Data Can Lead to Self-Policing Cars, Says Ford

Drunk, reckless and distracted driving are some of the leading causes of accidents.

Just don’t expect police to look elsewhere after autonomous vehicles head onto the streets. Erratic behavior is likely to be bad news for any AV but there are other, less obvious issues that will also come into play. If, for example, a city decides that a car must meet certain pollution or exhaust ratings – or contain a specific number of autonomous features – enforcement will be essential but how do you enforce things that aren’t easily detected by the naked eye?

Dr Khalid Ahmed, data scientist for Ford, thinks that data and connectivity could provide the solution. “First, your car informs you are entering the zone,” he explained. “Assuming you have a hybrid, you will have to drive in EV mode – you cannot drive in internal combustion mode. Or, maybe, if you’re allowed in combustion you cannot pollute beyond ‘X ‘amount. Connected vehicle data could be a method of identifying whether or not you are sticking to the letter of the law.”

Blockchain technology will also be needed to authenticate the information, particularly in the event that a vehicle is compromised. Ahmed questioned: “What if a cyber attack happens and the vehicle claims to be doing something which it is not really doing? Then you can do a blockchain method of saying ‘No’, three other cars noticed that this car is not really running the engine and it was fine, it was some error in the data being reported. There’s a world of possibilities.”

MaaS-ive solutions

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is expected to be the future of transportation. Rather than owning a motor vehicle that sits in a parking lot when not in use, consumers could rely on door-to-door services that take them wherever they want to go. This might seem like old news for those who use Uber or Lyft for their daily commute but it could become the norm for a growing number of individuals in the years to come.

The mobility revolution will also bring about a number of solutions to problems that aren’t typically associated with transportation. Ahmed said it’s all about making the system “more fluid” for commuters. “Let’s say you’re going in an Uber and you need to get to a place and reserve a table,” he said. “If you had data, you would have done that in your taxi because the taxi would know where you were going.”

In other words, the car would take care of the reservation for you based on your entered destination. Similarly, he questioned the need for parking meters, which could be eliminated by connected, payment-equipped cars that take care of the fees automatically. “I think data is the enabler for the MaaS solution because it ties in all of those various independent problems that we have,” Ahmed continued. “The biggest problems are when you have siloed systems and those systems can now talk to each other because of data.”


With that comes the question that’s on everyone’s mind: how much data is too much? “I think a lot of algorithms are still developing to determine that,” Ahmed affirmed. “One of the ways we think of that is in terms of data compression. What do we lose when we compress data, such that you’ve lost the value in it? The value should be the deciding factor about whether you’re taking too much data or not. If you’re able to solve more problems – meaning that you are bringing solutions to customers – there is never such a thing as too much data.”

Mobility’s direction

While MaaS solutions could make life more convenient, they might also be an advertiser’s dream come true. What company wouldn’t want to know when and where people are going next?

Ahmed noted Amazon’s many experiments with advertising, which includes promos that appear on the lock screen of various devices. Consumers could choose to pay more for a Kindle without ads, just as Hulu and CBS All Access subscribers can pay more to eliminate commercial breaks. The same strategy could be applied to mobility services; ads have already invaded taxis and it may not be long before other providers catch on. “Now you see where all these various industries are coming to a very similar ideology,” said Ahmed. “I generally believe that’s where all the next generation of ideas are: what can we take from another industry and implement in ours?”

Whether or not consumers will be willing to pay more for an ad-free ride remains to be seen but Ahmed doesn’t expect automakers to be the ones making that decision. “Trust is the most important factor,” he said. “We don’t want to sell the trust for some marketing bucks.”

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