Self-Driving Cars and Smart Cities: What Does the Future of the Auto Industry Look Like?


Self-driving cars are discussed frequently in the media and among automobile enthusiasts. And while some seem to believe that we’re still far away from a time when we’ll be able to enjoy this kind of technology ourselves, the reality is a bit different from that.

Relevant technologies have been advancing fast in recent years, and we’re currently at a point where we can take a realistic look at the near future of the auto market. We can now imagine how the world will look with self-driving cars and smart cities,and the synergy that we might see between them.

Let’s take a closer look at what the future might hold for the automotive industry.

Are Self-Driving Cars Closer Than We Think?

We’ve already seen various successful experiments with self-driving cars, including on public roads. Similarly, we’ve also seen rapid developments in various additional technological fields related to self-driving cars’ progress. In particular, artificial intelligence (AI) has exploded in popularity during the 21st century—and it seems like we’re only touching the tip of the iceberg for what’s possible in this area.

It’s not unlikely that new developments on the AI front will accelerate the progress of the self-driving car market even more, as the two fields are very closely related.

Several companies have already made steps towards the consumer market. Tesla, which has also made commitments to becoming more environmentally-friendly, is probably the most notable name on that front. The company wants to release fully self-driving cars through a subscription service.

But despite Tesla’s popularity, the company isn’t the only one looking to make self-driving cars more accessible. Waymo and Baidu are two other examples.

AI and Self-Driving: Challenges We Must Overcome

Illustration of technology cogs

Despite the advancements we’ve made in a short time period, there’s still a lot of work to do with AI. It will probably take some time to iron out the issues fully, too. For example, self-driving car developers still need to improve the accuracy of their sensors and AI systems to ensure passenger safety.

While it’s theoretically possible to support an infrastructure of self-driving cars with current systems, urban developers must still introduce several improvements to ensure that things run even more smoothly.

How Will Smart Cities Help Normalize Driverless Cars?

smart cities and self driving cars

Smart cities are associated with ideas and technologies that could save the planet. And naturally, they’ll play a crucial role if driverless cars are to become commonplace.

Cities will have to ensure that there won’t be chaos on the roads, especially as more people switch over to self-driving cars for themselves. But again, this will take time—and we’ll need to carry out tests to make sure all runs as it should.

We can integrate several things electronically to improve the situation for self-driving cars. Traffic lights, street signs, and other traffic control elements can provide additional information electronically—broadcasting it to all vehichles that might find it relevant.

By doing the above, roads will be more organized and self-driving cars will be much more efficient and reliable. At the same time, however, we might see more restrictions imposed on people who want to continue driving manually. Urban planners need to ensure that both can peacefully exist on the streets.

Tests have already begun taking place to see what we can do. For example, a Dutch concept named the “Smart Highway” experimented with photo-luminescent markings as a workaround for requiring permanent power. However, the idea failed soon after an initial test road segment was launched.

Other organizations have been exploring the concept in a more granular fashion. In one vision brought forward by the US Department of Transportation, we might have different “grades” of self-driving areas. On the one hand, we have cars with no autonomy, which most people drive today. At the opposite end is full automation, where a car on the road requires no input from its driver from start to finish.

This concept envisions various grades between those two ends, which could relieve city planning efforts significantly. Some areas could incorporate smart traffic lights and road markings, facilitating a minimal set of autonomous driving features.

Pedestrians also play a role in the development of smart city features for driverless cars. Companies can monitor their traffic patterns and train their systems accordingly before switching over to actual vehicles.

Small-scale experiments of this kind have already taken place with varying levels of success. Amsterdam, for example, features street lamps that automatically adjust their brightness depending on foot traffic patterns.

Self-Driving Cars: Looking Forward to a Bright Future

With the automotive industry needing to rethink its ideas, driverless cars are an exciting prospect. However, cities will need to adapt before they can become a mainstay in our lives.

For the most part, all that’s left right now is to keep your eyes fixed on the future and stay informed about new developments on the market. There is certainly no shortage of information to keep you entertained in the coming months and years, and if we’re lucky, we might even see this idea materialize in our lifetimes!


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