This blog post seeks to provide commentary on several recent announcements related to connected vehicles, as well as share some insights captured during my participation in a series of radio shows on Connected Cars.
It seems you simply cannot avoid the topic of connected vehicles these days, including the nirvana of Autonomous Vehicles that the industry is so rapidly hurtling toward. Despite what many think, autonomous operations of vehicles are closer than you think.
Let's start the conversation with a look at how some of the features of autonomous vehicles are actually making their way into the cars we are driving today. For example, the recent announcement by most major automotive OEM's, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that auto braking will be standard in all new cars by 2022 means that semi-autonomous vehicles will become mainstream in the next 5 years.
What is of particular note here is that this is not a government mandate, but rather a commitment by the automotive industry to support efforts to make safety-related autonomous features standard in passenger cars. The efforts by members of the industry to work together will make auto braking cars standard three years sooner than a government mandate, and according to some estimates will result in the prevention of up to 28,000 crashes and 12,000 injuries. Those are powerful results. If you have the time, take a look at this video to see how automatic emergency braking (AEB) works.
Naturally, the technology that will be required to support these efforts is driving the automotive industry to forge some important partnerships and make acquisitions. General Motors announced its intent last month to acquire Cruise Automation Inc. for more than $1 billion to "further accelerate GM's development of autonomous vehicle technology." GM is joining a host of other major Automotive brands in their efforts to infuse traditional vehicle design with software and what IDC considers Innovation Accelerators, namely Cognitive Systems, Natural Interfaces, and Robotics.
Toyota took a different approach when it hired Jaybridge Robotics Inc.'s 16 employees in early March, including software and hardware engineers. Jaybridge is a seven-year company spun out of MIT, and these employees will become part of the Toyota Research Institute as part of Toyota's pledge in 2015 to invest $1 billion in research on artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles. Other automakers are making similar investments, as well as co-locating research and testing facilities in Silicon Valley, CA to obtain proximity to the epicenter of the technology that powers autonomous vehicles.
What's happening in the automotive industry is indicative of what manufacturing industries are experiencing globally, namely the disruption caused by digital transformation (DX). In automotive it is transforming not only what the product is (i.e. connected cars) but also how it is delivered (the rise of car services and shared ownership models). This massive transformation is driving a ripple effect across automakers and their value chains.
I recently had the opportunity to discuss some of the impacts of connected cars with other industry experts in a radio show series, The Future of Cars, part of the Coffee Break with Game-Changers series sponsored by SAP. We discussed how there are still a number of barriers to overcome before autonomous cars hit the mainstream, security and adoption models being two of them. We also discussed how the automotive industry will need to listen closely to what it's customers want, and that this varies by generation and geography. You can listen to the two past appearances here. I have another appearance scheduled for April 26th, where we will discuss another fascinating topic around connected cars, namely how the infrastructure needs to change on our roads and in our cities to accommodate for the connected cars of today and eventually autonomous cars of tomorrow. Feel free to listen in and share your insights on how you think connected cars need to work with smart cities to forge the future of transportation.