For years, we have been talking about how AV (autonomous vehicle) technology is going to change the way our transportation systems look. From buses, to trams and trains, to construction equipment, to the very cars we drive, more often vehicles are becoming equipped with self-driving technology. We know AVs can help reduce congestion and make mobility more comfortable, but we also know there are a lot of factors that need to converge to help make this a reality—and perhaps that time is now.

For one, the market is predicted to grow, with Mordor Intelligence suggesting that market was valued at $19.46 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a rate of about 18.06% through 2026. Part of the reason for growth is because we are seeing a combination of factors all happening at the same time. We are seeing the cooperation between government and technology, as the legislators address the public’s concerns for safety related to self-driving cars. At the same time, we are witnessing the advancement of technology as well.

As an example, Volkswagen Group and Microsoft recently teamed up to accelerate the development of automated driving. Volkswagen Group and Microsoft have been strategic partners on the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud since 2018, which will span all of Volkswagen’s future digital services and mobility offerings.

Now Volkswagen Group’s software company Car.Software Organisation, which was founded last year, and Microsoft are building an Automated Driving Platform for the agile development of automated driving functions. Built on Microsoft Azure, the platform leverages its compute and data capabilities, which will lead to increased efficiency of the development of ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) and AD (automated driving) functions for passenger cars.

We know petabytes of data—including road and weather conditions, obstacle detection, driver behavior, and so much more—need to be managed every day for the training, simulation, and validation of autonomous driving. Here is where machine learning can help. Algorithms can learn from billions of real and simulated miles driven. Car.Software Organisation is one that is addressing these challenges with Microsoft by simplifying the developer experience and leveraging the “learnings from miles driven” through one database.

The companies say the new Automated Driving Platform will help reduce the development cycles from months to weeks and efficiently manage the vast amount of data. And the good news here is the companies are starting work on this immediately. They will also enable technology partners to build tools and services that integrate with the platform.

And this is just one example, but the numbers here are pretty impressive. By 2025, Volkswagen Group will invest around 27 billion euros in digitalization and increase the proportion of in-house development of software in the car to 60% from 10% today.

We also know both companies are taking a strong stance on sustainability—continuing to deliver on benefits for the planet while heightening technology development. Microsoft, for example, plans to be carbon negative, water positive, and zero waste by 2030. We are talking all of this in less than 10 years—which is one of the reasons I declared this the decade of sustainability. Meanwhile Volkswagen Group wants to ensure the opportunities and risks associated with the environmental, social, and governance activities are identified as early as possible and at every stage of the value creation process.

The future is now. The technology is advancing; the government is taking steps toward addressing the public safety concerns; it’s time to build out the infrastructure; and everything is converging to move us closer to an autonomous world. The only question remaining is whether you are ready.

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