Since the rollout of the Ford Model T ushered in the automotive age more than a century ago, with rare exceptions, the industry has evolved at an incremental pace. Models have become more sophisticated, more comfortable, and more wired, but key factors have remained unchanged, not least that cars drive only when there’s a human driver behind the wheel.
But the past decade has marked the beginning of a radical departure from this story of slow, gradual change. While its greatest impact is probably still down the road, the age of the autonomous vehicle is now upon us . About five years ago, the industry reached a critical inflection point, driven by several key factors: the emergence of artificial intelligence and the advancement of image processing technologies; the exponential increase in edge computing power; and the entry of new tech giants into the auto industry with their data-driven approaches, and deep pockets.
Thanks to these developments, autonomous vehicles have become a reality and can now address basic use cases, such as driving at low speeds in stable, well-defined situations. Wide-scale autonomy, in which AVs deftly maneuver through many kinds of conditions, and where people learn to trust them in their daily routines, has not yet been achieved, but auto and tech companies are pumping billions into the development of fully autonomous cars (level 4 and, one day, level 5).
Now, the industry once again finds itself at a crossroads. It is not a matter of “if” anymore but a matter of “how fast” and “to what scale” autonomous vehicles will become a reality and a norm. And, as always, passing a new milestone requires not only “more of the same” but also something new.
To unleash the next phase of AV development and spur mass market adoption, the industry will […]