Safe, cheap and comfortable: Customer needs top priority in autonomous future

Self-driving vehicles and car sharing will bring major changes and big opportunities to mobility trends in the years to come. How can OEMs adapt to lead the race?

Toyota modules

New mobility including autonomous vehicles (AV) leading up to self-driving cars will probably be one of the largest changes in our society over the next 10 years. What are the consequences for the auto manufactures when customers want environmentally-friendly, safe, cheap and comfortable transport?

Here’s what you can expect from the next generation of mobility over the years to come.

Urbanisation a catalyst for sharing and self-driving

The rapidly-expanding mobility landscape offers a choice for customers. Common to all providers will be that the focus switches from product to user. The willingness to try and use new solutions will play a key role in driving the transformation of the auto industry.

During the next ten years, the auto industry needs to find alternative ways of compensating for falling margins and rising investments. Being a part of the new mobility landscape will be crucial to stay in business.

Self-driving vehicles will be much safer

The best argument for adding self-driving vehicles onto the road is the fact that today more than 1.2 million people are killed in traffic accidents every year. More than 90% of the accidents are related to human errors. While a self-driving vehicle will not be 100% safe, it is expected to be up to 90% safer than a vehicle driven by a human. A self-driving vehicle will give you a smoother ride with increased comfort, while freeing up time.

Self-driving cars are closer than most of us think. In fact, today there are a large number pilot driverless projects for example in Singapore, Beijing and several cities in the USA. As urbanisation is still a major global trend, consumers would likely welcome the opportunity to reduce the stress of driving and finding a parking space with a shared, self-driven vehicle.

Manufacturers stepping up to the challenge

Tesla recently sent a roadster into space, but down on the ground they are working heavily on developing self-driving capabilities for their vehicles. With software updates, today’s Tesla hardware could even be used for full self-driving once government regulations allow.

Traditional auto manufactures face challenges from newcomers to the industry both when it comes to self-driving capabilities and mobility models.

Google’s Waymo is among the players that has been working with self-driving for a long time and after 8 years of testing including 3.5 million miles on public roads, they are ready. The company has an agreement with FCA to install their software in the Chrysler Pacifica minivan ahead of its mass-market launch. Waymo has already been testing driverless cabs in Phoenix and plans to roll out their concept on a larger scale to several American cities by end of 2018.

Meanwhile, GM’s team working on Autonomous Vehicles (AV) increased from around 90 in 2016 to an expected headcount of more than 2,000 this year.

OEMs also have the opportunity to turn to vendors to make their vehicles self-driving, while a company like Aurora can offer the OEMs parts of what they need to be autonomous.

Falling part prices another driver

Falling prices on technology that gives the vehicle self-driving capabilities like radar, lidar, ultrasonic sensors, cameras, connectivity and processors are further pushing the speed of self-driving vehicle development.

However, government regulations are expected to limit how fast self-driving vehicles will spread.

Exponential growth is possible

As the players in the mobility industry do not see any technical hindrance to add fully self-driving vehicles, the speed of adoption will to a large degree be determined by government regulations. Will governments around the globe see the benefits that a reduction in accidents of up to 90% will have, or will they be reluctant, believing instead that the technology will cause accidents and hard ethical dilemmas?

If the pilot studies continue to show the safety benefits, helped by 5G, we could very quickly see governments allow self-driving on a large-scale, will could fuel an exponential growth.

So, will there be more or less cars sold in the future?

Total mileage travelled is expected to increase as more people travel farther, but vehicles will be used more intensively. A theoretical 100% Robotaxi scenario in Europe calculated that just 14% of current vehicle numbers should be enough to fulfil the region’s transportation needs. Realistically, many more vehicles would be needed to cover daily and seasonal demand peaks.

The good news for the end customer is that current trends in the development of self-driving cars will result in cleaner, safer transportation options. The OEMs most focused on customer needs should end up in the front seat.

Fast facts

Autonomous vehicles

An autonomous vehicle have varying amounts of self-driving capabilities, from still requiring a driver to being able to drive itself without steering wheel or pedals. There are five levels for autonomous vehicles:

0. No Automation

1. Driver Assistance

2. Partial Automation

3. Conditional Automation

4. High Automation

5. Full Automation

Different types of mobility

Active mobility

1. Non-motorised

2. Personal car

3. Rental

4. Car sharing

a. Station-based

b. Free-floating

c. Corporate

d. Person-to-person

Passive mobility

1. Ride hailing

a. Taxi

b. Private hire

c. Person-to-person

2. Ride sharing

3. Public transportation

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