The Next big step in Automated Vehicles

One of the more exciting things about CES these days is the fact that many of the major automakers showed up, even though their big Auto Show is only two weeks after CES. Automakers have spent more time with the big tech companies in the last five years, and many even have individual R&D centers in Silicon Valley. CES gives them a venue to tout their smart car prowess, while the Detroit Auto show is more focused on their designs, engines as well as their self-driving automobile strategies.

For auto dealers, the relationship with Silicon Valley goes back decades. They have been relying on tech from Intel and other semiconductor and specialized software companies for various sensors and embedded technologies that, over the last 20 years, have become more integral in the designs and functions of almost all vehicles they produce.

But about eight years ago, they began to rely on Silicon Valley, even more, to help them compete with Tesla and enable them to create the automated driving vehicles of the future. For most, that journey began with Nvidia, who had powered Tesla’s self-driving features and were developing powerful chips to eventually help car makers create fully automated vehicles of their own.

Since then, Intel and Mobile Eye has joined Nvidia as a significant player in automated vehicle electronics and the auto dealers have even more tech related partners to help them achieve their ultimate goal of having their own self-driving cars in the future. But Nvidia is still the real leader when it comes to high powered processors and related technology that will help any car manufacturer compete in the future.

Although the eventual goal for the auto industry is to create a fully automated vehicle, the next big step is to deliver Level 2 self-driving automation in many of the automaker’s high end and upper-end cars by 2020.

Level 2 self-driving features state that the driver still has to have final control of the vehicle even though it can be engaged for full self-driving automation on command. Nvidia’s CEO, Jensen Huang said in a private analyst meeting that the next two levels, Level 3 and level 4, will be the hardest to achieve as both will move the vehicles to fully automated driving features where the car has total control of the driving experience and does not need a driver at all.

One interesting thing that came out of our meeting with Jensen is that he clarified that level 5 fully automated vehicles would be used for shuttles and other on-demand services.

In two meetings with Nvidia execs at CES, they reinforced that they are working with about just about every automaker on Level 2 functionality for some of their vehicles for 2020. Of course, Tesla has this feature in all of their cars now, and other automakers are playing catch up. However, in one of my discussions with a significant automaker at CES, they confirmed that 2020 is the target year to add Level 2 self-driving automation to some of their higher end and mid-range vehicles by then.

This particular date is of great interest to me. For business and tax purposes, I lease a car every three years. The last time I leased a car in 2017, I wanted to lease a Tesla 3. But the delivery dates were too far out for me to do this at that time.

The next time I can do a new auto lease will be September of 2020. At that time I will have to decide on what car I will choose. Looking at the features of a self-driving vehicle, I am highly interested in the level 2 features of a Tesla 3 as well as the many others that will reportedly come out by many of the mainstream automakers.

It turns out that I am not the only one interested in Level 2 equipped vehicles. One of the major automakers I talked to say that their research shows serious interest in Level 2 powered cars and that is what is pushing them to have more of their vehicles with this feature no later than 2020. If this comes to pass, 2020 will be a pivotal year for tech and the auto industry as Level 2 features could become the base feature of many upscale cars in the 2020-2025 time frame.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

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