By: Kelly Weatherwax
Throughout the North American International Auto Show Industry Preview Days, conversations around autonomous vehicles flooded the halls. Everyone wants expert insight on when these vehicles will become consumer products, what infrastructure and legislation will be needed to move automated vehicles forward, and most of all – where will all the talent come from?
May Mobility CEO Ed Olson sat down in AutoMobili-D with a panel of experts from companies working on the future of automotive in one way or another, for more insight into how this autonomous drive industry will culminate.
So when will this technology take over the roads like the iPod took over the music industry? Samit Ghosh, President and CEO of P3 said by 2021 he believes most OEMs in the western world will have fully autonomous driving deployment, but there is still a lot more R&D and testing to be done to allow that to happen.
“Germany and the U.S. are leading on autonomous vehicle development. By2021 China will catch up. They’re lagging on key complexity, because of high congestion,” Ghosh explained. “Currently the U.S. is at the forefront with legislation like what Gov. Snyder signed. Other countries like China will be more restrictive and fall behind.”
Talent is top of mind
With innovation happening so rapidly, challenges arise that need to be addressed and the one that is top of mind for everyone is talent.
Udacity, an online education platform that offers AI courses with a focus on autonomous vehicle education, is one way people can get the skills they need for the growing industry demands.
“More than 10,000 students have enrolled in the ‘Intro to Self-Driving Cars’ course and go off to get jobs in Detroit, Silicon Valley and Germany,” explained David Silver, an engineer for the nanodegree program at Udacity. “At the end of the nine-week course the students take the code they worked on and test it on the road on an autonomous vehicle where they see real-time how the code interacts with lane and path finding, and adhering to traffic laws.”
Recognizing that P3 has a global talent pool, Gosh said the company is always looking for creative ways to recruit because attracting talent is a challenge with everyone fighting for the same finite resource.
“When it comes to project work, we are inclined to look at the U.S. market and look through certain visa regulations set up through NAFTA,” he explained.
Cybersecurity on the frontlines is key to success
Many have questioned if OEMs have learned from past mistakes.
“Are we handling security better with autonomous vehicles today than we did with the connected car where cybersecurity was an afterthought?” asked Geoffrey Wood, director of automotive cybersecurity for Harman. “Investing in security research to do R&D for technology to be implemented on the frontlines of this is going to be key to the success of autonomous vehicles.”
Ride-sharing alone is expected to pose a large vulnerability – when you get into the vehicle the car is going to know you in some way and the rider before or after you may have access to that data.
“Being able to pull data off vehicles and continually monitor the system – we need to get to that point infrastructure-wise,” Wood explained.
Investing in the proper research and engaging legislators early to understand the technology they are legalizing will be checkpoints in the process that will delay autonomous cars for years to come if missed.
Robust, safe infrastructure will be an expensive challenge
The way roads are designed, from signage to parking, will need to be different for autonomous vehicles to dominate the road, but who is going to fund new infrastructure?
“You can start charging a tax for driving, a curbside tax for shared vehicles, or a tax system to charge against vehicle owners that need that infrastructure in place,” said David Ben, chief technology officer for PPG.
Olson added that building maps, understanding traffic flow, building the shortest loop that makes sense, are all things May Mobility is currently working on.