The Uber-related fatality earlier this year in Arizona temporarily slowed down the roll-out of autonomous vehicle pilot projects for the company, but it hasn’t dampened appetite for technological advancements that will get us to fully autonomous vehicles faster, as long as regulations don’t get in the way.
“We have seen, especially with some of the publicized incidents – the fatality in Arizona, that has I think caught everyone’s attention – that there are regulatory hurdles that are coming and technology is always moving faster than the regulations,” said Paul Washicko, senior vice president and general manager at telematics pioneer CalAmp. “In this case, the regulators have to get on board early to lay out some of the framework so that it can evolve in an orderly way and not impede the technology advances, which might happen if they’re very reactive.”
Even without a sea of fully autonomous cars on the roads right now, attitudes towards driving are changing, especially among the younger generations.
“The younger people are less attached to their cars so I think that their adoption or their usage of these services, like Uber and Lyft, portend the future,” said Washicko. “They’re not so interested in owning the vehicle and that is an indication that this will just go further in that direction.”
One of the key issues in the vehicle-as-a-service trend, and in getting to fully autonomous vehicles, is that people still want to drive themselves. They do however want to have access to the car and be able to take it from one point to another, without having to bring it back to the point of origin. This type of flexibility, says the SVP, will be necessary for the technology to take off in the future.
Insurance companies caught on to telematics when usage-based insurance came on the scene, but their interest now goes beyond that.
“They're starting to understand that there’s a lot more that can be done with telematics, and that’s not just from a driver scoring or driver behavior perspective, but also how insurance is operating and how that impacts their operations,” explained Washicko, adding that claims are only one piece of how telematics will impact insurance operations. The other way is by automating the process of submitting claims completely, which is what CalAmp’s CrashBoxx solution provides via instant crash notifications, accident reconstruction reports, predictions of physical damage and a transmission of information to relevant parties.
“There’s a lot of potential for tremendous efficiency gains within the insurance companies,” said Washicko. “They’re just scratching the surface on what can be done because it’s not just the fraud and the accident, but we’re seeing in other parts of the world where we’re running the service, that there is a real interest in proving that an accident didn’t happen.”
While a lot of manpower is going into developing driverless cars, there’s not just one solution that’s going to dominate the market, predicts Washicko.
“I think you’re going to wind up with a mixture of these types of services. One is not just going to replace the other and obviously this doesn’t happen overnight – there’s a lot of regulatory issues that go along with the fully autonomous vehicle. We have a ways to go before that happens and I think the legal aspects of it are probably going to be the biggest threat to slowing the driver to autonomous drivers.”