Phil Scone, director, digital strategy and solutions, ISG, says that although autonomous cars have polarised public opinion, we should regard them as an interesting case study of the role of data in technological advances.

People continue to be enthralled by the potential of autonomous vehicles. We are either drawn to the potential for innovation and the new possibilities they present, or we are fearful of the rise of AI and how it will impact our day to day lives.

Autonomous vehicles: An open data challenge

Autonomous vehicles present a myriad of data challenges to developers, from managing large volumes of data to drive insights and develop features, to coordinating the approaches of different businesses to establish industry standards. Perhaps the greatest challenge for autonomous vehicle technology developers is how to manage the data collection process to inform new features that improve the functionality and safety of their cars.

To make vehicles as safe and high quality as possible, developers need to pull together as much information as they can to derive the highest quality insights. The volume of data presents a major challenge and the automated vehicle industry needs to develop a network through which to share the disparate information from all vehicle trials.

There are considerations when deciding how to manage such a large volume of data, such as the cost of centralising data on the public cloud and the associated impacts on data processing speed and quality. Using a cloud-based data management system, supported by edge computing and data management strategies to improve cost efficiency, will make it easier to generate higher quality insights on autonomous vehicles.

The lessons from today can be used to inform the regulations of tomorrow by building a global ecosystem of data through a hybrid cloud-based approach, so lightening the load on the public cloud. This approach, coupled with collaboration between different companies and markets, will provide the opportunity to develop a global set of industry standards to guide future developments.

Harmonising the business approach

Businesses developing autonomous vehicles must align internal departments around shared business goals. Decision-making on automated technologies doesn’t lie with just one part of the organisation, but crosses the product, operations and data teams with each constituting a key element of the product delivery pipeline.

Phil Scone

For many companies, developing technology successfully will mean altering their operating model and becoming more agile by bridging business and IT departments to develop this aligned strategy.

Clearly, this is as much an organisational issue as it is a technological one. Finding a way for departments to work together effectively to develop innovation and features can be difficult and it can be useful to seek external help with technology change management.

Overcoming cultural resistance is critical

We know that driverless vehicles are coming, but the evidence shows that most people aren’t ready to welcome them into their everyday lives just yet. Aside from the data and organisational challenges associated with developing driverless cars, there is quite some work to be done to convince the public of their merit. Even with the strong argument that an autonomous vehicle is safer than a driven vehicle we have a long history of trusting ourselves over technology.

This means the public will demand extensive evidence of autonomous vehicles’ safety before they are prepared to embrace the change. This cultural resistance will likely prove the greatest challenge to autonomous vehicles’ proliferation in the near future.

In conclusion, we are witnessing autonomous technology emerge and strengthen rapidly, although developers are still dealing with issues. It remains to be seen how they will find solutions to the issues they face, from handling massive amounts of data, to technical and infrastructure challenges, as well as the organisational and cultural issues they will encounter.

Yet all new innovations face an array of challenges initially and in fact, autonomous vehicles are one of the most mature connected products, carving a path for many others to follow. The journey to autonomous vehicles becoming part of our everyday lives may be longer than some predict, and the road is fraught with technical difficulty. However, it is a journey that will shape not only the transportation sector, but many aspects of our lives, trailblasing the way for automation developments in other sectors.

The author of this blog is Phil Scone, director, digital strategy and solutions, ISG

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