Over 130 ago Carl Benz' motorcar paved the way to today’s motorized individual transport. The structures that have grown since then are facing radical upheaval because highly automated driving functions in autonomous vehicles are not only leading to considerable technical changes but are revolutionizing traditional business models at automobile manufacturers, component suppliers and service providers. Hand in hand with a strong network of partners, IAV is bringing the shared vision of tomorrow’s highly automated mobility to the road.
Highly automated driving functions improve ride comfort and safety, optimize the flow of traffic, reduce fuel consumption and cut emissions. This means that although they provide answers to many central issues of future personal mobility, they also place considerable demands on the technologies used in the vehicle and infrastructure.
Traditional development structures and marketing channels no longer deliver the answers to the new challenges. For instance, highly developed driving functions demand powerful software tools and processors that can process the sensor system signals in real-time and send control commands to the actuator system. Ongoing communication with other vehicles and the infrastructure must be guaranteed to provide a reliable exchange of information in the data cloud.
Overcoming the technical obstacles is just one aspect that needs to be addressed for successfully launching highly automated driving functions. The others include the costs of the hardware and running the system inside and outside the vehicle which are still too high. On the way to turning highly automated driving into everyday practice, this is why IAV is working with partners Microsoft, NXP Semiconductors, Esri, Swiss Re and Cubic Telecom in a powerful network. “We have deliberately opted for a cross-sector partnership. Each company contributes its own strengths and specific expertise, allowing us to offer a technically and economically superior overall concept”, explains Benedikt Schonlau, head of IAV’s Automated ITS department.
The project partners presented an initial approach to implementing their vision in early January at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, one of the world’s biggest trade shows for entertainment electronics. Showgoers were even given the opportunity to go on a test drive in a highly automated vehicle and see just how far the project has developed.
New business model
The partners are treading new paths, particularly in their approach to cost efficiency. To date, driver assist systems have been available as cost options, in the same way as other features. The relevant hardware is only installed if customers choose the option in configuring their new car. “Our market analyses have shown that this rigid business model no longer works with highly automated driving”, Benedikt Schonlau says.
When autopilot functions are introduced, volumes will be low on account of only few vehicles being equipped with these systems, keeping up the costs for components needed in the vehicle. On top of this, the costs incurred for using the functions, such as for providing the intelligent infrastructure, updating map material or connecting to a data cloud, can only be charged to the relevant providers at an inadequate level.
With the business model IAV is pursuing, the hardware will be fitted in the vehicle as standard, with the automobile manufacturer only needing to enable automated driving functions on the software side. If customers initially choose not to include the feature at the time they purchase the vehicle, they can get it activated later on. This gives the customer maximum flexibility. Instead of paying for assist services all the time, they can book them for a specific period or journey, such as at the weekend or for vacation or business trips.
Innovative payment models will then provide the answer to charging only the service selected. This will also open up new marketing channels, such as low-price or free test offers, to give consumers an idea of what it is like to experience the benefits of automated driving over an introductory period.
For every company involved in implementing the technology, the transparent cost structure creates a valid costing base, making its easier for them to estimate their investment and anticipated yields. This approach also gives automakers tangible benefits. Being able to install the system hardware across vehicle models and platforms, economies of scale will reduce their unit costs as well as their development, validation and calibration input.
This will also make it easier for them to cover ongoing provider costs from the permanent revenue they get. IAV and the other network partners have developed the technologies to such a level that it is likely they will to be ready for volume production in three to four years. In individual transport, IAV initially expects to see the first applications of highly automated driving in highway traffic where permanently exchanging information is not essential; removing one of the main obstacles to introducing it.
In urban centers with dense traffic and complex road situations, on the other hand, linking data to an intelligent infrastructure will be unavoidable. This is why, in the urban environment, local public transport will be the first to change over to automated driving. For this, IAV is developing an overall, self-contained system that interconnects buses and driving environment.
Once the intelligent infrastructure is established, systems will be opened up for individual transport and then permit automated individual automobile transport in the urban environment.