A couple weeks ago I spoke to a working group of economists and climate change experts in Norway about what’s happening right now in autonomous driving: how fast it’s likely to go mainstream, the effects it might have, and the opportunities this creates both in government and in business. Below are my remarks.
Imagine what it must have felt like to be in a major urban center like New York or Boston in the early 1900s when, in a sea of horses and humans, the first automobile “put putted” past. Now imagine, if you will, three people standing nearby, with three different reactions to that event: The first, “Wow, I want to get one of those!” the second, “Wow, I want to build my own car company and make one too.” and lastly, “That thing is going to need a place to get gas.”
I believe fully autonomous driving has the potential to have as large an effect on our way of living as the car itself did. So it’s worth getting past the immediate “Wow” reactions, as well as some of the initial knee-jerk fears, and start to lay the groundwork for what’s coming next.
The image of internet-based electric BMW models autonomously picking up customers using online mobility services may seem outlandish at this moment, but will become commonplace in the next 10 years.
It is thanks to BMW Group’s innovation leadership in mobility and autonomous driving in recent years.
“BMW wants customers to experience premium mobility in both an individualized and emotional way,” said Harald Kruger, chairman of the board of management of BMW AG.
“Our goal is sustainable mobility. With our services, we are available whenever and wherever the customer needs us.”
The services are based on use of intelligent devices, including the BMW Mobility Mirror and a cloud platform that decides the best route through a virtual interface.
“BMW aims to be a mobility solutions provider for more than 100 million customers in 2025 and all areas of future mobility will be integrated as demonstrated in its centenary celebration last year in the Vision Next 100 series vehicles,” he said.
In order for Cadillac to feel confident enough to introduce the industry’s first truly hands-free driving system to the public, the car company wanted to be sure it had enough data on the US highway system before it launched. How much data? Well, all of it.
To do this, Cadillac didn’t deploy a fleet of camera-mounted vehicles to record footage of the nation’s highways, like Google does for Street View. Nor did it rely on “fleet learning” like Tesla, in which many vehicles operating on the same software work together to build a more detailed map. Instead, Cadillac used vehicles equipped with high-powered LIDAR sensors to build a highly detailed map of the US highway system.