Doing the Dreaming of Tomorrow – Your Driverless Cars
Driver less vehicle technology has the potential to be a real game changer on the UK’s roads, altering the face of motoring in the most fundamental of ways and delivering major benefits for road safety, social inclusion, emissions and congestion.
The UK is already a world leading centre for vehicle research and technology; we have some of the best innovators, engineers, facilities and opportunities for automotive investment in the world. We have one of the most welcoming regulatory environments for development of this technology anywhere in the world. When you consider that the average driver spends the equivalent of six working weeks driving a year, this represents a real opportunity, in addition, automated vehicles that never get tired or distracted could hold the key to substantially improving road safety. We are setting out the best possible framework to support the testing of automated vehicles, to encourage the largest global businesses to come to the UK to develop and test their technologies.
We don’t know exactly when we’re going to be able to buy autonomous cars but we do know the opportunity is coming soon. The idea first appeared in the 1930’s in a monthly SYFI Magazine called, Air Wonder Stories. But it wasn’t until the 1980’s when Carey Mellon University’s Nav Lab created the first self efficient and truly autonomous car.
Autonomous vehicles have come a long way, especially in the last 10 years. In 2008 the autonomous movement achievements came when a self driving Volkswagen was able to recognise a stop sign and apply the breaks on its own. Two years later in 2010 Google had built an entire fleet of autonomous cars and clocked a total of 140 thousand miles on Californian roads. Driving alongside other cars, pedestrians and obeying not just stop signs but all traffic signals, including traffic lights. In 2012 that same fleet had covered 300 thousand miles without a single accident. Human error is a factor in over 90% of collisions. Failing to look properly, misjudging other road users’ movements, being distracted, careless or in too much of a hurry are the most common causes of collisions on our roads. Automated vehicles will not make these mistakes. They use a range of sensors which will constantly monitor their surroundings.
Google and VW aren’t the only ones with their sights on the self driving market. Mercedes Benz began testing autonomous driving in the 80’s when Nav Lab was around. Last year a BMW drove itself down the autobahn, Audi send a autonomous vehicle up Pikes Peak and at the Tokyo auto show last year, Toyota unveiled its Prius Avos – which is an acronym for automatic vehicle operation system, which can be summoned by the rider remotely.
Now despite some legal, safety and privacy obstacles standing in the way of companies bringing in self driving cars to the market, unknown questions like, can the system perfect in a blizzard? Or who is going to be responsible if the autonomous vehicle hits a pedestrian it doesn’t recognise?
Autonomous CEO’s still think the self driving car is inevitable as the technology advances, Google has said it want its cars in the hands of consumers by 2017, Tesla has said, “Go in, go to sleep and wake up at your destination” by 2019. By 2020 GM, Mercedes, Audi, Nissan, BMW and Renault all expect to have a semi autonomous car available for purchase and Jaguar’s expected to release on in 2024 followed one year later by Ford in 2025. If these predictions go to plan then the world is going to be in a much different place when 2030 is here.
1.2 million people die in auto related accidents every year in the world, one of the highest causes of accidents and death is alcohol. Now, computers don’t get drunk, mess with their phones or get distracted so expect auto related deaths to decrease or completely vanish all together as the more self driving cars appear. Not only is it going to be safe but it’s also going to be fast, the average driver in England spends 235 hours driving every year. That is the equivalent of six working weeks, but not fro long, say goodbye to stop signs and traffic lights and say hello to high speeds. The autonomous car of the future will be able to set a direct course and communicate with other cars on the road so that as many as possible can fit and keep the flow going as quickly as possible.
Autonomous cars are going to be more accessible to a range of so many different people too, the elderly, the disabled and the young. Which raises an interesting question, if the autonomous car is no long a car but a computer, do we need to regulate as much as we do with the cars of today? Will we need a license to ride one? Is there a certain age we need to be to be “in control”? I doubt it.
Our environment is definitely going to thank us, more efficient driving means less energy is burning into our atmosphere, meaning less C02 which means cleaner lungs, healthier humans and a longer life span for our planet.
Finally, people are going to be happier. Stressful hour long commutes shackle human joy, it is going to be nice to get rid of them and welcome a much easier way of transporting everything and everyone.
However, the next big question is…will you ever be able to afford a self-driving car?