A Possible Transition

The next step for automated cars and the internet of things

Everyone in the automotive industry knows we are headed towards an autonomous future; the debate is how the transition will take place. I would argue that the path to fully autonomous transportation future is getting clearer every day.

Current autonomous car: This is a model for an autonomous car that is being tested right now. This would be a four seater without a steering wheel, and would have to be autonomous 100% of the time.

First I would like to consider bike infrastructure in the Netherlands as a case study. The Netherlands is a good example of how to spur a transportation revolution. The country did not decide one day to put in all of its current cycling infrastructure. The country introduced the biking alternative a little at a time over a long period of time. It sat back and waited for the people. This gradual introduction created a positive feedback loop: the more people biked, the more demand was created for bike infrastructure, which in turn encouraged more people to bike.

This same model can be used in the autonomous car industry, and there is evidence that it may already be started. American tech giants like Google, Uber, and Tesla are working on improving the technology that goes along with autonomous driving. However, they are struggling with the first steps of transitioning to mobility as a service.

This concept, mobility as a service, is an idea for the future where no one owns their own car, they just call on a car whenever they need it. This notion is hard for a set of reasons. Most importantly, people of this age love to drive, and they love owning their cars. This presents problems in implementation for these corporations. The major question is: how do you get enough Americans to give up their cars in order to create a positive a feedback loop? The answer: you don’t.

This may upset people who are not used to thinking outside the box, but the solution to this problem has to be creative. Transitions have to be gradual, and consumer choice is the key factor to consider. So, the solution is simple, just give the consumer two choices and make one obviously better. We already have the technology to combine typical cars with autonomous cars. If companies like Tesla and Uber could partner up to combine privately owned cars that could also provide an autonomous service.

Imagine business professionals who loves their car. They do not want to give up this luxury, but are open to new opportunities. They buy a car that has autonomous capabilities installed as well as the software similar to Uber. They drive to work, don’t want to pay for parking, so they turn this service on. It takes their car out all day driving customers around and making them money. When they are ready to go home, they call their car back to their location, and they turn the service off.

A car prototype: This could be a possible design for a car of the future. Single seater car that drives you around wherever you need it to, and it doesn’t ever park unless it needs to charge its batteries.

This process would help the transition in a set of ways. First, it would greatly increase the amount of autonomous service cars on the road. People would love a car that can make them money all day. Secondly, this service would allow both the car owner and the car customer to get used to the idea of autonomous driving. This impression would allow for the positive feedback loop to start, and all we would have to do is sit back and watch the transformation take place.

There are many ways to advance mobility as a service, and there is no way to determine exactly how it will play out. However, the autonomous driving future is coming, and this ownership service combination could be the best way to integrate these technologies.

-Matt Bravante