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The Next Generation of Transportation

At the end of May, I spent two days at the Connected Car Forum in Monaco. Arranged by Cassandra Harris and her team at VentureSpring, the conference attracted some of the industry’s most knowledgeable experts from companies including McLaren Applied Technologies, Jaguar Land Rover and Hyperloop.

We dived into some fascinating discussions about the future of transportation.

If you showed a car from today to Karl Benz, who built the first internal combustion engine car, he would recognise most of the mechanical components. What would amaze him would be the control, instrumentation and entertainment electronics. But over the next 15 years the car as we know it, and the ways we use it, are set to change even more dramatically.

Self-driving cars are a great example of the disruption that lies ahead. Google’s self-driving car has so far clocked up more than 1.5m miles. When the technology becomes mainstream, no longer will a tired, distracted driver have to pilot a vehicle and potentially be a danger to themselves and those around them.

The cars will be able to park themselves too, after dropping off their passengers, changing the way that vehicles could be stored in cities. And if humans are freed from driving, billions of hours will be made available for more productive pursuits.

The vehicle insurance space will also be radically reinvented. A car manufacturer may indemnify the driver while under the control of their self-driving systems. Drivers might only have to insure themselves for those times they decide to take control of the vehicle.

These new cars will start to become more software and less hardware centric. They will require over-the-air software updates to add new features and improve the self-driving program (sharing the learning of the crowd to enhance safety, fuel efficiency, comfort and security) all without the need to take the vehicle into a dealer. This will dramatically reduce the cost of recalls and enable a much more compelling user experience (in the same way your iPhone feels refreshed and adds new features with each major update).

With this new over-the-air capability security will become critical. We simply can’t allow a terrorist to hack into multiple cars of one or more manufacturer and direct the cars to drive into the centres of populations. This security will also be part of a larger need to secure all connected devices (cars, drones, phones, etc.). In this space there is an opportunity for a centralised, trusted source to provide encryption keys and authentication/verification.

On the subject of encryption, I met with an expert in the field of quantum computing who was also building human-scale flying drones. His view is that quantum computing will be able to crack all current encryption within the next 15 years, creating a need for completely new forms of encryption and security. This is probably a topic for another day, but if his thesis is correct, developing the next generation of encryption could be a huge business opportunity.

In summary, the change to self-driving cars could have massive beneficial impacts for society, but comes with many risks and other new technologies will be needed to enable a smooth transition.

I hope that this has provided some food for thought. Please keep an eye open for my next blog, where I will discuss on-demand transport, electrification and the Hyperloop, which could change the future of mass transportation.

If you have a company that is in this space or if you have comments or thoughts on the above I’d love to hear from you.