Detroit Auto Show 2018: Autonomous Connected Vehicles Take over the World?

The NMA Foundation presents The Car of the Future weekly feature.

Many motorheads look forward to the yearly spectacle that is the Detroit Auto Show or the official name the North American International Auto Show. This is undoubtedly the most important auto show in the world since Detroit is where it happens for anything car. This year was no different and just like the CES 2018 (formerly called the Consumer Electronic Show) last week in Vegas, autonomous and connected cars have seemingly taken over.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao showed up and declared that the Trump administration indeed supports the autonomous car takeover and that automakers need to do a better job of selling this idea of driverless and connected to the general public.

Also, many companies made big announcements.  Magna unveiled 4-dimension radar for driverless vehicles and Blackberry announced new cybersecurity software. Daimler told everyone they are taking a cautious and realistic march to autonomous. 

Connected Cars

Connected cars were also on the mind of many at the annual event. Jacqueline McCarthy, spokesperson for CTIA, a lobbyist for the wireless communications industry, said on Wednesday that the cars displayed at this year’s auto show reveal a trend toward connectivity that appears to be irreversible. She said during a panel discussion hosted by CTIA, “A lot of the innovations here on the floor are based on connectivity, to other cars, to infrastructure, to the internet. Certainly we know it brings a lot of benefits, but it also brings risk.”

Also on the same panel Ann Arbor, Michigan based attorney Jennifer Dukarski said that automakers will have to grapple with privacy concerns as cars collect an increasing amount of data not just on the cars themselves but also on the drivers. She added:

“When you hop into a car, used to be you had the four doors surrounding you, your windows up, and you didn’t expect anybody to watch you. That old legal expression of reasonable expectation of privacy would suggest everything that happens in the car stays in the car and nobody needs to know. But the minute you connect to any of your platforms, the minute that your vehicle is looking at you, taking pictures of you, checking your blood pressure, or like for those who were at CES 2018, if you got to see the brain-to-vehicle interface that Nissan was demoing, taking your brain waves and mapping them to our steering ability. Now that the car is collecting that type of data, it brings a few concerns in mind. As a repository of personal health data, facial recognition data, we need to start talking about what privacy laws are implicated.” 

What do Consumers Really Want?

But who says that we, the consumer, want all this stuff to happen to us when we are driving a car, one of the few places many of us have to be alone with our own thoughts and our volition to drive?

And where is all that supposed data going to be stored anyway? Ward’s Auto posted an aptly titled article this week, Storage Almost Full: Driverless Cars create a Data Crunch. They gave an example of the problem:

Twitter’s 270 million users produce about 100 GB of data per day. A single autonomous test vehicle produces about 30 TB per day, which is 3,000 times the scope of Twitter’s daily data.

And that is just one car. Extrapolate that over all the Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) and you can understand that the problem is more than staggering. On top of that, how do you tag all that data so the information can actually be used and when and how do you override the data so the storage space can be used again to crunch more data? And then again, the personal privacy aspect needs to be addressed as well as hacking.

Autonomous driving or riding as you will does have a connection to connectivity but they are not one and the same. You can still drive a car that is connected but not autonomous. Will the connectivity craze occur before we don’t drive at all? I think it depends on how fast owners will give up their old cars. One aspect that owners don’t like about all the gadgets is that newer cars cost more to insure because they are more expensive to repair after an accident. One reason they are more expensive to repair is that not just anyone can repair them since the gadgets and the software have become the automakers’ intellectual property.

Autonomous Cars

According to a recent Deloitte study, only 47 percent of U.S. consumers felt AVs would be unsafe, which is significant different from a similar survey conducted in 2017 which stated 74 percent felt they were unsafe. Maybe consumers are overcome with the excitement of driverless cars and the reality of them has not yet set in how it will actually work or won’t work.

At both the CES 2018 and the Detroit Auto Show 2018, all the major automakers and tech companies showed off the near-future of AVs. Since 2014, 42 percent of U.S. stock market gains have been by new tech firms. Along with stalwarts, Ford, GM, FCA who have adapted and innovated faster than Silicon Valley, could AVs scale sooner than later?

In the end, are AVs really about the consumer? Perhaps these kinds of vehicles will scale because fleets will buy them and use them instead of single consumers.

Will the Ubers, the Lyfts, the Mavens, and the robotaxis take over then? The only way consumers can say they don’t want something is by not buying it but if we don’t buy it, will automakers give us what we really want or what they think we need? Or perhaps, they won’t sell us anything anymore except a subscription service?

If that’s the case, what a boring car of the future.

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The NMA Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting your interests as a motorist and citizen through the multi-faceted approach of research, education, and litigation.  The Foundation is able to offer this assistance through tax-deductible contributions. 

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NMA’s Flipboard Magazine called Car of the Future—Over 50 stories are placed each month in this magazine devoted to the Car of the Future.  Stories featured include future car politics, industry news and thought pieces.

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2 Responses to “Detroit Auto Show 2018: Autonomous Connected Vehicles Take over the World?”

  1. Warren says:

    The driverless push is obviously another top down scam for elite control and profit. Only 2 things will save us: an economic meltdown &/or hackers.

  2. Harry says:

    Sounds like a plan by Mr Brain for the cartoon show Pinky and the Brain –
    Pinky: Gee, Brain. What are we going to do tonight?
    The Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.