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How Will Car Maintenance Evolve In the Autonomous Vehicles Era?

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Imagine the day when your car not only diagnoses its own maintenance needs, but schedules its own appointment and then drives itself to the shop, leaving you with plenty of free time to do as you please.

This scenario is a distinct possibility in the autonomous vehicles (AV) era. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be used to create AVs, and also to enable them to self-diagnose.

In addition to the regular maintenance required in a traditional vehicle, there’s an abundance of equipment involved in building and operating AVs, which will also require upkeep. Waymo, the Google self-driving car, features radar that enables cruise control, ultrasound used for assisted parking, cameras for lane-keeping and back-up assistance, GPS systems to determine a car’s position, and sensors that help with navigation when satellite signals are blocked. And then there’s Waymo’s Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology, which gives the driver a 360 degree view. The sensors and chips for this car are outrageously expensive, and repairs will cost you.

Tesla, another contender in the race to create fully self-driving cars, is considering bundling the cost of maintenance and insurance with its AV sales, so you won’t necessarily feel it up front, and you won’t have to suddenly come up with the cash at the time maintenance is required.

That’s if you’re even in the market for your own AV.

How AV Rides Will Save

Don’t give up on AVs just yet. Although unexpected car repairs are the most frequent financial upset to family budgets, the future of transportation lies in shared, electric AVs, which will save riders the hassle and cost of vehicle maintenance. According to a May 2017 RethinkX report, the use of fleet-operated autonomous vehicles will help the average family save $5,600 per year on transportation.

[Editor Note: There’s a graphic available at Sightline.org showing that major car repairs were the biggest shock to families in 2015.]  

In urban areas at least, car ownership will lie with fleet operators rather than individuals. You’ll call for an AV – likely via a smartphone app – it will arrive at your location, you’ll get in and enter your destination, and you’ll head for the highway, simple as that. Not only will riders never have to think about maintenance, but they’ll never have to worry about refueling, paying parking tickets or parking fees, cleaning, or buying car insurance.

Additionally, riders won’t need to worry about the cost of a car accident, should one occur. AV manufacturers like Volvo, Google and Mercedes Benz have already pledged to accept responsibility if their product causes an accident.

AI Beyond AV

Transportation is just one industry being impacted by AI technology. Read more about how this technology will permeate various industries in the very near future, providing improved efficiencies and costs.

Prepare your company now by ordering Artificial Intelligence and Ethics in Design, IEEE’s exclusive 5-course training program, and learn how aligning technology with ethical values can help advance innovation, for AVs and more.

Resources

Amblard, Marc. (25 Jan 2018). Autonomous Cars Will Need “Autonomous Maintenance” Solutions. ReadWrite.

Kucharczyk, Sasha. (18 Apr 2017). How will maintenance change with the autonomous vehicle? Readwrite

Malarkey, Daniel. (16 Jan 2018). Part1: Your Car of the Future Is No Car At All. Sightline Institute.

Rosenberg, David J. and Pasciullo, Nicholas A. (29 Aug 2017). Autonomous Vehicles Predicted to Change Car Ownerships, Insurance Industry. The Legal Intelligencer.

Technology and Costs. Google’s Autonomous Vehicle.

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String of Setbacks Halts Several Autonomous Vehicle Tests

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While many believe the autonomous vehicle (AV) is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) that could ultimately help reduce the number of people killed and injured on the roads each year, it seems that fatalities are inevitable.

Last week, 49-year-old Elaine Hertzberg was struck and killed by an Uber self-driving vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. Although police are still investigating and haven’t determined whether the car was at fault, a video from the vehicle’s dashboard camera shows that the human safety driver present in the Uber vehicle was not watching the road and did not have his hands hovering above the steering wheel, as instructed in case there’s a need for intervention. This is the first death caused by a self-driving car.

Uber’s Struggling Self-Driving Cars

The crash was a major setback for Uber, although even months ago its self-driving car project was falling short of expectations. Among other issues, Uber’s autonomous vehicles were having trouble driving through construction zones and alongside tall vehicles, and its human safety drivers had to intervene far more frequently than the drivers of competing autonomous car projects.

As of March, Uber was struggling to meet its target of 13 miles per intervention in Arizona. Meanwhile, in tests on California roads last year, Waymo reports its cars went an average of nearly 5,600 miles before the driver had to take control. Waymo is now testing in Chandler, Arizona, with no safety drivers.

Testing Comes to a Screeching Halt

Sure that the market for self-driving cars could be worth trillions of dollars, tech companies like Uber and Waymo, as well as automakers like Toyota, Ford and General Motors, have spent billions in development.

In fact, just weeks before Hertzberg’s death, The Economic Times reported that Uber and Toyota had been collaborating on self-driving systems, negotiating a possible deal for Toyota to use Uber’s automated driving technology in one of their minivan models. A Toyota spokeswoman said the company had been regularly exchanging information about automated driving with Uber for some time.

However, since the incident, Uber’s autonomous vehicle trials across North America have been halted and Toyota has decided to pause their Chauffeur mode testing on public roads.

Ford has made no changes to testing operations and GM still plans to roll out its commercial service in 2019.

Resources

Kokalitcheva, Kia, and Fried, Ina. (20 March 2018). Some self-driving car companies hit brakes on tests after fatality. Axios.

Symons, Xavier. (25 Mar 2018). A self-driving car killed a pedestrian. What now? BioEdge.

Wakabayashi, Daisuke. (24 Mar 2018). Uber’s self-driving cars were struggling before Arizona crash. The Economic Times.

Reuters. (19 Mar 2018). Toyota in talks with Uber on self-driving tech. The Economic Times.

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