Last month, UK transport operator Stagecoach trialed a driverless bus, Uber resumed testing its self-driving cars, and a former Apple employee was arrested for stealing the secrets to autonomous vehicles. If press reports are anything to go by, self-driving cars are by far the most important automotive development of recent years.
But this is only part of the bigger picture. While autonomous vehicles will no doubt revolutionize our roads, there are countless other cutting-edge inventions that are having just as large an impact on the way we drive.
- Telematics software is making vehicle-based businesses efficient
There are at least 3.5 million truck drivers in the USA. Since most of their vehicles run on gas from fossil fuels, the profession is one of the leading contributors to the country’s carbon footprint. Though automation may eventually have an effect on the long-haul trucking industry, there’s another invention that will transform the practice for the 21st century that hundreds of businesses are already using: telematics software.
Telematics uses GPS signals to track where each of a business’ vehicles is, allowing managers to keep tabs on delivery progress and, most importantly for the environment, driver efficiency. GPS fleet tracking technology can plot energy-efficient routes, and, as fleet management company Movolytics notes, reroute drivers mid-journey to avoid fuel-guzzling traffic jams.
Thanks to software like this, millions of drivers could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. This is a step in the right direction to eco-friendliness, but other developments are making an end to fossil fuel dominance even more likely.
- Electric vehicles are making the end of fossil fuels possible
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has been embroiled in controversy recently, but that hasn’t stopped his company, Tesla, from manufacturing electric cars on an unparalleled scale. The firm’s finances might be up in the air, but the important thing is electric vehicles are no longer a novelty.
Major car manufacturers have made significant investments in the electric vehicle space, with Volkswagen matching Tesla’s plans to put one million electric cars on the road by 2025. At the moment, the price of these vehicles is seen as the main barrier to mass adoption, but soon drivers may have little choice but to go electric.
In July, the UK laid out its “Road to Zero” plans, which necessitate all new cars must be electric or hybrid by 2030. The plan stops just short of completely eliminating these vehicles by 2040.
Similar bans are taking place throughout Europe, with Hamburg banning some diesel models and France pledging to end diesel and petrol sales by 2030 in Paris, and 2040 countrywide. Even China, one of the world’s biggest polluters, has expressed interest in working towards an electric-only future.
In this case, it’s not just the invention itself, but the way governments are legislating it that is really making all the difference.
- Blockchain technology is transforming car ownership
Still used primarily as the basis of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, blockchain technology is slowly but surely penetrating other areas of business. So much so that Volkswagen, very much not a cryptocurrency firm, now have their own head of blockchain, Benjamin Sinram, and, by inference, an entire blockchain department.
Speaking in Tel Aviv, Sinram laid out the many possibilities of what blockchain could enable in the automotive sector. One option would allow multiple people to own and use one Porsche vehicle, with blockchain managing access. There are also efforts to integrate blockchain with Volkswagen’s manufacturing process, tracking each car from factory to customer. It’s clear that there’s a wealth of potential in terms of what blockchain could do for car manufacturing and ownership, and Sinram at Volkswagen is just scratching the surface.
These three major technological developments prove beyond doubt that the automotive industry is evolving, even if we take self-driving cars out of the equation. And by the time autonomous vehicles to become the norm, there will no doubt be even more non-AI breakthroughs that will have changed everything.