One of the biggest trends in the auto industry over the past decade has been the adoption of fully self-driving vehicles. In the not-so-distant past, the only option a driver had to get their vehicle ready for travel was to do so in a parking lot. Today, fully self-driving cars can be brought into a garage, plugged in, and have full power, navigation, and entertainment systems already installed. The advent of smartphone integration into these systems has dramatically changed the landscape of how we do business in cars. This trend has accelerated rapidly, and now many drivers do not even own a car.
Manufacturers are adopting a similar approach by designing their own vehicles with on-board systems that allow the driver to make use of applications based on their preferences, rather than having to rely on the more limited programs that come from the dealership. These systems are becoming more powerful, but it is still a relatively limited field of endeavor. Only a fraction of new vehicles have been introduced with this technology, and it is still too expensive for most manufacturers to make a significant investment in the development of new autonomous technologies. Instead, they are sticking with basic software systems that allow the safe and convenient operation of many standard car features. This allows carmakers to save significant expense on the devices and to focus their attention on developing new, higher performing and more exciting features.
Manufacturers that offer vehicles with on-board self-driving cars will continue to have an advantage over others in the industry. Most carmakers have limited experience in designing this type of product, and they have little confidence in their ability to build them at a reasonable price. The few established companies that have begun to offer this technology have focused on improving the mapping and control functions of existing vehicles. They have yet to focus on building highly advanced, user-friendly systems for fully self-driving cars. Until these companies do so, they will continue to lose out to the competition.
On the other hand, smaller manufacturers are quickly learning how to provide the consumer with a fully self-driving vehicle. These smaller firms recognize that the true savings comes not from the features offered by existing vehicles, but from the customer's perspective. Consumers want to feel confident and safe when they are driving, and the progress of companies like Toyota shows that the future of the industry is firmly headed in that direction. Self-driving cars will save consumers thousands of dollars per year in car insurance premiums. The additional value to consumers comes in the form of substantial savings on fuel costs as well.
As the automobile industry adjusts to the changing needs of consumers, the industry will become even more dependent on the experience of the engineers who design and manufacture self-driving cars. Many large, established companies have already embraced some form of the technology, and smaller companies are following suit. In fact, nearly every major car company is involved in some way with at least some form of self-driving vehicle development. The future of the industry can be defined by the first steps of a technologically advanced culture.
Many experts expect a radical reduction in the size of the auto industry over the next five years, with fewer new cars being made in the U.S. and a focus on efficiency and safety. This can have
a significant impact on the quality of vehicles available to consumers. It means that innovations that once caused problems in the industry will no longer be a problem. One way this will affect the automobile industry is the increasing focus on "green" products and services. Automation has become almost a religion for many people. Consumers are looking for products and services that have a lower environmental impact, and autonomous vehicles represent just the sort of product that car manufacturers are now catering to.
Consumers want to make sure their auto extended warranties are still covering all the basics it once did. That their money is going far and will pay for necessary repairs when needed. Car repair insurance companies won't pay for things that should be covered under a warranty. So be sure to check on your car's warranty before you begin to file a claim.
Consumer acceptance of autonomous vehicles has been slow, but it has come. Most states in the U.S. are now allowing passengers to take their feet off the pedals and operate a vehicle hand free. While these tests are not complete, it is a step in the right direction toward creating a truly self-driving vehicle future. In the meantime, the auto companies are busy designing and engineering prototypes of fully self-driving vehicles. Companies are racing to make these vehicles a reality before the regulatory standards on autonomous vehicle use become established.
How autonomy has changed the automotive industry has changed the industry as a whole. Technological progress does not happen in one leap or even in a series of quick improvements. Things take time. While technological innovations do not always make sense from a consumer's perspective, they are critical to the long-term future of the automotive industry and the way it is organized. If consumers are comfortable with technology in an automobile, it makes driving safer, less risky and more convenient. If consumers are comfortable with self-driving cars, it also makes driving much easier.