The autonomous car is on everyone’s lips. Not only because of the fascination that people feel when they see a car driven by a robot, not only because of the future legal issues that it forces us grapple with, but also because society loves to feel a future that they can suddenly feel and touch. The autonomous car is an undoubted and disruptive milestone in the accelerated race for technological prowess. The autonomous car will transform our societies and socio economics, taking them to a point where we will no longer recognize them and ourselves.
But beyond all of the above, the autonomous car revolves around a universe parallel to the commonly known and publicized one in which we live. Let’s analyze other hidden markets that will open as a result of the rise of autonomous cars.
The autonomous car: from fever to real prototypes on our roads
It was at the CES show a few years ago where I remember that they dedicated a complete block of time to the automotive sector, within which the autonomous car could only play a prominent role, as indeed happened.
Let’s briefly go into the background of the autonomous car (aka Google’s car).The truth is that Google is the first company to have brought not only the concept of autonomous vehicles to the table, but Â also to have produced real working vehicles.
There are many questions that these vehicles make us ask ourselves, questions about the technology of the future, questions about whether we will recognize our socioeconomics in a few years, legal questions etc… For you to get an idea of â€‹â€‹the importance of some of these issues, you can think about what behavior an autonomous car will adopt when it comes to, for example, anticipating an inevitable collision in which on one side there is a vehicle approaching from the front, while a cyclist is approaching from the side.
It is known that the reflexes that direct the last maneuvers of the drivers that are seen in this situation unconsciously end up choosing to collide with the cyclist (this unconscious does it for self-protection, because it minimizes the severity of the collision and possibly the victims, including him or herself). But, is it objectionable to program an autonomous vehicle to act in this way? Is it reckless (and even violent) to write the code so that an autonomous vehicle always opts to overwhelm the rider in these situations.
The obvious question then is, and how do we program then the logic that directs the behavior of these vehicles in these cases? Because what is clear is that something has to be programmed to the CPU of the vehicle: as long as Artificial Intelligence no longer evolves and robots can not program themselves on a large scale, nothing can help us to avoid this responsibility.
The main markets and tangible socio-economic changes that the autonomous car has opened
We will begin this section in a merely introductory way with the most widespread and obvious changes, since some have been overlooked. The first change is related to efficient driving and a decrease in energy consumption (electric or fossil fuels depending on the energy mix of each country). Another change is that the number of drivers will increase. A third important change is the one that, obviously, will bring the logistics and transportation sector to the future.
In fact, these changes transcend road transport, and are already advancing in self-propelled cargo ships, or improving the existing air navigation systems with artificial intelligence. Another change is the insurance sector; The issues raised in this field affect who is responsible for a subsidiary accident when an autonomous vehicle is involved, the occupant? The insurance company? The manufacturer of the vehicle? Or the company that has programmed the navigation system?
Without a necessarily direct relationship, the market for car rental minutes in major cities, which has been taking off for a few months, has an exponential projection when autonomous cars are also on the scene. Do not ask me exactly why, but it seems a fact that the players of the sector assume that an autonomous car will be seen by consumers as a commodity without great differentiation, and therefore I understand that for this reason they will tend much more to opt for the rentals over outright ownership; In other words, the sharing economy will only get bigger.
But another of the changes, especially relevant from the socio-economic points of view that I usually bring, is that the autonomous cars circulating massively on our roads will literally be an immense fleet of very advanced and intelligent devices, with much more computing capacity. In fact, we will be contributing to the immense data being generated when traveling in our car: we will populate the maps with routes, photos, rain or wind data sensors, traffic jams, accidents, road conditions, gas stations…and so on.
Right now, when you travel, your smartphone already captures and transmits a lot of information, but it will be much larger, more reliable, and omnipresent when your car does it by itself and permanently. The autonomous car will be autonomous not only by the driving, but also all the infinity of “other” new functions that it will assume.
Finally, we cannot end this section without including among those socioeconomic changes that will bring the autonomous car to the manufacturers of the new vehicle and the automotive industry. A combination of challenges that will transform one of the key industries of our socioeconomies, for its industrial capacity, and for the product that it puts in the hands of the citizens with everything that allows us.
And the main market that the Google Car will open that is hidden behind the headlines is…
Have you ever wondered why Google has been able to decide to embark on a project as far away from your traditional business as Google Car? It’s true that Google’s innovative reputation is far beyond the limits of online search and targeted advertising, but you will agree that it’s one thing to develop an app like the fantastic Google Sky Map, and quite another to get into a sector as complex as the automotive market.
I can not deny that it is obvious that Google has one of the pillars of its future in Google Maps and all the possibilities open to geo-localized advertising and online searches. It is certain that those in Mountain View have, for years, had a very clear understanding ofa Â future fleet of intelligent vehicles that, with multiple and powerful sensors, will help them populate and enrich their already huge databases and digitized world models.
But do you think this was the only motivation for such a complex project in such a competitive sector? It may be another motivation, I’m not going to deny it, but it really is an extremely potential benefit to the resources that the project is requiring. What if I tell you that there is another motivation that is very much tied to Google’s core business, and that it is going to contribute a few benefits from day one? What if I told you that the Google Car project may even result in a sonic failure, but nevertheless those benefits will continue to nurture the accounts in Mountain View?
Well, to be direct, what will bring benefits from day one is: You. Yes, you read that right: the goal (once again) is you, or, rather, your time. Google Car for Google is not only opening a new market, but the key is that it is a product that also reinforces and complements the rest of its main product lines and adds to its main and traditional business model. Literally, Google Car is a gold mine for Google, or, given that data is the new raw material of the 21st century.
We must keep in mind that drivers’ time is a precious treasure for Google. Google’s users have the maximum time to navigate and use our devices. If you multiply the number of vehicles in the world, by the daily use of those vehicles, and translate it into hours of navigation (which is what most are going to translate), the resulting figures are overwhelming.
Therefore, for Google, the autonomous car is equivalent to having found one of those immeasurable oil reserves. Google has found a gold mine, an unexplained reservoir of time from its users and data for its databases. Why do you think that Google could have so much interest in Google Car? Their interest goes beyond selling it by millions of units, or using them to digitize our world: Google is one of the world’s best companies at monetizing our time online.
And the best thing is that by exploiting this time, Google does not harm anyone, indeed, it also benefits the competition, because you will also browse through iTunes or Amazon. And it also benefits you, saving millions of drivers for spending hours in a traffic jam with hands on the steering wheel. It is literally a new discovery of time for users.
It will also be a time with a high percentage it being spent online, because it is a time when you will be alone, without children, with a need to inform, work, search, buy…a win-win for all. Beyond merely opening a market with a product of its own, and becoming an automobile, Google was interested in being the spark plug that would start the combustion of this new market to be exploited.
Whether the cars of the future are made byGoogle, Ford, or Volkswagen, Google has achieved one of its main objectives: our time.