Car ownership to become a thing of the past

By Filip Karinja

Hollywood movies set in the future feature people traveling in flying vehicles piloted by a driver.

Well I’m here to tell you that Hollywood has got it wrong on this one, just like they did with the movie Back to the Future predicting we’d have hover boards by now…I’m still waiting!

Cars of the future will be self-driving automobiles: there will be no one behind the wheel steering, but rather technology will take us from point A to point B.

self-driving-car

The US government recently set guidelines for driverless cars as set out by the Department of Transportation.

The guidelines aim to bring about the responsible introduction of driverless cars in a safe, clean and efficient way.

We’ve come a long way since the early 1900’s when Henry Ford pioneered the assembly line to produce the T-Model Ford.

This was seen as a game changer in the industry as vehicles could be produced rapidly and standardised.

“You can have it in any colour, so long as its’s black”, Ford said.

We have certainly moved on since then, however the next big revolution in the automotive space is currently underway.

autonomous-vehicle

Driving this revolution forward is technology and it seems unstoppable.

Here are just some of the companies leading the way:

Tesla

Since moving onto the scene, the electrical powered vehicle manufacturer has transformed the way cars will be produced in the future.

The company led by Elon Musk has paved the way for electric powered vehicle to potentially dominate the market in future, replacing the current petrol powered vehicles.

Recently, Musk announced his next ten year plan for the company having achieved what he set out to do in the initial ten years of Tesla’s life.

This plan included developing a self-driving capability that is ten times safer than manual driving using massive fleet learning based on the data it collects.

This Tesla blog explains how it works:

“When the car is approaching an overhead highway road sign positioned on a rise in the road or a bridge where the road dips underneath, this often looks like a collision course. The navigation data and height accuracy of the GPS are not enough to know whether the car will pass under the object or not. By the time the car is close and the road pitch changes, it is too late to brake.

“This is where fleet learning comes in handy. Initially, the vehicle fleet will take no action except to note the position of road signs, bridges and other stationary objects, mapping the world according to radar. The car computer will then silently compare when it would have braked to the driver action and upload that to the Tesla database. If several cars drive safely past a given radar object, whether Autopilot is turned on or off, then that object is added to the geocoded whitelist.

“When the data shows that false braking events would be rare, the car will begin mild braking using radar, even if the camera doesn’t notice the object ahead. As the system confidence level rises, the braking force will gradually increase to full strength when it is approximately 99.99% certain of a collision. This may not always prevent a collision entirely, but the impact speed will be dramatically reduced to the point where there are unlikely to be serious injuries to the vehicle occupants.”

Essentially Tesla cars will drive themselves in the near future and are already equipped with an autopilot feature.

Musk believes the full driverless cars are only two years away.

Uber

Since its arrival on the scene, Uber has single handedly changed the taxi industry forever.

Not resting on its laurels, Uber recently announced a $300 million deal with automobile manufacturer Volvo and bought tech start-up Otto Motors for US$680 million, that specialises in autonomous driving trucks.

Lyft

Uber’s main competitor Lyft believes private car ownership will be a thing of the past in major cities.

Citing that most people living in or near the city simply do not rely heavily on a car and that autonomous driving vehicles are far more efficient and economical.

Lyft plans for its rides to be in autonomous cars within 6 years’ time.

Ford

As mentioned previously Ford brought in the original automotive revolution, this time it is facing heavy competition.

One bonus for Ford over its rivals is that it has over a century of experience in the automotive space and a wide store footprint.

The company sees a future where cars are not owned, but shared.

A full production line of self-driving cars without a steering wheel or accelerator is planned as early as 2021.

Google

Whilst Google pioneered autonomous cars it has fallen behind the pack.

However with a large cash positon and a recent partnership with Fiat Chrysler to develop a self-driving automobile they will likely play a role in the future of transportation.

Particularly being able to leverage its Google Maps technology.

Apple

Tech giant Apple has been working the last two years on project Titan, an electric car project.

Whilst the project has not been going to plan with a large reshuffle of employees in the unit, Apple is rebooting its self–driving car strategy.

Earlier in the year Apple invested $1 billion into Didi Chuxing which is the Chinese equivalent of Uber.

Other big players

In 2016, Audi, BMW and Daimler bought HERE, which is Nokia’s mapping unit in a deal worth US$2.7 billion.

Microsoft has partnered with Toyota and General Motors has invested US$500 million in Lyft.

BMW is working with Intel on autonomous vehicles.

China’s Google equivalent Baidu plans to achieve mass production by 2020 with driverless cars.

Then there are countless others that we haven’t covered here.

With a plethora of resources being invested into the space it’s only a matter of time before self-driving cars becomes the new norm in the market place.