CES: Connected cars, autonomous vehicles, and the future of driving

By | 5 minute read | January 6, 2017

leadspace image of las vegas skyline where the CES event is held

We joined a research panel discussion at CES 2017 focusing on connected cars, self-driving, and autonomy to see what the public are thinking, and where the future lies.

Karl Brauer of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book kicked off by sharing stats on what they have learned from their consumers and what they think of autonomous vehicles…

Participants were told what are autonomous vehicles were and shown the 6 levels of autonomy.

The six stages of autonomous cars

The six stages of autonomous cars

It seems that autonomous cars are still a mystery to most members of the general public, and that they remain skeptical about driverless technology, with 25% saying they knew nothing about it, and 35% just a little. It became very clear very quickly that customers didn’t understand the term autonomous, and preferred self-driving.

The future of self-driving cars

More than 62% of those questioned did not think they will see autonomous vehicles on the road in their lifetime, surprisingly including 33% of 12 – 15 year olds. And over 51% of those asked would prefer to have full control of their car, even if it meant they were less safe!

Will we see fully autonomous cars in our lifetime?

Will we see fully autonomous cars in our lifetime?

Removing the barriers

So how do we get more people on the road? What are the barriers and how do we remove them?

Of those surveyed the biggest issues were cost to buy and repair, and over 40% concerned about safety in terms of software hack or malfunction.

So what would help them overcome these barriers? For autonomous vehicles to be proven safe, and with an affordable price!

The barriers to adoption of driverless cars

The barriers to adoption of driverless cars

This seems to hold true, especially given the follow up data. It demonstrated that those who already own or have driven a level 2 car (lane keeping, cruise control etc.) were more likely to buy a level 5 fully autonomous car, with over 90% not concerned by safety issues. Trying has the potential to become buying. The more you try the more you trust.

Self-driving cars: panel discussion

Q: A lot of companies are focusing on mapping, but others for example Tesla want a vehicle to be self-contained with no outside guidance. What do you think is the best solution?

Doug Newcomb from C3 group: It’s really early days, I feel mapping is a very important part of the autonomous vehicle space, look at the show, look at CES, and what’s on display. I look at it like this, the car needs to know where it is AND what’s going on around it, people, stop lights etc. Google right out the gate did mapping – it’s essential.

Rebecca Lindland, from Kelley Blue Book: It needs to be a multilayer approach – there is no one perfect system. Roads are changing, and we need more solutions for a complex problem.

Chris Brewer of Ford: I agree, mapping is another sensing technology. As we try and replace a human being as a driver, safely, having a map to identify the un-moving objects reduces what the computer needs to look after, learn, and figure out, A multi-layer approach where cameras, sensors and maps are all crucial.

Karl Brauer: My litmus test is a place near me called Look Out Mountain, it’s a steep road, snow, and switch backs, and steep drops etc. I’d want to know that even with snow blocking sensors, with lane markers obscured, that the car could drive me there safely – and mapping would ensure that it still works.

Q: We know that ride handling could have people using this technology sooner, e.g. Uber. You’d never own a car, just call and it would show up and take you where you wanted to go. Is this a suggestion that makes the most sense for autonomous vehicles?

Chris: It’s something Ford are looking at. It removes all the barriers that were mentioned earlier. You can try before you buy, and it’s not expensive. You don’t have the worries of ownership.

Rebecca: Think of the options for those with disabilities, and how much freedom it would give them. My mom has glaucoma and cannot drive any more, she can’t wait to get into a driverless car.

Doug: We are going to see an explosion of new ways to demonstrate mobility and it will change the world…

Chris: This is going to be the biggest transformation in our lifetime, bigger than the boom when vehicles became inexpensive in the eighties.

Rebecca: Yes! It’ll be messy and ugly for a while, but it’s exciting and new.

Q: A lot of people are working on AI (artificial intelligence) right now, it’s going to end up being executed in autonomous technology. Humans do so much when they drive, see, gesture – how does a computer do that?

Doug: AI is going to be at the centre of autonomous vehicles. As you have already described you know how to drive, and we process so many things without thinking about it. We have to get to that point with a computer and AI is opening up the world to do that. People worry that it will take-over the world but it is crucial to teach a computer to drive safely and securely like a human would. With the advances of deep learning we could see the value of autonomy very rapidly.

Rebecca: You have to be so many things to so many people, not just a car, or car sharing, businesses need to broaden their scope to survive. Things need to change.

Mark Granger of NVIDIA: We need Ecosystems of people bringing autonomy to market. Leaders like Ford, auto suppliers, tech providers, so many people have kicked it into another gear. It’s a really exciting time.

IBM and autonomous vehicles

IBM recently launched an autonomous commuter vehicle ‘Olli’ in partnership with Local Motors, powered with Watson Artificial Intelligence. We also have a range of automotive partners and solutions.

CES 2017 Panelists: Connected cars and the future of driving

Chris Brewer – Ford

Doug Newcomb – C3 Group

Karl Brauer – Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book

Mark Granger – NVIDIA

Rebecca Lindland – Kelley Blue Book