Over the next decade in the UK, driverless cars could be transporting us to work, robots washing and drying our clothes and waste-management trucks picking up our rubbish on demand. “By 2030 every car will be self-driving,” believes Dr John Bates, CEO of Testplant and author of Thingalytics. “This is going to have a lot of implications for a lot of systems, not just technological, but also ethical.” For example, if a person suddenly steps out in front of a car, it may not be possible for a human driver to stop before hitting them. But when the car is being driven by an AI, sub-micro second decision-making is possible.
If someone jumps out in front of the car, there is also an ethical dimension to the course of action to take. “Should all roadways be covered so no-one can even walk across them?” asks Dr Bates. “Should [the AI] make the decision of always protecting the driver or always protecting the pedestrian?”
By 2030, Dr Bates – who has been listed as one of the “Tech 50” most influential technologists by Institutional Investor magazine – points out there will be a whole new set of legislation that is introduced, so governments can ensure driverless cars are safe. They will also have to meet a set of certification standards.
Driverless cars will obviously be a huge change to the way we drive, but Bates thinks they will also affect the way we live, work and even interact with each other. “It completely changes my possible commute,” he says. “I can have my car pick up my CTO, and we can have a meeting somewhere. We don’t need to go anywhere – we are already in the office. Maybe there will be people just driving around in their office all the time. We could have these enormous people-movers, around which are mobile offices, clogging up the roadways of the UK. Think of the implications.”
Meanwhile, according to Antony Edwards, CTO of software testing firm Testplant, the introduction of driverless cars could also disrupt the way car ownership is viewed, as people no longer use cars as we do today. “Once you don’t get any joy from driving – because you are not driving – [a car] just becomes a commodity,” Edwards says. “Why would you bother owning it? Everything starts to become a service a lot more.”
Car manufacturers have already begun to start to change their business models to become more service-oriented. They now fit sensors in vehicles that can give feedback on how someone is driving. And instead of just manufacturers of vehicles, car companies are also becoming big data analytics providers.
“Suddenly you know all the telemetry about that vehicle,” says Edwards. “The tyres are talking [via] wireless, [telling you that] if you pump up this tyre you can save 10p a mile on fuel.”
Because they understand how you drive because of the data their products feed back to them, car companies could go down the road of leasing parts – such as tyres for example – as a service, rather than selling them. By 2030, as Edwards points out, car ownership itself might be a thing of the distant past.
Over the next 10 years it is likely that most of the major cities in the UK will also be using to data to become smarter via the internet of things (IoT). “There will be smart lighting, smart waste management, all interacting with each other,” says Dr Bates.