Five ways autonomous cars will improve lives

Laurent Marini, Orange Business Services, highlights the true value of driverless cars.

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Five ways autonomous cars will improve lives Laurent Marini managing director of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman, Orange Business Services.
By  Laurent Marini Published  May 8, 2017

Driverless cars are heading towards us and could make us more productive, educated, and healthier. Whatever form they finally take, eventually they will transform the urban landscape — for the better. Because cities should be designed around people, not cars.

When the Model T Ford first rolled off the production line in 1908, few people could have predicted that within a century or so, these ‘horseless carriages’ would be able to drive themselves better than any human. Ford was alleged to have said that if he had asked people what they wanted him to design, they would have said a faster horse.

According to some, car ownership has already peaked; but have we really fallen out of love with the car? Certainly, not in the Middle East of course where the love of the car endures — from muscle cars to hybrids and electric. In fact, GCC sales are expected to continue to grow at 5% per year to 2020, despite lower oil prices and a slower economy.

But times are changing for this 100 year-old personal mobility technology that dominated the 20th century and defined our cities. We now want more than a ‘faster horse’.

The self-driving, always-connected car is becoming the technology battleground of the early 21st century, as giants from Silicon Valley including Google, Uber and Tesla, parry with automotive giants from Detroit to Munich, over the future of travel.

The technology and automotive industries are competing to be first to market with self-driving cars that are safe on the highways. Equipped with autonomous driving, low latency connectivity, car-to-car communications and hundreds of sensors, self-driving cars will provide automated emergency management, cloud-based infotainment and predictive analytics. At the same time, progress in electric batteries and the emergence of as-a-service business models, could mean that the future car is not one that we own but one that we call when we need a journey.

Here are five ways that driverless cars could improve our lives:

Safer for everyone

Humans play the biggest role in vehicle accidents.  According to the United States Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 94% of accidents can be tied to human error. Driverless cars could make roads safer both for passengers and pedestrians.

Driverless cars will be meshed in sensors that are constantly gathering data from the changing environment they are traveling in. These sensors include cameras, lasers and ultrasonic sensors which are continually collecting and programming data without getting tired like the human brain. The data that driverless cars collect will program them to travel at a safe distance and break faster than a human, when needed. Powerful processors for deep autonomous learning will ensure they continue to improve in performance, whilst creating a safer environment to travel in.

Get more done

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the average American spends 290 hours behind the wheel each year.  That is a huge amount of time that could be spent being productive and entertained.

Eventually driverless cars will not need a human to sit behind a wheel, ready to take control if the auto-pilot fails. Consequently, the interior will change to informal lounge style or office hot desks, complete with enhanced global conferencing facilities. The car will be a place to work, watch movies, sleep or catch up with the news or latest novel.

Cleaner air

Vehicles powered by batteries and fuel cells rather than petrol or diesel will have a dramatic impact on inner city pollution issues. Advances in battery power will mean we will be able to make an indefinite number of charges without degrading battery life. Trips of 1,000s of miles will be possible without a re-charge. Self-driving electric taxi cabs, for example, could cut greenhouse gas emissions from current car travel in the US by a staggering 94%, according to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Ownership is so yesterday

Three-quarters of UK automotive executives surveyed by KPMG think that by 2025 more than half of car owners will not want to own a vehicle, as driverless car-as-a-service takes over. This will change our relationship to car service providers. Our loyalty will depend on factors such as the availability of a car when we want one, the route it takes, the infotainment on offer and price.

Bentley, for example, is preparing the way for its future customers who it believes will have very different requirements from their limousine. In the future, Bentley will introduce more sophisticated connected car concierge services and ‘club ownership’, where ownership doesn’t relate to a single vehicle, but ‘luxury mobility solutions at selected cities around the world’.

From parking bays to parks

Various studies around the world show that cars are typically in motion for only five to ten percent of the day, depending on the level of local traffic. Fleets of driverless cars could change the design of our city centres and put a stop to the endless lines of parked cars down neighbourhood roads and battles for a parking space, whilst cutting congestion. The driverless car-as-a-service could be summoned on-demand by our intelligent personal assistant. With less parking needed, our streets could be widened and pedestrianised.

Furthermore, as the artificial intelligence (AI) in cars becomes more advanced and human-driven cars become obsolete, we can even do away with ugly road signage and traffic lights. Instead road markings will send information about upcoming hazards to connected cars, thanks to solar powered roads.

Laurent Marini, managing director of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman, Orange Business Services.

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