The revolution of self-driving cars in the automotive industry
Self-driving cars are no longer a vision of the future, with advanced systems now being trialled and tested all over the world. Car manufacturers are competing against each other to launch the first autonomous car which will have the ability to take full control of journeys. Describing the futuristic cars as ‘driverless’ is only a term to be used loosely, with many people sceptical of a vehicle becoming completely automated and legal on the roads in the immediate future.
Large companies such as Mercedes and BMW have stepped up their game, incorporating an assisted driving system into some of the newer models which help to monitor hazards more closely. In addition to this, an advanced Autonomous Emergency Braking System has been developed to avoid or mitigate a crash. According to reports, hands-off self-driving on motorways is predicted to be introduced as early as 2018, suggesting that the final product of a driverless vehicle is not too far off.
The UK Government has fully supported the country as a test bed for advanced technology with the belief that when they are available on the open market, they will generate £8bn for the UK economy. People with disabilities will have the ability to travel more freely for both education and employment purposes, increasing earnings potential. As well as helping people with limited mobility, it could revolutionise society, making private car ownership obsolete whilst lowering energy consumption and reducing emissions.
The most recent UK trial was conducted in East London where the Nissan Leaf took to public roads on a route which included multi-lane driving. The journey involved human intervention at times, most notably at one point where it had to avoid a lorry in the neighbouring lane. The car manufacturer will be looking to improve its system to make it a more ‘driverless’ experience.
Google prototypes have completed over 2 million miles since 2009 and have been described to ‘build a safer driver for everyone’. However, since unveiling its newly-named project as Waymo, they have removed detailed reports online of the self-driving vehicles in collisions on public roads.
Previously, Google had blamed the collisions on the other vehicles involved or on human intervention, whilst only taking full responsibility for one of the cases. The Waymo automated cars have been dubbed in the press as being ‘too safe’, with Google left red-faced with one of the self-driving vehicles being pulled up by police for travelling too slow and holding up traffic behind.
Uber and carmaker Volvo have an established partnership, liaising to trial cars fitted with autonomous driving systems. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stated: “Over one million people die in car accidents every year. These are tragedies that self-driving technology can help solve but we can’t do this alone.”
One of Uber’s self-driving prototypes has been in the spotlight recently, with it being involved in a high-speed collision in Arizona this week. Although local police have confirmed that the robotic vehicle was not at fault, it will delay further testing until the case is fully investigated.
With the industry’s continuous efforts to improve and evaluate hypothetical risks in the self-driving systems, there is no doubt that in the coming years, we will have a better insight into just how safe and convenient they are. Major car manufacturers are battling it out to make history in launching the first ever autonomous vehicle on the open market. The question is: who will come out on top?