IoT Blog
IoT Blog

How Self-Driving Cars Will Change Your World

by Andreas Kohn, Director of Marketing, Automotive Solutions
For most people, removing your hands from the steering wheel induces a gripping, sweaty fear. And rightfully so! Ceding control to fate is reckless and dangerous, so it feels terribly unnatural. This has spurred an instinctive reluctance to embrace self-driving cars. But when you think about it, few things are more unnatural than spending hours sitting in traffic, in a line of barely moving cars, with nothing but music and frustration to keep you company. 

That’s one of the reasons why self-driving cars will completely revolutionize the future. This technology will forever change traffic flow and the way in which we interact with traffic. Self-driving cars will grant us more freedom, more time, and greater safety. But they will also change our interactions with the economy.

As cars grow more autonomous, the basic economic model that has underpinned the automotive industry for decades will change. This carries massive implications for drivers. One day, the term “driver” will be as archaic as the payphone is today. Understanding how cars are changing—and the power of IoT connectivity—offers insight into tomorrow’s world. The time to buckle up...and let go of the wheel will be here before we know it. 

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Understanding the Levels of Autonomy

Before we explore the benefits, it is important to understand the different levels of vehicle autonomy. There are 5 (or 6, depending upon whether you count “zero” as a level). They are as follows: 

Levels of Vehicle Autonomy

Level Name Definition
0 No Driving Automation In Level 0, the driver performs every task in the Operational Design Domain (ODD), even when the experience is enhanced by active safety systems. 
 1 Driver Assistance  In Level 1, the car performs the ODD-specific execution of either the lateral or the longitudinal vehicle motion (but, not both simultaneously), with the expectation that the driver performs the remainder of the DDT.  
 2 Partial Driving Automation  In Level 2, we see sustained and ODD-specific execution by a driving automation system of both the lateral and longitudinal vehicle motion control subtasks of the DDT with the expectation that the driver completes the “object and event detection and response” subtask and supervises the driving automation system.  
Note: from here the Automated Driving System (ADS) performs the entire Dynamic Driving Task (DDT) (while engaged)
Driving Automation 
In Level 3, you have sustained and ODD-specific performance by an ADS of the entire DDT with the expectation that the DDT fallback-ready user is receptive to ADS-issued requests to intervene, as well as to DDT performance-relevant system failures in other vehicle systems, and will respond appropriately. 
High Driving Automation  In Level 4, we have the sustained and ODD-specific performance by an ADS of the entire DDT and DDT fallback without any expectation that a user will respond to a request to intervene. 
5  Full Driving Automation In Level 5, you’ll see the sustained and unconditional (i.e., not ODD-specific) performance by an ADS of the entire DDT and DDT fallback, without any expectation that a user will respond to a request to intervene. 

Essentially, Level 0 refers to any car that is without cruise control, while cars that can parallel park themselves are in Level 1. The big debate is whether cars should move up the ladder gradually or whether they should jump straight to Level 4 or Level 5. There are strong arguments on both sides, but most manufacturers are working to have it both ways. 

Today, several automakers have introduced vehicles, which—representing the peak of autonomy—are capable of driving at Level 2. That’s remarkable, but there’s still a need for consistent human engagement. New cars will increasingly have hardware capable of handling Level 5 automation, however, it will be a couple of decades before we see full driving automation on a large scale. The software isn’t available yet. When it is, and full automation is deemed fully legal and street-worthy, the software can be uploaded remotely.

But what changes will occur then? And what will happen in the coming years? Here are a few key issues based around automotive automation that will change your life.

How Self-driving Will Change the World

For about 100 years, the essentials of driving and of car ownership have been the same. That’s about to be dramatically altered. 

Driving Will Be Safer

While people are hesitant to trust an algorithm with their driving, automation will make the roads considerably safer. Computers don’t get distracted. They don’t drive drunk. They don’t assume a light is about to turn green. And they don’t suddenly remember that they have to get off at this exit. It’s estimated that self-driving cars will reduce automotive fatalities by at least 90%, with some estimates going so far as to predict zero deaths once we reach Level 5. In 2013—the most recent figures from the World Health Organization (WHO)—there were over 1.25 million car-related fatalities globally. The arrival of self-driving vehicles has the potential to be one of the largest-ever impact on human health to date.

Travel Will Be Faster and More Efficient

Let’s imagine you get into an accident attempting to take an exit at the last possible moment. As a result, traffic is snarled for miles. In fact, the dramatic inconsistency among drivers—as everyone brakes, swerves and jockeys for position—accounts for a large portion of traffic slowdowns. But if cars communicate with each other, the whole system will work better. You get in a car and enter your destination. The algorithm picks the best route based on what every other car is doing. No one cuts over. No one gets lost. No one turns the wrong way or slams on the brakes. Everything works together to get traffic moving. In fact, experts estimate that the US will save $160 billion annually from better fuel efficiency and fewer wasted hours. 

Self-Driving Cars Will Offer a Better Use of Your Time

Right now, even with a Level 2 car, you still need to pay attention and keep your hands on the wheel. But by the time we get to Level 5, you won’t need to do this. Cars might not even have steering wheels. It’s likely they’ll have dashboards that are primarily comprised of infotainment components. You can work, nap, catch up on social media, stream a movie, or do whatever it is we’ll be doing in the future. This will be a much better use of your time. (To run all that data, of course, cars will need incredibly reliable connectivity). 

Cars Will Move Beyond Ownership

We mentioned plugging your destination into a car, but it may not necessarily be your car. That’s because when all cars are self-driving, and can be summoned via smartphone (or whatever technology happens to replace smartphones), you won’t need to own one. It’ll be more akin to a driverless Car on Demand. Fleets will be moving continuously as needed, so you can call up a car, and it will pick you up, drop you off at your destination, and then, it will move on to collect the next rider. This updated car-sharing economy is already gaining traction. Car companies will make money by creating the best fleets, and by offering luxury models to people who still want the prestige or convenience of ownership. 

The Car as a Component of the Internet of Things

Long before arrive at Level 5 automation, today in fact, cars are connecting to the Internet of Things, thanks to embedded modules that enable cellular connectivity. We now have more infotainment options and the car is continually communicating with infrastructure, with the cloud, and, in the near future, with other cars. 

Your car will also be communicating with your devices, including your smart home. Even if you don’t own a car, when you call it, information could be transferred. So it’s possible that your house could know that you’re en route home, turning up the heat and chilling a bottle of wine in anticipation of your arrival. 

But the wonderful thing is that everyday stress levels will be reduced, especially for those who commute to work. You’ll be more productive because your commute will provide much-needed “spare time” that you can use to catch up on personal tasks or work. You won’t have to stay late because you’ll have the ability to work on your way home. The commute is shorter because there are no accidents and no bad drivers. You won’t find yourself doing the old “gas and brake” routine. You won’t stress over your car’s plummeting value or rising insurance rates. 

Really, that’s the way it should be. Stressing over the daily commute is unhealthy, and driving can be dangerous. We don’t need that. The IoT is changing how we live, and self-driving cars are a big part of that.  Start with Sierra to drive into the future.