Propelling Autonomous Vehicles Safely And Securely

Why so much work is underway in and around the vehicles of tomorrow.

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Last month, when asked about how important it was that Apple not miss out on the opportunities within automotive, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Bloomberg,

“There is a major disruption looming there not only for self-driving cars but also the electrification piece. If you’ve driven an all-electric car, it’s actually a marvelous experience, and it’s a marvelous experience not to stop at the gas station — plus, you have ride-sharing on top of this. So you’ve got three vectors of change happening generally in the same timeframe. As we look at it, and what we’ve talked about focusing on publicly is autonomous systems, and clearly one purpose of autonomous systems is self-driving cars — there are others — and we see it as the mother of all AI projects. It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on. Autonomy is something that’s incredibly exciting for us but we’ll see where it takes us. We’re not really saying from a product point of view, what we will do but we are being straightforward that it’s a core technology that we view as very important.”

He made the connection that many in the automotive industry have been discussing for a few years now — the combination of hybrid/electric and ride-sharing will propel the autonomous vehicle industry. Tesla, being ahead of its time. may have to wait a bit longer, and hang on through the reported flat sales until the right Lego pieces snap into place. Volvo announcing yesterday that beginning in 2019, every new vehicle it launches will contain an electric motor, “marking the historic end of cars that only have an internal combustion engine and placing electrification at the core of its future business,” according to the company’s website — isn’t hurting the cause.

You might recall Volvo teamed last year with the currently maligned Uber on autonomous vehicles. And just in the past week, Apple is said to be working with Hertz for autonomous vehicle testing.

Of course, at the heart of autonomous vehicles are the functional safety and security systems which will make it possible to realize the dream of true autonomy. Does this mean we will see cars marketed to consumers with “ISO 26262” labels, or “ASIL D” levels on the windshield in the car lot? I seriously doubt it will get that far down the food chain, but with the amount of activity, interest and excitement about automotive in general, it seems entirely reasonable that within the automotive development ecosystem, these terms will be further fleshed out and described clearly — so that there will be no mistaking what will go where in and around the vehicles of tomorrow.