The Most Disruptive Innovation Ever

Philosophers Jean Baudrillard and Zygmunt Bauman believed that the contemporary revolution is the uncertainty revolution in a “liquid society” where everything overflows. Every day more facts arise proving the truth of this notion.

Compare current innovations to the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, for example. Today we are experiencing multiple technological revolutions within a single generation, and they are happening faster than ever before. The continuous breakdown of paradigms is causing dramatic alterations in our society.

What is most astonishing is the interconnectivity of each disruption. The cycles we experience are more linked – from technologies to business models to social movements, making it very difficult to predict what will come next and what will prevail. This is an overflow of influences without limitations on what can impact lives in a civilization where connectivity is both ubiquitous and invasive.

One of the most promising opportunities we are seeing is improved productivity across nearly every industry. These productivity improvements continue to come from new, end-to-end autonomous processes. They involve embedded intelligence, leveraged predictive and contextual analytics, real-time optimisation tools and artificial intelligence techniques.

So what is the next innovation to change the world forever, perhaps the most disruptive innovation ever?

Imagine an innovation that can:

  • Dismantle an entire global industry that directly generates more than $3 trillion USD in revenues and generates another $1 trillion USD in related sectors.
  • Completely shift the business models and value chains of dozens of segments and revenue streams including the financial services, insurance, infrastructure, public safety and transportation, oil and gas, mining, agriculture and automotive industries.
  • Directly affect government operations with significant changes to the circular flow of income, tax revenues, political policies, economic cartels, etc.
  • Drive eight million workers into unemployment while also creating an abundance of new jobs never before conceptualised.
  • Unsettle the daily routines of city life, transforming the majority of the world’s population.

Imagine an innovation that can do these things while also:

  • Saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year
  • Positively impacting the environment on a major scale and greatly improving the quality of life in cities across the world.
  • Redirecting billions of U.S. dollars invested in inefficient and unproductive assets to more effective investments.
  • Creating completely new industries and value chains never before imagined.

If you guessed this is a description of the autonomous car, you are right. The autonomous car is an innovation that will profoundly change the world.

How? The reasoning is simple: car utilisation is unbelievably inefficient. Our utilisation of cars is starkly different from the car manufacturing process, which represents one of the most efficient industries today. According to a study by Morgan Stanley, cars are driven only 4% of the time. That’s 8.4 trillion hours of idle time per year. If you consider the global vehicle fleet with a collective ownership value of $20 trillion USD, the amount of money wasted is staggering!

PricewaterhouseCoopers indicates that the benefits of autonomous car introduction could impact as much as 90% of the global car fleet, reducing:

  • 250 million cars to only 2.5 million in the U.S. alone through a transportation sharing model
  • 8 million traffic accidents to 1.1 million
  • 9 billion gallons of gas to 190 million gallons – road congestion leads to wasted-fuel; eliminating this would lead to a savings of $158 billion USD

If you consider the potential impact, there is a $1.3 trillion USD benefit for the U.S. economy from the introduction and implementation of autonomous vehicles (including the expansion of electrical cars).

So let’s imagine. You contact an autonomous driving car service using a mobile app. Almost immediately the car arrives at your destination. This is an effective service at an overall reduced cost.

Let’s also consider:

  • Ninety per cent of automobile accidents are caused by human error and the leading cause of death for 4-to-34-year-olds in the United States. This could mean saving millions of lives and injuries per year.
  • Average annual car ownership cost is $9,000 USD, the second most expensive asset after a house.
  • Parking comprises more than 30% of city traffic. Its elimination could add two more lanes to streets, saving time and fuel and reducing pollution. In addition, without parking lots and garages, more space would be available for city development, improving quality of life.
  • According to researchers, the impact on traffic reduction would equate to a full week of time saved per driver each year.
  • The same study has shown that 75 billion hours are spent commuting in cars, thus optimisation would create savings of around $422 billion USD per year in U.S. alone.
  • It is estimated that pollution may be reduced 15% directly and another 5% due to process optimisation and utilisation of electric cars.

Will the implementation of autonomous cars really happen? And if so, when?

Car manufacturers and consulting firms are calling for a completely autonomous car by 2030, but the driverless revolution has already started. The technological building blocks are available in the form of GPS, radar/lidar, infrared and ultrasonic sensors, cameras, inertial systems and more.

Automation software has been developed for autonomous vehicle process flows. These solutions include parking assist, intelligent cruise control, lane guidance, blind-spot sensors, emergency breaking, collision avoidance and traffic jam assist.

More self-driving features are coming soon, with General Motors, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Nissan and Tesla saying 2017 models will have self-driving capabilities up to 90 per cent. These features, however, are mostly related to Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) versus full autonomous driving. Hands-free driving on test courses and free roads isn’t quite the same as maneuvering through the traffic- and obstacle-filled streets typical of an urban setting.

Nonetheless, we will likely see this transition accelerated. Groupings of sensors and connectivity will enable more sets of ADAS features, providing progress in the development of a complete “all-road autonomous operation.”

So what will happen to the existing car industry and related services as a result of these non-linear changes?

Let’s briefly examine the music, movie and photography industries, how transformative these businesses are. From vinyl records to cassette tapes, from VHS to DVDs—their evolution has been constant and these are nuances of the past – digital is now our way of life. We have learned that traditional, heuristic management approaches aren’t always sufficient when approaching change that scales exponentially and non-linearly.

And where does Hexagon fit into the big picture? Like many forward thinkers, we are looking closely at the early adopters of this technology and preparing ourselves for a society in which we will see more and more automation. We are becoming part of discussions taking place about technologies such as robotics and automation and how key industries are incorporating them into their operations.

One thing we can guarantee, Hexagon will serve an important role in this disruptive change.

Let’s follow closely!

Claudio Simão

Chief Innovation Officer, Hexagon

President, Hexagon Ventures


Claudio Simão joined Hexagon in 2002 with the acquisition of his company, Quality Technologies Ltd., and has led Hexagon South America’s aggressive growth strategy. Simão also has served as president of Hexagon Metrology Asia-Pacific. As Chief Innovation Officer and President of Hexagon Ventures, Simão leads the organisation in its mission of leveraging Hexagon’s cross-divisional technologies and its solution-centric strategy. Prior to joining Hexagon, Simão held the position of CEO in different companies. Simão holds degrees in engineering and physics, has written several books on physics and technology, and holds various patents in sensors technology.

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