Opinion

Driverless Vehicles and More

Philip Levinson, Contributor

Ray Taylor, Contributor

What traditional sector has experienced more recent change than the automotive industry?

Witness the ubiquity of electric vehicles, the explosion of ride-sharing services and the introduction of autonomous vehicles. In fact, flying cars are being tested today and even jet propulsion packs are now for sale.

“There are few, if any, longstanding segments of the economy changing faster that the automotive and transportation sectors,” says venture capitalist Serik Kaldykulov, an investor in Hyperloop One and Fleet. “This disruption is reshaping our infrastructure from its first principles, creating plenty of opportunities for investors.”

So, what changes are coming in 2019 and beyond?

There are three huge connected car developments coming that will drastically change the automotive sector:

  1. Drive My Car: The automotive sector shifts gears to services and peer-to-peer business models.

Ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft are just the beginning of the service-oriented disruptions coming to the automotive sector. Other peer-to-peer and managed fleet variants include Turo, Tesloop and Fair, among many others.

Turo, formerly RelayRides, has raised over $170 million to date and allows owners to rent their own vehicles to other people – an Airbnb model applied to car rentals. The VC-backed company, boasts over 200,000 vehicles across its combined active markets, with over 5 million total users registered on the platform. “The sharing economy is a great way to provide more access and opportunity to more people,” says VC Shripriya Mahesh, an early investor in Turo. “It’s easy to see the transportation industry evolve into more of a peer-to-peer model.”

Tesloop recently launched Carmiq, an online service for connected electric vehicles (EV), which is focused on expanding the peer-to-peer model with electric vehicles, allowing drivers to share, use and split profits with ride-sharing drivers with their EV.

There is also Fair, the Santa Monica-based company founded by auto industry veterans Georg Bauer, Fedor Artiles and Scott Painter. The company offers flexible car ownership options, such as customizable long-term car rental and short-term auto lease options. With over $1 billion in total financing from VC and strategic investors, including BMW i Ventures and Penske, Fair represents a disruption of the traditional car-buying and leasing experience.

The theme with each of these examples is the automotive sector’s drastic shift to flexible, service-oriented business models. Dr. Ulrich Quay, BMW i Ventures’ CEO, says of Fair, “The company allows users to access vehicles without a fixed term. This appeals in particular to younger generations who want more flexible usage models.”

Indeed, we can expect even more services with more flexibility and options in the coming months and years.

  1. Driverless Vehicles Coming Soon: Cities, governments & regulators start embracing of autonomous vehicle technology in critical ways.

We’ve all heard the pessimistic stories of cities and localities raising concerns and regulating autonomous driving, such as the City of San Francisco’s temporary crackdown on Uber’s self-driving tests in 2016. But examples like this belie the fact that driverless solutions are already being embraced by dozens of cities around the world.

For example, EasyMile, an autonomous driving technology company based in France, partnered with DemandTrans, and they have already seen their EZ10 driverless shuttle deployed by public agencies in 20 countries, including Kaohsiung City, Taiwan.

In addition, Uber Freight is now utilizing autonomous trucks for its first-run tests in Arizona, and Google’s Waymo announced its order of thousands of Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans as it plans to roll out its autonomous taxi service in Phoenix in a few months. In addition, udelv recently launched the first public road tests of last-mile grocery deliveries by autonomous vehicle.

So, when will individual drivers be able to settle into their own autonomous vehicle? It’s not necessarily imminent. Driverless technologies will be made available to organizations and fleets first. Ironically, self-driving proponents like Uber, Lyft and others are lobbying for their fleet access but are requesting that autonomous vehicles in cities “be operated only in shared fleets.”

  1. Data and More Data: Connected car analytics emerge as a top priority…and a key issue.

A quick glance at automotive technology headlines in 2018 illustrates how important connected car data and analytics will be in the future:

“Ford Plans 100% Connected Cars By Next Year,” says one.

“Why Your Car Company May Know More About You Than Your Spouse,” says another.

There are 78 million cars with data connections on the road today, and by 2021, 98% of new cars sold in the U.S. and Europe will be connected, according to Gartner. With cars today averaging as many as 100 million lines of code per vehicle, the opportunity to capture voluminous amounts of data about you and your vehicle is massive. This shift brings many challenges and issues, along with a number of opportunities.

Few have done better at advocating for the potential of this movement than John Ellis, author of The Zero Dollar Car. He estimates that the value of the data generated by your new car – to insurance companies, advertisers, regulators and companies like Apple or Google – could be as much as $40,000 over the life of your car.

“The value of that data could end up being equal to or more than the purchase price of a car,” Ellis writes. “It could be a data bonanza.”

Analytics can also benefit drivers by providing services and safety features, such as automatic opt-in mileage reporting and digital tire monitoring that tracks of tire pressure issues and punctures in real-time

Determining who exactly owns and controls this data – and how – will be key. Also, with such massive amounts of data and an urgent need to process it quickly, using a traditional cloud-native data computing platform will often not work well.

“End users are generating content that needs to be processed quickly for a better end-user experience,” says Haseeb Budhani, CEO of Rafay Systems. “Devices (and things) are now connected to the Internet and are generating telemetry that needs to be analyzed rapidly.”

Budhani’s point provides context for Nissan’s recent announcement of its new brain-to-vehicle technology that measures brain wave activity, generating even more data analysis immediacy.

Indeed, there has been a lot of disruption to the automotive and transportation sectors to date, and fasten your seatbelts, there are many more changes coming.


Philip Levinson is Vice President of Marketing at EdCast, which uses AI and machine learning to provide distributed knowledge and automation cloud platforms for enterprises, including HPE, Dell EMC, Schneider Electric, Accenture and others. Follow him on Twitter @plevinson.

Ray Taylor is a Partner at Alchemic Solutions Group, a strategic consulting firm based in Silicon Valley providing advisory services to companies worldwide, including Samsung, Verizon. Sprint, ABF Freight and Qualcomm. Ray serves as an EIR at SK Telecom Americas.

November 15, 2018
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