Self-driving cars might seem like a thing of the distant future, but Verizon's CEO thinks they could become a reality in the next three to five years, provided regulators and cities do their part.
Addressing a crowd of auto makers and technology companies at the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress this week, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) CEO Lowell McAdam said that self-driving cars will be on the roads soon in the US if the nation builds the necessary infrastructure -- roadway sensors and traffic cameras -- and the government issues the necessary regulations. (See Verizon Creates a Mobile ZipCar.)
“If we decided to do it, we're no more than three to five years away from autonomous vehicles," he said, according to Detroit News. The kind of self-driving cars McAdam is referring to are those that can automatically slow down or stop for hazards, be rerouted in traffic jams and "talk" to other cars on the road to avoid wrecks. (See If These Cars Could Talk and Telefónica: Safety Is Top Connected Car 'App'.)
Wireless operators are eager to connect more vehicles to their LTE networks, but McAdam's three- to five-year timeline might be ambitious, as it will take cooperation from local cities, the federal government and a whole host of other players in the value chain who are still wary about security, privacy and interference concerns. (See Spectrum Spats: Chatty Cars, Busy Broadcast Airwaves.)
The Verizon boss also assured conference attendees that LTE means these cars will work across operator footprints in the US, and that 80% to 90% of the data they collect from the connections would be anonymous. That said, its motives aren't completely altruistic: Verizon is really interested in the other 10% to 20% of that data, as are its customers, the insurance providers. (See Pics: Insurance Telematics Goes to Chicago.)
Speaking at the Insurance Telematics USA show last week, George Ayres, VP of global sales for Verizon's Telematics division, echoed McAdam's sentiment that technology to monitor and coach drivers is a good thing. From an insurer's perspective, he pointed out that this data can be aggregated with the rest of a person's life data, as car insurance companies may also provide home insurance, and the carrier can use the sum total to interact with its customers. (See Connected Cars: Tether Today, Embed in 10.)
"There's a benefit for insurers to look at them in aggregate," Ayers said. "See the customer in their whole life -- as it comes together, there are opportunities for insurers to do that."
Ayers, however, may not share McAdam's bullishness on self-driving cars, as he sees simply connecting cars as a long-term proposition. "The cars will be connected, but it's many, many, many years before all cars have that capability," he noted on the panel.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading