Gartner tech trends 2020: the arrival of autonomous things

By William Smith
Earlier this month, Gartner released its top 10 strategic technology trends for 2020. As 2019 draws to a close, Gigabit Magazine is doing a series break...

Earlier this month, Gartner released its top 10 strategic technology trends for 2020. As 2019 draws to a close, Gigabit Magazine is doing a series breaking down the biggest technology trends set to reshape the global business landscape over the next year. 

Gartner considers “autonomous things” to be one of 2020’s top tech trends. Autonomy comes on a spectrum, with one of the most profitable definitions coming from the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) Levels of Driving Automation Standard. Going from 0 to 5, the first three levels describe assisted driver support features such as adaptive cruise control and lane centering. Levels 3 and above cover autonomous driving in increasing levels of complexity, with the level 5 standard being the holy grail – complete autonomy at all times.

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The arrival of autonomous cars will likely not simply result in everyone possessing virtual chauffers. Rather, it will have a transformative impact on the design (why have a steering wheel in a car you don’t drive?) and ownership of vehicles. This last point is being explored by Tesla, which is planning on allowing owners of Tesla vehicles to send out their cars to act autonomously in robotaxi fleets, earning money both for Tesla and the owners.

Autonomous things are not restricted to the land, however. Autonomous drones are already available in commercial settings, in this case used by Exyn Technologies to build 3D maps of remote locations. Drones themselves are an interesting proposition for autonomy. Their relative cheapness makes them perfect for operating as swarms, and autonomy sidesteps the need for pilots.

Gartner cautions that autonomous things perform best with a narrow scope, and should not be expected to be all things to all people. In other words, Gartner isn’t expecting the imminent arrival of machine consciousness, despite Boston Dynamics doing its best to provide that potential consciousness nightmarish robot bodies.

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