually do the driving, not in the Isaac Azimov sense, more the car itself becomes the robot. We are actually well down that road already when one considers the amount of Artificial Intelligence built into cars today.
Impact on the Automobile and Related Industries
The true impact on the automobile industry will depend largely on how the public perceives self-driving cars. In a recent study carried out by ICL, who provides car leasing and contract hire deals to personal and business customers throughout the UK (see IntelligentCarLeasing.com), only 17% of those asked felt safer in an autonomous car than one driven by a human. One of the main reasons given for this was the feeling of not being in control, a perception that will be very hard to shift.
There were a large number of people (around 50%) who either didn’t trust the technology or didn’t understand enough about it. These are the people who will determine how the market goes and will be targeted by the car manufacturing industry. If they can be swayed, there is potentially a massive market out there.
The effect on related industries will be similar to the effect that automation had on the manufacturing side back in the 1970s – mass unemployment. In the logistics industry, there are around 450,000 lorries on the UK’s roads. In America, there are an estimated 3.5 million truckers. Autonomous cars also pose a threat to the 360,000 taxi or private hire drivers in the UK. Uber, the fastest growing private hire company in the world, has over 2 million drivers globally.
Impact on the Greater Economy
Automation will have a huge impact on the economy generally in the coming decades. There is hardly a single job that cannot be replicated by a machine. That puts everyone at risk. However, humans need to have some form of employment. As a race, we need to feel worthwhile, to contribute in some way to the economy of the country we live in, be that by making something or delivering a service. How that is achieved whilst at the same time delivering a fully automated world is possibly one of the greatest challenges ahead.
Levels of Automation
All collisions have a cause, and the majority of road traffic incidents are caused by human error. The introduction of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) has greatly reduced that number over the years, with such things as anti-lock breaks and electronic stability control. These all help to compensate for driver error but there are other systems that provide the driver with information in order for that person to make an informed decision. Sat-Nav is one example of this. The voice on the device may tell you to turn right, but you make the decision as to whether it is safe to do so. Taking this a stage further, in-car radar can tell the driver what is around the bend and possibly to make the decision to stop the maneuver if it isn’t safe.
Great advancements have been made over the last decade in ‘Deep Learning‘, the algorithms that make Google work, and this is what lies behind the AI of autonomous cars, and what will drive the future.
The Bottom Line
Whilst fully autonomous cars may be a thing of the future, there is no question that further automation within vehicles is inevitable over the next decade, and once public perception of the self-driving car changes to one of acceptance, the industry will be more than ready to respond through companies like SBD Automotive, one of the leading industry experts in automotive technology.