Autonomous vehicles are essentially already available, they can make fast decisions that will likely help reduce traffic fatalities, and the country’s leaders are sitting up and taking note of this trend. Just recently, there have been several groundbreaking announcements in regards to autonomous cars from companies like Ford and Tesla. 

However, many questions remain unanswered including how city parking will change, what will happen to long-haul truck drivers or ridesharing drivers, and what is the acceptable number of sensors in an autonomous car. 

Advantages of technological innovations, like automotive prototyping and emerging business models, will answer most of these open questions. For example, if carmakers decide to sell vehicles directly to fleet operators instead of individuals, this will change how money for research and development is allocated. To understand the situation better, here are a few key questions as well as the implications autonomous cars will have. 

What Will The Operating System Of The Autonomous Car Look Like?

Microsoft, Google and Apple, through their respective operating systems, Windows, Android and iOS are the biggest companies in the world with their own operating systems. This is because operating software is a critical piece in the world of technology and computers because they offer a layer for controlling hardware that is directly accessible to end users. In the IT world, each of these companies has a unique strategy for capturing and retaining value. 

Now, automakers and technology firms are racing to create software for driving autonomous cars; however, it is still unclear how they will manage to monetize the software. The most likely scenario is an emergence of several models that will deeply affect how companies invest in operations, lobbying, marketing and R&D. 

Will Users Pay For Transportation As A Service Or Will They Own The Vehicles?

Some carmakers are already projecting a future where they will sell vehicles directly to users as well as selling transportation as a service. Under the latter business model, customers will be required to hire free-floating cars, call a car with a driver or even order a car without a driver in future. Such companies believe that people want to use different modes of transportation in different places and times from a single phone app. 
As the world veers towards providing transportation as a service, things will drastically change for car companies. Today, automobile manufacturers are the biggest customers in the advertising world. When consumers no longer need cars, and instead purchase Zipcar rentals and Uber rides, this will drastically change how advertising monies are channeled. In addition, the set profit pools of the automotive industry will also change. 

Who Generates, Processes And Owns The Data?

Autonomous vehicles will both consume and generate a huge amount of data for navigating roads, avoiding obstacles, understanding speed limits and parking laws, as well as passenger data for personalized trip experiences. In addition, GPS, sonar, radar, cameras, lidar and other sensors mounted on autonomous cars will further improve things like ride sharing companies’ route optimization. 

The expected data will require new infrastructure, software and business models for sharing, processing and using the data. Already, companies are establishing partnerships for gaining access to new data sets for high-definition maps that are set to improve the drivability of autonomous cars. 

Nevertheless, the world is not about to flip a switch and suddenly go for autonomous vehicles in a day. For some time, autonomous cars and human-driven cars will continue to co-exist. However, in the next 3 to 5 years, the public should keep a close eye on how carmakers are planning to make money from autonomous cars; these decisions will have important consequences on the future of transportation.