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Cheat Sheet: How to Build an App for Autonomous Cars

3 February, 2017 | Article Source: Rob LaPointe  |   (No Comments) | 14,300 Views

As a Tech Services provider, it’s quite literally our business to keep an eye out for upcoming trends and enterprise opportunities. Today’s topic is one we’ve mentioned here and there, but there is some big news coming out of this industry. From Google’s soon to be released Self-Driving Cars to Tesla’s road-ready semi autonomous cars, it is officially the age of SmartCars.


Let’s take a deeper dive into the recent news concerning self-driving cars and then wrap up with some suggestions on how to go about building your own app for this developing market.


10 Million Self-Driving Cars by 2020


According to a new report from seminal industry watchers Business Insider, there will be about 10 million cars with some level (at least one feature, as defined by BI) of Autonomous driving. This encompasses both the extant Semi-autonomous vehicles as seen with Tesla, as well as other high end luxury vehicles, and the fully autonomous cars. Fully autonomous cars are expected to be available to the general public by 2019.


This report is coupled with another report from the California DMV on the Self-driving cars Waymo. This report recorded that Waymo had a significant drop (from 2015) in the amount of times a human driver had to take over – called disengagement, in industry parlance. In 2015, Waymo (owned by Alphabet) had about .8 disengagements per 1,000 miles. In 2016, there were only .2 per 1,000


Furthermore, Waymo drove an additionally 210,000+ miles more than in 2015. While there are only 11 other companies that currently have one of these reports with the DMV, Waymo represents a significant step towards full autonomy.


The KPMG branch in the UK also just reported that they expect self-driving car technology to be of a priority most new car buyers by 2030. Additionally, they reported that many self-driving features (i.e. lane assist) are already major selling point for most consumers. Importantly, KPMG’s automotive head John Leech points out that the UK has possibly


“The best regulatory framework for testing autonomous vehicles.”

So to our UK readers, creating decent apps for the autonomous movement should be of paramount importance.


The last bit of information relevant to a business venture is the safety aspect. While there are still safety issues with the cars, they are rapidly decreasing (as the Waymo Report demonstrated). But more importantly, autonomous cars are expected to drastically reduce traffic incidents and possibly even traffic congestion. Referring again to the UK’s KPMG, they expect that 2,500 lives will be saved by 2030 thanks to autonomous self-driving features.


CARpe Diem


Hopefully readers will forgive the above pun, but this is one of those moments where entrepreneurs have a chance to get in on the ground floor. We aren’t talking about building a self-driving car; we’re talking about focusing on the Software infrastructure. From the software used by autonomous cars to the app wave sure to come with these new toys, the market is ripe for the picking.


And you don’t have to relegate yourself to self-driving car apps. Both Navdy and Hum are examples of new technology that can be integrated with old tech. But let’s take a look at some essential features and areas for advancement for car apps:


• A hands free feature is essential to any Car app. First of all, just because Waymo’s managed to dramatically reduce disengagements, doesn’t mean they’ve gone away. So there will always be a possibility that a driver may need to take over at a moment’s notice. Secondly, it’s illegal in many steps to use your phone while driving with a handsfree feature of some point


• Other opportunities for business advancements are apps that help drivers judge everything from fuel efficiency to overall engine health. As cars become smarter with more integration features, having an app that let’s people know exactly what’s going on with their vehicle will become a hot ticket item.


• As most people are still having to do some sort of hands-on driving, it’s not a good idea to switch between multiple apps. Therefore, apps that are a comprehensive system are the most valuable. This includes features and integrations like:


    ○ Maps or GPS;


    ○ Music or Audio;


    ○ Hands-free in-app phone capabilities (i.e. answer/ignore/end calls)


    ○ Safety first folks: any in-car app needs to be designed so that a user can safely operate it (beyond hands free options) at the speed limit (usually 65 mph in the US).


    ○ Voice-to-text for SMS messaging services; and


    ○ Some sort of integration with your car and the road, from the aforementioned fuel efficiencies to changes in speed limits or other useful road laws.


There are a couple of other notable things here. First, getting a car app to market poses some challenge and may require a partnership with car manufacturers or some sort of hardware partnership. Additionally, the market for apps specifically designed for in-car use is smaller than the overall app market and most car apps are likely to see a user cap of under 10 million people. When compared to the overall market of app consumers in the several billions, it seems like small potatoes.


But that being said, millions of users is still a huge success. Moreover, the competition for in-Car apps is significantly lower than the overall app market. The last benefit app builders should consider is that autonomous cars are becoming commonplace. This means that the amount of time in an app as well as the opportunities for engagement with Car apps will grow exponentially.


Do you want to get involved in this growing market of brave entrepreneurs and Startup Founders? Give us a call at 408.805.0495/408.621.8481 – or click to contact us!


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