Earlier this month, in The Race to Driverless Driving – Part 1, I gave an overview of the computer-driven cars that will soon be entering the market, and those that have already been successfully deployed.
But in order to fully understand the implications of driver-less cars, we have to look more closely at how the technology works, and what it will mean not only for passengers, but for the industry at large. Let’s consider these things in the context of Google’s self-driving car.
Development of driverless technology
In order to be able to “see” on the roads, Google’s self-driving car generates a constantly updated 3D map of its vicinity using quad-core PCs that process 1.3 million measurements from its LIDAR (light detection and ranging) laser sensors.
That’s a boatload of data – approximately 750mb per second, according to Bill Gross, CEO of California-based Idealab. Using these measurements, the car is able to make 20 driving decision each second.
Pretty impressive. But for self-driving vehicles to truly succeed in the mainstream, the automotive and computer industries must continue to grow vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications technologies.
V2V enables cars to broadcast their location and speed information while collecting and analyzing that same data from other vehicles around them; V2I informs cars of traffic jams, school zones, road closings and other real-time data so the vehicle can then adapt accordingly.
What it means for businesses
Data is the natural resource of the digital information age, and businesses with a lot of data on their hands, e.g. Google, see that information as potential dollars. You can bet that no human-to-machine, machine-to-machine, vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-infrastructure information sharing will go untapped when the opportunity for profit presents itself.
As these technologies mature, companies that partner with Google around their connected car—or any smart, connected products—stand to redefine customer engagement.
Imagine your CVS or Walgreens card is linked to your car, and while you left work planning to head straight home, your G-car (working title) informs you about a coupon you’ve earned and that you’re a mere 0.7 miles from their nearest location. Press “YES” to change your current route and proceed to the nearest store.
Heading out to tackle some errands? Don’t worry: your refrigerator updated the grocery list on your phone, and your car mapped a route that includes a stop at the dry cleaners, because it didn’t forget that your shirts are ready – even if you did.
What it means for consumers
Aside from saving a few bucks at the local drugstore, computer-driven, connected cars have implications for consumers that we may only be beginning to comprehend.
Affecting the way we travel, shop, access information and more – smart cars are far removed from that utilitarian vehicles our grandparents drove to get from point A to B. The new driving experience will take us into uncharted territory, creating new opportunities and experiences for both the consumer and industry.
But while smart, connected cars may provide endless convenience, the down payment requires creating—and continually sharing—incredibly detailed life-profiles. Is this a tradeoff consumers are willing to make? Are we ready to be the passenger in our own car?
Photo credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GettyImages