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Autonomous vehicles face many hurdles, yet they are inevitably the future. They shift the focus from the individual car to the ecosystem needed for them to perform. Ecosystems require cooperation and trust in other players instead of flat-out competition. Revenue logic will change as well. The winners are the ones who adapt early.

When it comes to driving, the case for removing humans from the equation is strong: in 2016 alone, road accidents claimed 1.35 million lives worldwide, according to the WHO, with evidence that human error was responsible for at least 90%. How long will we have to wait for autonomous vehicles (AV) to do the job better, and what will it take? 

Jan Nyström works at KPMG Lighthouse, the group's Global Center of Excellence for data-driven technology. He belongs to a group of thirty data scientists in Finland dedicated to the car industry. "There is already plenty of data in cars that are autonomous and make decisions," Nyström says. 

He speaks of five levels of autonomy. The highest, level 5, was dreamt of in the TV series Knight Rider and called KITT. Life imitates art, and KITT will be reality maybe in another 30 or 40 years. Cars of this type make sense in shared, not private consumption. Nyström predicts three out of four trips will be made under the MaaS principle (Mobility as a Service). Less about owning a car, more about mileage. Don't buy the car, buy the service. "Twenty years from now, you press a button, and the system locates the car closest to you and sends it your way."

Ecosystems fare better than isolated technologies

KPMG believes that currently, the focus is far too much on isolated technologies and not nearly enough on ecosystems. If we concentrated on applications and then one solution to rule them all, one that covered autonomous, electric, shared and infrastructure, it would be much easier to develop business cases and solutions.

There is already more code in a car than in a turbo jet. In the future, there will be even more data in cars.

Technically isolated solutions must be abandoned. The industry must migrate toward ecosystem solutions for the environment, necessary infrastructure and built-in vehicle technology.

The companies that are first to combine application thinking (city, countryside, wilderness) with ecosystem-driven technology setups (electric, connecte, shared, autonomous) and infrastructure joint ventures (connectivity, power grid, traffic infrastructure) will be the future leaders in mobility and transportation offerings.

Cyber security equals road safety

Cyber security is an important aspect. 70 different signals hook on to the car, the smartphone included. Computer viruses are something to tackle. In tests, hackers have been able to infiltrate cars. Therefore, 9 out of 10 car manufacturers will be investing more money in cyber security in the future. "We have a team concentrating on cyber security. There is already more code in a car than in a turbo jet. In the future, there will be even more data in cars. My unit helps in the development of AI by doing smarter entities and we are part of Smart Cities programs."

Liability is still a question that remains to be solved. There is no patent cure. Someone has manufactured the AV, someone else has sold it. It comprises seven appliances, all of which chat with one another. All of them have been developed, sold and are maintained by different parties.

There remains also the question of AI administration. The right decisions need to be made at the at the right time, and again, cyber security factors in. As long as we are talking about isolated areas, it is easy enough to control.

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