The automotive industry inspires technological advancement. Transportation is, for many, a necessity. With increased competition from peer plants, automotive manufacturers have no choice but to continue pushing the technological envelope to learn about the possibilities on the other side.
Thus far, that experimentation has led to a deep-dive into the world of AI. The future holds self-diagnosis vehicles, courtesy of Tesla and competitors, in addition to self-driving vehicles.
There’s a difference, though, between the AI that powers these innovations and the AI that drives utility vehicles into the future.
Utility vehicles, most commonly drones, have come to the public and received varied reception. The automotive industry, however, has been quick to take advantage of these hands-free innovations. When partnered with a progressive AI, drones have the potential not only to make work in a manufacturing plant simpler but to reinvigorate the ways automotive companies interact with their consumer audiences.
With that in mind, where will utility AI go in the next few years?
Autonomous Utility Vehicles: An Exploration
The Electric Power Research Institute has long been researching different ways to help utility vehicles take advantage of industry developments in AI. Right now, the question lies with transmission and distribution. 5G Internet is a reality of the future, but utility vehicles and their attached AI need to be able to tap into those speeds to then store and process the data that they collected.
The size of that data is also a problem. It’s no exaggeration to say that an individual driver produces terabytes of data on a daily basis. Consider this: the LF-30 Electric Concept anticipates that EVs will soon be equipped with in-vehicle drones designed to preserve the safety of the driver. Those drones will also have the capacity to capture and transmit a significant amount of data not only regarding the driver, but regarding its immediate surroundings, and V2V or V2I connections it makes, and the car to which its bonded.
Improved transmission and distribution within the world of utility vehicles, specifically autonomous utility vehicles, will make it simpler for car manufacturers, safety representatives, and affiliated personnel to assess and improve on the designs of vehicles currently in the works. Not only that, but the state of V2V and V2I technology can be improved with more accessible data on hand.
It’s a one-two punch of necessity if the automotive industry wants to continue experimenting with AI. After all, self-driving vehicles will take their cues from the utility vehicles already in the air. If a utility drone is able to pass information back and forth to its server with ease, then larger vehicles should be able to do the same.
In-House Use of Autonomous Utility Vehicles
Autonomous utility vehicles will be able to provide similar services for automotive plants. At this point, both Ford Dagenham Engine Plant in the United Kingdom and ZF in Germany are able to use autonomous utility vehicles to monitor the health and safety of their manufacturing plants. Ford beat ZF to the punch and now relies on a fleet of autonomous utility vehicles to check in with heavy machinery via the IoT. These drones also see to the security of heavy machinery gantries. Their use has reduced the amount of time employees have to spend performing these tasks, boosting the plant’s productivity and security, in turn.
ZF has followed suit, but also uses its autonomous utility vehicles to serve its public face. So long as a driver is within range of the company’s Germany warehouse, the drone fleet is able to deliver spare parts to consumers who request them. It may not be the silver screen, but it’s one of the first steps industry-owned, autonomous vehicles have taken towards establishing themselves outside of pop culture’s preconceived notions.
It is ZF that arguably understands one of the curiosities of working with autonomous utility vehicles best. That may not be the only reason they allow their autonomous utility vehicles to help consumers in their homes, but it’s certainly a perk. To see these vehicles appear more frequently, both within the automotive industry and without, consumers need to feel comfortable seeing them. The industry can present the benefits of usage: improved machine learning, faster analytical analysis, risk mitigation, and more, but without that comfort, the technologies that the industry wants to see come to fruition will be hampered by consumer doubt if autonomous vehicles will be safe.
It is public opinion, after all, that will determine whether or not AI-operated utility vehicles have a place in the consumer market. The automotive industry will be able to continue introducing these devices to their plants. Their value, however, grows exponentially when put to consumer use. Moving forward, this will be the challenge that utility vehicles face. They’re not in-home assistants, and you can’t carry them in your pocket, but they’re examples of non-traditional AI that will change the way businesses interact with their audiences – and vice versa.