Tech governance can pave the path for autonomous cars

When it comes to machines that drive themselves, technology governance is truly a life or death matter.

This white paper explores the need for holistic technology governance in building the foundation of trust that will pave the way for autonomous vehicles.

Eleven year old Sophie used to trudge ten, long blocks to the bus stop and endure the painfully slow, meandering route to school before the 7:30 a.m. bell. Soon, a self driving car will deliver her from her doorstep directly to school in half the time; she’ll even have time for breakfast with her family.

Jack can’t count how many times he’d considered pulling over to rest on his drive home from his night shift at the factory. Soon he’ll never again take the risk of exhausted driving—to himself or others. His self driving car never gets tired.

The incessant beep of incoming emails she couldn’t read during Elizabeth’s 56 mile commute to work each morning used to drive her crazy. Soon, she’ll catch up on work on the way in, while her self driving car manages the morning rush.

Whether we’re ready for it or not, the autonomous age is here. We’re close to a future where no one will need to get behind the wheel—and it looks like a bright future. Self driving cars promise many benefits, from safer streets, to increased mobility, to less stressful and more productive lives.

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are already driving in controlled environments, such as self driving taxi pilots in Pittsburgh (by Uber and Volvo)1 and Singapore (by NuTonomy)2, and Ford, Audi, BMW, Tesla and others have all announced plans to produce self driving car fleets in the next five years3, 4. Research firm BI Intelligence estimates there will be 10 million self driving cars on the road by the end of the decade5.

But there are still barriers that stand in the way of mass adoption. Here’s the main one: Will you trust Sophie, Jack and Elizabeth’s lives to a self driving car? What about your own family’s?

Trust is a major obstacle that stands in the way of realizing the dream of full autonomy. KPMG’s study, “Self Driving Cars:

Are We Ready?” revealed that safety and trust will play a huge role in the market for self driving cars6. Humans—both consumers and regulators—need to trust that the technology inside and surrounding self driving cars is faultless and sound; that the car will get us from point A to point B more safely than a human driver.

As autonomous vehicle technology advances, we need to examine how we will govern, and thereby gain trust, in the hardware, software and data that will drive our cars. After all, consumers will only trust a vehicle if all of the pieces work. When it comes to self driving cars—when your life is at stake— there is no in between. That’s why we believe holistic technology governance will play an integral role in building the foundation of trust required for autonomous vehicles to take off. Holistic governance means evolving governance to include all components of the vehicle—data, software, hardware, integration, security and compliance—rather than governing each component individually. This is the first of a series of white papers examining the issue of trust in the technologies of tomorrow from a governance perspective. In this paper, we’ll focus on self driving cars, which are poised to change the automotive industry, and our individual lives, in radical ways. Inside, you’ll find insights and perspectives on:

  • Why trustworthy technology matters 
  • Technology related challenges car manufacturers must address if humans are to trust their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, to self driving cars 
  • What a holistic governance framework for self driving cars looks like 
  • How to evolve your governance program to earn trust in self driving cars and enable society to realize their potential benefits.