Artificial intelligence (AI) is advancing, though perhaps not as fast as the hype cycles would have us believe. But we are starting to see AI being applied to tasks typically done by humans, including more intelligent chatbots that can answer first- and even second-level customer service requests, smart software bots automating business process tasks and pilot projects involving autonomous vehicles. It is these vehicles that have captured the popular imagination. Proponents envision a world in which deaths caused by speeding, distracted driving, fatigue, drunk driving and other human errors can be dramatically reduced. This is a world of ride-sharing, a world where elderly and disabled populations gain mobility, a world where many people, particularly in urban centers, won't even buy cars anymore.
In recent years, autonomous driving and so-called robotaxis have become one of the hottest topics in the automotive industry - and beyond! Recent autonomous vehicle forecasts call for sales of more than 30 million autonomous vehicles in 2040. Although the sharpest gains are expected to occur after 2030 compared to one million in 2025, commercial market introduction is announced by several OEMs for 2021. Traditional car manufacturers and established suppliers are not the only ones who are trying hard to find the sweet spots in this new emerging mobility value chain. Tech giants like Nvidia and Intel, leading software and internet players like Google (Waymo) and new mobility startups such as Aurora, Cruise and Uber are also on the verge of reaping the rewards of an entirely new future mobility era.
Within a few short years, a new wave of electric and self-driving vehicles will transform personal transportation as we know it. But for carmakers, these technologies will demand a staggering level of investment. They may not like the cost, but surviving through the radical new automotive era requires it. With the global economy cooling, German carmakers and suppliers seem set to embark on unprecedented collaboration, in the hope of sharing some of these development and production costs. BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, are in talks on a formal collaboration to work on key technologies and industry standards for autonomous driving.
A new survey of British motorists shows that car buyers are positive about the concept of the autonomous car. The research, commissioned by Bosch, shows that in addition to the current range of active and passive safety systems fitted to modern cars, many motorists would actively consider buying an autonomous car in the future. Measuring people's attitudes to both driving and travelling in autonomous vehicles, the survey also revealed that over one third of motorists think autonomous cars would reduce road accidents. Men are more at ease with the idea of autonomous vehicles – 44% think they would reduce road accidents compared to 21% of women. Despite the fact that the mainstream production of autonomous vehicles may be many years away, the basics of the technology are already in place on many modern cars.