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The Consumer Road to Self

Building trust in autonomous tech comes in four stages
By Andrew Poliak - June 2, 2017
People of Pittsburgh have shared city streets with Uber’s experimental self-driving cars since last year. In Atlanta, a busy stretch of roadway is gearing up for driverless vehicles that can communicate with smart traffic lights and other infrastructure. Earlier this year, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation announced ten self-driving “proving grounds” in cities such as Madison, Wisconsin and San Diego.
What many Americans may not realize is that they are already using autonomous features as self-driving technology moves from research to something people rely on daily. In a recent AAA survey, 59% of respondents said that they want autonomous tech in their next vehicle.
Lessons from consumer electronics
This is a tremendous time to be involved in auto tech. The pace of change, the ideas, the willingness to commit to invention has never been greater. What we’ve learned after almost 100 years of consumer technology development at Panasonic, is that the “wow” wears off quickly. Companies that successfully introduce innovations design them so consumers intuitively understand their features. With intuitive use comes delight, trust, and ultimately, from a consumer’s perspective, technology that disappears behind the experience it supports.
The tech adoption curve allows us to bucket auto innovation over the last few decades into four categories: Latent; Just in Time; Cognitive; and Precognitive. This has been a slow process, which leads us to believe that full “go anywhere” autonomy – meaning no human driver intervention – is years away.
Phase 1: Seat belts—a latent technology
The latent bucket can be described as the individual triggering a feature. Safety belts are an example. It took decades to identify the need, get them into vehicles, and – longest of all – get people to use them. Similarly, ABS brakes were rejected for years because drivers didn’t like their feel.
Phase 2: Airbags signal just-in-time phase
Airbags and other active safety technologies moved the industry into a just-in-time phase–when the vehicle or the individual can both trigger an action to avoid catastrophe. That airbag sensor triggered technology the moment the occupants needed it.
Phase 3: Learning a driver’s behaviors
Today, cognitive technologies can “learn” a driver’s behaviors, sense and react. Even with partial information, these smart systems can make decisions to increase safety, and build trust in more sophisticated autonomous features. Now we’re reaching drivers through multiple senses – eyes, ears, touch – and providing a back-up when their own senses might fail…

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