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Self-Driving Cars and Business – Cognitive, Cooperation, and Controversy

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by Ron Exler

Several recent announcements about self-driving vehicles help illustrate the rapid evolution of the concepts, technologies, and manufacturers – and bolster our position that it’s time for enterprises and their providers to pay attention to autonomous vehicles (AVs).

Automaker BMW Group and IBM announced collaboration on research. The focus is cognitive computing in BMW cars using IBM Watson. Research areas include conversational interfaces, personal driving experiences, and intuitive driver-support systems. BMW Group will co-locate a research team at IBM’s new Munich Watson IoT headquarters (1680LENS, Kognitiv im Munich: IBM Opens Global HQ for Watson IoT, 16Dec2015).

On December 13, Google announced that its self-driving car project is now Waymo, a new Alphabet business. According to Google, “Waymo” stands for “a new way forward in mobility.” Over the last six months, Google worked with Chrysler to design and engineer modifications to the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan to integrate the new self-driving systems. Waymo expects the self-driving Pacifica will be on public roads in 2017.

Yet there’s controversy as well. After weeks of dispute with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Uber finally agreed to terminate its pilot self-driving car service in San Francisco because it had no permits. Uber had asserted the permits don’t apply because its vehicles have a driver and an engineer in the front seats to take over as needed; the DMV responded with a threat to de-register the cars. Uber has since threatened to pursue legislation that will allow it to bypass the DMV. Meanwhile, one report projects Uber losses will total $3 billion by year-end.

On December 14, Microsoft said it strengthened ties to location data providers Esri, HERE, and TomTom. TomTom and Microsoft will integrate location-based services into Microsoft Azure, including TomTom’s High Definition Map and RoadDNA technology for autonomous driving. The integration should make it easier for developers to build and manage enterprise, mobile, Web and Internet of Things (IoT) applications that are location-aware.

HERE has a solid legacy of 30+ years in mapping transportation networks and points of interest worldwide (1960ETM, Briefing Notes – HERE Drives Street Mapping, Autonomous Vehicles, 24Sep2016). For Microsoft, HERE powers the Bing Maps API, enabling store-locator maps, asset tracking and other location services businesses and developers. Microsoft now can expand use of HERE data and services into autonomous vehicles.

Esri’s geographic information system (GIS) runs on Microsoft Azure and the two longtime partners recently announced a preview of ArcGIS Maps for Power BI for improved data visualization for enterprise customers. Esri’s GIS on Azure ingests real-time, location-based data, including weather data, social media feeds, live sensor data, and location services data.

While the profit models remain unclear for the rapidly shifting arena of road transportation services, big-name automotive companies, technology firms, data suppliers, ride-sharing services providers, and investors are betting heavily on success. These most recent announcements reinforce what we’ve said – how people and materials move is changing rapidly. Enterprises need to stop watching with curiosity and start deciding how, when, and where their businesses can benefit from autonomous vehicles (2018ETM, Three Reasons to Pay Attention to Autonomous Vehicles, 9Dec2016).

About the author

Ron Exler’s research agenda is on the cutting edge of location intelligence, the Internet of Things and application modernization with analysis of market trends, provider positioning, deployment challenges and opportunities. With a passion for bridging the gap between business and technology, Ron helps deliver go-to-market strategies for enterprise solution providers in data science, data management, cloud services and analytics. He also works with vendors to develop and execute sales/marketing strategies, competitive analyses, product roadmaps, profit and loss analyses and pricing plans. His integrated systems view means he looks across technologies and business areas to evaluate true market potential and affects. Ron has authored dozens of thought leadership reports for the ISG Insights service.