The rebirth of the car industry – disruption driven by communication technology

ny-bild-31It’s today 100 years since Henry Ford introduced the moving production line and the mass production of cars took off. A car has more or less had the same design and function since then. A dominant design was established and has been followed by more incremental improvements and significant enhancement in terms of production efficiency. The development of the car industry is well described and is a classical example used when illustrating the diffusion of innovation theory. However the car industry may now quickly approach a dramatic shift entering into a new phase driven by modern communication technology and environmental concerns.

The Economist published about two and a half years ago a special report on the future of the car. Their cover story Clean, safe and it drives itself, pictures quite dramatic changes in term of use and design. The prediction of this development is not new, but is the timing now right? Let’s assume The Economist got it all right, how will then this impact the industry? How does this correlate to the innovation theories by researchers such as Rogers, Utterback, Moore and Christensen? What are the underlying driving forces that make this happen now? How will our use of the car change and what further implications will this have? How will communication technology be utilized?

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31 responses to “The rebirth of the car industry – disruption driven by communication technology

  1. In the last 5 years we have seen a dramatic increase in the usage of artificial intelligence (AI) in research and development projects. According to Jack Clark at Bloomberg, this increase is mainly due to investments and advances in could computing infrastructure and dataset management. Given this increase of AI usage, one could definitely argue that we are very close to a shift towards the production of driverless cars in the car industry. The timing seems to be right.
    A part from the technological advances, a big driving force behind the driverless car is the insight that computers do things more efficiently and better than humans. Accidents caused by human error will all but disappear, dramatically lowering driving mortality rates. Of course, computer errors can occur to, giving rise to consumer concerns regarding the reliability of the soft- and hardware. Another major concern regarding the driverless car is the question of ethics and how to programme it. In a life or death situation, the car must be able to make difficult decisions that will sometimes result in a deadly outcome. What factors is to be consider in this situations and what line of reasoning is to be made?

    The driverless car will have a fundamental impact on the car industry. It will be a rebirth of the industry where we will go from traditional incremental development to a period of exploration and experimentation. Eventually, the industry will settle with a new dominant design.
    The industry will probably be divided into two parts. In one part, the car is seen strictly as a mode of transportation, going from point A to point B in a driverless car. In the other part, driving is seen as a form of entertainment, producing cars designed around the joys of driving.

    From an environmental perspective the timing is definitely right for a more fuel efficient and ”greener” car. In fact, this has been an industry trend for quite some time now. Research data on global warming has indicated, for a long time, that co2 emission are to high. The car industry is contributing to this phenomenon and therefore there has been and will be a market demand for more environmental friendly options.

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  2. A big reason for people accepting self driving cars is the fact that cars have always followed a dominant change, they haven’t changed that much during the years. Therefor big changes doesn’t seem that big. By looking att statistics we need to cut down on co2 emissions which can be done easier by self driving cars since they can drive more fuel efficient. By having electric cars the co2 emissions will lower even more. Self driving cars would also make it possible for people without driver license to own a car and ”drive” it.

    We would probably use our cars more often since we would be able to use them while drinking and they would be able to drive back ”home” after letting us of at the airport. This usage would lower the need of taxi companies and maybe even obliterate the taxi companies. By not driving to work people might use this time to be more efficient and use their car time to review work and prepare for the day, this might lead to a more stressful society and employers expecting more from their employee.

    A big problem with self-driving cars, is who to blame in case of an accident. If a were to drive a car and swerve out the way into another car, it would be instinct and I wouldn’t necessarily be blamed for the consequences. However, if a car is programmed to crash into another car in order to save the owner it would be a planned action. Buyers power might make the car save the owner instead of causing as little damage possible, because who would buy a car it was programmed to injure the owner.

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  3. I would say that timing is not right yet, if we are talking right now and the next few years. The main reason for this is the enormous amount of work, time and money needed to change the entire vehicle fleet of a country, which would be needed for some of things the economist wrote about to happen. Since you can’t replace the vehicle fleet in a few years, you would for a long time see cars both with and without a driver and therefore not utilizing the full potential of driverless cars.

    Before companies can fully deploy driverless cars laws would need changing to allow this, like the article noted. Changing legislation as well as convincing the population that it’s safe always take a long time. It would need such extensive testing that it really isn’t likely that it can be deployed in any large scale during the next few years. A change toward more driverless cars would have a huge impact on the industry since it’s not the incumbent companies that drive the development forward. Tech companies like Google could take over huge parts of the market and completely change the landscape.

    A great opportunity for the world is that driverless electric car powered by sustainable electricity would do wonders for the environment. Another implication is that your car can now be seen as a very cheap taxi which would greatly challenge the current transportation system, mostly taxi, train and bus companies, and to some extent the aviation industry. Considering the low electricity prices, using your car as transportation would be so cheap for any short to medium range travels that there would barely be any point in using the train.

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  4. Today people are more concerned about the climate change as the year of 2030 when the Sustainable Development Goals should be reached, is within a few years. The timing considering cleaner cars is, therefore, better now than a few years ago. As for the driverless car, as the article states, the adoption will probably take place in stages. The first driverless cars will most likely be purchased by “innovators” and “early adopters” within the following years to come, while it will take several years before the driverless cars reach the big market due to required changes in the infrastructure and the car manufacturing market.

    The transition to cars that run on alternative fuel and self-driving cars will force the car industry to change their production lines and a demand for programmers and electricians will appear in the manufacturing process which has not been needed before. The energy market will most likely be affected as the demand for green energy will be even bigger when the number of electrical cars increase.

    A negative effect of the possibility that anyone can be behind the wheel of a driverless car is that the amount of cars on the road might increase while the incentive to take the public transportation will decrease, as it gets more convenient to have a car. That will affect the infrastructure due to the fact that more and bigger roads will be needed. A big obstacle to overcome is to make humans trust the computer enough so he or she will be willing to sit in a driverless car. As the article argues, it is important to regulate laws so that if an accident happens the court take into consideration the overall benefits of self-driving car.

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  5. Since the new technology is mainly a software, there is an opportunity for economies of scale, meanwhile the development phase is long and therefore also expensive. If the companies are able to sell the self driving cars for a reasonable price I think people are ready for it, since as Collins mentions in the video, we already use assistant driving systems.

    The release will imply that new companies enter the market, such as Google, which is not initially an automotive company. Another possible result is that the car companies outsource the software-part of the production to firms having it as their core competence and are able to producing in a more efficient way. By looking at how far Google has come, the existing car industry needs to act quickly and adopt to this new trend and technology in order to maintain their position. Further, every company will probably use the technology to different extents and in different ways, depending on high or low end products for example.

    The new innovation is driven by the underlying forces such as the CO2-emission, fuel prices and global warming in combination with stricter regulations and smarter technology. The ability to, for example, study or work while travelling by car implies an increased usage of cars since it saves us time meanwhile taking us from door to door, unlike train or airplane. Consequently, the idea of reducing the CO2-emission might not be performed.

    Except for the doubt regarding the environmental improvements, I wonder how the companies will be able to reassure their car can handle every probable situation in the traffic? Even if the self-driving car is proven to be more safe than a person driving, to accept letting a software control your safety is far away for many people today.

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  6. First and foremost, I don’t believe that the timing is right as of yet. Massive research is still required within emerging fields such as ethics of autonomous systems and AI to develop cars that satisfy regulations and public skepticism. An illustration of this is Ubers self-driving cars in San Fransisco which made a series of traffic violations, causing public uproar.

    Furthermore, I disagree that this is a major disruption of a dominant design/industry. If we assume that the Economist is right and that autonomous cars will be implemented in a relative near future, the impact upon the industry would still be limited. Granted, divisions of software developers and engineers to construct and improve software and sensors will be needed but the fact is that the car will still be pretty much the same as it always have been. The wheel and accelerator might disappear but the propulsion system, chassi, brakes, body and interior will remain the same. Hence, existing value chains / production will only be marginally altered to implement the software. Some argue that tech companies (Google etc.) will corner and disrupt the industry as they purportedly are the leading developers of autonomous cars. This is simply not true as major car manufacturer across the globe either has autonomous cars or are developing them (BMW, Mercedes, Volvo etc.). And since making cars is their core competency unlike Google, a major disruption is unlikely.

    Acceptance of people to lose control will be a major factor to make autonomous cars happen relatively soon. I believe this will be the major hurdle for the technology to be dominant within the car industry. Personally, I’d prefer a car which I control. Even though the autonomous car might statistically be safer, it will be my mistakes that injures/kills me and not the action of a computer. Furthermore, as mentioned in the article regulations needs to be in place to govern liability issues.

    The use of the car would not change radically, as it would still be a mode of transportation. However, an autonomous car would enable people to perform other tasks than driving, such performing work tasks (Emails, phone calls etc) possibly marginalizing public transport.

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  7. Looking back at the latest disruption of the automobile industry – with the emergence of the Ford – one can draw a lot of parallels to the current situation. The Ford was disruptive as it made the automobile available for the public, as it was affordable, convenient, and in terms of use the customer behaviour did not have to change significantly. Self driving automobiles face a similar problem today in order to act as a disruptive force; public availability, it has to be affordable and made available under the current government policies; convenicy and use, it has to imply little change in users behaviour in order to cross the chasm to the early majority. I believe the technological possibilities are there – or will be there – to faclitate the use affordability of the self driving cars. But will the technology diffuse, and will the innovation be disruptive?

    In terms of diffusion there are some key factors, policies and communication. There has to be both a legal system to cope with use, and potential hazards of using self driving cars. It has to be demed safer than the manualy driven cars – both by legal autoritize and the public. In order to do so the communication is the underlying force, data has to be gattered and the safety proved in practice. But just as well the public has to deem it safer, and find extra value in the product.

    Such as disruptive innovation could have dramatic change in how we travel, how corporates act, and create waste amount of new business opportunities. Traveling itself would be available for a wider set of people as one does not need a licence, elderly, young people, disabled, etc would have more freedom to move. Just as the mere ownership of the car could change, the local traffic could become individualized, in regards to number of travellers, pick and drop off locations and so on. Businesses with delivering services would change totally.

    In summary I believe the Future of the Car is still in the future, as time itself has to facilitate the external forces of sustainablity, and the internal driver of technological change. The technology is there, and on the right trajectory – its just a question of time.

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  8. I think the timing is quite good for this kind of innovation. Young people tend to rely more on technology than older people, for example I am having a really hard time picturing my grandma in a self-driving car, no matter how much safer it is than herself driving a car (she is 85 years old). By this I argue that the younger generations are more accepting for this driving paradigm. Also, the fact that it is better for the environment is also of greater value to younger people since they grew up in a world with much bigger concerns for the nature.

    What is important to remember is that this new kind of era is much more based on trust comparing to the fridge. If a fridge breaks down, the worst case scenario is that all the food is being ruined. But if a self-driving cars breaks down, is could be the difference between life and death.

    If there is a breakthrough for the self-driving car, it will have a huge impact of the car industry and new focuses will arise. For example, what defines safety in a car will change. Instead of airbags and how to make as little damage as possible once the accident has occurred, there will be a greater focus on the technology that will prevent accidents.

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  9. The article from The Economist was published almost 4 years ago. They were talking about a timeframe of about 5 years before this development would penetrate the market. Are we one year away from cars that are cleaner, more fuel efficient and driverless? No. I would say that it is possible in a near future but not in a large scale. The most significant reasons for the disruption in the car industry and the redesign of the “car” are the development of the communication technology, and the increasingly important environmental factors. The bad air quality from emissions has led to demands on better pollution-control and in some sense also the more fuel efficient cars. What I think is stopping the development from fully reaching its potential are mostly practical issues as changing the vehicle fleet and the legislation around driverless cars.

    Other factors that’s slowing down the process might be that car production companies are not pushing the development. They would need to update their factories and compete on a new market. Big investments in production factories will be needed, something that might lead to lower margins and less money for them. In the long-term the landscape will change and we will most likely see more tech-focused companies take over the car industry.

    For the private car owner, the development of driverless cars will have a large impact on the daily life. It will be possible to do other things while driving without being a threat to other people. For some people this new development will be seen as a threat against their own right to drive and without a doubt there will be a “right to drive” movement that’s opposing the development of driverless cars.

    The problems that can arise is mostly of the legal matters. What happens when the car crashes? Or potentially kills someone? Who will take the blame and who will pay? The whole justice system will need to be modified to fit the driverless cars. The development will also disrupt other business areas as for example the taxi industry, but also other transportation modes as trains and buses.

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  10. The autonomous car is on the breakthrough, because the technology is on the verge of being feasible and safe to use. Various numbers of car manufacturer and IT-firms like Google are investing in the technology and testing it out in practice use. In Germany are road kilometres given free to test the technology in real life situations. As said in the article is the autonomous car is probably already safer than nonautonomy cars. This development is pushed by innovations and developments in communication technology which enables car to communicate with the environment, improvements in processor technology and artificial intelligence enabling this technology.

    As politics in Germany are already designing and discussing regulations and laws for autonomous cars, it is foreseeable that the technology will emerge. The benefit for society is in terms of safety, time gain and stress reduction, immense mobility increase and the environmental friendliness significant and is therefore pursued.

    This change will impact the industry heavily as cars are marketed by their driving qualities and design. The feedback or need for driving quality will be reduced heavily to only enthusiasts and thereby change the product requirements. How do the market participants distinguish themselves as soon as the technology is set?

    Before that has to be solved how society would like the algorithms to be designed on extreme situation as death or life decisions has to be made. Furthermore, the insurance model must change, as well as the role of ownership. Is it necessary to own the car if I am not responsible to control it anymore and who owns it then? It could reduce the car to a status symbol only. Further it could impact the transportation systems as individual transportation gets again more convenient.

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  11. The Economist’s prediction is that we will shift to fuel-efficient and self-driving cars within the near future. I find this reasonably likely if we consider the near future to be the coming 10-20 years. How long it will take for the shift to self-driving cars to come around depends mainly on two factors; how long it will take for the consumers to trust the new self-driving technology, and how long it takes for new legislation to be put into practice. This in turn depends on the amount of accidents and lawsuits.

    The shift will impact the industry in the sense that the intense development and implementation of the new technology will be very expensive and possibly troublesome without generating any major profit. Even though a shift to fuel-efficient self-driving cars may lead to a complete replacement of the global car fleet, the overall demand for cars is not predicted to boom globally by The Economist. Furthermore, the competition in the car manufacturing industry is already high and increasing. The underlying forces that may make this shift begin to happen now is that the demand for fuel-efficiency and reduced carbon emissions is increasing with climate change, as well as the fact that the technology have reached a very high level. The self-driving cars at Google are described as safer highway-drivers than some humans. Also, people are beginning to accept and trust AI technology at a larger scale.

    If this change happens it will change our use of cars drastically, as described in the cover story of The Economist. It will save lives and healthcare costs by reducing the total number of accidents. The major issue I see is also the one raised by The Economist – who is to be held responsible in a deadly car accident? This ties in with the fundamental factor whether the consumers actually will trust the technology enough to allow the shift to happen.

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  12. Self driving cars has been a hot topic for the past two years probably because of the existence of belief and will to invest in software. We can also identify a trend of few companies dominating the global market in terms of shares, some of them which happens to be software lovers. Machine learning is a learning algorithm and its current state is able to produce remarkable results. I think we will see minor changes for the car within the 5 years to come, testing software, fighting to provide people with the same belief as the developers. Within 30 years, I believe the car as we know it today will be gone.

    The terms concerning driving combined with change in energy of use will make the whole industry change. This is partly due to a change of design when striving to use technology to utilize energy usage, but I think the main factor that is going to change the industry is to whom it is you are selling to. Consider that everyone in all ages are allowed to use this transportation, how will you design this transportation for children? How will it be different from adults to elders? This change will affect how we see transportation as because we can do it all the time, even while sleeping.

    Thought, this is a long road with a lot of issues that will halt this to happen

    – People acceptance and skepticism
    – Infrastructure and institutional lock-ins: Like how roads are made to fit human driving. The article stated that there may be a need for some changes, which are changes that I would trust are both costly in terms of money and time.
    – Technological lock-ins: Costly to exit a dominant design of production processes

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  13. It is right to say that since the principle of Fordism was shaped 100 years ago, the fundamental idea of a car has not changed yet significantly. A car still has four wheels and a driver needs to steer it along the road. But things a changing…

    I think it is high time to push driverless technology further and further until it is sophisticated enough to be really suitable for everyday life. I consider this technology as a great opportunity to solve many problems like easing congestion and saving fuel. The fundamental technology like sensor technology, the internet or existing electric car developments are evidence enough for the car industry to show that a gigantic upheaval like autonomous cars can be realised.

    Furthermore the constant effort of car manufacturers like Tesla, BMW and Co. to advance this technology lead to the fact that more people and institutions follow up this trend and also search for solutions. There are many problems of course but I consider them to be challenges because most of them can be solved.
    I am sure this enhances the core development of driverless technology and rises niche markets (which implies new business opportunities occur) because the complete car environment must be reshaped which includes streets, traffic lights, etc. <- challenges

    I think is only a matter of time until driverless technologies is combined in a way like once Steve Jobs did with the IPhone, repacking existing technology in a easy to handle and smart way. Until then the technology can be used in driver assistance systems (What I also consider is the best way to close customers to the whole idea of driverless cars) and sooner or later consumers will accept it.

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  14. On of the main concerns with self-driving technology is and has been the safety of the passengers. This has affected the legislative process a lot. Statistically, self-driving cars are now safer than the average driver, which is apparent in the number of countries that now works to push legislation for the technology.
    The impact on the car industry will most likely be slow. The price for self-driving vehicles is and will most likely continue to be high. In the long term, however, car manufacturers that don’t look into the technology will most likely have to settle markets in which self-driving has not yet become the norm.
    The underlying forces that push this development is the achievements in AI research in combination with the ever-increasing attention to minimizing our CO2-footprint (since self-driving vehicles would be able to limit traffic which in turn would limit exhaustion).
    The car could be something that no-one owns, but that most people have access to. Those who do own a car could rent it out while not using it, and those who, for any reason, can’t drive a car today, could potentially benefit from a self-driving one. This makes for more accessible cities and better communications.
    The adaptation will, without a doubt, involve multiple and very noticeable cases of self-driving technology acting in what we might perceive as counter-intuitive ways. Hopefully, the statistics will be enough to convince the major population that self-driving technology is a good idea.

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  15. I think that The Economist in many ways was correct in their predictions and that we are very much in the transition that they are describing. Hybrids are very common today and with Tesla, the all electric car has gained great traction. Google is using self-driving cars daily and Volvo has lent out self-driving cars to typical Swedish families in Göteborg.

    I believe that this process of change we are experiencing can be attributed to two main factors.

    Consumers have had a set of needs that were being fulfilled by their fossil fueled cars and up until today these needs could not be met by an electric car. But today the infrastructure for electric cars (such as Tesla Superchargers) along with the battery technology, has to some extent matured. There still are things to be done, such as making it more affordable, but with Tesla Model 3 on its way it is clearly in the horizon.

    I also believe that we are not oblivious to what is happening to our climate. Investments in fossil fuel are to a great extent being pulled and by some, even made forbidden (see Ireland). This shift in the market for energy investments reflects a change of belief. Of course, the causal relationship here is really not quite certain. But most likely this is being fueled by, but also fuels the development described in The Economist.

    I think this in the long run will benefit both our economy and the environment. With congestion comes a great deal of economic inefficiencies, and with self-driving cars congestion should almost completely disappear. The environmental footprint made by electric cars during production, as shown by recent research, is not great. But as most energy sources will turn green, I think the net effect for sure will be positive and especially as the technology develops.

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  16. The impact on the industry as a whole will be tremendous. New characteristics of the car will cause the distribution of capital within each firm to shift, as more resources are needed to deal with computational parts and sensors rather than mechanical parts. Furthermore, carmakers will probably shift to new business models especially within joint ownership or other models where customers don’t own a whole car on their own but rather a share of a car and thusly increasing the overall usage of the car. This will in turn also demand higher focus on durability as the capacity of each car increase from around 10% (today) of the time – towards much higher levels of usability. I think the market will move towards self-driving cars rapidly when data regarding costs and safety (and thereby even more costs for insurers) become available for the public. Over time, the diffusion of technology will depend on such data and whereby the consequences of making the shift will become evident. Additionally, the industry will probably move towards a standardized set of rules and regulation as the trend continues to grow into a dominant design considered safe and environmentally just. I believe that the underlying forces will primarily be costs. As the transport- and insurance industry perceives the diminishing costs of implementing driverless cars or trucks, the market of those industries will follow closely thereafter. Environmental politics will also serve as a sustainable argument for the industry to develop further as environmental concerns have increased globally. As previously mentioned, the user patterns will likely change with shared ownership models. Usage per car will increase and costs related to insurance and fuels will decrease. This can have a large impact on other industries such as the cab- or public transportation industry as there will be less demand for vehicle operators. The continuous development of ICT will enable more sensors and faster computers to be implemented and thereby drive costs even further down.

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  17. When the global economy grows and not only western countries increase their growth, developing countries are also growing richer and the accessibility to energy supply and infra structure paves the way for a higher living standard world wide. This implies that it most certainly will be more common for inhabitants in former developing states to own necessities such as a car which has lead to an estimated increase of the global car fleet by 400%. For a sustainable future we must make sure that the majority of the cars being sold in the future must perform better based on emissions, but also in terms of safety. The car market today could therefore face a disturbance since there certainly are areas of improvement of the current technology, but to expect consumers trusting computers driving their car already today is a bold statement. Based on basic schematics of innovation the early step needs to be taken, and even if the market of driver less cars is small, it will probably grow when the technology has sunk in amongst the consumers. If the concept of driver less cars takes a part of the car market it will most certainly change other markets which would both be harmed or take benefit of this new technological paradigm. Much like the example regarding the fridge, a driver less car would open up to new opportunities since the innovation would disrupt life patterns like the general markets where old, handicapped or young people can move around an consume in a wider geographic area than before. There would also be a number of complements being necessary to implement, wherefore it is needless to say that this innovation will change our lives.

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  18. When talking about cars one has to remember that there are about 1.2 billion cars worldwide and about 7 billion people. The timing with which the article present self-driving, fuel efficient and non-C02 emitting cars may be just right – if the focus is on introducing such cars to the market. However there will be a long time until the percentage of the total car fleet consisting of such cars will be a significant, according to me.

    Self-driving cars: The car industry has to invest a lot in R&D specifically in the software. Artificial intelligence is needed for self -driving cars in order to make correct decisions. Learning- algorithms also have to be implemented to learn from incidents and share this knowledge to all the other cars. Also the different manufacturers have to cooperate and set up a standard to avoid unexpected behaviour between different systems of self- driving cars.

    The underlying driving force is the digitalization of society. Technology all over different markets are spread and utilized for example in the car industry. Of course globalization is the foundation of why this is happening with such unprecedented speed.

    I definitely believe that when self-driving cars come, the productivity in society will increase. Many people spend long time in cars driving to and from work. During this time, if the car drives by it self, obviously people can do something productive (education, work, relax or sleep).

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  19. It’s obviously difficult to determine if the timing for self-driving cars is right at this moment in time. However, there are some trends that might suggest that is the case.

    Over the past decades automation have been a clear trend and a lot of people are used to the idea of machines doing things humans used to do. Specifically in the area of transportation there have been an increase in automation. Planes basically fly themselves and the same goes for many trains.

    However, there are also arguments to be made for the opposite. For example, it’s reasonable to argue that the main decision makers of today have a less obvious relationship to technology compared to the generation that growing up with ipads.

    One likely effect of mass adoption of the self-driving car is that the total number of cars will decrease. It will be easier to share cars. The loosers, in that case, would be car manufacturers that who are not able to follow the trend.

    It’s also possible that there will be a consolidation on the market. Googles self-driving cars are all learning from each other. The company that get the head start on collecting data for their algorithms will have an enormous edge.

    Of course, one could also argue that there will be more cars sold. The cost of owning a car might significantly drop as a result from cheaper insurance. People who commute using public transportation might be more likely to buy self-driving cars and getting things done while driving.

    Another interesting (or concerning) aspect of self-driving cars is ethics. How should a car prioritize between hitting a kid or a middle aged couple, if forced to make the decision? Do we want the algorithms of large corporations to make those decisions? Is there a right answer?

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  20. The article covers a very interesting subject, and one of the areas where we are closest to computers taking over and interfering/improving (depending on which side of the discussion you are on) our personal lives. The car has large place in our society and is irreplaceable for most of us. Since the article was written, we have progressed further and there are now more fierce competition as well as large sums invested in R&D. However, I don’t think we are there just yet. Not with the technique, nor with the mindset. We cannot fully guarantee the behavior (even if we can’t do that for humans either) and computers have higher demands and need to fulfill greater expectations for it to take over a task form human hands. Since we are not there yet, I don’t think the timing is right just yet, we are just not ready for it.

    On this topic raises a very interesting question which I have pondered a few times without gaining more insight in: how will the computer tackle difficult decisions? For example, should a car come to a situation where we have a couple of children on the road and not enough time to come to a safe stop, should it prioritize to avoid the children and break as much as possible and then steer into the ditch but then potentially injure its driver/owner? Surely most people would react instinctively and drive of the road in an attempt to save the children, but if a computer does that it would condemn its driver to possible death. That would be a car that few people would buy, knowing it might potentially choose to kill you. No alternative is good, and how to solve it is a tough nut to crack which is why I don’t think we are ready for this yet. I have no hesitation that we will see these cars on the road commercially in a near future.

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  21. The car industry is growing and a larger amount of people can afford a car which is good for the carmakers but bad for the carbon dioxide emission. This combined with smarter computer and stricter regulations about car emission is an incitement for more innovation to create cleaner and safer cars. The conditions for driver-less cars to hit the market are right but a major change like that would probably be gradual and might need change in generation to help the transition.

    The early adopter part of the market is ready for driver-less cars mainly due to the major advantages it provides for the individual to do other things while being transported. Apart from the advantages for the individuals driverless cars have the ability to optimize fuel use (good for the environment), decrease of human death in car accident and hospital-costs related to accidents and also increased mobility for elderly people, people without a license and disable people.

    If the car market will shift to more driverless cars the industry will not only consists of building good cars but also creating the “brain” of the car. This will open up for new player on the market such as Google. It is likely that the big car companies will have an advantage over smaller ones because they can afford the advanced technology that is required. If driver-less cars reach the market it will also affect markets connected to cars such as transportation services which will have to adopt to the change.

    The driving forces for this transformation is partly due to more demand on environmental friendly cars. Also there are a lot of software available in new cars such as sensors, assist-driving software, reverse-park, read traffic-signs etc. These features will accustom the market to the idea of a computer driving the car. One of the biggest implications are that people are unwilling to trust their lives to computers and also lawsuits towards car companies because of accidents that might occur.

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  22. According to the Economist, we will see self-driving cars within 2.5 years. There are several reasons why I don’t believe that the timing would be right.

    First and foremost, there are many ethical issues with the self-driving cars, that already are heavily debated. The cars need to be programmed to make the “right” decision in every situation – which basically means that the car in accidents needs to decide between for exampling hitting a wall, a pedestrian or another car.

    Furthermore, the drivers of today have to accept to have zero control in traffic. I’m very sceptic to this and believe that people would like to have control over their own destiny, rather than leaving it in the hands of a computer (even though there might be statistics proving that driverless cars are less likely to be in accidents than the normal car).

    If the Economist is right and self-driving cars become the new dominant design, I believe that we will see a negative impact on the environment and on the traffic situation in the cities. If you didn’t have to drive, taking the car would be much more convenient. I fear that the consequences of this would be that we went back to having a car per person, which would be worse for the environment than if people used public transports.

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  23. Even if we today have all the technical abilities needed in order to make cars autonomous there are still some major issues that need to be solved. One is legislature. If a car crashes who’s responsible? And also ethical dilemmas that rises when programming how the car should react in extreme situations. Not to mention people accepting the idea of losing control off the car.

    Regardless of above we are slowly moving towards more autonomous cars (automatic brakes, reverse-park etc.) as pointed out in the article. We will probably see more and more “driver assistance” technologies but not the final step to become completely autonomous until some sort of major regulations/standardization takes place.

    There are some obvious advantages of a society with autonomous cars. People will get more time to e.g. rest or work instead of driving, better safety due to less human error and also you won’t need a driving license which means that people unable to drive today will be able to travel alone by car.

    I’d say that the major underlying force right now is the belief that the transition to an autonomous society will happen, although we are not sure on when. The major car manufactures invest in this technology with the fear of otherwise missing out. And as more is being invested to it and the technical aspects gets better the bigger the incitements will be for new legislation.

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  24. I do think driverless cars will be the future norm, albeit the models will need to have implemented a way to drive manually together with the computer, if only for the sole reason that it brings peace of mind to a potential sceptical buyer that are late to adopt to the new technology.

    The Economist briefly touched upon IT companies such as Google developing driver intelligence software, but I think it’s a shame they didn’t go deeper into this. Companies such as Google is all about data, and their revenue rises the more people use the Internet. The way I see it, driverless cars are all about data as well. Consider the fact that each car will have sensors registering every location you visit, the weight you carry, the frequency of your visits, and synchronize this with every other car whose owners belong in the same category as you.

    Assuming that one’s personal integrity is handled in an ethical way, as this is not a rant about surveillance ethics, a whole range of new business opportunities will arise. With a computer in every car, it’s reasonable to assume that the parking lots will become data centers. Perhaps we will never again have to pay for parking, if we let the parking lots use our cars for computation? And if companies know where we shop, what we buy, and how often we buy, will we experience a higher life quality from the products that companies inevitably will pick for us? Surely it will be much easier to choose a target market, position a product and price it accordingly when companies own this invaluable information about their potential customers. Since Moore is mentioned in the briefing, I expect that we will see a revolution in marketing strategy, where technology companies will gain explicit means to add value to different technology adoption groups at the same time.

    Transportation is arguably the most important aspect of everyday life since it affects all of us. With this being more of a moral question than a political one; should everyone on this planet have the possibility to own a car? How should we react if this becomes reality? From an environmental perspective, the question is obviously that it isn’t sustainable, as we are already contributing too much to global warming. Smart, driverless cars is naturally a truly disruptive innovation because it might be the redeeming feature we need in order for everyone to have access to transportation.

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  25. I don’t think the time is just now, however we are getting there soon enough. I think the main problem is the need for cheaper and cleaner energi as well as better batteries. To speed things up I think there should be large test projects with a lot of media coverage, highlighting not just the obvious benefits, but really open peoples eyes in every aspect that green self driving cars would mean. This would push demand and hasten the industry.

    Reasons why we are starting to see more hype around self driving cars is the technology that is maturing into actual substitutes to normal cars. Another aspects is the environment and the need for change in the developing countries that now too want a car. Other reasons are that in order to create great software a lot of data is needed and that takes time to generate and collect. Another main thing is the time wasted by commuting and being stuck in traffic, this could all be solved by connected traffic, meanwhile people work in the car.

    One implication is that I think prices would drop on offices and houses in the city centres. No longer do you need to worry about wasting hours in traffic by living on the countryside. Now you could jump in the self driving car and start work right away (depending on what kind of work you have of course, although there should be some administrative tasks that could be done during this time). So people could enjoy cheaper houses and probably better life standards in some respects. Offices would move away from expensive rents as well.

    Another short term implication is the loss of work, may it be transport in any regard. Then of course the ethical dilemma about the code that drives the cars, how should it handle life threatening situations etc. but I donated think this will be a problem in the light of all the good that it brings.

    My greatest concern is with regard to cyber attacks. No system is ever completely safe from hackers, there will always be “zero-day” attacks and will this prove to be large problem or not? Just the fear of knowing that one could take control of your car might persuade consumers to not drive them, especially if there are some scary terrorist attacks executed in this manner.

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  26. I believe that time for a transition is now. There are many activities currently taking place on the market which support this. One of them is the topicality of global warming. As the car industry constitutes for roughly 16 % of the global CO2-emissions, driverless cars could be a way of drastically lowering the emissions coming from this sector.

    Another important factor that speaks for driverless cars is built in technology that is available for the mass market. Things like Bluetooth and navigation were considered luxury add-ons a few years ago. Nowadays they come as standard equipment. The next step is to have a standardized internet connections in all vehicles. This will significantly enable the prevalence of the driverless car.

    But it is not only a question of timing, driverless cars are going to be essential for our future development. As the average income is increasing, more and more people are looking into purchasing their first car and because the average lifetime is increasing across the globe, the car will be utilized to a greater extent than ever before.

    With these two drivers in mind, what will happen when families in developing countries are looking to purchase their first automobile? If driverless cars are not implemented within ten years, these developing countries will develop the same dependency on fossil fuel driven cars, as the western world already has. Driverless cars would not only help the environment, but it would also give more families the opportunity to travel more efficiently.

    The business model for car manufacturers would most likely change. Instead of paying an upfront sum of money, people would be able to pay a subscription fee where they would be able to use a car when they need it. This would also reduce congestion in densely populated cities, as well as clearing up parking spaces.

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  27. I think the timing is more right then ever as I think we are more open to new technologies. As the article says, the impact it will have on the industry is that the cars have to have more high tech and this might be a problem for smaller manufacturers, as it is more expensive. I also believe that new customers segments will open up as younger, older and disabled people can use the cars as they drive by themselves. These groups of people will also be freer to move around, as they do not need to drive the car themselves.

    If more and more cars will be able to drive by themselves, then the question is if it is safe for us to drive among them, as the cars might not be able to calculate the human factor. The founder of true caller, Nami Zarringhalam, sais; “The real question is when does it become unsafe for us to drive amongst self driving cars…”. Today there are groups of people gathering and driving old, classic cars together, maybe this is the future for driving cars ourselves. Instead of driving everyday, it will become something special and a hobby instead.

    An other concern is that the technology can be hacked. The more of a digital society we become, the larger the opportunities become for those who want to sabotage. We will get more woundable, and the question is what happens if this becomes a reality?!

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  28. Is the timing now right?
    The timing is obviously right, because driver-less cars are obviously already here.

    How will then this impact the industry?
    I don’t think the impact on the industry will be that great. While Google and Tessla (their cars already have all the technology for a driverless option) might be new entrants to the industry, the older companies will soon follow and catch up. Considering their resources, they should have no troubles catching up. As with all introductions of new technology, there is a big chance that some of the established companies might fail in this transition, and considering how relative stable the car making industry has been over the years that alone is of course significant.

    What are the underlying driving forces that make this happen now?
    Safety concerns should be one major driving force. But I predict that in the end what will make driverless cars really be a big hit is the extra time it will give the owner of the car. The owner can now use transportation for either leisure or work while being transported, and this will drive the consumer to change to driverless car pretty quick once they come to market in greater numbers than today.

    How will our use of the car change and what further implications will this have?
    As mentioned above, it will make us use the time spent commuting for either productive work or leisure. Same goes for all other potential travels with the car, whether it’s the trip to the grocery store or if it’s the road trip to the skii week end.

    What issues do you see and what may be concerns?
    Determining responsibility if an accident happens, but also moral questions regarding what choices the computer should make if it comes down to a number of bad choices in a situation.

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  29. I think the timing for starting to use self-driving technology is quite good now. Incremental changes can already be seen in modern cars, such as acceleration, braking and steering assistance. Technologies that improve safety on the roads will be implemented gradually. In time legal regulations will make it mandatory to have these functions assisting the driver. When we see this change the step to completely self-driving cars is not that big. As the technology slowly becomes a norm the general opinion towards the technology will soften. This said there are still a lot of legal issues that have to be discussed before self-driving cars can be an accepted standard. A factor slowing the shift is the use of old cars. The technology will be here soon, but people will still use the cars with old technology. From an economical and environmental point of view it is not realistic to change all cars to self-driving cars under a short period.

    We are in a phase now where both new technology and climate change disrupts the car industry. In time the industry will settle for a dominant design in both in terms of fuel and driving-system. However, at the moment R&D is vital for staying competitive. The driverless cars also open up a lot of opportunities in other industries. This will create new networks and alliances. One example of this is the collaboration between Uber and Volvo.

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  30. The time for self driving cars is coming and I think the time is right but at the same time I know that all railroad traffic still carries a human driver and that seems to me like the first step towards self driving transportation so maybe the shift in Sweden is further away than I want to believe.

    When self driving cars become the norm I think that owning a car will loose its charm. It is easier and cheaper to just call for it when you need it. At the same time living close may become less important and this will affect prices on housing and the rents for office space.

    Underlying forces for this change is the price drop of microelectronics, the improvement of computer power, the need for safer and greener transportation and the fact that people think it is boring to commute by car and that it is too crowded on trains and busses and that it takes too long time. The best solution for many is self driving cars.

    To facilitate self driving cars all of society need to accept a more direct form of ethics. In the case of an accident who will live and who will die? Should age be included in the calculation? disabilities? these are questions philosophers have battled with over centuries and now we need to find the answers. This is connected with legislation, who is to blame in the case of an accident? The producer? The owner of the car? The designer? Maybe the probability of an accident will decrease radically and insurance will take care of it the same way as today.

    Trust is my other concern. Can people trust the cars enough? will they accept that there is no way of driving your self? Probably not.

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  31. I guess we are somewhere in the start of a Giovanni Dosian technological paradigm shift (we have Tesla and we have Google cars on the roads as we write this that are collecting data and driving autonomously). There still exist substantial thresholds in order for innovation to truly diffuse however, and my opinion is that the self-driving projects from Google and Tesla need to get more mileage and more data as to ensure statistics that solidify the view that self-driving cars are safer. Estimates put the needed mileage at 500 million before sufficient statistics can be presented to motivate legal changes, insurance solutions as well as populating the notion that AI are more safe and robust than humans. (Issues that I believe all are key for a “shift” to occur) The impact on the industry will, of course, be huge. The vertical boundaries of almost all firms will surely be affected as ”cars as a service”-type business models will be enabled through higher utilization rates. The car will be a more commerically viable investment as AI:s doesn’t tire or need salary and that type of shift will open up new revenue models, streams and value networks that have the potential to disrupt the current market, and make for new – blue ocean type – ones.

    I guess the change will be defined by going from active usage, to passive. As we hand over control to AI systems and the car itself, we can spend our ”in car”-time doing entirely different things besides driving. In addition, the form factors will probably change as the need for control of the external environment diminishes. Seats can be rearranged to become inwards facing and the car itself can become more of a social platform for the human user than a product designed for getting you from A to B.

The issues, however, are many. The industry – given its current battery driven trends – will still rely heavily on a few expensive resources from exploitable developing economies and there is ongoing debates about the morality of autonomous systems. (I however, agree with Volvo’s take on the issue; the car doesn’t need morale as long as it adheres to traffic rules and in case of failure stop the car on the side of the road and – as far as possible – obey current rules. It’s predictable and controlled.) So, in conclusion, the change will be big and disruptive even if it entails several hundred million miles still to go on the roads with subsequent big shifts in time consuming legal issues as well as in public opinion.

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