Driverless Cars: A New Opportunity for Small Businesses

Self-driving vehicle

By Patrick Peterson

Driverless cars seemed like a pipe dream a few decades ago, the stuff of science fiction novels and movies. Not anymore.

Autonomous vehicles (AV) are already here, and it’s only a matter of time before robots take over the wheel. It’s an inevitability that big tech companies like Alphabet, IBM, and Amazon believe in. Nvidia, Intel, and auto industry giants Ford, Tesla, Nissan, and others are jumping in. Even ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft are going all-out.

The AV situation is all fine and dandy, but where does that leave small businesses?

Significant developments in the driverless car industry

Autonomous vehicles have come a long way since the Stanford Cart in 1961. After DARPA’s involvement in AV in the early 2000s, the technology behind driverless cars has kept getting better and better. Waymo, Alphabet’s own take on autonomous vehicles, has rolled testing for its robot taxi service in Phoenix.

Uber is already operating driverless taxis in Phoenix and Pittsburgh. French startup Navya is operating an AV shuttle bus in downtown Las Vegas. And Toyota recently unveiled its concept-i UX car that has a built-in AI they named Yui. Yui can get to know you and read your emotions. The developments in driverless tech are only going to get better over time.

Excellent opportunities for small business

As the AV industry continues to grow, it’s going to need plenty of outside help. This is where small businesses can come in and carve a niche for themselves.

Plenty of startups have already taken advantage of this emerging technology. Some small businesses are helping to develop cheaper LIDAR (light detection and ranging) technology. Others are offering automotive wireless technology alternatives.

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There’s a plethora of other AV parts and tech that are still available and ripe for the picking. Software startups can also take advantage of the need to create services for AV owners. Let’s take a look at the future of apps and software in the driverless car industry.

Driverless car industry can be your oyster

The time will come when AV’s need to be online all the time. When robots can take the wheel completely, human passengers will have nothing to do in the car. This is where software and app developers come in.

The AI in driverless vehicles will be so smart, it would get to know user habits, emotions, and address needs. AI startups can configure their systems to connect to smart homes and remind the user that she’s running out of milk, for example.

Driverless cars will know precisely where the user is, and give recommendations on where to eat or grab a drink. If the AI senses that the user is getting sleepy, it may play music and stop at a coffee shop. Cameras mounted all around the vehicle can do a car history check—even on another car during an accident or if the police issue a bulletin on a suspect.

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Mom and pop stores will also benefit

With the adoption of self-driving cars, business models from almost all industries will change. Consumer electronics, telecommunications, and logistics face a significant shift in the way they do business. This shift can only mean good news for small businesses.

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