By T Murrali
The next big disruptive event in the automotive world will be the arrival of self-driving or the autonomous vehicle. This new mobility has been driving to reality throwing up a host of unanswered and unanswerable questions like ‘Who wants autonomous vehicles? `Why should we have them?’
Look at a London street on a regular working day. The average speed of cars is just 7.8 miles an hour. It is less than the speed of a 19th century horse cart, making automotive mobility redundant. The scenario is similar in all major cities the world over. More productive man hours are spent behind wheels than at their work place / work stations. Slow speed is not the only issue. The increasing rate of fatal road accidents where there is speed, and the enormity of toxic emissions from the fossil-fuel vehicles are other existential problems that demand immediate solutions to maintain and increase the speed, safety and sustainability of individual mobility.
Studies indicate that there is potential in the US alone to save 30,000 lives, five billion less hours in congestion, 80 percent lane capacity improvement, and 40 percent fuel economy improvement.
A self-driving, intelligent and autonomous vehicle, with alternative source of fuel, is the answer taking shape on drawing boards and, to a limited extent, on the roads, in the developed world. Technology leaders like Google are working with the world automotive giants for this breakthrough. People across the world are enthusiastic about it. A recent global survey has found that about 33 percent of the consumers would like to ride in and purchase a self-driving vehicle. Another 23 percent said they would be willing to ride in a self-driving vehicle, but may not purchase one.
The transition to autonomy, described as a change from driving to commuting, will be gradual. The target year is beyond 2030.
SAE International’s new standard J3016: Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to On-Road Motor Vehicle Automated Driving Systems, has identified five levels of driving automation from ‘no automation’ to ‘full automation.’
Level 1 – Driver Assistance:The driving mode-specific execution by a driver assistance system of either steering or acceleration/deceleration using information about the driving environment and with the expectation that the human driver performs all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task;
Level 2 – Partial Automation: The driving mode-specific execution by one or more driver assistance systems;
Level 3 – Conditional Automation: The driving mode-specific performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task with the expectation that the human driver will respond appropriately to a request to intervene;
Level 4 – High Automation: The driving mode-specific performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even if a human driver does not respond appropriately to a request to intervene; and
Level 5 – Full Automation: The full-time performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task under all roadway and environmental conditions that can be managed by a human driver. For the fully autonomous status the vehicle manufacturers have begun working with conventional parts suppliers, the electronic hardware vendors and software developers. Suppliers and the OEMs are charting out strategies to capitalise on the emerging opportunities of more electronics, better suspension and improved NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) management.
Digitalisation is playing a crucial role in reaching the goal of automation faster. Internet of Things (IoT) is the enabler of several technologies. Reports say that, by 2020, over 20.8 billion connected things will be in use worldwide, from about 6.4 billion in 2016. Every machine / equipment / gadget in every organisation involved in service and manufacturing, is digitised and connected to optimise the throughput.
The autonomous vehicle that is capable of solving many of the present issues can generate new and unprecedented problems. There are cyber security risks like hacking. The recent malware named ‘Wannacrypt’ which wreaked havoc around the globe is an indicator.
Another aspect of the riddle is, ‘who will be held responsible for a mishap when the vehicle is on auto-pilot.’ Recently a LeClairRyan attorney Peter Hart wrote that for companies with drivers on the payroll, the shift to fully autonomous vehicles could usher in massive reductions in potential liability. He states that driver error is the leading cause of accidents on the US roadways. When perfected forms of autonomous driving technology replace error-prone human drivers, many are betting that businesses such as trucking firms, delivery services and shuttle operators will face dramatically fewer legal settlements and court battles triggered by vehicular accidents.
Similar is the case with the insurance industry. Should there be a global, national and regional regulatory framework for the roll-out of autonomous vehicles to the public roads? How to ensure the security of connected vehicles; safeguards against hacking; remedies for secrecy and security violations? Several are similar questions for the automotive, information technology, software and allied industries and the governments to answer.
As the automotive and technology players, the consumers and regulators are in the beginning of an evolutionary process that can change even the fate of humanity, AutoParts Asia, now a common denominator for all the stakeholders, decided to bring to light what the players in this game-changing game think and do. We wanted to take a closer look at their perspectives, prospective plans, aspirations and actions.
Many of the industry leaders, who spearhead, prepare for, and invest in this futuristic drive for autonomous vehicles across the world, representing different sectors and segments, have unfolded their thoughts, visions and anxieties for our readers. In the following fifty plus pages, we present them for you as our Second Anniversary Cover Story: The Riddles Of New Mobility And Digitalisation.