Three Connected Car Questions

Crystal Ball Predictions

Three Connected Car Questions for 2016

Q: Will autonomous cars be available in 2016?

No, they won’t. Automakers are making steady progress in autonomous navigation and driving technologies, and some of the building blocks are being gradually introduced in new cars. We will see advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) technologies offered in a growing number of cars in the form of automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and self-parking.

But it’s unlikely that self-driving cars will be roaming our streets for at least another 5 years. By 2020 we might see low speed self-driving cars or people-moving pods in limited-use applications such as company campuses, airport transfer services and retirement communities. Establishing dedicated paths or highway lanes for autonomous vehicles will accelerate the adoption and utilization of driverless cars.

Q: Will Google build an autonomous car?

No doubt Google will continue to work on self-driving technologies and enhance the capability and reliability of capabilities needed for mass adoption, such as operating in year-round weather conditions and managing complex situations typical of urban driving.

But getting into mass car manufacturing is a different game altogether. Google has no experience building and running manufacturing facilities, managing complex supply chains, delivering warranty repair services, and many of the other operations that traditional automakers have been practicing for decades. The challenges Tesla is enduring in establishing global operations is an example of the magnitude of this challenge.

There are rumors that Ford and Google are planning a joint venture to build autonomous cars.  Despite expectations, these rumors were not confirmed at CES 2016, but, if true, that could be a significant change in the landscape. Pairing the strengths of the two companies will most certainly accelerate the mainstreaming of driverless cars.

Q: What about Tesla?

Tesla will continue the incremental introduction of self-driving technology, addressing the more routine and tedious driving tasks first. Tesla is gradually increasing the level of semi-autonomous driving and self-parking capabilities via remote software updates, but currently Tesla cars won’t switch into autopilot mode on residential streets or roads without a center divider.

However, the very limited production volume of Tesla’s Model S will not do enough to change the autonomous driving landscape. And it doesn’t appear that the new Model X will be any different.

The big opportunity will be Tesla’s Model 3 that is on schedule to be launched in 2017.  Its lower price point will put it at the same category as the Chevy Bolt EV compact crossover, also scheduled for 2017. Together, these cars may generate a new wave of interest in electric vehicles equipped with advanced ADAS and assisted self-driving technologies.

See my Three Industrial Internet of Things Questions for 2016.

(Photo: Times of India)