Gadgets

Driverless cars are cool, but the network layer that will run them is even cooler

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Google has shown us that autonomous, driverless cars are now a reality, at least from a technological perspective. These vehicles are capable of reacting to unforeseen disruptions such as jaywalkers, roving bicyclists, or slowing traffic.

It is exciting and scary to think of the world ten years from now replete with these technological advancements. Our world will need to adjust.

Consider the air, where unmanned aerial vehicles or drones are already being used — and where a fierce battle is being waged between the FAA and prospective and current drone users. Concerns around safety, security, and more are all part of the huge debate in one of the more controlled environments we have: our airspace.

If this is what is happening in aviation, can you imagine what will happen when “autobots” hit our streets?

The environment of ground transportation is much larger and more dynamic than aviation, yet it has significantly fewer (if any) regulations in place. Drivers can go anywhere using any route they chose. Travel plans are not known in advance; and speed, while supposedly controlled by rules of the road, is often unpredictable and inconsistent.

All this causes near-collisions every day with licensed and trained humans behind the wheel. Imagine what will happen when we throw driverless vehicles into the mix. This is a highly complex dynamic network that requires real-time tools to manage it in order to be safe and efficient.

To do this, there are two layers of the network that should be addressed, combining both safety and efficiency.

The first layer is the individual vehicles themselves. Google is doing a phenomenal job addressing this layer.

The second layer is what I will call the network layer — the fleets of unmanned vehicles in aggregate. If we plan and execute the network layer correctly and in an adaptive fashion, we will actually need fewer vehicles (human-driven or driverless) to meet the demands of our day-to-day lives, whether that entails deliveries or public transportation.

And with fewer vehicles on the road, there is less of a safety risk at the individual vehicle level and the added benefit of less traffic, congestion, and waste. The ripple effects of this can, of course, be extended to a price reduction for deliveries and public transportation, etc.

This network needs to be structured yet rapidly adoptable and adaptable to meet the needs of the public, from both transportation and safety aspects.

It is one thing for a single vehicle to sense a jaywalker and apply the brakes. It is another for the network to adapt itself in real-time to the butterfly effect of that car braking: the other cars braking; the human-driven car tailgating and not braking in time and colliding into the autonomous vehicle in front of it; the traffic jam created due to this incident; the ensuing delays; the delivery company needing to adjust its plans to meet its same-day delivery commitments; and the public transport authority needing to get the commuters to work on time.

As we move steadily and surely into an on-demand world, one which blends human and artifcially intelligent resources, we must think beyond a single resource, a single delivery or bus route.

Using already available big data to streamline operations in real time is a highly effective way to manage a constantly changing environment, all while using the vehicles to the best of their capabilities.

Optimizing real-time data streamed in from the vehicles can make responding and adjusting their usage in the real world possible, and it can give the public and regulators some of the comfort needed as we explore the possibilities.

Roei Ganzarski is President and CEO of BoldIQ, which provides real-time optimization software in dynamic complex industries such as transportation and aerospace.

45 comments
Fredo Troy
Fredo Troy

Why? I don't see the point of a driverless car.

Jessica Hoffman
Jessica Hoffman

Wow and pretty soon they won't even need humans to build the cars or even need the cars because of the virtual world travelling...

Justin DeVall
Justin DeVall

So if there's an accident is it your fault or googles? I'm happy with driving!

Jay See
Jay See

and what happens if there is an electrical malfunction?

Marcus Woods
Marcus Woods

At least they're not running windows embedded! there would be more crashes on the highway!

Michael Clarke
Michael Clarke

Based on my recent Google navigation results where 1:5 routes end up in non existent exits, wrong way streets, "you are here" announcements beside vacant lots and "turn right" announcements while hurtling around a 3 tier flyway in Houston, where there was no exit, yes it does give me a chill. On the funny side I can see, in my mind, a long line of cars repeatedly bumping into a cement median trying to turn left where there used to be a construction detour.

Roy Young
Roy Young

If you lived in Kapolei Driving To Town... This Would Be Heaven.... You Can Get More Sleep On The Way To Town....

B Wms
B Wms

The coolest and most efficient driverless car is called a train.


Robert Kehaya
Robert Kehaya

And then someone accidentally hits the off button at the network hub and everyone dies.

Thyaga Venkat
Thyaga Venkat

If majority of the population can be convinced and the rest can be imposed to use a driverless vehicle for all their travel, then rail tracks can be installed on paved roadways and allow only electric vehicles. We already have the essential technology but changing the people mindset will be a challenge. Then we can take-out most of the judgement involving either human or machine, so no accidents. No need of any licensing and no need to have any type of vehicle insurance. That's what I would consider it as a change. The oil rich countries will become irrelevant especially if they don't find other ways to earn their living.

Skyler Truax
Skyler Truax

Also, does a driverless cab still expect a tip?

Skyler Truax
Skyler Truax

I will be useless in a post-apocalyptic world. "Hey guys I can't make fire, but I'm pretty good at a couple of JS frameworks... please feed me"

Skyler Truax
Skyler Truax

I wonder what this will do to alcoholism statistics.

Kouri Woongki Song
Kouri Woongki Song

driving's fun if you live in the sticks with no traffic congestion

Jay Toups
Jay Toups

First we (and yes, you Google) need to stop using the energy equivalent of methamphetamine to power vehicles. Every tailpipe, driverless or no, is an oil spill. http://www.fb.com/biorootenergy

Jay Toups
Jay Toups

Hell no. I've been telecommuting for 18 years and when I drive I like to steer and stomp on the gas and brakes myself.

Aragorn Meulendijks
Aragorn Meulendijks

just the idea of not being able to enjoy driving anymore gives me cold shivers....

Daniel Brückner
Daniel Brückner

who actually WANTS a driverless car? guys, driving a car is fun.

Wendy Sue Buckleman
Wendy Sue Buckleman

I have about four thing I'd like to see these things dealing with before I can really believe. Roughly they are Drifting Snow, Blizzards, Black Ice and Slush.

Roger Whitehead
Roger Whitehead

After watching SV driverless car carry what his name to a island no thanks Google lol

Eric Masaba
Eric Masaba

@B Wms  Using the empty seats in most of the cars on the road, by asking people to state where they wish to go at which times and then linking demand with supply is the way to go. A train is inflexible and scheduled. Demand responsive Transport means getting a ride when you want to.

Chris Law
Chris Law

Or someone cuts a brakeline. Things happen!

Chris Law
Chris Law

Lol. But in reality that was a movie.

Chris Law
Chris Law

Nope not if it is a computer. A human would, Pretty cool right? Most common, short trips if you ride in one should only cost $2 a day.

Chris Law
Chris Law

Get ready to be among many of them soon.

Chris Law
Chris Law

Yeah, it`s not about you though. No offense but the concept, main idea here is safety!

Chris Law
Chris Law

Nothing wrong with that but the blind, elderly and disabled would appreciate a driverless car. I`d actually rather have someone drunk riding in a driverless car than driving one.

Chris Law
Chris Law

Google is figuring those things out as we speak. Volvo seems to have these things dealt with already actually. So it only seems like a matter of time for other auto-makers and Google.