With driverless cars quickly becoming a reality — both privately and commercially — it’s time to look at a few considerations for using a driverless car as part of a business.
Imagine a taxi service with driverless cars. Overhead is lower, as you won’t need a driver. But there’s one problem: In the past, hackers have remotely hacked internet-enabled cars. What happens when a hacker remotely locks the doors, preventing the customer from getting out of the car? The hacker could essentially kidnap the customer, driving them to a new destination. If the customer is smart, they’ll break a window and escape, leaving you with a damaged vehicle. Only 10 percent of cars were connected to the internet in 2013, but Spanish company Telefonica estimates that about 90 percent would be connected in 2020.
Another scenario concerns driverless trucks hauling cargo. What if the cargo was diverted, with the truck hijacked? Expensive items could be ransomed off or sold on the black market. Or, possibly worse, hackers could force trucks to crash, potentially endangering others and destroying the cargo.
But driverless cars aren’t made in a vacuum. The White House and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security each released guidelines for internet of things (IoT) security last November, which covers internet-connected cars. When found, exploits are quickly closed. Hackers released a how-to guide for hacking Teslas, so the company pushed an update nullifying the guide.
Despite not needing drivers, the vehicles cannot run 24/7 every day. Doing so is a great way to quickly wear out what is likely an expensive investment.
By properly maintaining certain parts of the vehicle, Unitronic notes, it will run more efficiently in suburban areas or during a commute. Changing out the air intake and filters, making sure the tires still have tread, and changing out the brakes can all improve performance. This will not only increase the miles per gallon or charge, but also the longevity of the vehicle as a whole. These changes will make a difference over time, saving the company money.
Finally, it’s worth considering whether the vehicles should be truly driverless or not. While the technology can replace a person, should it? Or would it still be better to have a person behind the wheel, even if they are not actively driving? Even a vehicle that uses autopilot full time could use a real driver in case something goes wrong.
For example, a real person would be able to perform emergency maintenance should the car break down, rather than having to wait for a mechanic to show up, saving time and money. In a driverless truck situation, whoever is behind the wheel can collect a signature when the cargo has been dropped off, certifying the client received their goods.
Between security, maintenance, and whether there should actually be someone behind the wheel of a driverless car, there’s a few factors to consider before adopting this cutting edge technology for your company. As it is, the House approved a bill earlier this month that could lead to 100,000 of these vehicles taking to the road. While it may save money in the long run, it will take work and careful thought about staffing.
Avery Phillips is a magical unicorn of a human being who loves everything human. She’s a fiery socialist and would love to talk about it. Tweet her @A_taylorian or comment below.