A Few Things Need to Happen Before We See Fully Autonomous Fleets

  • July 30, 2019
  • Kim Haneke
  • Reading Time: 3 minutes
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I attended Mobile World Congress (MWC19) in Shanghai a few weeks ago. As Asia’s leading annual event for next-gen technology attracting over 60,000 professionals, this year’s event featured the “Future of Mobility Summit” which brought together industry leaders to discuss the future mobility ecosystem, and highlighted how infrastructure and technology can support future growth. Within the summit, autonomous fleet management was a hot topic and CalAmp joined other IoT industry leaders to share what’s to come.
Paul Washicko from CalAmp joined the “Future of Autonomous Fleets” panel with Harry Qiao from Ericsson and Christin Lin from Taoglas. The panel was moderated by David Braunstein from Together for Safer Roads and discussed three critical things that must happen before the world sees fully autonomous fleets and vehicles. Given CalAmp has been in the vehicle telematics industry for over 30 years, we know this is a very complex problem that won’t be solved overnight.
What will it take for us to achieve fully autonomous fleets?
Investments in self-driving cars surged from $6 billion in 2015 to more than $60 billion in 2018, and we don’t see signs of that slowing. However, expectations have changed about the speed to fully autonomous vehicles and fleets, which could pump the brakes on progress. Although the advancement of 5G is bringing us closer to the level of complete autonomy, some industry leaders are too focused on the end result. With such fascinating technology, it’s often easy to overlook the essential steps that need to be taken to ensure a safe experience for all.
Key points from the panelists include:

  • Data Gathering
  • Edge Computing
  • Safety

According to Paul Washicko, SVP of product management at CalAmp, we’re currently in the data collection phase and we see large amounts of money being invested here. The intelligence captured from in-vehicle data can enable apps and services that expand access to more autonomous transportation modes, facilitate public safety compliance, deliver proactive driver behavior insights and expedite emergency response.
The data collected will provide insight into how much processing will need to be done at the edge, and how much data we’ll need to be at a comfort level where artificial intelligence (AI) is performing well enough to keep everyone on the road safe. “Testing is really important because we’re able to collect data under different circumstances. We can’t allow any failures and this data will enable the vehicles to respond accordingly,” said Christin Lin, general manager, Taoglas China.
Before we see fully autonomous fleets hit the road, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on the regulations side. Per Paul Washicko, in the US alone there are over 200 million vehicles on the road and many are not connected. How do you deal with those? The pain-point here is debating whether beacons are mandated in these vehicles, or if it calls for government and private enterprises collaborating to make sure these newer vehicles interact with older vehicles.
CalAmp has been in the telematics business for decades and vehicle data tells us a lot about the driver experience and how we can improve upon that experience. You have to collect large amounts of data in a controlled environment and also on roads for machines to actually learn leveraging AI. Connected vehicle pilots are currently taking place in well-controlled environments, but manufacturers need to gear up to implement more robust technologies that ensure safety for all iterations of autonomous drive.
Edge computing will fuel autonomy
We have to account for how these vehicles will respond if these networks go down. Rather than relying on cloud connectivity, we need to focus our efforts around edge components, which will accelerate computational processes to help autonomous vehicles be free of cloud dependency. The panel made it clear that there’s no substitute for having the back-end data. This data will feed the edge device in times of network loss or poor latency. “Right now the network performance is not good enough. 5G has the potential to resolve this situation, especially for its low latency features,” said Harry Qiao, global sales engagement principal, connected vehicle and transportation, Ericsson. Paul added to Harry’s statement, sharing he believes it will take another generation before edge computer processing will create a safe driving experience.
Safety first
Safety is a big focus at CalAmp. We’re a member of Together for Safer Roads (TSR), a coalition focused on fleet safety management and technology initiatives to prevent traffic crashes, injuries and deaths. We’ve already seen incidents on open roads resulting in casualties. While it’s cool to focus on “what’s next,” safety for drivers and pedestrians is critical to ensure before we can enjoy the promise of convenience and efficiency from autonomous driving. Ensuring safety through thoughtful innovation will make fully autonomous fleets and vehicles a reality.
If you would like to check out the panel video, please visit this link.

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