Full autonomous drive is still a product of the future, let me explain my thoughts.
There’s a lot of news surrounding autonomous vehicles and I see news about huge investments being done by both automotive and technology companies such as Uber, Google and Tesla.
Self-driving cars are complex in many aspects. This is an example: The technology making autonomous drive possible needs to be able to handle endless situations in traffic. It must analyze immense amounts of data from a number of different sensors, make instant decisions in different weather conditions like sun, rain, snow, etc. and it has to do all that in highway speed.
So, except from technology handling vehicles and their surroundings there are a lot to learn and develop in the interaction with humans- both as pedestrians and as drivers. With the technology development of both hardware and software I am sure that this will be achieved, but I believe that it will take some time.
Another seldom discussed perspective is the legal aspect and the question: Who is driving?
Seeing a vehicle in the street without anyone in the driver seat might get you wondering who is actually making the decision on how to handle a situation. The legal aspects will be challenging; who is responsible when there is an accident? Traditionally is has been the person sitting behind the wheel that is responsible. But who is, if the vehicle is driven by a computer programmed by hundreds of programmers and processing input from different sensors? Is it the car manufacturer, the developer of the autonomous drive program or the manufacturer of the sensors that will be held responsible? This is regulations that has to be sorted out in every country that the car is driving in.
My main arguments for why this will take time is that we tend to underestimate the technical and jurisdictional challenges facing autonomous drive. This is a very complex system that just cannot fail. The life of its passengers and others are in its hands.
I think that one of the most important things that we should focus on today is to find good use-cases that can be run in productive and safe environment. The best way to learn is to try it out in real life scenarios. To achieve this it is important that we have controlled environments where we can decrease the risk when technology doesn’t behave as anticipated or when there are bugs.
Two good ways of minimizing risks are to find use cases where we can control the environment or where we can work with much lower speeds. Two great examples I have seen are Scania AXL and Starship delivery service.
Scania AXL is an autonomous truck that is targeted to work in a controlled environment for example in mining.
Starship delivery service is another example that work with small vehicles and slow speed.
These are great example of brilliant use-cases that is explored now.
We need to continue with more use-cases to validate all the technical aspects and as well iterate and develop the business cases.
At Clean Motion we are testing the technology with our partners now but there has to be additional steps taken at low speed and controlled environments. To enable further enhancements, we are looking for partners and customers that wish to explore the possibilities of autonomous as well as remote-controlled vehicle set-up in different use-cases.
Here are some use-cases that we are thinking of:
· Repositioning of vehicles in free floating fleets for optimal logistics
· Delivery service in controlled environments, like a factory.
· Act as vending machines for lunches etc. that when empty can drive itself and refill.
I bet there are hundreds of ideas that we have missed and I would love to hear your ideas of where this technology could be used?