The Future of Automotive

Autonomous Driving to Autonomous Flying

Asokan Ashok

July 26, 2017
The Future of Automotive

2017 has been a year where we've heard a lot of buzz about autonomous driving  - from Google hiring a new lobbying firm to work on self-driving car issues to the spotting of Apple's rumored autonomous vehicles. Not only have there been developments in autonomous vehicles and their regulations and guidelines locally, but worldwide as well.

A great deal of money has been thrown into autonomous vehicles, Big Data and AI. Technically, the autonomous vehicles cannot be standalone without Big Data and AI. Last year it was reported by the NY Times that the federal government Proposes to spend $4 Billion on Self-Driving Cars over 10 years. Furthermore, IDC reports that spending for Big data and analytics will reach $187 billion in 2019. According to IDC Spending Guide, Spending on Cognitive and Artificial Intelligence Systems globally is forecast to reach $12.5 billion this year alone.

With more and more OEMs jumping into the fray, it has caused more noise and confusion in the definition of "autonomous." Presently, there are five levels of autonomous driving. The goal of OEMs is to create a fully autonomous vehicle, meaning one that can guide itself without human intervention.

Automotive - the past few years

Connected Cars

Connected cars today can do so much more than identify problems with your car. Connected cars are now able to access the internet, interact with surrounding vehicles or objects, provide vehicle health reports, and include safety functions like fatigue detection and warning of road hazards. Other features include in-car entertainment, the ability to give information such as current traffic situations, driver assistance such as self-parking, and sensors to avoid accidents.

In 2014, the Audi A3 was the first car equipped with 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspots. Today, connected cars are fast becoming the industry standard. BI Intelligence estimates that by 2020, 75% of cars shipped globally will be able to connect to the internet.

The market for connected car packages, which are built-in or subscription-based services, will continue to center on premium vehicles. However, 4G LTE technology, which is already available in over 100 vehicles manufactured by BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, GMC, Jaguar, Jeep, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Ram and Volvo, will eventually become available to the mass market.

Significant progress has been made in the areas of research, development, testing, and deployment of connected vehicles coming mainly from efforts by the federal government and U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). In 2015, the USDOT launched the Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Program. This research program that tests and evaluates vehicle communication technology, is useful in determining how technology for connected vehicles performs.

Autonomous Cars

Autonomous cars, also known as driverless cars and self-driving cars, are capable of navigating with little or no human interference and can detect their surroundings using a variety of techniques. Allowed in several states on public roads for testing purposes, autonomous cars have been the focus of several car manufacturers, with vehicles being tested by Tesla, Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Honda, and BMW. Even tech giants like Google and Uber have been working on self-driving cars, as well as rumors of Apple's plans for autonomous vehicles.

All the vehicles produced in Tesla's factory are equipped with the hardware enabling full self-driving capability. Moreover, Tesla is working on releasing a fully self-driving car by 2018. By 2020, the same year Business Insider predicts there will be 10 million self driving cars on the road, Google, Volvo and Toyota are expected to release their autonomous cars. Volvo has also has partnered with developer and manufacturer of automotive safety systems, Autoliv, to develop software for self-driving cars. In 2021, BMW is set to release an all-electric car with autonomous capabilities and another that is fully autonomous in 2025. Ford is also set to deploy a fleet of self-driving cars as a ride-sharing service in 2021. Even Baidu, the Chinese web services company has been testing its self-driving-car technology since 2015 and is playing a part in the field of autonomous vehicles. It created the Apollo platform that includes self-driving vehicle hardware and plans to make it openly available to help China get ahead in the race to build self driving cars.

Automated driving systems leaderboard

Source: Business Insider

Autonomous driving by the numbers

A 2016 survey by Statista found that about 19% of respondents in the U.S. between the ages of 35 and 44 were willing to use semi-autonomous vehicles and 34.4% were willing to use fully-autonomous vehicles.

  • IHS Automotive predicts that Global sales of autonomous vehicles will reach nearly 600,000 units in 2025.
  • A report from BI Intelligence says that in the UK, it is estimated by KPMG that self-driving cars will lead to 2,500 fewer deaths between 2014 and 2030.
  • IHS Automotive forecasts that in 2035 there will be about 54 million autonomous cars in use worldwide.
  • The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) estimates that up to 75% of all vehicles will be autonomous by 2040.
The Future of Automotive

Big Data for Autonomous Driving

One of the things that autonomous vehicle manufacturers have in common is big data. It plays a huge role in the development of self driving cars because data is what "drives" these vehicles. Big data, which is defined as "extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions," is responsible for all the information, or data, that is synced to autonomous vehicles via a large network in real time. This data is pertinent for vehicles to connect to a network or information database to communicate by collecting and sharing data regarding its surroundings, such as information on road conditions, traffic or collisions. Big data, which can be helpful in dealing with the challenges automakers face, is necessary to make autonomous vehicles become all that they can possibly be.

Autonomous Driving Functions

Driver assistance - Levels of 1–5 are defined - Level 1 means the car is capable of guided acceleration, braking and steering. Level 5 refers to a fully-autonomous vehicle that performs equal to a human driver.

Imaging Technology - Imaging technology helps self-driving vehicles identify potential hazards, like objects on the road and where they are located. Imaging technology for cars also includes radar sensors that can see through objects for predictive collision warning and thermal imaging cameras that allow cars to travel at night.

Geo Fencing and Mapping/Location - Autonomous vehicles with Geo Fencing and Mapping/Location capabilities. This means that self driving cars will operate in a defined geographic area, or geofence. A vehicle allowed to drive fully autonomously in specific geofenced areas will require accurate mapping.

Weather Sensing Technology - Autonomous vehicles will navigate through bad weather for safety with the use of technology capable of differentiating between rain, snow, dust and obstacles. Known as LiDAR, sensors that emit short bursts of lasers will allow the vehicle to create a high-resolution 3D map of the environment and enables the car to analyze what is being hit by the lasers and thereby sensing the weather condition.

Current Ecosystem

Current Ecosystem

Incumbent Tech Companies & Rumor Mills


Waymo, which stands for stands for new way forward in mobility, is Google's self-driving car project that started in 2016. Having started working on autonomous driving since 2009, by 2012 Google had self-driven over 300,000 miles and in 2015 they achieved the first and only fully self-driving ride on public roads. This year, fully self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, the first vehicle built on a mass-production platform with a fully-integrated hardware suite, were added to Waymo's fleet. The early rider program, a public trial of self-driving vehicles, was also launched this year in Phoenix, Arizona.


Apple, received a DMV permit to test autonomous vehicles and was originally rumored to introduce its own brand of vehicles, is now working on software for autonomous vehicles. Tim Cook mentioned that Apple was "focusing on autonomous systems." It is believed that Apple, which has been spotted testing its autonomous driving software in the Bay Area, has a deadline of up to the end of this year to prove the feasibility of its autonomous technology.


In 2016, Uber launched its first self-driving car services in Pittsburgh using a fleet of Ford Fusion cars. In December of the same year, self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs were being used in San Francisco. However, Uber has had some setbacks, including having the registration of vehicles for testing revoked by the DMV. Determined not to be stopped, the self-driving program moved to Arizona, where residents of Tempe can use Uber's ride-sharing platform to catch a ride on a self-driving vehicle accompanied by two Uber engineers as safety drivers.

Other Uses for Driverless Technology

Military applications - The military uses autonomous vehicles to protect the lives of soldiers. These vehicles are used to transport supplies in dangerous areas. Having unmanned vehicles doesn't put soldiers at risk of what can otherwise be a deadly situation.

Farm applications  - Farming, which can be dangerous due to the use of large, heavy equipment and other environmental factors, also makes use of autonomous tractors. Farmers can increase efficiency by operating an autonomous tractor in a field to accomplish tasks such as tilling and planting in conjunction with other farm machines.

Security applications  - Law enforcement can use driverless cars to change the way law enforcement is done. Dubai, for example, is using driverless police cars equipped with cameras, machine learning tools and 3D technology to patrol city streets. This means more safety for police officers, who are sometimes targeted simply for their occupation.

How other industries will be impacted

Here are some examples of some verticals that will be impacted by Autonomous vehicles.


One of the benefits of autonomous cars will be its ability to reduce traffic accidents. These accidents, which often result in injuries, means that there will be less of a need for insurance and it will also result in lower insurance premiums. It is believed that the automotive insurance industry will greatly suffer due to the loss of driving-related jobs, such as bus and taxi drivers.

Fleet Management

Autonomous vehicles will be very beneficial to the fleet management industry because they aim to reduce the frequency of accidents. Drivers will also be more productive, as they can work on other tasks during their commute. Fuel efficiency will be maximized because autonomous vehicles will have the technology to make the decision to take the most efficient routes.

Importance of Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous cars are important not only so we can get from one place to another without the need to drive, they will have a major impact on improving traffic flow by reducing congestion as the number of cars on the road decreases. Autonomous vehicles will enhance mobility for those who are unable to drive, decrease car accidents, and lower fuel consumption and thereby decreasing pollution. The need for parking spaces will also be reduced, as people will no longer need to park their cars as they are dropped off by ride share vehicles.

Issues with Adoption

Standardization in Public

One of the issues with the adoption of autonomous cars is standardization. Since these vehicles are being tested by different manufacturers using their own technology, there are standards that need to be taken into consideration. Standardizing vehicles so they are safe for public use and the ability for vehicles to meet federal safety standards is of utmost importance.


The technology used to make autonomous vehicles possible has advanced rapidly. However, the conflicting rules on car standards and regulation may slow the progress. Conflicting rules and regulations from state to state is an obstacle that needs to be addressed so manufacturers will be able to implement new technologies that are compatible not only locally, but globally. Currently the solutions are fragmented.


According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the number of states considering legislation related to autonomous vehicles has gradually increased each year. Following is a list of statistics from the NCSL.

How will the future Unfold?

Technology for autonomous vehicles continues to advance and a lot of time and money has already been spent on autonomous vehicle technology. If the car manufacturers release their self-driving cars on the dates they are due, then the reality of these vehicles hitting the road will soon become a reality. However, with the excitement of these cars finally becoming mainstream also comes issues. Although new technology has its benefits, there is always the social and economic impact that comes along with it.

Self-driving cars have a myriad of useful applications; however, there are still many issues that need to be resolved. For a kind of technology that will dramatically change so many things about our daily lives as we know it, autonomous travel still has a long ways to go when it comes to standardization and legislation. How the future will unfold will depend on not only those who are developing the technology, but the government that regulates them.