What Is Autonomous Driving: All You Need To Know In Under Two Minutes!

The Cruise Origin Autonomous Vehicle

We Cannot Wait For The Day Where We Can Read A Book And Drink Coffee, While Being Driven To Work In A Self-Driving Vehicle.  But Do Not Be In A Hurry To Make The Cup Of Coffee.  The Inevitability Of Autonomous Driving Is Still Miles Away!


Until and unless you have been on a long sabbatical on a deserted island, there is a high probability you have come across terminology like autonomous driving, self-driving cars and autonomous vehicle (AV), multiple times.  And maybe also driverless car, robo-car and robotic car.     


What Is Autonomous Driving?  And When Will Self-Driving Vehicles Become A Reality?


  • Autonomous driving or self-driving cars are fully automated vehicles, making obsolete human involvement for driving.  It is the next generation of road mobility, which combines sensors, cameras, data, artificial intelligence, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), software and much more, within a ‘connected ecosystem’.  
The Cruise Origin Autonomous Vehicle
The Cruise Origin All-Electric Autonomous Vehicle (credit: Cruise)
  • Driverless cars are very closely related to the electric vehicle revolution. Both technologies are a paradigm shift, redefining the traditional automotive industry beyond recognition.  Indeed, most of the latest electric vehicles have been developed to enable semi-automated driving capability.
  • Fully autonomous vehicles have to replicate human driving behaviour, decision making and much more.  The autonomous vehicle has to be capable of identifying and processing information, to include, road conditions, nearby vehicles, traffic, speed, braking, pedestrians, events not anticipated and  much more.   The road to full autonomous driving is still at nascent stages and not an easy road.   Accidents during development and testing phases have made global headlines.  
  • There are many advantages for semi-autonomous and fully autonomous driving, but none potentially as significant as reducing traffic accidents and related deaths.  According to the International Organization for Road Accidents Prevention, 90 percent of accidents are due to human error. 
  • A host of different types of companies have been investing resources in this sector, to include, automobile manufactures like Tesla, but also companies like Uber, Lyft, Google and Apple.  Uber has much to gain from autonomous driving as it makes drivers redundant i.e. lower costs .  All these companies envision a zero-accident future. 
The Cruise Origin Autonomous Vehicle
The Cruise Origin Autonomous Vehicle (credit: Cruise)
  • Apart from technological challenges, the migration to autonomous driving will require tackling many other significant obstacles, to include regulation and consumers confidence.  Both these themes are still at a nascent stage.  Other stakeholders, like the insurance industry, will play a key role in the realisation of the mass-market adoption of autonomous vehicles.  In the UK, major insurers like the Direct Line Group and AXA, are already engaged with this developing technology via pilot schemes. 
  • Self-driving will redefine the fundamental relationship between consumers and mobility.   We are already witnessing some of ‘this future’ in self-driving concept cars.  The vehicle cabin is being defined as a space for working, entertainment etc.  Everything except driving! 
  • According to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), there are 5 levels of driving automation, from 0 (fully manual) to 5 (fully autonomous). These levels have also been adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation. 
  • This week, the US automotive company General Motors unveiled its first vehicle designed to be driverless, via its startup company Cruise.  The Cruise Origin has no steering wheel or pedals.   
  • Predictions and forecasts for mass adoption of autonomous vehicles are varied, with management consultancy firm McKinsey predicting as early as 2030. The consultancy also suggests that commercial autonomous vehicles like robo-taxis could be mainstream, much sooner, potentially as early as 2020-2022.   Other third party forecasts suggest up to 8 million autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles on the road by 2025. 

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There is no doubt, in that, the emergence of the ‘profile’ of autonomous driving has been exponential over the past few years.  From a ‘mere possibility’ it has achieved the status of ‘inevitability’.   However, timing is far from certain.  In our view, the mass-adoption of autonomous vehicles in developed markets is still some time away, and predictions so far, though encouraging are optimistic.  Moreover, in markets with less developed road transportation infrastructure, the timelines for mass-market adoption is much further away.  

In our view, the road to migration from manual to fully automated with be via the commercial vehicle segment, in particular, in niche roles, such as transportation in gated business parks, warehouses etc.  The industry will need to gain real experience and incorporate these learnings, before we can toast a drink while being driven in a self-driving passenger car!  


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Author

Ashvin Suri

Ashvin has been involved with the renewables, energy efficiency and infrastructure sectors since 2006. He is passionate about the transition to a low-carbon economy and electric transportation. Ashvin commenced his career in 1994, working with US investment banks in New York. Post his MBA from the London Business School (1996-1998), he continued to work in investment banking at Flemings (London) and JPMorgan (London). His roles included corporate finance advisory, M&A and capital raising. He has been involved across diverse industry sectors, to include engineering, aerospace, oil & gas, airports and automotive across Asia and Europe. In 2010, he co-founded a solar development platform, for large scale ground and roof solar projects to include the UK, Italy, Germany and France. He has also advised on various renewable energy (wind and solar) utility scale projects working with global institutional investors and independent power producers (IPP’s) in the renewable energy sector. He has also advised in key international markets like India, to include advising the TVS Group, a multi-billion dollar industrial and automotive group in India. Ashvin has also advised Indian Energy, an IPP backed by Guggenheim (a US$ 165 billion fund). He has also advised AMIH, a US$ 2 billion, Singapore based group. Ashvin has also worked in the real estate and infrastructure sector, to including working with the Matrix Group (a US$ 4 billion property group in the UK) to launch one of the first few institutional real estate funds for the Indian real estate market. The fund was successfully launched with significant institutional support from the UK/ European markets. He has also advised on water infrastructure, to include advising a Swedish clean technology company in the water sector. He is also a member of the Forbury Investment Network advisory committee. He has also been involved with a number of early stage ventures.

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