17 Sep What future for self-driving cars?
I had the opportunity to sit down with IoT Disruptions’ CEO Sudha Jamthe. I wanted to speak with Sudha not just because she’s one of the Internet of Things industry’s leading futurists, authors, and teachers (in Palo Alto, California at Stanford CSP), but because she is the industry’s leading thinker on the business of autonomous vehicles. Sudha focuses on how these new self-driving cars, trucks, and ships will impact all industries, from ICT to manufacturing to oil and gas. Sudha will also be teaching the first-ever course on the business of self-driving cars, with classes starting in September at Stanford.
Ken Herron: So everyone can have a common understanding, how do you define the term “autonomous vehicle”?
Sudha Jamthe: Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are any mode of transportation that does not need a human driver. This includes cars, trucks, buses, shuttles, and boats. What’s important to note is that these vehicles won’t just drive themselves, they will also co-exist with everything else – roads, traffic lights, and of course, human drivers, for a long time to come.
KH: This may be an obvious question, but how are AVs able to “see”? What are the key technologies that are being used?
SJ: AVs use a range of different sensors, including ultrasonic, video cameras, radar, and LIDAR. LIDAR is arguably the most talked about right now because of its advantages over cameras and sensors, and the very hot R&D race to both miniaturize LIDAR sensors and to make them more affordable. The key advantage of LIDAR is that it can generate precise 3D images (called “point clouds”) in a variety of different environments and lighting conditions.
KH: I see many people being surprised at how quickly cars with the capability for autonomous driving have gone from something in the “future” to something that many of us are finding ourselves sitting next to at a stoplight or even in our own driveways. When will we get our first ride in a self-driving car?
SJ: The short answer is that if you haven’t yet already done so, you’ll be able to take your first test ride at this fall’s major technology trade shows. Virtually every big event this year will feature test rides for people to not only see the new vehicles, but also to better understand the sensor, mapping, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies that power them. The longer answer is that autonomous vehicles are rated on a scale of 1-5, and no car is able yet to drive at level 5 (full autonomy on public roads). If you’re lucky enough to live in Dubai, Singapore, London, or Silicon Valley, however, you will soon have the chance to ride in an autonomous car, taxi, shuttle, or even truck, just note that you’ll likely still see a human in the driver’s seat (and if you’re in Boston, Lyft is promising AV rides soon through their partnership with MIT’s Nutonomy!).
KH: What do leaders need to consider when they’re thinking about how their own businesses can take advantage of the opportunities which will come with autonomous vehicles in 2021?