AD in 2018: Resolutions, realism and recalibration
Hello, automated driving community! No rest for the AD wicked, the CES shadow looms and another healthy dose of realism: we bring you this week’s key stories from the world of automated driving!
Happy new year and welcome to the first ‘Week in Automated Driving’ of 2018! It’s very exciting to carry the momentum of our growing 2025AD community into its third year! If 2017 was anything to go by, prepare for even more exciting content, industry developments, exchange and discussion ahead!
As many of us (myself included) were still digesting our turkey dinners or sleeping off New Year’s Eve festivities, it seems the automated driving industry hit the ground running in 2018. Indeed, there were a few stories that caught my eye since our last WIAD offering – all of which indicate signs of some very promising progress.
While it maybe wasn’t a white Christmas everywhere, it most certainly was in Northern Finland where Finnish tech company VTT made significant tracks in tackling sensors’ nemesis. “Martti”, an autonomous Volkswagen Touareg test model became the first self-driving car to drive fully automated through 3 inches of snow. Also, it seems new players will continue to throw their hats (and hopefully creative minds) into the proverbial AD ring in 2018 with Blackberry joining forces with Baidu to jointly develop self-driving vehicle technology – a move that sent BlackBerry’s shares up 13 percent. And, speaking of shares, Continental and Bosch both bought themselves 5% each into the HD map provider HERE. They join Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz as co-owners of a firm that seems to gain more and more support from the automotive heavyweights. So, as it looks, 2018 has kicked off pretty well, but in the tech world, no new year really kicks off until a certain show comes to town…
It’s ShowTime in Las Vegas!
That’s right, it’s CES time – the global stage for innovation where self-driving technology has played an increasingly starring role over the last few years. This year, however, there’s a treat in store which marks (or at least should mark) a subtle yet significant shift in thinking.
When the tech world and his wife descends onto Sin City on January 9th – 12th, some will be lucky enough to experience autonomous vehicles first hand. Lyft is partnering with self-driving technology company Aptiv to offer rides in its robot taxis which will be shuttling from the convention center to certain destinations. And it’s not just another controlled environment demo or shiny new concept car. This fleet of eight BMW 5 Series sedans equipped with Aptiv’s automated driving technology (and a backup safety driver on standby) will be mixing it up on the public roads and dealing with all of the uncertainties that brings.
A gutsy move but a necessary one. Because much like we said in the wake of the IAA, automated driving is no longer about putting up silvery-sprayed concept chassis promising future abilities. Rather, it is something that can and should be experienced. If this goes well, next year’s CES could look very different. Meanwhile, another city is also gearing up for the automotive industry’s kick-off – the Detroit Motor Show. Let’s see how the future of mobility and automated driving is portrayed in its AUTOMOBILI-D section. While much smaller and less glitzy than CES, this event arguably provides more opportunities to get ‘hands-on’ when it comes to discussing AD. Symbolic of the difference between the two cities I guess...
Approaching the slope of enlightenment
Back in the day, when 2025 was being conceived, we put together a timeline of automated driving. This included a prediction from business information provider IHS Markit, about the number of autonomous cars that would be on the road globally by 2035. That number: 54 million. In a report released on Tuesday, the same firm predicted that Autonomous Vehicle sales will surpass “only” 33 million annually in 2040! That’s considerably less – and 5 years later!
So why the adjusted prediction? My aim is not to nit-pick here. In fact, just like when Bill Ford announced that the firm is not in a rush to deliver self-driving cars despite promising them by 2021, I see this as a welcomed and reassuring dose of realism triggered by how developments have unfolded. (In saying that, just how realistic the report’s predicted arrival of autonomous vehicles in 2019 is remains to be seen!)
In a similar vein, as 2017 drew to a close, Volvo also scaled back its ‘Drive Me’ promise of deploying 100 SUVs equipped with IntelliSafe Autopilot onto the streets of Gothenburg. In an excellent article, WIRED puts this down to Gartner’s hype cycle where a period of “inflated” expectations is naturally followed by the “trough of disillusionment” when hard realities set in and expectations are recalibrated. Even if that is the case, if the first week is anything to go by, this year will build enough momentum to carry us out of this trough and onto the ‘slope of enlightenment’. Now doesn’t that sound just lovely.
So long, drive safely (until cars are driverless),