I love everything to do with technology and innovation. I particularly love hearing about entire industries being disrupted. I regularly include companies like Uber, Airbnb and Amazon in my blog, simply because they are such good case studies for learning about disruption.
I have been reading a lot lately about the Self-Driving-Car and the impact this technology will have over the next 5-10 years. I had really not taken any notice before, mainly because my mind struggled to contemplate the huge challenge in addressing the divide between the current infrastructure supporting the auto industry, and what the future would need to look like. Entire industries working together both private and government. Throw in the oil companies as well, and it all just gets far too complicated.
You may have read about Googles version which is all encompassing and if you haven’t seen the video here it is Google Self-Driving Car. In this video they focus on the convenience factor of a Self-Driving Car, with one lady saying how much more time she will be able to now spend with her children, and a blind person talking about how this could enrich his life. This is all great, but there is a question about how serious Google is about the project. Is it just another way to test their innovation capabilities and show off with a “feel good” PR message?
Let’s leave Google for a minute and think about some of the other organisations who are focusing on Self-Driving capability. I recently read a few tweets from Marc Andreessen and sent him a message to ask; who else was doing anything besides Google in this space? Marc responded to say that most of the major car companies are looking at this capability, and Mercedes are most of the way there. I decided to have a look around a bit and found this article from NitroBahn Merces-Benz Dominates Self-Driving Cars Features in the Industry
After reading this article and a few others, I managed to find about similar innovations from car companies, it’s a lot clearer to me now the huge disruption Self-Driving Cars will have. However as opposed to waking up one day and seeing hundreds of cars minus steering wheels (a la Google’s version) – this will be more a step change or rapid creep.
Companies are working on safety first and cherry picking minor accident avoidance, like assisted parking and cross traffic assist. There will be a rush on patents and given how interlinked the auto industry is, there will be technology created by one manufacturer sold at the highest price to the laggards.
Car companies will want to continue to develop the technology at a pace that aligns with their financial interests, and oil companies are most certainly keen to see optimised fuel efficiency via a machine driving the car, as a low priority advancement.
So back to Google. It is clear that their intentions are not simply to corner the entire Self-Driving Car market and become the new car manufacturer of choice. Their advancement however is going to put the car manufacturers under pressure to pick up the pace.
The global road safety record is appalling and if we have now reached a tipping point where Self-Driving Car capability is going to significantly disrupt this, then I am definitely going to be watching this space a lot closer.