The first real robot you own could very well be the same machine that ferries you to and from work everyday. Unfortunately for the adolescent dreamer in all of us, that doesn’t mean we’ll be driving around in cars that can magically transform into robot warriors intent on defending the Earth.
What it really means, if tech research company Gartner is to be understood, is that autonomous cars — which it believes are much closer to reality than we think — will be the first truly pervasive robots capable of autonomously sensing, interpreting, deciding, acting and communicating that most of us will experience in our lifetimes.
Indeed, Gartner predicts that by 2025, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication will be available in approximately 30 per cent of passenger vehicles in use in mature markets, which will increase the reliability and accelerate the rollout of autonomous vehicles. By 2030, autonomous-driving-capable vehicles will represent approximately 25 per cent of the passenger vehicle population in use in mature markets.
As this self-awareness matures into the next decade, vehicles will become progressively smarter and autonomous, leading to the most fundamental change in transportation, mobility and society. “At the core of this change is not just the accumulation of hardware, software and data communication technologies,” said Thilo Koslowski, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.
While plenty has been written on the impact of autonomous motoring, Gartner reckons that the real impact of self-driving vehicles is the disruption of our existing personal and societal beliefs and the reorganisation of established business assumptions in many industries.
At the same time, it says self-driving vehicles will enable radically new digital business opportunities, such as personal delivery services that utilise a consumer’s driverless vehicle to transport packages between two businesses.
“The benefits of self-driving vehicles for individuals and the automotive industry are significant, and range from accident avoidance, to optimised energy and traffic utilisation, to improved emission compliance,” says Koslowski. “It is critical to note that all of these benefits can be realised at meaningful levels even only with the realisation of the first stage of sophistication for self-driving vehicles: automated vehicles. However, only autonomous and driverless vehicles are capable of achieving the fundamental disruption at the societal and business levels that will permanently impact our beliefs and replace existing business assumptions with new ones.”
According to a June 2014 Gartner survey of over 6 000 consumers, nearly two-fifths of US and German vehicle owners are interested in purchasing a fully or partially autonomous vehicle the next time they shop for a vehicle. Equally, as many vehicles owners would even consider giving up traditional vehicle ownership for having on-demand access to getting an autonomous vehicle whenever they need one.
Autonomous and driverless vehicles still have many obstacles to overcome before they meet all consumer, industry and legal requirements, but despite such challenges, the societal benefits from autonomous vehicles could outweigh potential disadvantages and concerns. Furthermore, the potential of fundamental business disruptions from autonomous and driverless vehicles will motivate industry leaders and newcomers to expand research and development activities, and to dramatically advance the progress of the technologies over the next two decades.
“The evolution of the self-driving vehicle from automated to autonomous vehicles is already underway, and significant investments are being made by individual companies and the entire automotive industry to accelerate the pace of innovation and do actual prototyping on public roads,” says Koslowski. “We predict that by 2016, three companies will have announced concrete plans for upcoming automobile launches that will offer autonomous vehicle technology.”