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An overview of the automotive history and the road machine industry

Self-driving cars will increase congestion in cities This list of misconceptions can be used to: You will find that many widely repeated statements about autonomous vehicles can be attributed to very narrow perspectives on self-driving cars and a lack of understanding for the nature of the global, distributed innovation process which drives this technology forward.

Note that this article focuses on fully autonomous vehicle technology, i. Driver assistance systems will evolve gradually into fully autonomous cars This is an extremely attractive misconception that you will find repeated over and over. At first glance, it seems to be very logical and rooted in history: If we look at the past 10 years as well as the present we find that each new car model comes equipped with more computational power, more electronic safety and assistance features — from auto-parking, lane warning, intelligent cruise control, to emergency braking etc.

But this evolution contains one obvious discontinuity: All of the driver assistance systems which are in use today operate only for short times and in extremely limited settings. Auto-parking operates for a few seconds with the driver watching. Emergency braking kicks in at the last moment before an inevitable crash. Lane warning comes on briefly when a car veers out of its lane.

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This changes drastically once the car drives itself continuously for minutes or hours. Here, gradual evolution is impossible: It needs to be able to cope with all short-term eventualities and crisis situations that may arise on the spot. People often argue that such assistance systems need to be supervised by the driver.

  • It had rained shortly before and truck tires occasionally sprayed water high into the air;
  • This is not a problem for the other use case of autonomous vehicles;
  • Each image is annotated with the kind of object that it contains;
  • The algorithm has learned!
  • It may then take several more years until the first autonomous vehicles become available for purchase;
  • At the moment we entrust them to drive continuously they require a huge, discontinuous jump in capability which will place their capabilities very close to the capabilities of fully autonomous vehicles.

This makes sense for assistance systems that operate for a few seconds or minutes such as a parking assistant but it can not work for systems that drive continuously. Humans are not capable to maintain the state of alert for hours and hours which would be required to immediately counteract possible deficiencies of a driver-assistance system or to take over from it in a split-second. We can only entrust the driving task to a driver assistance system when we are sure that this system can handle all situations which arise suddenly and require immediate reaction.

This means that driver assistance systems operating continuously on a highway need to be able to cope with rare situations including pedestrians and bicyclists on the highway they do appear sometimes on highwaysaccidents unfolding, animals, sudden rainfall etc. Gradual evolution of such systems is impossible; they need to be extremely capable from the first day on which they are put into operation. If we systematically enumerate the risk scenarios which a continuously operating driver assistance system needs to handle, we find that it must pass almost every risk scenario that a fully autonomous vehicle must be capable of handling.

Only those few scenarios that do not arise suddenly but that can be anticipated minutes before e. Driver assistance systems can not evolve continuous driving capability gradually! At the moment we entrust them to drive continuously they require a huge, discontinuous jump in capability which will place their capabilities very close to the capabilities of fully autonomous vehicles.

Top misconceptions of autonomous cars and self-driving vehicles

The first models of fully autonomous cars will be targeted to the consumer and will be available for purchase When will I be able to buy an autonomous car?

When will autonomous vehicles appear on the market? These key questions already contain an innocent assumption about the market for self-driving vehicles: Unfortunately this assumption disregards both the difficulties and opportunities associated with fully autonomous cars.

A key problem is the region where cars are capable of autonomous operation. Consumers who want to purchase a car expect it to operate in most parts at least all highways of the country or ideally the whole continent, and preferably in all non-extreme weather situations.

  • After intense lobbying California followed suit; many other states have sinced worked on autonomous vehicle legislation — not all successfully;
  • Humans are not capable to maintain the state of alert for hours and hours which would be required to immediately counteract possible deficiencies of a driver-assistance system or to take over from it in a split-second;
  • In summary, much of the current discussion about the ethical dilemmas of life and death decisions related to self-driving cars is misplaced because it is concerned with finding right decisions where no right decisions are possible instead of realizing that self-driving cars can get by as long as they are able to avoid making decisions that are wrong;
  • Besides individuals and fleet operators, governments play a key role to ensure that this technology will be adopted with unusual speed;
  • The business case for fleets of autonomous cars is strong;
  • First movers can achieve a much better market position than followers.

This is a tall order! Detailed maps need to be created and maintained; algorithms need to support more than dry weather and light rain but also snow and heavy rain. For auto manufacturer this means that solutions need to be found that essentially work on the entire planet. The structure of the maps needs to be defined and then the maps themselves need to be collected.

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This will be a major task because the maps need to be much more detailed than the conventional street maps currently being maintained by Google, Apple, TomTom, Nokia Here and others. It is not yet clear what the best structure for such a map is and nobody has even started to address the problem of how to navigate in snow-covered areas which may in turn have implications on the mapping approach.

Therefore a significant lead time will be necessary before an auto manufacturer can release models to the market that are capable of driving autonomously in most parts of a country or even continent. This is not a problem for the other use case of autonomous vehicles.

Fully autonomous cars can operate much earlier on a limited set of predefined routes as taxis or buses which provide mobility as a service.

Consumers will not be very interested in such autonomous vehicles but taxi companies, Uber, Car2Go, car-sharing and rental car companies as well as transit corporations clearly see the potential of autonomous vehicles: These autonomous cars can provide local mobility as a service at low cost. In urban areas fleets of autonomous cars can be called by anyone via mobile app. A self-driving taxi will arrive a few minutes later and drive the passenger to their destination with maximum convenience and without the need to look for parking.

The autonomous taxi will drop the passenger of at the target location and continue on to the next customer. Mapping just an urban area for autonomous driving and keeping the maps up to date is a much smaller problem than mapping the whole country.

Additional problems of autonomous driving which delay the introduction of fully autonomous cars on a nationwide scale can be circumvented: Current autonomous cars can operate only in sunny areas with little rain and without snow. In the US alone there are hundreds of cities which fit this profile and where fleets of autonomous cars can operate safely long before the harder problem of autonomous driving in very adverse weather is fully solved.

The business case for fleets of autonomous cars is strong.

  • The first models of fully autonomous cars will be targeted to the consumer and will be available for purchase When will I be able to buy an autonomous car?
  • When looking at ethical questions there can be a huge difference between considering what is right and considering what is wrong;
  • Understanding the direction that the technology is taking and being concerned about the risks of manual driving, many parents will decide not to spend the money for driving lessons and guide their children toward fully autonomous driving instead;
  • This makes sense for assistance systems that operate for a few seconds or minutes such as a parking assistant but it can not work for systems that drive continuously.

Because such fleets are most attractive if they have many customers and cars in a region, such fleets exhibit network effects: First movers can achieve a much better market position than followers. In this market, the market leaders will be much more profitable than their competitors. Therefore entrepreneurs and investors have an incentive to grab market share early. A strategy where fleet operators deploy autonomous taxis in regions without adverse weather first with the goal to expand a few years later into the rest of the country — when the problem of operating autonomous cars in snow is solved — is therefore much more attractive than waiting until autonomous cars are capable of operating everywhere.

Fleets have another key advantage for deploying the first fully autonomous cars: Fleet owners maintain full control over their cars. Whereas cars sold to a consumer end up dispersed across the country, fleet owners continue to have access to the physical car at all times. When problems arise, accidents happen, updates or maintenance are required, fleet operators can easily access all of their autonomous cars. This is very important in the early phases of autonomous vehicles because operators of autonomous vehicles that operate in a limited local region can then remotely monitor all their cars and dispatch service teams where needed.

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This level of control reduces risk: Fleet operators can ensure standard levels of service and maintenance whereas this is much more difficult for vehicles delivered to customers across the country.

It will be much easier for hackers to gain access to an autonomous vehicle which they can purchase than to a fleet vehicle. Finally, vehicles that operate in urban areas can productively operate at lower speeds than cars sold to the consumer. Although urban autonomous driving is often considered the most difficult context, the liability risks of highway driving can be much higher because of the higher speed.

In urban settings, cars can come to a stop when a problem arises in front of them. On highways inadvertent braking just to be on the safe side can cause major accidents and damage.

The ability to operate autonomous fleets in select areas initially with low speeds at low risk profiles is another reason why autonomous vehicles are more likely to appear in fleets first and will only later be available for purchase by consumers. In summary, these issues clearly show that we should not expect the first fully autonomous cars to be available for sale.

The first fully autonomous vehicles are much more likely to appear within fleets of autonomous taxis or buses that operate in select urban regions.

It may then take several more years until the first autonomous vehicles become available for purchase. It will take decades until most of the vehicles on the road are capable of autonomous driving It took automotive innovations such as anti-lock braking, airbags, seat-belts several decades from being introduced in cars of the premium segment until they trickled down to all models and until most of the cars on the roads were equipped with these innovations.

Many people assume that autonomous driving will also take this long. But there are good reasons why the diffusion process for self-driving cars though not for driver assistance systems will adopt a different pattern: The slow diffusion of classical automotive innovations results from the limited additional benefit of these technologies. It is difficult for a buyer to quantify the benefits of anti-lock braking or airbags in dollar terms and to determine whether they exceed their often initially hefty price.

Severe accidents — in which these technologies would make a difference — are rare and therefore it may be a rational decision for many, not to purchase the new technology. This is why these safety-related innovations are so strongly tied to the premium segment in the beginning. As the technology is adopted more and more, their costs gradually sink which means that the cost-benefit calculation turns positive for more and more prospective buyers.

But increased safety is not the only key benefit of autonomous vehicles: Self-driving cars unleash the driver from the steering wheel and thereby increase available time — a precious and scarce resource. The benefits are most obvious in logistics, where the costs for a truck driver represent about a third of the total transport costs Bayliss, B.

Fully autonomous technology dramatically increases the return on investment and will therefore lead to rapid adoption. An overview of the automotive history and the road machine industry also value their discretionary time.

If an average driver spends about 1 hour per day behind the wheel this translates to a 15 full days of additional time gained each year!

Given these benefits, the group of early adopters would be large and not at all limited to the buyers of premium cars. The more time people spend in their cars, the higher the incentive to purchase a fully autonomous vehicle. In contrast to the increase in safety associated with many classical automobile innovations, which can only be expressed as a reduction in the probability of an accident and associated damages, the benefit of additional discretionary time is a solid fact which the buyer can be certain to experience every time he uses the car.

Another solid benefit of self-driving vehicles are lower insurance premiums. Because self-driving cars will be much safer, the premiums will shrink. However it may take a few years for this effect to kick in.

  1. If we systematically enumerate the risk scenarios which a continuously operating driver assistance system needs to handle, we find that it must pass almost every risk scenario that a fully autonomous vehicle must be capable of handling.
  2. A strategy where fleet operators deploy autonomous taxis in regions without adverse weather first with the goal to expand a few years later into the rest of the country — when the problem of operating autonomous cars in snow is solved — is therefore much more attractive than waiting until autonomous cars are capable of operating everywhere.
  3. Besides working diligently through thousands of risk scenarios, self-driving cars need to be exposed to actual driving situations. Each image is annotated with the kind of object that it contains.
  4. How can we require a machine to make an ethical choice that no human is capable of making?
  5. Our legal system and our ethics have evolved sufficiently to realize that many problems exist where it is hard to decide whether an action is legally or ethically correct. The Google prototype car was driving autonomously on the highway.

Insurance companies first need to be able to quantify the risk associated with fully autonomous vehicles. Young drivers — who pay the highest premiums today — will benefit most from the lower premiums.

Understanding the direction that the technology is taking and being concerned about the risks of manual driving, many parents will decide not to spend the money for driving lessons and guide their children toward fully autonomous driving instead.

Fully autonomous vehicles can be used as self-driving taxis. In sufficiently populous areas, fleets of autonomous cars will emerge that provide mobility as a service. These cars can provide mobility at much lower cost than privately owned vehicles because their utilization rate will be much higher than the dismal utilization rate of approximately 5 percent for privately owned vehicles.

Because of higher utilization rates, these fleets are much less sensitive towards the cost of autonomous technology and can adopt the technology much earlier than privately owned vehicles. In cities many privately owned cars will be displaced by such fleets. Several simulation studies have shown that each self-driving taxi may replace 6 to 10 privately owned vehicles.