Lessons from conferences on electric, connected and autonomous cars
The event SMMT Connected took place in London 27.3.15 and covered the connected and ultimately autonomous car with some nod in the direction of other autonomous vehicles doing "dull, dirty, dangerous" rather than freeing up time and reducing accidents, which is what autonomous cars target.
Sponsor KPMG had been commissioned by the UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders to size the UK opportunity and had predictably come up with huge figures - £51 billion - 1% added to GDP by 2030 and 320,000 jobs created. Less contentious was the prediction that 25,000 serious accidents could be prevented and 2500 lives saved from 2014-2030 and agreement that getting from here to there involves crossing a chasm. The UK Catapult collaboration forecasted intelligent mobility becoming a global market of £301 billion by 2025. MIRA forecasted 4 billion cars in the world in 2050 from one billion today but one has to wonder about simple extrapolation. Is all this irrational exhuberance or the beginning of something big?
With us now
As speakers put it, informational connection between devices in a car and to the internet has been going on for years with 10% of new cars connected today. It was noted that signal coverage is patchy for something often safety related. It was claimed that telematics has reduced accidents due to young drivers by 20% already. The advances embrace infotainment, vehicle relationship management and assisted driving with safety the priority and, as long as driver backup is needed, much better monitoring of the driver is needed.
Lane keeping, parking and congestion driving are automated today. Ford has an "intelligent speed limiter" and so on. We are incrementally moving from "no hands" some of the time to "no feet" some of the time but a chasm must be crossed to get to "no brain" all of the time meaning autonomous cars moving among people and driven cars with no driver in reserve.
That has huge regulatory, insurance, psychological and technical difficulties and there was near unanimity that it will not happen until 2030-2040, though Bosch and others said it would be ready in 2025. BMW warned that the regulatory changes need to start now and they are not happening.
Google, Apple, Facebook
We learnt that the arrival of Google, Facebook and Apple on the automotive scene represents a power struggle where the car companies cannot win with their "mobile phone on wheels" because mobile phones with one tenth of the life and 50 times the numbers are evolving much faster. The regular mobile phone will be a key part of a car and the car makers are in danger of losing data control to Apple and Google and the like but being left with liability. Google, Apple and peers have most users, deep statistics and a large app. developer community whereas the automotive industry has access to USBs and receiving devices, connectivity for emergency and breakdown calls and various I-O devices, we were told. Is that enough to avoid losing the bulk of added value?
Mega trends such as ageing population, internet-connected things collaborating and megacities read onto all this with car ownership ceding to seamlessly interconnected, increasingly city, transport modes we were told. Also something of a megatrend is the creation and storage of electricity at home and where used, linked to electric vehicles using intelligent mobility.
The technology of autonomy of on-road vehicles, or something like it was shown to be fairly similar between developers and indeed similar to that in Caterpillar autonomous mining vehicles currently a commercial success. The differences between them are largely ones of emphasis between radar, sonar, Lidar and cameras, with duplicated braking and so on for when there is no driver in reserve and it is vital that they "fail operationally" - a huge technical challenge.
There was a forum discussion involving lawyers - very appropriate given the anticipation of two future setbacks anticipated by earlier speakers. First was when an autonomous vehicle is hacked (IBM and others spoke on enhancing security) and secondly when an autonomous vehicle kills someone. Speakers considered that, in both cases, it was when not whether but when and they counselled that public relations and legal support must be ready.
Electric vehicles compatible
Most vehicles will become electric and the electric powertrain is uniquely compatible with autonomy and progress towards it. The event IDTechEx Show! in Berlin 28-29 April is end-user focused with needs and experiences aired, latest technology developments and roadmaps and demonstrations, samples and much more. Over 150 exhibitors are expected, with 200 company presentations and 2000 attendees from over 42 countries. Particularly relevant to the subjects of electric, connected and autonomous vehicles are the two day conferences in the event respectively on "Electric Vehicles: Everything is Changing" and "The Internet of Things". IDTechEx has new reports respectively on autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, electric cars and the internet of things.