In a year that’s been interesting, to say the least, there’s been a lot of chatter about self-driving cars. In the meantime, it appears that humans will have to continue driving their own cars so make sure you have learned the life skill of driving with the Right Driving School. Will autonomy seep into the factory and roadways to take our jobs and swing us too far into the future for our own good? Or do the benefits of having cheaper auto insurance premiums and safer and uncongested streets outweigh the cons? Some may be getting ahead, in reality we’re still a while off autonomous cars, meaning you can never know how safe the other drivers around you are, you may want to look into what you need to know about reckless driving, before driving becomes computer precise.
Whether you’re an optimist or a cynic on the subject, it matters not; autonomous cars are approaching faster than anyone could have imagined five years ago. With Tesla, Google, and Apple making headway, what do the other big-name automakers have cookin’? Here’s your mid-year “State of the Union” on where we’re at in the self-driving vehicle arena.
GM to Lead the American Self-Driving Market
June was the month of months for GM after announcing that they’re ready to ship out another 130 self-driving Chevrolet Bolts—a total of 180—for on-road testing. These first- and second-generation autonomous Bolts are equipped with HD cameras, cross-traffic monitoring systems, and traffic light-sensing sensors.
More than 1,000 engineers are being added to the mix for mass production of these Bolt AVs, which GM says are the only accessible self-driving vehicles currently ready for public consumption. The automaker is currently “testing 40 Bolt AVs in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona,” and plans to extend into Detroit later this year. Ah, home sweet home.
BMW Setting Sights on 2021
The German automaker is readying dealership shelves for a 2021 release of their self-driving vehicles, which will offer varying “levels” of autonomy depending on where and how it will be driven.
Perhaps a first of its kind, these multi-level autonomous cars will start with a “level 3” base option (driver required, for safety) and end with a “level 5” model that is fully capable of traversing the roads without human input. Intel and Mobileye have been lending a hand in developing BMW’s flagship self-driving vehicle.
Ford Bets $1B on One Hand
In February, Detroit juggernaut Ford put their John Hancock on a $1B (that’s nine “zeroes” preceded by a “one”) five-year deal with Argo AI, a young start-up comprised of brainy engineers and robotic experts. We don’t know the inner workings of autonomous vehicles, but these guys and gals do. This partnership is Ford’s first step toward getting their own fleet of self-driving vehicles on American roadways by 2021.
Paralleling that news, Ford also unveiled a concept delivery van that’s autonomous and completely electric at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress show. If Ford could create their own future, it would involve these “Autolivery” vans utilizing drone technology to “pick up and drop off packages from curb to door.”
Concept vehicles like these are typically sci-fi fair, but something tells us that the normal rules don’t apply now that we actually live in a sci-fi world.
Audi Prepping for Autonomy by 2020
Audi has also been ramping up production on their lineup of self-driving cars. Partnered with gaming giant NVIDIA, Audi has merged top-of-the-line “automotive engineering and visual computing technologies” to create a level 3 self-driving vehicle that’s fitted with a virtual cockpit, first-gen driver assist controller (zFAS), and enhanced navigation.
The curtain is set to open on the world’s first level 3 automated car later this year, and showroom floors may very well have these lined up by 2020.
Honda Arriving Stylishly Late to the Party (2025)
Honda announced in June that they’re conservatively approaching the self-driving car market, setting a 2025 release date for their roster of level-whatever vehicles. Rather than being the first to show up, Honda’s goal is to ensure their vehicles are stylish with features of a Honda Accord, and able to “handle nearly all situations on the road without driver intervention.”
As is sometimes the case, letting someone else lead the charge and fail may illuminate problems that can be rectified in round two. Smart.
Mercedes-Benz Venturing into Electric Semi-Truck Territory
We don’t often think of Mercedes-Benz as a semi-truck manufacturer, but things may be changing.
Earlier this year, the German auto manufacturer revealed the company’s first all-electric heavy trucks—which they’ve named “Urban eTrucks”—are ready for small-scale trials. Fitted with a “massive 212 kWh battery pack” that can haul up to 26 tons over approximately 125 miles, the eTruck may see the green light as soon as the year 2020.
Changes will certainly be made before the final specs are released, but you can bet that Mercedes-Benz is looking at this EV semi-truck as its entry into the self-driving delivery marketplace.
Toyota is Making Waves
Having acquired a 5% stake in Mazda, Toyota is set to build a new $1.6B factory in the States that will focus on self-driving technology and vehicles.
Toyota is also aiming to change the landscape of modern AVs with its innovative solid-state car battery; a potential game changer, this solid-state battery is scheduled to be released in Japan by 2022 and should increase EV driving range and decrease recharge time.
Amazon Enters the Automotive Fray
Amazon, the online retailer we all know and love, recently won a patent on a network that manages how “autonomous cars navigate reversible lanes.” What they’ll do with this patent is anyone’s guess, though some industry experts agree that it may be utilized to enhance their own delivery mechanisms.
Patents rarely look sexy enough to mention, but when big-time companies start diving into another vertical with such force, you can bet there’s a reason for it. Let’s wait and see what unfolds.
How Autonomous Cars Will Affect Digital Marketing
With self-driving technology on the verge of becoming reality—by 2025, 600,000 AVs are estimated to be shipped—how will the standard auto dealer marketing strategies and tactics change?
Of all the changes, we’d suspect the major one to be in-car screens becoming hubs for GEO-centric advertisements and—if Google does their magic as only they can—AdWords. Real-time billboards will be cast to your screen just like TV commercials, with local and national ads splitting time getting your clicks. And they’ll become far more personalized than television spots or highway billboards of the past.
- Consider this scenario: your autonomous car gets a flat, and your 31 years on Earth haven’t prepared you to change a tire. In the blink of an eye, your vehicle’s onboard drive-assist system identifies the problem and pulls up nearby tow or emergency auto service locations on the display screen.
- Consider this other scenario: your autonomous car is heading into its 15th year on the road, and it’s time to say goodbye. A well-positioned dealership ad to trade-in and upgrade pops up on your screen, so you stop in to see what the latest models offer—and find yourself back home with a new car in your garage.
- Consider this third and final scenario: your autonomous car, in all its infinite AI wisdom, hears your stomach grumble, so it pushes an ad for “$8.99 Pepperoni Pizza Poppers & 72 oz. Soda at [FAST FOOD PLACE] – Just 0.7 Miles Away.” It may sound far-fetched, but we’re in uncharted territory here.
While it’s true that autonomous cars will undoubtedly provide marketers with new avenues for reaching audiences and building relationships, the future is still blurry. In the meantime, keep your dealership positioned for today’s shoppers by using tried-and-true car dealer PPC & SEO strategies. When the future does unfold, you’ll be in a good position to take advantage of your established success.
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