Buy it and Fly it: The Aftermarket Autonomy Market

As technology continuously moves towards making human life better and more effortless, transportation is a field that receives a lot of attention. From improving the speed of airplanes to the congestion in traffic, it seems that transportation has the most potential to benefit from technological advances. Self-driving cars are no small part of this. The ability for one’s car to take them along their every-day commute without the driver’s full attention will be a great leap towards the society of tomorrow, increasing road safety and allowing for more productive hours throughout the day. So anticipated is this revolution that tools are already being developed that can offer the same sort of functionality to vehicles already on the road – the aftermarket autonomy industry.

Far away from Tesla’s custom autopilot system or any other state of the art self-driving platform under development by Google or another large corporation, the startup scene has given birth to many self-driving solutions of its own. Focusing on the average consumer’s reluctance to buy a new vehicle solely for the sake of self-driving functionality, the players in the aftermarket autonomy market have developed “kits” that aim to be installed in cars already on the road to offer them self-driving capabilities. As the number of players in this market increases, so does the number of supported makes and models of vehicles. This technology opens the convenience to a larger number of people than would be able to buy a brand-new autonomous vehicle, expanding the connected and autonomous car sector to include older makes and models to make the roads safer for everyone.

These solutions often incorporate an external sensor (like a camera) with a device that allows commands to be sent to the OBD-II port found in most vehicles, granting direct control of the vehicle’s inner mechanisms. While the technology used in these products is remarkable, it raises the concern of unsecured connectivity being introduced to a diagnostic port – a situation that could potentially end in disaster if exploited. The merit to be gained by using such products cannot be understated, however just as with all things related to a connected ecosystem, security needs to be taken into account.