Most of us probably believe that the onset of autonomous vehicles is inevitable, cars and trucks alike. But does anyone think it will go smoothly? I sure don’t.
For the most part we’re seeing very capable technology, and it will only get better. But I believe the mixing of autonomous vehicles and those piloted by real people is fraught with risk. The reason is simple: People are stupid. Their driving skills are nearly non-existent. They’re also unpredictable. They sneeze, they get distracted by billboards, they can’t resist texting – you name it, they do it. So they often lose control, and I would challenge even the most sensor-laden autonomous truck to deal with all the resulting surprises.
So here’s an idea that comes out of a study by KPMG that surveyed car-maker executives and car-buying consumers as to the trends they see.
Of the executives, 74% believe that mixing autonomous and non-autonomous traffic will lead to severe safety issues. Mixed traffic is not possible, they conclude, saying it’s unlikely that fully autonomous vehicles and human drivers will use the same roads. As a result, they predict, we’ll see the trend of separation instead of integration, and with it the implementation of new road concepts and traffic systems over the next 10 years.
But that timeline doesn’t quite square with another conclusion about our future: 94% of those executives believe that a fully working and effective driving policy and regulations for autonomous vehicles will be set up no later than 2040. I should think that, if we’re fooling with new road and traffic strategies that could start to be seen within a decade, we’ll want to have those other policies well in hand at more or less the same time.
Does any of that square with your own thinking? I’d love to hear what you think.
The KPMG report is the giant consulting firm’s 19th annual Global Automotive Executive Survey by its Automotive Institute. Bearing in mind that the survey focused on the automotive world, we’re not dealing with an exact mirror of what’s going on with commercial vehicles. Still, there are significant points of overlap.
For instance, the report has confirmed my thinking about power sources of the near future.
I’ve written a few times this year that my money is on the hydrogen fuel cell as the eventual power source of the future, the one that will seize the biggest chunk of the internal combustion engine’s territory, and maybe not so long into the future.
Executives in the survey project this kind of split by 2040: battery electric vehicles (26%), fuel cell electric vehicles (25%), internal combustion engines (25%), and hybrids (24%). That’s about cars, remember. I think you can almost discount hybrids in our world.
Interestingly, KPMG respondents said: “Fuel-cell electric vehicles have replaced battery electric vehicles as this year’s No. 1 key trend until 2025.”
And this next one is especially interesting: Of the executives surveyed, 55% believe that pure battery-electric vehicles will fail due to the challenge of setting up the required infrastructure.
Thought-provoking, I’d say.
And with that, I wish you a Happy New Year. May all your miles be smooth and all your challenges small.