Where will the driverless car revolution take us?
Autonomous cars are no longer the stuff of idealistic sci-fi dreams, but a tangible reality. In the not too distant future these cars will be summoned like the ‘bat-mobile’ - at the touch of a button - and will then drive themselves to your destination while you relax in perfect comfort.
They have the potential to transform our lives, as we assume the role of passengers rather than drivers, paying for the journey, instead of having to maintain our own vehicles. The consumer will not be the only one to benefit from this evolution: the autonomous vehicle industry is growing at an astonishing pace and offers huge potential for boosting jobs and the economy, as manufacturers capitalise on the trend. Already, the progression towards this new way of life has started and it is only a matter of time before these vehicles are the norm rather than the exception.
The autonomous transport revolution
In five years, a visit to the city of Wuhu, in China’s Anhui province, could well be made in a self-driving car. The city in Eastern China, which is home to more than two million people, has just become the first autonomous vehicle test partner of the internet giant Baidu. This means that the self-driving cars developed by Baidu over the past three years will be gradually tested and developed in the city’s urban test zone. Vehicles will start with no passengers and a limited route, but researchers plan to gradually expand the test zone. Eventually, the aim is for the vehicles to become fully autonomous, removing human drivers from the picture altogether.
Indeed, the autonomous transport revolution is happening right now. Technological innovation in cars has been relatively slow to take off, but self-driving cars are now in the pipeline for a large range of technology and automotive companies, including Google, Telsa, Uber, General Motors, BMW, and Ford.
In Beijing, the autonomous BMW created by Baidu has already been driving on the busy 5th Ring Road for almost a year. By 2020, there will be 10 million self-driving cars on the road, a study by Business Insider Intelligence suggests. The industry is growing exponentially and our daily lives could be changed forever by these advancements.
The benefits for consumers
Life in the year 2050 could certainly be vastly different in terms of transportation. The average commute could be as simple as booking a self-driving car with an app on your phone, which would arrive within minutes. Stressful queues could become a leisurely browse of the newspaper and once the car had dropped you off it could head off to pick up another passenger or return itself to an electric charging station.
These cars could also be much safer than their human-driven counterparts. They could communicate with other cars to maintain safe following distances, minimise the spread of vehicles on the road and reduce the need for vehicles to brake suddenly. An entirely autonomous fleet could also eliminate the need for traffic lights, with cars co-ordinating their own movements at intersections instead.
Additionally, autonomous cars could be much more cost-effective for passengers. In the future we may simply be paying for vehicles ‘on-demand’ and avoid the associated costs of ownership and maintenance of vehicles.
Using autonomous cars will not only save you money, but also help you do your bit for the environment. They will become a collective service as opposed to an individual commodity. With less cars on the road, much-needed space in cities will also become available. These autonomous vehicles will be able to park themselves closer together and McKinsey and Company have predicted that by 2050 we’ll be able to utilise 25 percent of the space currently used for parking for other projects.
Significant technological developments are already being piloted in cars, like highway assist, parking assist, congestion assist and over-the-air upgrades. Even today’s automated safety systems have had a dramatic effect: according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety forward-collision warning systems deliver a 23 percent reduction in rear-end crashes. When combined with automatic braking this statistic is almost doubled, and leads to a 39 percent reduction in crashes.
The next decade will certainly see the beginning of the phase-in period towards autonomous vehicles. Industries will radically alter. A desperate need for software engineers to design, code, validate and verify self-driving cars will spring up, with an estimated 4000 engineers needed to certify each autonomous car for launch. This could lead to a boom time for specialist skills with increased demand for integrated technology in autonomous cars.
However, these changes will most likely occur gradually; cars will phase-in sophisticated technology like advanced drive assistance systems before they become completely self-driving. This transformation has begun with Wuhu, but as other cities follow their example the autonomous revolution will permanently alter the road ahead.
By Karthikeyan Natarajan, Global Head of Integrated Engineering Solutions at Tech Mahindra
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”