With the Internet of Things, machines are quickly becoming fully autonomous. One of the fastest-moving sectors is smart cars or self-driving cars. Automakers are racing to be the first. However, in the rush to deliver, the costs of new autonomous technologies may cost more than most people can afford.
Forbes recently listed more than 10 so-called self-driving cars that costs below $30,000. They are mainly inexpensive cars, considering that they range from sedans to SUVs. However, most of these vehicles are equipped with only the safety elements of self-driving technology such as the accident-avoidance and parking-assist systems. They are not fully-autonomous driving machines.
With so much news about self-driving cars, we forget that the world has yet to see a true fully-autonomous vehicle, as well as its actual price, on the road. We’ve all heard that the technology that goes into fully-autonomous cars are new and are therefore very costly.
With automakers rushing to hit the roads with fully-autonomous cars by 2020, will there be ample time for automakers to get less costly components and figure out inexpensive ways of putting them together?
In the meantime, the price of a self-driving car is expected to be beyond the means of most drivers today.
The price of new technology
Ahead in the self-driving car race today is Tesla. Tesla’s Model 3, the closest thing to an autonomous vehicle, is priced at $35,000. That is only the base price, however. With the additions of semi-autonomous options such as the Autopilot and the Full Self-Driving Capability, the resulting price is almost doubled. The so-called Enhanced Autopilot Package itself costs customers an additional $5,000. The Full Self-Driving Capability will only be activated when the software is available in time to come.
Basically, the high-costs is due to the additional technology to give self-driving cars its eyes, ears, and brains. They include sensors such as LiDAR, automated-driving software, and advanced accident-avoidance systems.
Current estimates for the cost of equipping a self-driving car with the necessary hardware and software could be as high as $150,000. One might not even care to imagine what the ultimate price of the car in the showroom will be.
Targetting 90 percent lower costs by 2025
Companies developing self-driving technologies are helping automakers bring down the costs of manufacturing. The CEO of Delphi, one of these automotive tech giants, says Delphi wants to cut the cost of self-driving cars by more than 90 percent to around $5,000 by 2025. Delphi, he says, believes that by rethinking the engineering of cars and redesigning vehicle platforms to have more software than hardware, self-driving costs could be reduced to a fraction.
The root of the high-costs is also complexity. With so much new self-driving hardware and software to be integrated into existing vehicle platforms, the costs will undoubtedly be high. By simplifying the way these new technologies integrate with a new vehicle platform, the costs too will be easier to stomach.
What helps with the costs is also the sharing of technology: self-driving tech companies are merging their separate autonomous technologies, either through acquisitions or collaborations. This way, new self-driving technologies come in a simpler, fuller package at a lower cost to automakers; and ultimately, resulting in a lower price for customers.
A cheaper, safer, simpler driverless future
At least for now, the high cost of self-driving systems means customers will not see fully-autonomous vehicles before 2025. The promise of a fully-automated, self-driving vehicle must not only satisfy customers but also keep customers safe from accidents in real-world traffic and weather conditions. There are different laws and criteria too in different countries and regions to be met before driverless cars are allowed on public roads. This could mean further additions of new technologies and even higher prices. Then again, automakers and technology companies have been doing this for quite a while. When there is an overwhelmingly attractive future, they’ve always found ways to simplify and find the most economical means.