The Changing Role of Cars

10 million autonomous vehicles by 2020

There’s been long-standing hype around the concept of autonomous vehicles (AVs), and now this much-anticipated tech is becoming a reality. Uber, Delphi, Google and Ford are just a handful of companies that have developed or are developing driverless fleets. By 2020, there will be approximately 10 million autonomous cars on the road. Most companies will release their automotive technology by 2021, but some ambitious automakers (like Volvo) are aiming to launch as early as this year. In short, driverless cars will become commonplace, especially in urban environments. These cars will be connected, intelligent and efficient, paving the way for new business models. According to General Motors CEO Mary Barra, the most important thing that self-driving cars offer is time. In fact, McKinsey has estimated that AVs will free up 50 minutes of drivers’ time per day. Once cars can drive themselves, they become a promising new resource. But what exactly will passengers use them for, and how can businesses use this to their advantage?

What will future autonomous vehicles do?
Driverless cars, first and foremost, will get us to where we want to be. . . but the possibilities stretch way beyond this. Connected, AI-enabled vehicles present challenges and opportunities for everybody, from corporates to consumers. Perhaps the biggest change will come to the financial sector, as people use their cars to manage and spend money. AV banking could be viewed as the next step in mobile banking – vehicles will be able to make payments like toll charges and garage bills without requiring physical transactions. Just like paying for coffee via a smartphone app, your car will eventually be able to process your Starbucks order. . . and go and pick it up, too.

Cars don’t just have to be efficient – they have to be interesting. The experience within the car is incredibly important, which has been fully recognised by Ford. Self-driving cars simply won’t entice consumers if the journey resembles a standard taxi ride, so Ford has showcased in-car games and experiences in a recent ad campaign. According to a report conducted by Ernst Young, combining driverless cars with video streaming could generate revenues of $20 billion for the entertainment industry. Ford and Nissan already have on-board Alexa, proving in-car, info-entertainment systems. As well as watching films or series, travellers could use their time to play games, perhaps even in VR. This is also a massive opportunity for music companies, who would certainly benefit from extra consumer attention. On top of this, the new outlet for media presents the perfect chance for marketers to advertise their products. However, it won’t all be fun and games. Commuters will be able to use the space within driverless vehicles as a portable office, perhaps even arranging meetings whilst sharing a ride to work.

How disruptive are connected AVs?
Alongside the initial disruption caused by autonomous vehicles, what goes on inside the cars will bring about even more changes to existing business models. In finance, connected vehicles will transform payment processes, potentially even authorising payments without the driver’s input. This is a challenge for traditional banks, who will have to offer competitive services that customers want to integrate with their cars. Marketers will be able to analyse the data collected and generated by IoT-connected cars, tailoring their services to suit consumers. In terms of entertainment (film, TV, music and gaming), the industry could see a huge increase in digital-media revenues. IoT entertainment will evolve from B2B to B2C, as media companies interact directly with consumers. These businesses are likely to follow in the footsteps of autonomous vehicle innovators and set up strategic partnerships. Audi, for example, is working with Baidu and various other Chinese technology firms to create integrated services. However, there are still numerous barriers to the adoption of autonomous cars, including their cost and the need to clarify regulations. Automakers have to reach a high standard of Level 4 autonomy before they can implement any advanced, connected systems. The success of these platforms also relies on the willingness of the passenger to invest in autonomous vehicles as an extension of themselves.

AVs will disrupt businesses and society itself by saving time, collecting data and enabling a plethora of different on-board services. The vehicle will take on the role of a capable personal assistant, authorising payments and completing errands both during the journey and when the passenger isn’t even there. In short, the role of the car will change from a singular transportation method into a portable office, a relaxation space, a cinema, a personal shopper. . . the list goes on. By freeing up so much human time, AVs will become a vital media outlet as well as important data generators. Of course, autonomy needs to be fully developed before cars can really become four-wheeled PAs. If research and testing continues at the same remarkable rate, passengers could be using connected, personalised systems in driverless cars well before 2021. . . and businesses could use them to make a fortune.

Will connected, driverless vehicles be commonplace by 2021? How else will connected cars impact our daily lives? Share your thoughts and opinions.