Pascal Matzke, VP, Research Director

Show Notes:

Are you eagerly anticipating/awaiting the day when you won’t have to drive yourself to the office anymore? Well, you might have to wait a few more years, but there are some other signs of positive progress in the autonomous vehicle industry. In this episode, Vice President and Research Director Pascal Matzke provides an update on the latest use cases and technological advances in autonomous vehicles. 

The episode starts by defining what is (and what isn’t) an autonomous vehicle to quickly dispel some misconceptions. Matzke explains that autonomous vehicles are, by definition, vehicles that can sense their environment, understand their location, and make decisions based on algorithms and data. So that definition includes a variety of commercial and industrial use cases, in addition to passenger vehicles. Matzke also explains that there are several levels of autonomous vehicles based on standards from the Society of Automotive Engineers and then dives into the benefits and challenges of some of the most common use cases. 

For example, for industries like manufacturing, logistics, and supply chain, autonomous vehicles work well because they can operate in confined physical spaces such as warehouses, factories, and on tracks, where there are clear boundaries and fewer variables to analyze. Matzke adds that the need for resilient supply chains and the ever more timely delivery of goods are driving some commercial and industrial applications. 

By contrast, autonomous passenger cars must be able to operate in uncontrolled environments and require more software, data points, and sensors to navigate safely, so that use case has taken longer to develop. Matzke points to the recent move by the state of California to remove robo-taxis from public roads as an indication that autonomous passenger cars are still a few years away. Despite the higher complexity, the need to reduce traffic congestion and control air pollution in larger cities, as well as OEMs using autonomous capabilities as differentiation, will continue to accelerate the passenger-car use case. 

Matzke also differentiates between autonomous vehicles and electrified vehicles, as the two are sometimes mistakenly used synonymously. Electrification, he points out, is essentially a vehicle drivetrain technology, while “autonomous” refers to a vehicle’s ability to perceive and respond to its environment with little or no human input. He expects that the shift toward electrification will be completed before significant adoption of autonomous vehicle technology in personal transportation occurs. 

When looking at the short-term adoption rates for autonomous vehicles, Matzke forecasts more robust adoption in commercial logistics and additional use cases beyond factories and warehouses. For example, autonomous trains and drones will play a significant role in freight transportation, and more autonomous vehicles will be integrating with existing public transport options (be sure to catch Matzke’s example about Bogota, Colombia). 

The episode then looks at some of the biggest barriers to autonomous vehicle adoption, such as regional and regulatory differences. Matzke explains that regional adoption varies based on factors such as government support, consumer acceptance, and availability of skilled operators. Regulatory differences between countries can also impact the adoption of autonomous vehicles, especially when it comes to issues of public infrastructure and data security. 

The episode closes with a discussion of the security concerns for autonomous vehicles and systems. Matzke acknowledges that cybersecurity attacks on connected vehicles have already occurred and emphasizes the need for caution to mitigate risks and ensure brand reputation and public safety.