Autonomous Vehicles and the Aftermarket

What’s the future? What can be done now?

The autonomous vehicle bandwagon continues to accelerate. Consequently, tech updates abound. So do the endless speculations!

  • Will there be a self-driving car in every driveway?
  • Or will automated driving be limited to public transportation or ride sharing?
  • What about liability issues?
  • Data privacy?
  • System failures?
  • Insurance rates?
  • Furthermore, will it lead to less congestion, less pollution and greater mobility for seniors and those with disabilities?


One of the primary drivers behind automated driving systems is safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that:

  • 94% of all serious crashes are due to human error.
  • In 2016, 37,641 died in automobile crashes.
  • 3,450 of those 2016 deaths were due to distraction-related motor vehicle crashes.

Levels of autonomous driving

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has created the industry standards for autonomous driving levels.

SAE Autonomous Automation Levels
SAE Autonomous Automation Levels
  1. Levels 0 and 1 are where most cars are today.
  2. Level 2 can be found in some vehicles. Tesla Autopilot is an example that continues to evolve. Furthermore, it will certainly be available on many more vehicles within a few years.
  3. Level 3 means that while the car drives itself, the driver could nap, play games or work. But if the vehicle runs into a situation it can’t handle, it must notify the driver in time to safely hand off control.
  4. Level 4 can do all the driving. But it’s under strict conditions such as a specific location, time of day and ideal weather conditions.
  5. Level 5 is the ability to handle driving all the time. Anywhere, anytime and any kind of weather condition.

Self-driving roadblocks

Testing of various technologies required for levels 2 through 4 is underway. Some of that testing is real world. Some is at controlled, government test sites. Level 5 is far future. That’s because it must grapple with incomplete geographic mapping. And it needs figure out how to deal with extreme weather conditions.

  • The need for autonomous vehicles to communicate with each other (V2V) is also evident. Which language will become universal?
  • Should governments improve roadways to speed autonomous driving implementation?
  • Can the built-in AI that controls the automated vehicle handle an emergency situation? Can it make unarguable decisions based on shades-of-gray choice?
  • Will that AI programming vary from vehicle to vehicle?
  • Autonomous vehicle tech is expensive. Even if technologies become uniform across the board, are they affordable?

Public perceptions

Both Kelley Blue Book and the Governors Highway Safety Association have conducted surveys. The information is insightful. Therefore, the reports are well worth reading in full.

  • Americans will need a lot of convincing to commit themselves to a Level 5 vehicle.
  • Interest in Level 4 is strong since it offers the best of both worlds.
  • Price is a big factor.
  • There is great concern over how well automated vehicles and driver-operated cars will coexist on the same roadway.

Aftermarket advantage

In 2016, we explored the Top 5 Aftermarket Car Safety Devices. In light of the accelerating push toward automated driving, it’s time to revisit the topic.

  • According to Statista, the average age of a car on US highways is over 11 years—and climbing. This means there are a lot of cars out there that are at Level 0 or 1.
  • A number of technologies in automated vehicles exist today in non-automated, aftermarket form.
  • New cars are getting more expensive. So are those costly, optional safety upgrades! As a result, there’s plenty of potential right now for aftermarket car tech installers.

1. Backup cameras

As of May 2018, all new vehicles require a rearview video system. The rearview camera aftermarket variant is full of choices. There are license plate varieties and mountables. Many include a monitor. These should be used as an added safety tool. They are not a replacement for mirrors or turning around to look. Therefore, you need to educate your customers on this key point!

2. Parking assist sensors

Like the rearview camera, parking sensors are an excellent assist, throwing out a wide scan front or rear. They are available as separate units. But they are also often bundled with rearview cameras and monitors.

3. Forward collision warning systems

Aftermarket versions of forward collision warning (FCW) tend to be a part of a dash cam system. The camera measures the distance between itself and the vehicle in front. If they get too close, a warning is sounded. This lets the driver know he or she needs to take immediate action.

4. Lane departure warning systems

It is often bundled with FCW is lane departure, since it is also camera dependent. It alerts drivers if the vehicle drifts out of its lane. This can help prevent sideswipes or rollovers.

5. Blind spot detection systems

Trying to adjust a vehicle’s mirrors to cover a 360° field of view is not easy. Some say it’s impossible! Sensors alert the driver to approaching vehicles. Cameras can also be mounted on the side of a vehicle. Therefore, they provide additional eyes in hard to see spots.

Safety first

The safety benefits of autonomous vehicles are undeniable. So are the issues facing their implementation. The roadmap to autonomous driving is paved with great intentions. But the ultimate destination may be years away.

There are affordable, aftermarket products available that increase safety. Consequently, skilled installers should promote themselves as the source for valuable, autonomous-alternative safety solutions.

Petra carries more than aftermarket safety products. We stock a wide variety of other 12-volt automotive products. Therefore, be sure to check them all out!