Those who reject the idea of fully automated vehicles on the road are missing the point – they’re already here. True, they’re not like the car from Knight Rider with its unfeasibly long list of features but they are backed and developed by innovative brands such as Ford, Volvo, Tesla, Google and Uber.
It’s been a long journey to this point, perhaps longer than you think. NavLab 1, for example, was created at Carnegie Mellon University, USA, back in the mid 1980s. You can see a fascinating short film about the different programme models integrated into their onboard systems here.
Are we there yet? Not quite!
Alongside any technological challenges there are other obstacles to negotiate.
Let’s talk tech first. A 5G network will support Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) interfacing. This platform will need to deliver dependable real-time data and low-latency processing and response times. As an individual you think you’re just travelling in a driverless car, but the wider reality is that you will be part of an autonomous and self-regulating integrated transport system. Safety is paramount, given the 24,610 fatalities or serious injuries on UK roads in the year ending March 2016.* The system has to function as a neural network, processing information from every other driverless car derived through cameras, sensors, onboard radar and LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). Add to that the GPS tracking and external feeds from Highways Agency data about roadworks. And don’t forget the weather!
Unsurprisingly, some of those other obstacles we alluded to may not have been defined yet, let alone considered – much like Donald Rumsfeld’s famous ‘unknown unknowns’ soundbite. Here’s the fruit of our coffee break!
1. Should someone who is intoxicated be allowed in ride in a driverless Uber taxi? Will it be technically possible to wrestle control of it? (If it’s one of Ford’s driverless models, planned by 2021, lacking a steering wheel or pedals, this might be a moot point.)
2. How will the insurance premiums be calculated?
Ford also wants to make driverless cars for sale, which presumably requires an entirely new class of vehicle insurance.
3. What happens if the passenger refuses to get out?
Think free coffee shop wifi without the tutting cafe owner!
4. Could a driverless car be hacked and operated remotely?
It could be Grand Theft Auto by proxy (server)!
5. How do you factor in the human factor – in other drivers and pedestrians? Here’s a recent example of an accident involving a Google self-driving car, caused by someone else not obeying the rules.
6. Who will coordinate the capture of the Big Data (route and gradient mapping and updates, integration of existing databases, etc.) necessary for the system to run? And let’s be clear, it needs to be a single, standarised system, with one set of protocols.
7. The biggest question: What happens if the network fails?
We’re presuming there will be in-built safety features such as doors automatically unlocking, a way to contact a control centre help and perhaps a panic button, especially if you come to an unexpected halt in the wrong part of town.
The major players in the marketplace are already jostling for position. Perhaps that’s why Apple is reportedly interested in acquiring McLaren, famed for its engineering and ownership of a Formula1 racing team. Or…it could be because McLaren has recently created its own electric car.
Manufacturers and retailers in the driverless car market will need to carefully consider their campaign slogans. An emphasis on speed or machismo may create a backlash. Even a memorable tagline, such as Peugeot’s ‘the drive of your life’, could be open to misinterpretation! Reliability, safety, comfort and security are likely to feature prominently in advertising. We’re rather fond of: Sit back and enjoy the ride.
That ride represents a huge opportunity for the OOH industry and for brands. Content needs to be innovative, relevant and effective. Next time, we’ll look at ways in which OOH might respond to that near future and how OTM (On the Move!) could get up close and personal.
* UK Department of Transport statistics (click here)