The year 2016 will be a year of continuous improvements and new technology debuts for both drones and driverless cars. While many of these improvements will be in the areas of LiDAR, sensors, GPS and new computer chip and storage technologies, there are also policy and ergonomics considerations that enter into these seven notable trends:
1. Improved Video Resolutions on Drone Cameras
As businesses and consumers obtain technology with greater camera performance and video resolution, the video technology on drones will also improve. “The global wireless video surveillance market is close to 21 percent CAGR [from] 2014 to 2019,” says Amrita Choudhury, Technavio’s senior industry analyst. Choudhury also projected that the global wireless video surveillance market would approach $1.05 billion by 2019. To meet market demand, leading commercial drone companies like DJI and Yuneec are already offering integrated 4K video recording camera and HD video monitoring technology that is within consumer and business affordability ranges. These prices will continue to drop as video technology breakthroughs and market competition continue to build. The best advice for companies considering drones with video upgrades: Wait until mid-year to see if prices continue to drop.
2. Greater GPS Precision for Drones and Driverless Cars
In 2015, researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin developed a centimeter-accurate GPS-based positioning system that could revolutionize geolocation on virtual reality headsets, cellphones and other technologies, making global positioning and orientation far more precise than what is currently available on a mobile device. The new system could enable drones to make deliveries to a specific spot on a consumer’s back porch and contribute improved collision avoidance technology to both drones and driverless cars.
3. Smaller, Lighter Weight Sensors
LiDAR, infrared and spectral sensors all will get lighter and smaller in 2016. In the drone and driverless car worlds, these sensors help with collision avoidance. For drone-based applications, sensors with smaller and lighter footprints will also be able to process video images with greater clarity.
4. Introduction of VR/AR Technology to Drones
One frustrating aspect about using drones for surveys of agricultural or mining lands, or for important field searches and intelligence gathering, is that the drones don't always see or detect what an experienced field worker’s eyes can detect from years of experience and observation. In 2016, technology offerings that combine the field of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) with drones will begin to bridge this gap with real-time applications. Drones will be combined with virtual reality goggles that enable observers at locations far removed from a flying drone to actually see what the drone sees while it is in flight, as if they were on the drone itself. One commercial solution connects VR goggles to the drone’s central system and to a 14-megapixel, full-HD video camera with a fish-eye lens. The lens provides a 180-degree field of view, which enables a user with virtual reality googles to control pitch, panning and tilt as the drone hovers or flies. This application is particularly useful in military, and in search and rescue/disaster response operations.
5. Collaboration Between the Driverless Car and Financial Services Industries
Driverless cars are not expected begin to impact market share in the automobile market until 2030, but it’s not too early for the driverless car industry and financial services companies to begin thinking about how these autonomous vehicles might affect future consumer behavior. In 2016, expect companies from both the auto and financial services industries to begin working together on new pay-for-drive business models that will one day enable consumers to “order” a driverless car to take them on a trip, or simply from place to place in their home markets. Consumers will be able to pay for these services online or over the phone when they order the car.
6. Improvements in LiDAR Sensors for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems
In 2016, technology companies like Quanergy and VelodyneLiDAR will continue to improve the capabilities of driver assistance systems on driverless cars by offering solid state light detection and range sensors that are able to scan 360 degrees around the car with a three-dimensional view and the ability to track objects in real time.
7. Steering Wheels for Driverless Cars
In December 2015, California became the first state to propose a steering wheel on a driverless car in the event that the car’s automatic systems fail. “A licensed operator will be required to be present inside the [autonomous] vehicle and be capable of taking control in the event of a technology failure or other emergency,” said the California Department of Motor Vehicles in a policy statement. In a separate survey, Volvo found 92 percent of potential driverless car consumers also want a steering wheel in the cars, saying that they want the ability to take control of the car if they feel they need to. Driverless trucks already have the “fail safe” steering wheel, as it is needed for drivers of trucks transporting large cargoes when they negotiate their way through the street plans and by-ways of urban areas.