As a designer of fuel cells for vehicles of all types I’m especially sensitive to trends that affect the industry were we play a role. There is a race to bring driver-less vehicles to market. Just about everyone seems to be on the racetrack, not just the auto makers, even Google has a dog in the hunt.
My view is that this fierce competition will probably prove to be short-lived. Why you ask? Let me explain my thinking.
The software which powers autonomous vehicles improves with experience. The software ‘learns and improves’ on what a good driver would do in any given situation. The more mileage (data) captured, the better the software is at analyzing and reacting to the environment around them, especially unusual events. The key factor of these ‘sensor fusion’ systems – Once a lesson is learned by a machine, it’s not forgotten. The lesson that was learned can be drawn upon by every vehicle that runs that software! This means some systems will be safer than others, and safety trumps everything in this application! As competitors ramp up, those that achieve perceived safety levels above their competition will attract more partners, fueling more data gathering, driving even more competitive advantage.
As we get to higher levels of autonomous vehicles government regulations will have a profound impact on the eventual winners. Systems with poor safety records will lose ground quickly and expire, because they can’t meet the rising tide of safety regulations.
I can see the day very clearly that safety might drive the government to force providers to share their ‘data’ or even core technology, all in the interest of preventing accidents or fatalities.
Who will win this race? I can’t wait to find out.