Autonomous vehicles are undoubtedly the future. But when will they actually grace our roads and gain a permanent place in our lives?

SwissCognitiveAutonomous vehicles and the dawn of a whole new lifestyle –

Imagine riding in an autonomous car to your office and all you have to do is sit back and relax. You can read the newspapers or scroll through your smartphone and enjoy a little snack on the way. Or better still just take those extra minutes of power nap with absolutely no one to disturb you, not even your driver. Autonomous cars can easily double as your personal mobile leisure rooms where you can have the comfort of enjoying a hassle free and uplifting driving experience.

Road congestion and traffic jams would be a thing of the past as the driverless cars would be spot on in choosing the shortest, quick, cost and energy effective route to your desired location while avoiding any traffic jams and road accidents on the way. The powerful sensory system and driving priority guidelines would even allow these vehicles to prepare for any contingencies in advance and avoid obstacles based on communication with other autonomous vehicles and efficient information processing and exchange. And that’s not even all. After enjoying a smooth and fatigue free car experience you don’t even have to worry the slightest bit about parking. The autonomous vehicles would find a cozy spot nearby and their self-aware technology would counter any possible theft attempts.

To sum up, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Autonomous vehicles are undoubtedly the future. These fully automated cars are an astounding wonder that can totally change the way we perceive our lives, especially in terms of transportation and commutation. From mobile retail stores to on-the-move restaurants and gyms, autonomous cars can promise all that and so much more.

But when will they actually grace our roads and gain a permanent place in our lives? This would obviously depend on our preparedness to accept this mind-blowing automobile transformation and the ability to efficiently utilize such top-grade technology without compromising human independence and safety concerns.

Autonomous vehicle manufacturers have promised a blissful and a highly innovative future for the driverless autonomous cars. There has been a lot of speculation regarding the impact of the fully automated cars on the automotive industry worldwide and how these driverless cars can practically transform the world into a futuristic and digitized entity.

According to forecasters, autonomous vehicles can bring forth an altogether new era of economic and technological advancement. Although fully autonomous vehicles are still in the testing stage but surely going to grace the roadways in less than a decade.

Thus, in order to gather a more profound perspective on the advent and possible commercialization of Autonomous Vehicles and how they make a phenomenal use of Internet of things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other cutting edge technologies, it is important that we have a closer look at its impact on different life sectors.

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Positively reshaping People’s lives –

The positive effect of autonomous vehicles swarming the cities is highly undeniable. The biggest anticipated advantage is that the AV’s embedded with high grade AI could prove to be extremely successful in reducing the rate of road accidents and resultant fatalistic casualties. Considering that millions die each year due to motor vehicle accidents, eliminating such occurrences is obviously going to be a remarkable achievement. 

Secondly, these autonomous vehicles could sharply reduce the stress, exhaustion and physical strain caused by long hours of driving for commutation purposes. With driverless cars ready at their disposal, people could cover long distances quickly, in a cost-effective manner. And all that extra time that could be saved from driving from one place to another can be put to a greater productive use.

Moreover, autonomous vehicles ready availability can solve the proximity issues when it comes to making housing arrangements as traveling to work, marketplace or recreational centers would be absolutely hassle free.

Thirdly, for disabled people or physically challenged patients’ autonomous vehicles could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. These driverless cars are specifically designed to accommodate wheelchairs and can easily locate a safe and secure boarding location for ill passengers. Furthermore, autonomous vehicles are going to be with braille buttons to help visually impaired passengers commute easily and independently. 

Lastly, having an abundant supply of autonomous vehicles can also result in a drastic decline towards buying and maintaining self-owned cars.  With easy, cheap, convenient and quick transportation options offered by autonomous vehicles, very few people in urban settlements would bother to invest in an expensive personal car. But that being said, human operated cars are there to stay especially in small cities and rural areas in particularly in the developing countries, until enough capital is available to fund mass production of autonomous vehicles in a very cheaper cost.

Transforming the Economy worldwide –

To begin with, autonomous vehicles are bound to speed up day to day mobility. This in turn will allow the people to invest their time in doing productive business activities which will boost the economy to a great extent. Reduction in traffic and traffic management resources will translate to a great optimization of cost, time and efficiency.

Although there will be a good deal of job displacements and possible unemployment as a short-term implication but in long run the situation will take a flip in the positive direction.

Also, the car insurance companies will undergo a major change as they would then be in charge of product liabilities instead of driver liabilities. Alternatively, vehicles manufacturers while require insurance for their vehicle safety.

A decrease in the product prices is also expected due to reduced cost of transportation. Driverless, fully automated cars will help to cut down the high labor costs required for distributing goods across.

Feasible Infrastructure for autonomous vehicles –

Autonomous vehicles offer a giant leap into the future. And in order to exhaust their full capacity and efficiency it is important to make amends in the infrastructure of the urban settlements.  A major impact of the driverless cars on the city’s infrastructure would be a drastic reduction in parking’s and garages, both on and off streets. This is because the autonomous vehicles would be always on the go and would provide ride sharing services as a means to optimize mobility. As a result, a lot of parking spaces can then be alternatively used to build offices, outlets or even recreational hubs.

Autonomous vehicles use extremely efficient and advanced integrated AI technology which allows them to use narrow road spaces and accounts for their excellent maneuverings. This would automatically make the roads all the more feasible for pedestrians and ensure more frequent, safe and secure walks.

Lastly, in order to fully get prepared to enter into the realm of autonomous vehicles, the infrastructure of the cities needs to adapt to a highly digitized upgrade. Smart roads with roadside sensors, machine readable signs and radar reflective land markings are a dire need to allow for a safe, accurate and accident free ride.

Moreover, roads with their traffic signals replaced with machine adapted protocols can help the autonomous vehicles to accurately process driving priorities. On road telematics is also a sound option to allow the driverless vehicles to share descriptive driving information and prepare for possible contingencies in advance.

Autonomous Vehicles: A threat to human employment?

It would obviously be foolish to ignore the fact that the transition to the driverless cars would in fact be a painful one with millions of drivers losing their part time or even full-time jobs. The most affected would be the truck drivers and fork lifters as they account for a large number of employees in the driving sectors. Chauffeurs and Uber drivers are also not far behind from losing their jobs due to massive advancement in the autonomous vehicle industry.

But, in order to counter this massive unemployment threat there is a dire need to re-skill human drivers and provide them with sufficient knowledge to make a smooth transition into a digitized automotive environment.  Experts have speculated that if people are trained for jobs which include maintenance, repair and safety of autonomous vehicles then there could be an appreciable rise in the employment rate and productivity.

Furthermore, based on recent analysis autonomous vehicles would bring about a boom in the digitally focused jobs including fleet management, software development for integrated automobiles, smart infrastructure building, super-high-speed connectivity and telecommunications etc.

That being said, it could practically take years before people are fully equipped with new skills to take up their new job roles in an automated and futuristic world. And even then people with low educational background and limited automated skills will face a sharp blow from autonomous cars that are much more safe, efficient, smart, cost and energy effective and reliable than any experienced human driver.

Pitfalls of large-scale production and usage of autonomous cars –

As discussed earlier, autonomous vehicles would be largely to blame for unemployment risks involved with human drivers and transport services.

Not only this, owing to the utmost accuracy of driverless vehicles they are unlikely to cross a red light or run over the speeding limit. As a result, governments would lose billions collected each year in terms of traffic fines and speeding charges.

Moreover, even a slight technical or digital glitch in the autonomous vehicles can result in a full-blown accident which would be much more intense and riskier than any regular road accidents. And in any such incidents it may be difficult for the police and regulatory authorities to take charge of the situation.

Another possible disadvantage of autonomous vehicles is that they might be prone to improper functioning in rough weather conditions and would be unable to read human based road signs and directions.

Furthermore, like any other digital technology, autonomous vehicles would be under a serious threat from the hackers who could crack into the car’s system and administer human controlled accidents or even pose a widespread security threat by using these driverless cars for terrorist attacks etc.

And while the fully automated vehicles promise to upgrade the quality of life for the people, it would make the infrastructure all the more unfeasible for human drivers and thus threaten their survival in a highly digitized environment.

Author – Utpal Chakraborty
Head of Artificial Intelligence, YES BANK LTD., AI Researcher

Utpal Chakraborty 

Twitter: @utpal_bob