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Connected and automated vehicle technology is evolving quickly and we are already on the road to a future of driverless cars. The convergence of government agendas, technology developments and community expectations will continue to shift and will require regular recalibration. Attempting to discern between the hype of PR buzz and deployable road-ready technologies is challenging, particularly for public and private organisations that feel the pressure to act now.
The mass adoption of fully automated vehicles won’t happen overnight, with the transition likely to be tempered by the raft of changes that are needed to pave the way. The view that we should maintain the current mobility system while testing new technologies in incremental steps will be challenged by disruptors in this field, who with fewer vested stakes to protect, will continue to exert pressure on existing systems. In the near future, these technology advancements will lead to a tipping point, after which the momentum of change will become unstoppable.
Until then, even if there is an understandable reluctance to invest in a particular solution given the rapid depreciation and uncertainty of new technologies, a short-term technology-focussed view is one way organisations can take stock, plan, and prepare for the impending and almost certain change. Further, articulating the aims that the organisation wants to achieve will also help frame the implementation of certain technologies over others.
In Australia alone, there are now over 20 connected and automated vehicle trials, with many jurisdictions choosing to trial pre-programmed Level 4 last mile shuttles. As confidence in the technology grows, operators and regulators alike will have a better understanding about the boundaries of these vehicles’ capabilities. This is likely lead to more high automation connected vehicle trials as well as controlled Level 5 vehicle trials in the very near future.
The launch of Nanyang Technology University and Volvo’s 12-metre automated electric bus in March 2019 as well as the public operation of Sydney’s driverless Metro train are examples of the next phase of trialling and operation.
In the light fleet vehicle market, Level 2 and 3 vehicles are no longer a novelty with most new vehicles on the market having this level of automation. Safety features such as lane-keep assist, self-parking and autonomous emergency braking will become a standard feature in the next 5 years. Further, we’ll see greater availability of Level 3 conditional automation technology such as adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assist, where the vehicle can monitor the surrounding environment. Advanced safety features in automated vehicles will see vehicle software revenues include fourfold to $1.2 trillion USD by 2030. These advancements will certainly challenge current enforcement and liability-based schemes as the driving task becomes automated with drivers relinquishing greater control to the vehicle.
In the race towards higher levels of automation, there has been an increasing number of announcements by global car manufacturers and governments, ranging from the launch of an automated food delivery pilot by General Motor’s Cruise Automation in partnership with food delivery company DoorDash, expected to start this year, to robot taxis, expected to be deployed by Audi in 2021 and new Tesla’s autopilot chip enabling full self-driving mode. Some other examples are provided in Figure 3.
During this initial transition phase, organisations and governments should assess how ready they are for the upcoming disruptions by considering the following points:
Performance and resilience
Vision and leadership
Service and inclusion
While there are endless historical examples of technological advancement and disruption there are opportunities to overcome past legacies with innovative approaches. The degree of disruption will also vary depending on the preparedness of organisations and given the approaching wave of technology developments, it is prudent for organisations to shape their future roadmap now.
Anna is a Director with the Infrastructure Advisory & Contestability team at Deloitte, focusing on transport policy and strategy in the areas of connected and automated vehicles, road safety and smart cities and working nationally on engagement with both the public and private sector.