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Street smarts


Earlier this month tech blogs were abuzz with the new products featured in this year’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show) including, as expected, a new breed of autonomous cars. It now seems like only a matter of time before these driverless vehicles push us all permanently into the passenger’s seat.

While I’ve yet to ride in one of these cars, I have imagined the possibilities. Browsing the news, checking email, texting to my heart’s delight. Or taking a nap, enjoying a meal, watching a movie. Are big screen TVs or car theater systems the next big automotive add-on, once we’re all driverlessly driven?

Along with the convenience, many see the change as a step up in safety. Human error accounts for 70-90% of accidents, and autonomous vehicles are poised to improve impressively on this record. Even while the first death in an autonomous car occurred last year in a Tesla Model S, the carmaker noted that it was the first fatality in 130 million miles of driving, compared with the average of 1 fatality in 94 million miles in the US.

It all sounds like another frictionless future, without the hassle of careless cab drivers, tiring traffic jams and calamitous collisions. And as it has in the supply chain, the disappearance of friction on the road is sure to bring surprising benefits.

For instance, will rubbernecking at roadside accidents disappear, as cars ignore their passengers’ request to slow down for a peek? Or will passengers just adapt to a faster kind of vehicular voyeurism?

Another advantage is the elimination of speeding tickets. Just as AP departments no longer need to manually check invoices for signs of fraud as they transition to automated, paperless Tungsten Network processes, so law enforcement will no longer need to monitor the speed of vehicles and pull over violators. Instead, infractions will be precluded by the technology built into the vehicles themselves. (Will we see speed-obsessed hackers try to game their cars to get a faster commute?)

Whatever the benefits, it’s appropriate to ask, as proponents of the frictionless future—have we learned anything from eliminating friction in the supply chain that can guide our increasingly frictionless journeys outside of it?

One place to start is with the realization that technological revolutions are hard for people, for some more than others. Just as suppliers want help transitioning to e-invoicing systems (a need we pride ourselves on addressing with our onboarding practices), so, if it’s to be successful, the automobile industry will need to help all of us humans get onboard with this new advancement in automotive automation.

That could mean education (what does driver training look like in an autonomous car?), marketing (test drive, anyone?), or acculturation (imagine James Bond sipping a martini in an autonomous Aston Martin, the dysfunctional family in Little Miss Sunshine in a fully-functional autonomous VW bus, or, for the kids, Scooby Doo’s Autonomous Mystery Machine).

Regardless of how we get there, the future looks increasingly frictionless, so we might as well get comfortable and enjoy the ride.


About the author

Connie O'Brien

As CMO, Connie is responsible for the Tungsten Network brand and ensuring the firm is at the forefront of the digital transformation of the purchase-to-pay process, with a focus on how we delight our customers through automated, scalable, dynamic and personalised experiences. Connie joined Tungsten from Affinion Group, an international membership and loyalty company where she was Chief Digital Officer. She has over twenty years’ experience driving digital marketing strategies for businesses, and has delivered campaigns for brands including GlaxoSmithKline, P&G, Kraft Foods, AXA, John Hancock, AT&T, Vonage and Verizon.


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