Driverless cars are on the way, but we’re not going to get to where we need to be if values aren’t behind the wheel.

There is great business potential in autonomous driving for automobile manufacturers and suppliers, as well as for IT and telecommunications companies. Telematics are sure to generate new capabilities and significantly disrupt and re-shape today’s mobility ecosystems.

Autonomous cars are also going to make us reexamine values, such as our ideas of freedom, purely rational decision-making, and security.

Real benefits and potholes ahead

A recent survey performed by BearingPoint in Germany shows road users consistently expect high benefits from autonomous driving. 62 percent of respondents see time-saving through improved route guidance as a large or very large benefit by. In addition to saving time, respondents expect less congestion and a better flow of traffic (61 percent), a lower risk of accidents and a higher driving comfort (both 60 per cent). Virtually independent of age, gender, state, or primarily driving in rural or urban areas.

There are myriad benefits, but I can’t help being nagged about how we’re going to lose the freedom to let chance take us where it will. To jump in the car and go, destination unknown. Deciding of a sudden to make a detour to a friend’s place as I’m on the way to the supermarket. Cruising slowly down the old neighbor, feeling the road through the steering wheel, the same road I used to play football on. That will all be lost, if we just get in our cars and punch in the destination.

Then I think of the situation where an autonomous car is traveling down the road and a kid jumps out in the street and the car has the choice to hit the kid or put everybody in the car into mortal danger. What purely rational decision does the car make? This is a question that haunts me.

Also, following up on that, who would be liable in case of an accident? Around 66 percent of respondents in our survey see this as a big or very big problem.

And then there are the significantly challenges in providing data protection in a telematics-centric environment. Though it was seen as significantly less critical by people under 30, there are many of us that are not so trusting about where data ends up, especially if it shows everyplace we go.

Besides privacy issues, there’s the issue of giving up control coupled with safety. We need to make sure that the systems that are in control of our cars are secure and hack-proof. As has been shown, e.g., in this YouTube video, there are systems out there that are not hack-proof, and cars on the road today can be hijacked over the internet. When autonomous cars hit the road, they need to be 100% protected against cyber risk, but so far in the digital world, it is difficult to find anything that is hack-proof.

We’ve got a lot to think about before autonomous cars hit the road.

 What values do you think we need in the driver’s seat?

  • Freedom
  • Privacy
  • Safety
  • Connectivity
  • Availability
  • Comfort
  • Control
  • Environmental friendliness
  • Fun