By 2025, every major automaker will market self-driving cars.
Of course, industry headlines would have you believe this trend is coming faster than it really is. But I predict the path to full autonomy in vehicles will be slower than more familiar technology trends.
In an industry beset with frequent and serious recalls, the technological and legal liability challenges are considerable. And it slows progress down.
But while the transition to driverless vehicles may not come as fast as some suggest, already, the automotive industry is making strides in adding driverless technology to new makes and models of vehicles.
Step by step, cars are getting closer to driving themselves. As the technology progresses, the time to set yourself up for profits is now, while the car companies complete their baby steps.
It’s already happening.
Take a walk around a nice car dealership — you’ll find that cars that can brake and park themselves, spot distracted pedestrians and steer away from possible collisions are now standard gear on pricier models.
Self-steering is a major milestone, but a relatively easy one to pass. Tiny cameras mounted on a car’s front corners spot traffic lane lines and send information to an on-board computer. The computer interprets the image. It decides whether the cameras are seeing lane lines. If they are, the computer sends a steady stream of instructions to servomechanisms that adjust the steering this way or that to stay between the lines.
Sound complicated? It’s a piece of cake for current autonomous technology.
More advanced systems not only detect objects ahead, but also identify them. For example, Mercedes’ electronic eye connects cameras with an on-board computer using 3-D imaging software and a bank of more than 1.5 million images. That lets it differentiate among a cardboard box, puddle, and a tot on a tricycle.
If your car lacks driverless features, you can install add-ons from companies such as Gosher and Mobileye.
It just scratches the surface of what’s out there…and what’s to come.
Advances like these take us well into what the US National Highway Traffic Administration refers to as Level 2 of automated vehicles.
There are five levels. Level 0 means the car is a brainless pile of metal and plastic. Level 1 cars take on a simple task, such as controlling cruising speed. Level 2 vehicles have a repertoire of skills; Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’ is the best-known example.
Level 4 is an automated ride that functions in a defined area, such as an industrial park or downtown neighbourhood.
Level 5 lets you nap in the backseat while the car goes anywhere you tell it to.
What happened to Level 3?
Carmakers are reluctant to enter Level 3. It’s where drivers and cars share control. That raises complicated issues: In an emergency, what if the car and driver assume the other will take charge? Which tasks will be left to which? Will the carmaker and driver blame the other for accidents?
Several car companies hope to avoid that quagmire by skipping Level 3 and going right to Level 4. Ford, for example, promises to have Level 4 cars on the market by 2021.
While the path to driverless vehicles will unfold in incremental steps overall, the growth will evolve quicker in commercial arenas, where trucks and transport vehicles can be better controlled within defined routes.
Otto, an autonomous truck start-up, teamed up with Budweiser to make the first autonomous truck delivery this fall.
Commercial transport vehicles, especially in regions where well-defined routes and traffic patterns are accommodating, will follow driverless trucks in this evolution. It’s already happening. In 2017, it will continue to take shape.
As this new technology unfolds, driverless technology will have a ripple effect.
The driverless car trend goes beyond actual driverless cars.
You’ll see it expand into cybersecurity, augmented reality, and the job market. This isn’t just cameras mounted on your car. This is going to revolutionise multiple industries…and create hefty profits for investors.
For The Daily Reckoning
Publisher’s Note: Gerald Celente is founder and director of The Trends Research Institute, author of Trends 2000 and Trend Tracking (Warner Books), and publisher of The Trends Journal. He has been forecasting trends since 1980, and recently called ‘The Collapse of ’09.’