Within the next 30 years, your chances of traveling in an autonomous vehicle are high. You may be relying on smart driving technology, which would be able to “speak” to other autos, “see” obstacles and traffic signals up ahead, and even instantaneously contact an insurance provider if you’re in an accident.
The potential future, according to Ron Burton, vice president of Transportation Research Center, could be far different than the American automotive experience created by Henry Ford.
Burton’s Dec. 1 Fridays at Findlay talk featured an enlightening combination of predictions and developments that illustrated the influence that autonomous vehicles are already having on our lives, and how they could impact travel and careers.
The work being conducted at TRC in East Liberty, Ohio, in partnership with The Ohio State University, is on the cutting edge of such developments. Extensive testing at the largest independent vehicle proving ground in the country is ongoing as manufacturers and equipment innovators seek ways to make transportation more efficient and safe. One of the keys to success, Burton said, is to develop industry standards.
“It’s estimated that about 90 percent of accidents are due to human error,” said Burton. “If we can take the driver out of the loop, we think we can reduce accidents significantly.”
But the changes, if they are to take place, will not only necessitate an infrastructure revolution involving the most advanced digital upgrades, but a voluntarily change of head and heart in the ways we have all come to known the automobile and how it serves us, Burton noted.
Structurally, the 5G high-speed wireless network would have to be bolstered because “4G is not going to cut it,” said Burton. “It would be sharing a lot of data and doing a lot of things.” More ground-based global GPS stations would be necessary, in part to accommodate the varying driving conditions and laws in different locations, and to eliminate satellites as the sole data transmission providers. Cybersecurity measures would have to be robust, and privacy concerns would need to be addressed; Tesla is already experiencing the latter, given that “everything you (its drivers) do is going to the cloud,” Burton mentioned. The role of proprietary technology, in which only a handful of companies could control the necessary hardware, is also of concern amidst our emergency age of net neutrality threats.
Socially, people would have to become used to technology taking over to serve their basic transportation needs. How will the general populace react to vehicles that drop individuals off at their intended destinations and then park themselves?
Burton said some companies have already developed and are selling vehicles with driverless technology. For instance, Cadillac’s Super Cruise offers a hands-free driving system, albeit one that requires you to occasionally touch the wheel to assure the vehicle of your presence. The industry calls this “conditional automation.”
Burton explained there are different levels of vehicle autonomy. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems include adaptive features, such as the ability to make sure the vehicle is paced with respect to others on the highway. Autonomous Driving Systems, however, still include a “driver,” but handle most of the driving without much human intervention, other than the ability for individuals to override the system if need be.
The addition of such technology will require more experts who are trained in how to develop, use and repair it, Burton added. Therefore, it is predicted that careers in telematics, computer engineering, data analytics, software development, artificial intelligence and logistics will drastically increase in number, he said.
The next Fridays at Findlay speaker will be Michael Wilcox, chairman and CEO of Wilcox Financial and Wilcox Sports Management. He will present on Feb. 9, 2018.