• Rahul Kumar

Shared Autonomy: Sci-Fi Future or Subtle Changing of the Present?



We've all heard about driverless cars traversing our roads and had the fear that some day a "minority report" type highway will be running down the middle of our cities. Most major car manufacturers and industry pundits predict that automated vehicles will be in our driveways by 2020.

The reality is, that what happens next in mobility isn't about revolutionary changes, but rather evolutionary ones. We've seen that millennials prefer giving up personal space and privacy for convenience. This change has been occurring for the past decade. The Facebook generation is ok with sharing a ride, as long as it's quick, convenient and most importantly ON-DEMAND.

We all know about carpooling, transit, and other shared ride options. They are bolstered either by cost (cars and parking are too expensive), time (commuting solo is time consuming), or most likely a combination of the two. While much more effective than a personal automobile, rideshare services all share the inefficiencies brought on by the need for a driver.

I posit a case where automated vehicles aren't necessarily part of an Orwellian Utopia, but rather a real, use-based option for the majority. Imagine a fleet of automated vehicles that are reserved simply by using an app that shift their operations real-time based on onboard telematics and communications with the street, roads and most importantly other car networks.

Now imagine that this fleet has shared ownership by a small group of people, or a company provides the service, almost like having a car timeshare.

This "shared autonomy" is truly the future of mobility. Because it works today (carpooling/rideshare etc). An automated vehicle will be truly on-demand 24-hours a day and take away the need for people to have their personal vehicle. You would have a carpool in the morning, the car would come back because it knows that someone in your group has a dentist appointment and go get them. It may then pick them up after their appointment and go to the school to pick up your kids and drop everyone off at their residences in time to go pick up the carpool group at the end of the work day.

Using onboard and satellite telematics it would know where everyone was, know the traffic, road and weather conditions, and plan accordingly.

It's not that far-fetched and could greatly benefit everyone in saving time, money, while offering greater convenience and options.

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