Autonomous cars and fuel efficiency
Auto OEMS and Tier 1 suppliers tell me that in year 2020 I won't have to drive my car, it will drive itself. Cool, I say, but will it also pay for its own fuel? For a country that has always imported oil, fuel efficiency of cars is what most Indians think of when evaluating a car. While the whole world goes gaga over autonomous/self-driving technology, pardon me if I have my eyes fixated over the fuel gauge and am wondering "What's the fuel efficiency of this car?"
Connected vehicle technology (CVT) is fast changing the automotive landscape and we will soon see the modern yet everyday cars flaunting this latest technology. CVT will allow you to remotely lock/unlock car doors; start the car air conditioning; point out which friends of yours are sitting at the Starbucks outlet you are about to cross while driving and get you over there with a voice command while navigating you through the back alley (since the main street is blocked for road maintenance). An advanced version of this technology is going behind the autonomous/self-driving cars that are being currently tested. Phew! That's a lot of intelligence for a car. But snazzy features apart, what does that mean for an everyday car user?
We can all imagine the coolness factor with the technology around autonomous/self-driving cars. It means such 'connected cars' will have the capability to drive on their own with limited human intervention. Wow again! But just take a step back and think about it. It also means that these cars will have a ton of sensors and intelligence along with internet connectivity that will continuously tell the car on what speed to travel, when to accelerate and when to decelerate - all the while keeping safety in perspective. With this ability to predict, instruct and execute acceleration and deceleration, cars will have a lot more information to decide on the mode of driving. Also, this mode is more likely to be 'Economy' rather than 'Sport' mode which means that the cars would run in the right gear at the right speed for the optimum time. What does that mean for our everyday user? Voila! Higher fuel efficiency.
We all know that we are not the best fuel conservators in the world when we drive. Everyone has a different style of driving which leads to different fuel efficiency scores recorded on the same car. So, when a car manufacturer states a fuel efficiency of say 23 mpg (miles per gallon), we can safely bet that we will not be able to achieve that all the time. It may be about 15%-25% lesser than that on a normal run. But with autonomous cars, it's the technology that will be driving the car and it will be more prone to consistent and optimal driving than humans. There won't be any hard accelerations or hard braking, and change of gears will be based on actual traffic rather than driver perception of the actual condition. All this will mean optimal driving at optimal fuel efficiency. This will be a good start and is a wonderful takeaway for our future generations who are anyway looking at the bleak prospect of depleting natural resources.
So in the year 2020, I may be driving an autonomous car and I will have to pay for the fuel myself but connected vehicle technology will help me make that visit to the gas station less frequent. Cheers to that!