CES 2018 Explores the Future Technology of Self-Driving Cars

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By James Lint, Faculty Member, School of Business, American Military University Senior Editor for InCyberDefense and Contributor, In Homeland Security

Many people would love to avoid concentrating as they’re driving on the road during a lengthy trip. The driver is the least relaxed person when he arrives at his designation. But what if everyone in the car, including the driver, could take a nap? They could be relaxed and ready to go when they step out of the vehicle.

Today’s computing power has made that self-driving car a possibility. In fact, the annual CES 2018 technology show, featured plenty of companies exhibiting aspects of the self-driving vehicle. A number of driverless cars were parked in front of the Convention Center, accompanied by drivers because local laws prohibit vehicles from motoring down the Las Vegas Strip on their own.

AlixPartners released a survey called “Racing into the robotaxi future.” Among the conclusions:

• Awareness of car sharing and ride hailing is now nearly universal among urban consumers in every market surveyed.

• Overall, ride hailing is beating out car sharing in the shared-mobility race around the world. The preference for ride hailing is particularly strong in the U.S.

• For ride hailing, price was the primary factor holding back even stronger growth, followed by better driver screening.

• For car sharing, consumers said both better prices and increased car availability would increase usage.

• A willingness to try ride hailing correlated with a willingness to try robotaxis—the inevitable, albeit controversial, next step in mobility services.

The owner of the CES shows, the Consumer Technology Association, discussed how self-driving cars (SDC) can save lives. The CTA pointed to a survey by the Association for Safe International Road Travel, which found that driverless cars have the potential to save nearly 1.3 million lives from auto crashes every year. CTA predicts there will be 88 smart cities worldwide by 2025. Global spending on smart cities is projected to reach more than $34 billion by 2020. The automotive industry is on the verge of a revolution and vehicle tech is making cars safer and drivers more connected. Smart cities support the use of SDCs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that driver error is the cause of 94 percent of car crashes within the United States, according to the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey. Also, the NMVCC survey found that the most prevalent causes of accidents were errors of recognition, decision, performance and non-performance. All of these errors can be corrected through technology with better sensors and better decisions through artificial intelligence (AI), in addition to preventing tired, drunk or distracted drivers to get on the road. Self-driving vehicle technology can solve much of the problems that currently cause vehicle destruction and human death. Key technologies needed for autonomous vehicles have evolved in areas such as sensors, navigation, connectivity and artificial intelligence.

Before Jim Hackett became president and CEO of Ford, he was Chairman of Ford Smart Mobility LLC and a member of the Ford Motor Company Board of Directors. He discussed some tradeoffs brought about by the evolution of self-driving cars. For example, knowing where drivers are at all times is good for most of us. But your 16-year-old, first-year driver might not believe that. Car sensors will have the ability to get drivers through traffic without injuring pedestrians, to prevent drivers from hitting a deer at night or to eliminate drivers from colliding with trash on the road. Cars with AI will remember where the trash was and look for it the next time. These new cars will remember virtually everything that occurs while they are running. That is a tradeoff between privacy and safer driving, Hackett said.

General Motors (GM) is reported to have petitioned the federal government for approval to adjust 16 motor vehicle standards. That would allow the automaker to test autonomous/SDC cars without steering wheels, pedals and other driver controls. In an emergency, a stop button for passengers to press would promptly stop the car. A self-driving ride share car without a steering wheel would also provide room for an extra paying customer in the car.

Businesses are constantly pushing new research and development, which in turn generates more jobs and sparks of innovation. As these new ideas gain traction, we will see even safer self-driving vehicles equipped with plenty of sensors to protect their occupants, in addition to the sensors and cameras already found in numerous vehicles. The owners of self-driving vehicles, like the example mentioned at the beginning of this article, will then be able to enjoy lower stress levels and an improved quality of life.