Distracted driving can't wait for Tesla

May 30, 2017
Holger G. Weiss
KITT Interiors © Pat Loika

Texting while driving is illegal and highly dangerous. But we are in the digital age and addicted to always stay connected through our digital devices – even while driving. The automotive market needs connectivity and mobility technology for the road as Tesla and others have promised, but we’re betting on the future, while the mass market needs access now.

Auto manufacturers like Tesla, Ford, Nissan, Audi and more are building the cars of the future – smart, connected, autonomous. Shareholder confidence in Tesla is now at a staggering height, recently reaching its highest value of $292 per share, pushing the company’s valuation past $47 billion. Right now, Tesla has a higher market cap than Ford, yet the company sold only 25,000 connected cars in Q1 this year. While that’s great for Tesla, the price is disconnected from true fundamental measures and is running high on anticipation and enthusiasm from investors for future performance.

The average car is 11 years old

But there are an estimated 200 million cars on the road in North America that are on average 11 years old, and the technology and access to connected vehicles that we’re expecting from makers like Tesla are looking at a launch date of 2020, several years from now.

387,000 injured by distracted driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 3,331 people have been killed and over 387,000 injured in motor vehicle accidents connected to distracted driving in the US. Teens are also at the greatest risk of injury. Distracted driving represents 10% of all fatal crashes and 17% of all accidents that caused injuries. And the rate of accidents isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

Drivers continue to ignore the laws

We can only expect distracted driving accidents to increase over these next several years. Drivers will continue to ignore the texting while driving laws if there isn’t an easy solution available. And even when auto manufacturers bring connected and autonomous cars to the masses, the initial price point will be a major barrier to entry for the mainstream.

Where do we go from here?

Since we can’t wait for Tesla, where do we go from here? Let’s look to our smartphones – our first access point to how we consume and stay connected on the road. Smartphones are multithreading and multitasking machines that must be trained to understand the user better to provide more personalized information, in the right delivery method and in the right time. The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are crucial in raising the quality of personalized information and recommendations for safer driving.

The rise of AI and voice assistants

AI also aids in understanding how a user has previously used content and predicts how they will use it in future. Google Now is a good example of an AI-assistance providing a glimpse of what could be possible, but is still a long way from the finished product – a truly personalized experience for surfacing and relaying information to the end user (or in our case, the driver).

Connected, autonomous cars from Tesla, Ford, Audi and more are certainly present a beautiful vision for the future, but we are quite a long way from this vision. It’s more realistic to bet and invest on the now – building AI-driven technology for more personalized content and user experiences for today’s driver. Our collective safety on the road is counting on it.

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