Autonomous Vehicles, Impending Reality?
An Update on Autonomous Vehicle Development
SCM World just held their Leaders Forum and 45% of respondents in a survey said ‘Lack of an Overall Roadmap’ was the biggest roadblock in pursuing digital initiatives.
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Autonomous Vehicles are a recurrent discussion point and are creating headlines worldwide with their development. With a market projected at being between $20-80 Billion by 2025-2030 depending on projection, and with nearly every major vehicle and tech company exploring autonomous vehicles (not to mention all of the new start-ups around the world) clearly there is something important going on here and we should all be paying attention.
In a larger context, the American federal government just gave an initial approval for 14 new laws that are aimed at accelerating the development of autonomous vehicles. This includes a law that will allow 100,000 autonomous vehicles a year to be on the road for testing before requiring state approvals. While these laws still need to be voted on in September before being passed, the panel reviewing them unanimously approved the laws. Bringing it closer to our home, both Edmonton, Alberta and Calgary, Alberta are getting into the game and considering research regarding autonomous vehicles.
Full adoption into the consumer market may take some time. However, it is important to talk about now and the significant societal/business changes it will bring. How will autonomous vehicles change how we set up infrastructure, insurance, parking among other issues?
A note should be made on the role of people in autonomous vehicles. All current regulation requires autonomous vehicles that are in an open environment to have a legal driver paying attention and able to take control at any time. This likely wont change anytime soon, but still, autonomous vehicles open up interesting avenues of new mobility possibilities.
Ethical concerns are worth a serious discussion, as it is with any new technology, to consider the impacts on society. Here are two key highlights about autonomous vehicles:
- Commonly discussed is the complex scenario where an autonomous vehicle, for whatever reason, is faced with a situation where they must However, do they swerve into the next lane to kill someone else but save the driver? Or does it stay course to save other people, but kill the driver? This is very complicated…. And brings forward an interesting question about how we place value in human life. We can’t say we have a very good answer for this question, but agree it certainly is an interesting ethical dilemma worth discussing. This TED-Ed video does a great job of explaining this further.
- Another ethical concern for autonomous vehicles is the projected safety advances they will bring. Autonomous vehicles are anticipated to bring incredible safety advances by eliminating human error in driving. It’s estimated 90% of crashes are caused by human error. This could bring incredible savings to government and people, and of course more importantly, save lives. With thousands of people dying or getting seriously injured in vehicles crashes every year, there are claims that it’s unethical for governments to NOT be advancing autonomous vehicle research and development. This video does a good job of discussing this.
As mentioned above, nearly every major vehicle and many tech companies are currently working on autonomous vehicles. Here is a condensed list compiled by Triskele Logistics:
Ford, Nissan/Renault, Honda, Daimler, Peugeot, Hyundai, Baidu, Tesla, Volvo, BMW, Audi, Toyota, General Motors, PSA Groupe
Google/Waymo, Uber/Otto, Bosch, FiveAI, Intel, nuTonomy, Faraday Future, LeEco, Lyft, Microsoft, Apple, Navya, Embark
Before we get into looking at Autonomous Vehicles and their impacts on Supply Chain, we would like to point out some companies that are currently working on Autonomous Semi Trucks:For more information, here’s a Wired article about 263 companies currently working on autonomous vehicles; it includes a wide variety of companies in the industry.
- Embark Trucks
Listed are four major companies, but this Business Insider article will detail 10, and this list certainly isn’t exhaustive. A few interesting updates on these companies:
- Freightliner officially opened their new testing facility to test advanced trucking technology.
- Otto has already delivered an order autonomously of 50,000 beers in Colorado.
- Tesla is set to unveil their version of an all electric autonomous semi in September 2017.
- Embark Trucks just raised $15 million in Series A funding.
Autonomous Vehicles in Supply Chain
Linking autonomous vehicles back to Supply Chain now. This technology will have huge impacts on the industry, with a potential to automate forklifts, trucks, trains, ships etc. There will still need to be people involved in these scenarios but likely the role those people fill will be much different than it currently is. This would also likely lead to skill changes in those workers.
In North America, the Supply Chain industry is a multi billion-dollar industry that employs millions of people. Like many industries, labour is a significant cost. While autonomous vehicles wont remove all labour, it should be expected that less labour input will be required. The labour that will remain will doing more value-added work and this presents a huge change on the labour costs in Supply Chain.
Another important change for the Supply Chain industry is vehicle to infrastructure communication. The autonomous vehicle will know its location and be able to directly communicate to the facility its driving distance, time to arrival, and other important conditions in real time. Similar ideas are already happening, and will likely grow with the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandates in both Canada and USA, but still requires significant human input. This change will mitigate waiting and loss for companies.
This only scratches the surface of changes from autonomous vehicles. Cost reductions and increased efficiency should be great for industry…but the road to get there will be bumpy. Nevertheless, autonomous vehicles present an intriguing future and interesting opportunities.
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- We have linked related items in this post to articles about the topics and highly encourage you to follow some of the links – there is a lot of great information.
- We would also like to thank the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence (CAVCOE) for the great work helping to advance this technology and educating Canadians.