Driverless Cars, Pizza and Field Service: Part Two

Jul 15 • Features, Fleet Technology • 3322 Views • No Comments on Driverless Cars, Pizza and Field Service: Part Two

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In the first part of this feature we looked at how the arrival of the driverless car is imminent with tests being held in open roads across a number of countries including the UK. Now in the second part Kris Oldland looks at how the technology could have a much more disruptive influence than in just the fleet sector…

Indeed with numerous national tests being undertaken it is surely just a matter of time before the first commercial driverless vehicles roll out. In fact further promising news for the approaching future of driverless cars was recently unveiled by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles which stated that only four of its 48 driverless cars participating in tests have been involved in accidents.

Google’s fleet of around twenty cars has now completed nearly a million miles without human intervention since the project started six years ago, said Chris Urmson,  the head of Google’s self-driving car project, .

Since 2009, Google cars have travelled more than 700,000 miles in self-driving mode.

Of the four licensed driverless cars in the state of California that have been involved in minor traffic accidents since September, Google’s cars played a role in three of the accidents. Two of these incidents occurred when the cars were in self-driving mode, while the other two happened when the person required to stay behind the wheel of the automobiles was in control.

It has also been reported that all of the accidents occurred when the cars were driving at speeds below 10 miles (16 km) per hour. In a written statement Google stated that its driverless cars have had “a handful of minor fender-benders, light damage, no injuries, so far caused by human error and inattention.”

Google first sent self-driving cars out onto public streets about six years prior to when the state offered its official permission. Google has said three additional accidents occurred in that time period. So whilst there may be an initial fear response to such news the truth is that since 2009, the company has said its cars have travelled more than 700,000 miles in self-driving mode.

This is an impressive statistic that plays well for those companies seeking to develop driverless vehicles who have attempted to establish belief that driverless vehicles and not only a safe option but a safer option. They claim their cars’ cameras, radar, and laser sensors, among other features, are superior to human awareness.

However, whilst the safety of self-driving cars has been emphasized, some experts have also warned that those driverless vehicles could be particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks with concerns about the safety of driverless cars have been raised by politicians in the US and elsewhere.

It is important that we don’t become so worried about the potential dangers that we don’t explore the potential opportunities that driverless cars could bring.

One such warning came fromthe FBI who warned that driverless cars could be potentially used as lethal weapons, predicting that the vehicles “will have a high impact on transforming what both law enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car”

Whilst this is of course a scary scenario, it is important that we don’t become so worried about the potential dangers that we don’t explore the potential opportunities that driverless cars could bring.

One such possible opportunity was highlighted by technology entrepreneur and Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales who discussed the topic of driverless cars in his keynote speech at the recent IFS World Conference in Boston.

“I think it will be ten years max before we see driverless cars somewhere in the world. It could be faster than that but of course this an area where there are regulatory concerns and so forth” he began before outlining why he believes the impact of driverless cars reaching way beyond the automotive industry.

“The way to think about this is don’t think about the first order of what happens, think of what happens next” Wales explained “One of the first things I came up with when I first started thinking about this was pizza delivery” he added only half joking

You could have a driverless car that cooks the pizza on route, delivering you a super fresh pizza to your door.

“Why cook pizzas in a restaurant to then send them somewhere so they are getting cold on the way? Why not cook it in the car? The answer is of course you can’t put a pizza oven in a car with a driver?” he explained before continuing “but now you could have a driverless car that cooks the pizza on route, delivering you a super fresh pizza to your door”

Of course such an idea would have a number of obstacles to overcome, and I don’t think we will see Wales tackling the Pizza Delivery sector in the near future, but it is a great example of the wider benefits such transformative technology as driverless cars could have beyond their initial direct marketplace, when we combine it with imaginative thinking.

And if we turn back to field service then again the potential for driverless cars to change the way we operate are numerous.

For a start there is the obvious benefit of an engineer being able to work in between jobs, this could be a huge time saving factor if your engineers have even a moderate amount of reporting to be completed on each job.

Lets apply some further imaginative thinking and combine driverless cars with IoT with 3D printing with field service scheduling?

One obvious benefit is an engineer being able to work in between jobs. But how about we apply some further imaginative thinking and combine driverless cars with IoT with 3D printing with field service scheduling?

Our engineer’s daily schedule could be programmed into his vehicle based on data provided by the devices he’s set to fix. His job list is optimised based on geography and urgency of the repair.

On the way to each repair he is able to analyse the data and look through suggested potential issues so when he arrives on site he has the best possible chance of finding a resolution swiftly. All the while the 3D printer in the back of his vehicle quietly prints any parts that need replacing automatically as the IoT enable devices provide data as to what parts are required at what job.

Let’s be honest if first time fix rates didn’t increase in this scenario there is something wrong.

However, not everyone is on side as yet, with many in field service being cautious of such a significant change, even seeing this leap forward as technology for technology’s sake.

Recent research by Masternaut actually revealed that professional drivers stated that If they had to work with autonomous vehicles in the future, 15% of professional drivers said that they wouldn’t like it and change jobs, whilst almost a quarter (23%) said that wouldn’t like it but stay in their job.

As David Kalimoff a Senior Field Engineer for Viable Med Services commented recently in the Field Service News linkedin group “When a driverless car wants to impress me, have it haul my tools, test equipment and replacement parts from the parking garage to the 6th floor of the hospital where the system is, in a blizzard…”

It is the savvy field service organisations who are thinking now about how they can harness such technology to their advantage.

Whilst Kalimoff may have been a bit tongue in cheek with his comment he does make a valid point there is only so much that we can expect from driverless vehicles.

However, whilst the arrival of driverless cars is seemingly inevitable, and also fast approaching it is the savvy field service organisations who start thinking now about how they can harness such technology to their advantage. Also much like they have had to evolve closer working relations ships with operations management, IT professionals may well see them selves building even closer ties to their colleagues in fleet management as yet another area of field service begins to merge with IT infrastructures.

With a throw away commenting Wales may have just given someone the key to disrupting and re-inventing the pizza delivery industry forever. The question is who is going to come up with the equivalent game-changer in field service?

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