Trucks at Work

The thinking, self-driving vehicle of the future

Vehicles that think on their own, drive themselves, and talk to one another … and all without the need for human acquiescence? Don’t know if I care for that idea very much – especially if I am expected to be a passenger in said vehicles.

Yet Sarwant Singh, senior partner and global practice director for the automotive & transportation arm of global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan believes that’s exactly the kind of vehicle technology we’ll be seeing in the not-so-distant future – even if it still sounds as if taken from a sci-fi movie.

“Artificial intelligence (AI), Internet multi-sensory trends as well as robotics are developing their footprint in the mobility industry,” Singh explained recently in a new report entitled The Future of Mobility.

“Cars will become giant computers with an innumerable amount of AI tools, managing the environment and communicating intelligently with other cars on the road, analyzing traffic, making choices about where to drive and analyzing the speed patterns of others,” he noted. “And while the robot drives your car to your work, you can prepare for your day.”

Frost & Sullivan’s research indicates that every new car will be “connected” by 2014, either via an embedded or tethered platform, making cars the third most connected “devices” behind mobile phones and tablet computers, Singh pointed out.

“We expect very soon a company like Google or a car company to test run trials of 20 to 30 fully driverless cars in a shared business model within a small community to test the concept and prove to the world, that this technology is closer than we believe,” he stressed.

Whoa; that’s more than a little spooky if you asked me. Yet Martyn Briggs, Frost’s mobility program manager, thinks such “automated” vehicle services presents a “competitive advantage” for automakers that successfully roll them out first.

“In order to stay competitive car companies have to provide value added services such as multi-modal journey planning, car sharing and services that make mobility much easier,” he explained. “Looking further forward, why not have your car book your parking at destination before you leave home, park your car remotely in tight parking spaces at a click of a button, and drive itself through a slow speed traffic jam while you read your books hands off. The cars of the future will be something similar, and could even get you home safely after an evening’s drinking, as your car will be fully autonomous.”

What portents might all this hold for freight carriers? While the video clip below focuses on the travel needs of the everyday motorist (and it’s a poignant tale at that) think about how the pre-route planning and advance notification about being late might be advantageous for truckers.

It’s a little strange, to think of vehicles that automatically share information about road conditions, too, but that could be off big benefit to the trucking community as well. Can any of this though be practically – and cost effectively – implemented within our motorized society as it stands today? That will indeed be the real trick for such technology to accomplish.

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