COVID-19 has ushered in the Future

The Future has arrived. COVID-19, the dreaded pandemic sweeping the world, has had a direct fallout in speeding up the process of automation, driven by the need to reduce physical contact between humans., the Chinese eCommerce giant, tested a Level 4 autonomous delivery robot in Wuhan and operated 24X7 warehouses to cope with surge demand. A Level 4 vehicle can move autonomously on a defined trajectory and under specific conditions that are generally made known in advance. On a given trajectory (for example on the highway, on a known route), the driver does not need to be behind the wheel and can take his attention away from the road. This level is also called "Mind Off".

 In simple terms, automation Levels 1 to 3 are monitored driving, while Level 3 upwards in non-monitored driving. This has taken autonomous vehicles from the proof-of-concept level to on-the-road real-time operations. And this can well be implemented in activity areas to reduce physical contacts between humans, for example, cleaning or sterilizing hospital or factory floors. Such automation can also be used in hazardous factory environments, thereby not putting humans at risk. 

Now is the time for every company to consider what it can digitally transform and what it can automate. This certainly won't be the last pandemic – all the more reason to leverage this crisis as a wake-up call to fast-track adoption of useful technology. That includes augmented reality, AI, 3-D printing and autonomous robots. 

COVID-19 will also speed up the process to achieve Level 5 automation – the stuff we have been watching in movies for many years. It's when you get in your car in the morning and it drives you to your job, while you quietly prepare the day’s presentation. Able to adapt to its environment, such cars will navigate on any type of road and under any conditions without intervention. It's called the "Driver Off" level. Driven by the fear of contagion, the days of autonomous Robo-taxis aren’t far off!

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