Antonymous driving is on the horizon and we're going to make it work.

Person driving a car

Vehicle automation, mandatory speed limiting technology, black boxes, smart sign communication and autonomy looks set for our life time. It’s currently causing a lot of speculation and as we approach a new era of vehicle automation our relationship with the once humble car, is about to transform forever. This evolution is sure to bring excitement, scepticism and a lot of questions from four generations who are about to feel that change.

Interestingly, Millennials find themselves sandwiched between three generations. Traditionalists and Baby Boomers reminisce about ancient analogue mechanical machines whilst Generation Z is being born into a new digital world.

Consequently, this leaves us in a sort of equilibrium, where humans experience the good and bad of evolutionary change simultaneously. We must acknowledge and accept that the playing field being built is not for us. Everything we do for vehicle automation is to support the future of transportation. The industry is going through a revolution and we have been tasked to test the infrastructure, whether we like it or not.

Ten years ago…

A Telegraph / AXA survey  told us despite potholes, pouring rain and stiff penalties, British drivers still loved to get behind the wheel.  There is a great fondness between humans and vehicles similar to that of us and animals. As a species, we have a deep routed connection with tactile creatures. It is part of our biological make up, an addition to our sensory motor system and this only heightens our affection towards our trusty tin pets. For thousands of years, we once shared a comparable bond with horses before the car took its place. Therefore, when radical change happens we feel it more because for many, vehicles are seen as part of the tribe.

Furthermore, they play a huge part in our professional and personal lives. We depend on them like trustworthy people. Salesmen regard their company vehicle as a huge benefit and some company directors even believe their fleet is as important as the employees that drive them.  At some point, every man made thing in the world has been moved from A to B in a metal shell propped on two or more cylinders. Once you get your head round that, it only proves that vehicles are one of the most important cogs to our functioning existence. We also spend a fair amount of our lives in a self-customised and confined space to travel from home, work and destinations that induce pleasure. It helps us get what we want.

Historically…

A running theme of anthropomorphism runs rife between the nooks and crannies of man made machines. It is apparently a sign of social intelligence and once ownership begins, we seek deep and meaningful connections with our vehicles. People assign names, remember their faces and even talk to them. As a result, it eventually grows a personality and these distinguishable relationships are built by the nature that defines us. Vehicles are personal to us and play a major role in who we are.

This could explain why we have such an emphatic obsession with our metal companions and a need to create deep and meaningful connection. Our fixation lies beneath the subconscious. To put it simply, once we switch on the engine and bring it to life, we are in control of our own destiny.

Vehicle automation could remove a lot of our physical and emotional connections we once had. Bill Hicks once said our world “is just a ride in an amusement park” and when you choose to go on it, you think it’s real and it has thrills and chills and goes up and down. We want to feel in control of our lives and driving plays a huge part in that. Remove the thills, the speed and the danger, driving will become flavourless.

For some…

This will be music to their ears, especially if the connection was never there in the first place. The vehicle is merely a slave and its purpose is a need to meet an end. They are a practical solution to an impractical world that carries risk, danger, cost and stress. They clog up our roads, damage our environment and trigger vast amounts of noise pollution. Road rage brings out the worst in people and they cause thousands of needless accidents and deaths every year. Vehicle automation will eradicate this.

We should also consider the access automation contributes to everyone, benefiting disabled people, the lower class and drivers from all over the world. It could potentially be a network based on clever algorithm with minimal human error. A facility designed to prevent careless deaths whilst achieving an incredible amount of advanced efficiency. Jump in a car and never worry about the actions of others again. Focus more on the company you keep rather than the dangers around you. So why aren’t we excited about autonomous technology? It might be down to behavioural traits engrained in our personality.

We love to make time for ourselves and a vehicle provides an opportunity to do that. Ride solo and enjoy some peace and quiet, an added luxury that comes for free. Think of it as driving therapy, where it’s just you and the road. Unfortunately vehicle automation might make this harder to achieve. Imagine a service where it costs a premium to drive for the sake of driving. You could be penalised for travelling alone rather than in a group.

Skip 10 years…

Since the Telegraph’s survey and autonomous driving is at the forefront of the industry’s mind. Staying ahead of the game is very important and the race could boost the UK economy by £62 billion within the next 10 years.  The UK also has a very unique insurance legislation offer with widespread trials already under way.

Manufacturers are investing billions into research and development. BMW has launched a brand new 3D Centre specialising in Autonomous Driving, to gather huge quantities of data and handle various complex traffic situations. The data pool is going to be huge. Imagine an apartment, roughly 80m² and with a ceiling height of 3m. Fill that space with stacks and stacks of CD’s until every square inch is gone and multiply that whole apartment by about 50. That’s the amount of data BMW are going to gather. It’s enough data to fill 23,000 IPhone Xs. The bandwidth needed to collect and analyse 3.5 million kilometres of human driving is enough to broadcast one million HD television programmes simultaneously.

Our relationship with large data companies could be seen as slightly troublesome. There is a lack of trust between the public and companies with a reputation of miss-selling our data to the highest bidder. We are also beginning to see an increase in artificial crime and one large company has been accused of committing the largest case of civil fraud in UK history. This is something that we collectively assess daily. From the influence and reach of lobbying, national news and the local press how will these stories influence tomorrow’s world?

Today’s children are born into an environment where data sharing and lack of privacy is becoming the norm and companies are already gearing up for a killer strategy to encourage this. If you build a world where privacy and data isn’t seen as important, the next generation will be less reluctant to share and more willing to create an open source of information. Some people shudder at the thought of their privacy being linked to the internet, with a device that records our living habits, patterns and movements. Millennials have helped open the windows to all of our private lives, introducing cameras on our gaming systems and smart phones connected to the World Wide Web. Sound recording devices lie in our homes, analyse our activity and order our stuff. We sleep with a watch that monitors our pulse and evaluates our health.

Intrusive, evasive or genius?

Technology will always find a way of integrating with our lives. It’s more than likely that people in the next century will experience an advanced service where data is seamlessly shared and driverless transportation will be the obvious solution. With scepticism looming and trust needed to cement our faith, how will manufacturers help us jump towards vehicle automation? You align it with the values of a new generation and enforce the service culture.

As you may know, this common pattern is slowly emerging. Everything we once owned is slowly being geared towards a subscription service. We no longer own music, films, phones, utilities, books or vehicles. Most of the largest car manufacturers in the world come from countries where home ownership comes second. It’s common knowledge that Europeans prefer to rent houses rather than own homes and these statistics are beginning to emulate the buying culture of many Brits. By 2021 it is predicted a quarter of UK households will rent privately and in the last decade the number of middle age people renting has doubled. Dealerships have also shifted the way they sell to coincide with a generation of service users. Like mobile phones, you lease your car for a few years and trade it in for the newest model. We no longer seek long lasting relationships with technological things. We want it customised, swapped, new, shiny and now! We want little commitment. No strings attached.

Vehicle Automation is for Gen-Z…

They are a multi-ethnic, gender fluid generation with some key traits that differentiate them from Millennials. They come with a liberal mind-set, are not ashamed to express their views on worldly pressures. They’re also tasked with saving the environment, a mess left by the capitalists that came before them. They are socially connected in a way that we could never perceive. The fear of change no longer exists. Alteration is acceptable. A company that promotes a solution and guarantees the reverse of climate change, sells a more productive fleet with digital communication, sources sustainable energy that’s cheaper than oil and provides an accessible service which prioritises public interest will win the heart of many. A service that hones artificial intelligence, with a higher safety rate than emotional humans, will win their trust. Most importantly, the stigma behind male and female drivers and stereotypes based on ‘harmless fun’ will no longer exist. The playing field will be equal. Our demand for renewable energy sources will change our relationship with the oil industry, more than likely affecting politics between the West and Middle-East. This is great news for environmentalists campaigning to ditch oil for sustainable energy. What a proud moment this could be for the young Brexiteer, yearning for a British solution, free from European tax and generated in an industry under full control.

As a result, more innovators like Elon Musk will surface. Computer scientists led by egg-heads in Silicon Valley will bring a new wave of thinking; even if it makes the brows of current stakeholders frown. They will change the way we interact with our vehicles. It will be an emotional journey and many of us will sigh, remembering what once was. However you shouldn’t worry because those desperate to get behind the wheel again can by paying £39.99 a month and joining iDrive, your brand new home 3D driving simulator.