Are Autonomous Vehicles manufacturers preparing us for 2025?

Experts predict that highly or fully autonomous vehicles (AV) will hit the roads after 2025. Are we ready for them? A large-scale uptake depends on the level of public acceptance, so are manufacturers doing enough to inform us about the safety and convenience of AVs?

Autonomous driving, electrification, connectivity, and shared mobility have disrupted the automotive industry. With more to come, we are seeing significant changes in the technology stack, customer experiences, and logistics.

Drivers may become obsolete, including for long-haul transportation.

The new normal in the mobility sector

According to McKinsey & Company’s survey, we are on the verge of seeing autonomous vehicles on the road. But others point to the challenges of putting AVs on the street in large numbers.

We are already driving partly automated cars and are up to date on features such as advanced driver assistance systems that help us park, cruise control, stay in lanes, and more. It is the Level 1 of AVs. (There are six levels in AVs, with Level 0 denoting no automation and Level 1 using some automated features to help the driver, such as adaptive cruise control. Most automated driving solutions in vehicles today require human intervention, putting them at Level 1. Level 2 has advancements like lane assist, but the driver remains in control.)

Level 3 boasts more autonomy, and the AV can make some decisions independently. However, the driver must remain alert and take control of the vehicle if the system cannot drive. For example, Mercedes Benz carried out Level 3 automation pilots in which AVs make decisions during congested traffic conditions. The Audi A8 sedan AI Traffic Jam Pilot system also deserves mention.

But the next level AVs are in the spotlight – Level 4 and Level 5. Level 4 uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) self-driving software to substitute for the human driver. The vehicles essentially self-drive, deciding where and when they will go based on inputs, such as an automated taxi plying a specific route.

Industry experts estimate that Level 4 pilot tests with private vehicles on highways will become a reality by 2024. The conditions for these tests will likely include pre-selected routes.

But the big breakthrough will be for Level 5 AVs, which will take users where they wish by just entering the address. The car will take care of every aspect of the journey irrespective of the type of road, terrain, or condition, and passengers can practically sleep until arrival at the destination. Most importantly, in Levels 4 and 5, the responsibility for the car no longer rests with the driver but with the manufacturer, and it is the inflection point.

The question is, are consumers ready for these vehicles, not just manufacturers?

We are nearly there if we listen to OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and start-ups. Fully Autonomous Vehicles will soon become routine on our roads and highways. But before we begin cheering, there are several aspects to consider:

Consumer safety

Studies and papers by internationally recognized institutions, market research organizations, and consultancy agencies, including McKinsey & Company, Gartner, IIHS, University of Kent, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, and Statistica, highlight consumer concerns over the safety of automated vehicles.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), drivers are less at ease using hands-free functions in a partially or wholly autonomous car. Concerns include the misuse of lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control components of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). There is also less enthusiasm for camera-based monitoring over problems of privacy.

The University of Kent, Toulouse Business School, ESSCA School of Management in Paris, and ESADE Business School in Spain studied the principal risks customers see about autonomous vehicles. A significant worry was about the reliability of the AV’s sensor and artificial intelligence systems. What if they fail? At Level 4 or Level 5, it can be disastrous.

Communication and messaging

Don’t just show and tell; talk to me is the pulse right now, AVs. The more the hype about how AVs will transform our lives, the better we must see how they will change our lives. True, there is plenty of information on its technology, but is that enough? Remember, AVs are predicted to transform our lifestyles. It’s about improving our lives, so manufacturers need to wear their customers’ skin, look through their eyes, and think their thoughts.

People are always excited about technology and innovation, but they are also wary. With AVs, the prospect of not driving, but being gone, is a significant promise. But it raises concerns about road risks, privacy, loss of driving skills, and, most important, the dependability of technology to keep you safe.

When the Wright Brothers invented the plane, it probably raised similar concerns about safety and dependability, and today, we board an airplane as routinely as we brush our teeth. Autonomous Vehicles will hopefully achieve the same kind of lifestyle integration, but until then, marketers and manufacturers must adopt the oldest form of communication to convince us: storytelling.

The proverbial sitting around the fire and hearing words that comfort, reassure and inspire us is not an outdated concept except the fire has been replaced with devices, but we are still eager for engagement and storytelling. The medium has changed: blogs, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, websites, e-essays, etc., but it’s the content that gets manufacturers the results they want.

We have evolved, but primordially, we are still anxious about our survival. If AV manufacturers can reassure us, we will be ready to take our foot off the pedal and let the vehicle take over.

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