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The Future of Cars is Autonomous

August 12, 2019 5 min read


The automotive industry has experienced numerous breakthroughs, but none as groundbreaking as the technological upheaval that has been occurring over the last decade. Traditional patterns and manufacturing methods are slowly shifting as the digital revolution leads to reinventing all the hardware and software architecture on vehicles.

To some, this is disruptive technology occurring in stages and we are already witnessing the unfolding of these stages occurring as more and more automotive companies are creating their own unique “car of the future”. The goal is for cars to operate and eventually look completely different than they do today. 


The futuristic cars of today

Will the future be flying cars? Ten years from now, perhaps not. But the changes occurring today might be the steppingstone to flying cars. Let's look at the most prominent car evolutions that are happening today.


The electric car

Electric was the first phenomenon to transform cars. Upon its first introduction, the electric car was warmly received by environmental organizations, however, experts deemed it only workable in the public transportation space as the technology to mass-produce them wasn’t sophisticated enough.

Beating these predictions, electric cars are currently slowly emerging as a must-have in all the transportation segments and are now equipped with numerous technological advantages that its predecessors were not privy to. Its alleged historical weaknesses, such as autonomy or road performance, no longer apply.

Electric cars have been praised by environmental organizations and greatly reinforced by environmental obligations to reduce particle and greenhouse gas emissions. The goal here is to have gasoline cars banned around the world.  When this happens, producers will have to make electric cars for the mass consumer regardless of the income. So, it is safe to say that in a couple of decades, electric cars may surpass the number of traditional cars on the road.


The autonomous car

It is the most spectacular revolution as cars will be able to do without their drivers. Even though not yet a complete reality, the process to make it happen is in full speed. Today we already have cars equipped with cruise control, allowing drivers to set a cruising speed and remove their feet from the pedals. Some cars also offer driver assistance systems which allow drivers to remove their hands from the wheel in certain situations such as when parking or during a traffic jam.

The next step is 100% autonomy. Currently, Engineers are in the process of replacing human eyes with numerous cameras, sensors, and lasers that will reproduce the environment in 3D and allow the vehicle to independently make navigation decisions. Google’s famous, Google car intrigued most manufacturers to start looking at autonomy. Manufacturers are currently in the phase of conducting major tests on the roads.


The connected car

The connected car will the complete package. It will bring a complete paradigm shift. The car of the future will be highly advanced and fully connected with object and humans.

This car will be able to react and exchange information with the outside world concerning traffic, weather, vehicle condition, service stations, accidents, etc. Eventually, through various sensors, it will be able to communicate with other vehicles but also with the infrastructure (roads, buildings, etc.).

In addition, this car will offer various online services to passengers such as Wi-Fi, cloud, media, entertainment, etc. No longer will commuting be a bore as people will have plenty of opportunities to answer emails, watch the latest film released in cinemas or skype a friend on the other side of the planet.


The dawn of futuristic auto manufacturing

Accordingly, these cars will bring with them a new method of manufacturing and factories will be nothing like today’s as these cars will require completely different hardware and software. 

The body will need to be altered to incorporate new technologies such as lightweight composite and 3D printing materials. The car will be connected to numerous smart devices and integrated- including computers, cameras, infotainment centers to ensure the connectivity and range of the vehicle. This means a complete overhaul of the car’s electronic architecture must occur to ensure that the car of the future is electric, autonomous and connected. Another facet of the complex manufacturing process is, who will provide the operating systems for these smart cars. More importantly, who will control the users stored data? Will it be the car manufacture or the owner of the operating system?


Who’s winning the fully autonomous car race?


Currently, Waymo - Google’s formerly self-driving car is leading the race to the world’s first completely autonomous car. Even though tesla’s electric car has brought much uproar it isn’t near as formidable as the Waymo. Closely following Google is General Motors with plans to introduce thousands of Chryslers Pacifica minivans with kitted out sensors that can see hundreds of yards in any direction. GM plans to start a ride-hailing service with its Chevrolet Bolt late next year. The Bolt has neither steering nor pedals and is the ultimate end-goal in autonomous technology.

Other brands such as Mercedes- Benz, Toyota, Volkswagen, etc. are solving the last remaining self-driving, puzzles, targeting 2020 or later to release. However, in the upcoming years, all these contenders will be able to show off cars capable of navigating the streets and traffic completely autonomous.


The consumers’ perspective on autonomous cars

In a survey conducted by the University of South Florida, a good majority (44%) of the consumers’ surveyed aren’t interested in investing in autonomous vehicles or using it as a service. Nonetheless, 37% would want to own an autonomous vehicle for personal and family use.  Interestingly, only a small percent of consumers would like to passive income with their autonomous vehicle.

Noticeably, a high percentage of female respondents are not interested in purchasing an autonomous vehicle or using them as a service. Like women, the older generations seem less enthused about investing in autonomous vehicles or using them as a service.


Final thoughts

With the technological advancements happening in the automotive manufacturing industry, fully autonomous cars might be here sooner than predicted. Currently, Waymo - Google’s formerly self-driving car is at the forefront of the race to the world’s first completely autonomous car with many competent contenders following closely behind. It is safe to say that decades from now everyone will be driving autonomous cars.


*Menon, Nikhil, "Autonomous Vehicles: An Empirical Assessment of Consumers’ Perceptions, Intended Adoption, and Impacts on Household Vehicle Ownership" (2017). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.

Written by, Stefany Land