Automotive software is aggressively expanding, with more and more players entering the developing sector in an attempt to get a piece of the pie. In only a few years, the industry has been flooded with suitless software specialists, ranging from mobility providers, app creators and even reformed hackers. It seems that anyone who can design a simple programme can pursue the connected car, which is a problem for me. Unlike software found on a mobile phone or computer, connected car technology poses a great risk of danger for passengers, who will be stuck inside the moving vehicle in the event of a malfunction. Therefore, authorities must prevent someone who lacks experience in the automotive sector from developing self-driving features, so that we do not have any serious issues in the future. I do believe that the software industry will change transportation for all the right reasons, though there needs to be input from experienced manufacturers. Although intertwining, these are two very different industries.
Recent developments surrounding the ‘Comma One’ device is a perfect example of this. George Hotz, an infamous reformed hacker in the US who has worked for software giants Facebook and Google, unveiled a revolutionary idea that would provide self-driving technology for the masses. By eliminating the need for consumers to buy a brand new car for this technology, Hotz’s $999 box could bolt on autonomous software to vehicles. Now this is what I call revolutionary. However, should we trust software from an international hacker who has no experience within manufacturing? Although I do praise his innovative idea, I think not - and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) agrees with me. The company who produced the device, Coma.ai, was swiftly stopped in its tracks by the authority, who sent a letter to Hotz explaining that the party was over: “we strongly encourage you to delay selling or deploying your product on the public roadways.” The passive aggressive letter shut down Hotz’s new venture in a heartbeat.
My message does not concern juggernaut authorities crushing the hopes of promising entrepreneurs. It is focused on external software start-ups that do not fully understand, or follow, the strict rules and regulations within the automotive world. I am all for these innovative companies entering the market as it is important that we revolutionise transportation, but we need to educate them. I would love to have seen Comma One succeed but, due to the lack of knowledge - or care - in automotive regulations, we will never see this technology on our roads. The word disruption, used to describe a disturbance to a process, has morphed into a new positive meaning that reflects an evolution of operations, though we must never forget its origin. Disruption to the automotive industry is a good thing, being a driving force in its development, but there will be issues along the way that could end in serious consequences, so it is vital that we take precautions. These software companies that are so accustomed to evolving at breakneck speeds must respect that changes in the automotive world will take time. This is what will separate the innovative players from the rest of the pack.
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