Parth Kapadia
Parth Kapadia
Engineer & Entrepreneur

How tesla is smashing the mustang driving culture …”

Face it car enthusiasts, technologists, and entrepreneurs – Palo Alto is slowly becoming your new car capital of the world. America’s new Detroit, as it disrupts the “built Ford tough” driving mentality for millennials and beyond. Tesla may be leading the pack for now, but automobile makers such as Toyota and Volkswagen believe to have roll-out strategies up their sleeves. Either way, long-term forecasts point towards a world far away from muscle cars and pick-up trucks. 

You’re driving, maybe looking for a dessert place post dinner, around 10 PM. You turn your head and you realize that you’re stopped next to Google’s self-driving car. A head-less horseman fully equipped with cameras and sensors in order to replace your job. A new norm, a reality of the road, engineered to really replace the entire car process. And, like this prototype, it might only cost you $1,000.

Autonomous vehicles may take you by surprise and evidently, self-driving cars are no longer a myth. Your future to come is comically amusing to the attributes of American billionaire presidents. You’d be shocked to learn what car Trump elects to drive later in this post.

Automobile IoT

Let the Tesla vs. Mustang culture games begin!

Technological advancement is an accelerating force, and as it progresses, the tendency to turn the objects of environment into interactive and communicative tools is becoming a satisfying reality. Think about it: you have a phone that knows your location, you workout with a wearable health device, and you watch shows on a television set that seems to know what you predictively want to watch…. oh and Amazon IoT rolls out a method of instantly ordering you toilet paper? 

Cars are the logical next step in this evolution commonly referred to as one of the key pillars of The Internet of Things (IoT).

So why would you want to drive a smart car? Is it because these new autonomous vehicles change the layout of the modern living itself? Or is your response much simpler? Well, in general, they are sleek and sophisticated and enable you to do more while you drive. 

(All of the pictures in this post were taken by me at CES 2016!)

Check out this Faraday Future expected to hit roads in 2017:

DSC00232

What is a Smart Car?

Before you move further, here’s your quick recap of what a smart car actually is because there’s a variety of styles out there and the distinctions in this sphere are important.

The basic Wikipedia definition of a smart car is a car that is equipped with advanced electronics; which is inaccurate: 

  • EVs are popular for their electric motors that enable them to accelerate quickly and operate without gas. Some self-driving cars are  powered by electric motors and some are powered by hybrid electric ones. However, their technological capacities span far beyond mere efficiency.
  • Google was the first pioneer behind the totally autonomous self-driving car. They began their project back in 2009, before Tesla, first by adding components to Lexus RX SUVs and developing a software platform that now powers new self-driving prototype methodologies.

Since the future of smart cars, seems to center around autonomous vehicles and alleviating America’s reliance on gas, here’s a little more detail on specifically what they are:

An autonomous car aims to provide transportation at “the push of a button—no driving required.” Using cameras, sensors, and software, these cars are able to detect the presence of other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians, to maneuver the road accordingly. For anyone actually sitting in the car, the ride is always a passenger’s ride since there shall not be a steering wheel nor pedals.

The key here is that these cars are being equipped with self-learning algorithms similar to the Nest thermostat, which we’ll touch on in future posts. Even though, just like real drivers, the software behind prototypes are continually gauging how to deal with the random variety of incidents that occur on the road.

The idea is that the more these cars are used, especially together, the smarter they will get at predicting outcomes. Moreover, after a certain inflection point, Google will have so much data and knowledge about driving, perhaps more than any human driver has ever had.

According to Google’s smart car project, the company has already self-driven more than 1 million miles, and is continually testing its cars in neighborhoods in Mountain View, Austin, Texas and Kirkland, Washington.

Their recent partnership with Uber already flatters what they have in store for your Friday and Saturday nights…

IMG_4740

Why Would You Want a Smart Car?

Many people really enjoy driving their Mustangs and wouldn’t want to give that feeling up. Research shows that most drivers are quite turned off when they notice a self-driving car; you simply don’t trust a computer to do what has up until now has been a predominantly human-controlled activity.

Although, your attitude towards self-driving cars is subject to inevitable change. After all, there was a period when cars in general were considered an abomination, so why are conglomerate tech companies investing so heavily into this internet enabled future?

  • Mobility: self-driving cars will give children, the elderly, the disabled, and executives an easy means by which to get about. You won’t have to worry about drunk driving and if someone is unwell they might be able get to the ER in the middle of the night all by themselves. This kind of mobility is unprecedented and could really change the way you live immediately.
  • Safety: while many of you feel iffy about self-driving cars, the fact is that humans are quite prone to error and at the end of the day, a calculator is far more accurate at computing than you. If there are enough smart cars on the road communicating with each other, in real time, odds are that accidents will decrease drastically. There are over 1.2 million deaths due to accidents worldwide each year, and 94% of these are caused by human error; death stats are something that smart cars could effectively disrupt.
  • Efficiency: self-driving cars might mean that you don’t own a personal vehicle anymore. By sharing cars and developing systems that optimize traffic flow, city planning advocates believe that smart cars will totally alter car-culture, possibly eliminating concrete parking lots and traffic jams. Oh and of course you’ll be able to kick back, compose blog posts, and tweet right from your back seat during your commute.

Keep in mind that these are just three arguments that are usually brought up during autonomous car debates. Although, there is another entire aspect to this conversation that you must know.

As development in IoT increases, it’s becoming more and more evident that soon enough more of your instruments and devices will be connected, interactive, but probably taken out of your control for particular regulatory reasons. Smart cars naturally fit into this progression, and if you take measured approach into IoT, you’ll find that there is almost no avoiding this industrial revolution. In fact, every car OEM is  ramping up right this second!  This is a natural result of current trends in culture every industry in the world is facing.

Toyota and their Mirai project also deserve a spot on this post. They say that unlike Tesla, they’re are built for long-term 100 year paybacks. Since that statement, they partnered with Shell and other companies to dive into fuel cell technology. They are also building over 20 CNG (compressed natural gas) fueling stations, which have actually been around in India for ages.

Ultimately, there is no point in doubting the emergence of smart cars. Their predominance is already underway, and it’s just a matter of time before they are ubiquitous in metropolitan cities around the world.
IMG_4746

Challenges

It’s easy to paint a utopian image when talking about smart cars and while they are undeniably cool, there are of course are some questions and challenges that engineers and communities will inevitably have to deal with.

Most of the challenges that autonomous car makers face are societal, rather than technical. The technology is already pretty much there. Besides Tesla and major companies like Uber, General Motors, Faraday Future, and Baidu (to name a few) are already exploring and investing in the autonomous car market that isn’t even customer facing yet. If you continue at this rate, the technology itself will be open sourced in a fairly short amount of time.

George Hotz, the infamous Playstation hacker, recently launched his new start-up, Comma.ai. He started it in his garage with some friends and claimed to have made his regular old Acura TSX into an autonomous self driving one with just a few household items he bought off eBay and Amazon. His public tobaggle with with Elon Musk also raised some eyebrows at TechCrunch Disrupt 2016 in San Francisco. The timid, yet exciting engineer was first asked, “what are you on and whatever it is, may I have some…? on stage after he said his software platform was “ghostriding for the masses.” Although, months later, his project, Comma One, was shut down by the feds because they couldn’t have an amateur engineer putting people’s lives in danger during beta testing.

But really, who do you think would be ticketed when your self-driving car hits another? It could happen and this wringer makes you think of a series of policy changes that would have to happen before cars like this become regularly adopted. Nearly all legislature in America refers to humans as drivers in cars, so how will laws apply if a completely new driver is introduced into the system? 

Up to 25% of traffic increase would be bad for society and if that statistic proves to be true, then all that talk about smart cars being good for the environment goes down the drain, especially if they aren’t electric.

Public infrastructure investors must be also challenged on the effects that self-driving cars would leave on public transportation. Smart cars might be taking focus away from greater public good initiatives.

IMG_4749

Tesla, Apple, and the Platform Players

A true feel good story for Americans is that companies in your own backyard have been stealing the show from German, Japanese, and Korean powerhouse car makers.  The only annoying part of that is that they’re raping us of our data and monetizing it in every way, shape, or form known to machine!

  • Tesla is the clear leader of cars and energy. Their president, Elon Musk, has slept 6 hours a night for the past 15 years. Since then, they have expanded to all forms of energy generation and storage when they merged with their sister company, SolarCity. He is the best inventor you’ve probably seen in a while.
  • Apple recently shut down Project Titan, their stage two of Apple CarPlay. Although, there have been rumors of Apple setting up a brand new research facility in China to explore emerging technologies such as driverless cars, home automation, drones, and more. You can assume they will be in the mix of things for the long haul.

Platforms for mobile devices have extended to the home and the workplace. They aren’t that far from them taking over the center consoles and infotainment systems within cars. Android Auto is the platform competitor to Apple and you must be for certain that Amazon partnering with Microsoft will have a play as well.

Conclusion

Although, our upcoming president will be driving somewhat of a different car, smart cars, EVs and autonomous vehicles are already a reality in America and other parts of the world. They have the potential to completely change the mobility and modern means to living. 

With tech behemoths already doing business in new industries, it won’t be long before smart cars are widely available to the public. The ability to move around freely and autonomously is great news for many. Others, will hopefully gear up to change, relatively quickly, or become obsolete. 

Ultimately, the biggest difficulty for this technology is actually selling people on the idea of autonomous cars. While there are some eager early adopters, it’s going to take time for most to come around and ditch their Mustangs for Teslas. All that said, the revolution has begun. How will you respond to the IoT revolution?

 

Why or why wouldn’t you purchase a smart car?

logo
an IoT blog – for engineers & entrepreneurs