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ACES and the Future of Driving

Monday, July 22, 2019

100 Years of Driving

The advent of mass-produced, relatively low-cost automobiles by Henry Ford and his manufacturing advances revolutionized how we get from place to place and how we live day to day.  For the first time in a century, Bryan Mistele, CEO of INRIX, sees a similar transformation coming.  “Fundamentally the idea of a human being buying a car that had four wheels [and] an internal combustion engine really didn’t change for 100 years,” Mistele said, “Think about how much has changed just in the last 10 or 15 years.  Ten or 15 years ago…there was no Tesla, there was no iPhone, there was no iPad.”  Mistele recently spoke on automated, connected, electric and shared vehicles — the ACES — as part of the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s thought leadership series on Our New Mobility Future.

Ground Transportation Challenges

Mistele describes three numbers that underscore the key challenges in ground transportation: eight billion, 1.2 billion, and 37,000.  “Eight billion, that’s the amount of hours wasted in congestion in the United States every year—not total drive time for commuters—the incremental amount of time wasted in congestion,” he said.  While his first number indicates wasted time, 1.2 billion shows the wasted fuel due to congestion while 37,000 represents the annual fatalities on U.S. roads.  “What we’re talking about are real, core, societal problems,” Mistele said, “…we’re talking a massive, global, societal problem with big ramifications.”  Significantly, four recent developments may be able to address these in dramatic fashion.

Watch a video highlight about the "ACES" from Mistele's talk as part of the Volpe Center's 2019 speaker series, "Our New Mobility Future."

The Hope of Recent Vehicle-Related Business Models and Technologies

Complementary advances in the last decade or so may be positioning the ground transportation industry at an inflection point: autonomous vehicles (of varying levels up to level 5 or full automation; i.e., self-driving), connected vehicles (i.e., vehicles that broadcast information about their movements), electric-powered vehicles, and ride sharing.  “All these trends have happened in the last ten years,” Mistele said, “These are not independent trends, there is a reason that they’re all happening at the same time.”  Mistele then described the automobile industry’s vision where, at least initially, these vehicles would be delivered as fleets rather than individually owned.

The Potential for Safety and Efficiency Gains with the Advent of Advanced and Shared Vehicles

With the latest luxury sedan having 200 times more lines of computer software than the space shuttle, Mistele recognizes that “the car has become a mobile computing platform.”  In addition, the volume of data being generated is tremendous.  “What we’re talking about here is about 4,000 movies worth of information being generated every day by an autonomous vehicle,” Mistele said.  This data, along with other ACES advances may help to address the key challenges associated with ground transportation.

Autonomous technologies should be able to reduce congestion: As cars no longer need to park, those parking areas can be used as additional lanes.  Autonomous vehicles will also provide accessibility regardless of a person’s age or disability.  According to Mistele, a wide range of physical abilities and age groups will now “have the ability to take part in transportation where they wouldn’t be able to do that before.” 

Connected technologies, including their associated vehicle sensors, show potential for considerably increasing safety for their occupants, other vehicles, vulnerable road users including pedestrians and cyclists.  Electric propulsion technologies allow for more environmentally friendly transportation, Mistele noted:  “The key is of course the grid and making sure that the grid is clean, but as more and more vehicles go electric, you see a pretty big impact.  In fact, in Beijing, where pollution is a huge issue…most vehicles [shipped there] are electrified.”  Finally, ride-sharing technologies can show multiple benefits with reductions in congestion, pollution, cost, and space while increasing safety (in the case of impaired drivers) and convenience.

The promise of ACES may mark the turning point for the next hundred years, with today’s Henry Fords marshaling technological, rather than manufacturing, prowess.

Updated: Tuesday, August 20, 2019