The future of driverless vehicles

Many new cars on the market today come with some autonomous tech as standard. Features like sat-nav and Bluetooth for example are integral parts of the driving experience today and we have come to expect them in our new vehicles. The automotive industry has been focused on developing fully self-driving cars for a number of years, but safety concerns and delays to testing have delayed their introduction.

Driverless cars look set to finally become available very soon though, with manufacturers planning on introducing their first models by the year 2021. Here, we’re taking a closer look at their introduction and the future of driverless vehicles with the help of Motorparks, who offer used Vauxhall cars.


1.      Making the driving experience safer

Driver safety has been the main focus of autonomous technology for a number of years. For example cruise control, surprisingly developed way back in 1948 and introduced to vehicles in 1958, has allowed us to give our feet a rest from the pedals while sticking to a continuous speed, there has been many more inventions that have paved the way for fully autonomous vehicles.

Many of you will already be familiar with lane keeping technology – this tech allows drivers to stay within their own lanes when driving on motorways. However, if the lines aren’t clearly visible — either due to weather conditions or poor markings — the system will not work. Although this may be the case, and this system still requires driver interaction, it visibly shows the capabilities we have in allowing the cars to do the work for us. Many cars also come with emergency breaking features. This is a feature that can detect objects in your path and alert you to any immediate crash hazards, scanning up to 200 metres ahead. Research in 2015 found that cars with this system were 38% less likely to collide with a vehicle in front of them, while other findings have revealed that AEB can cause a huge reduction in fatal and injury crashes.

These technologies still require some level of human interaction, but they do still show that we have come far in terms of developing autonomous features. For vehicles to become fully autonomous, they will have to include cloud-based networking and connectivity. This will allow them to learn from other vehicles and enable them to make on-road adjustments due to shifting conditions and detours. Central to making sure that our self-driving cars are able to quickly and automatically adapt to the on-going surrounding scenarios are advanced algorithms, AI and deep learning systems.

2.      Testing progress

The past couple of years have seen significant progress being made in terms of testing autonomous technology. In 2018. Google subsidiary, Waymo, launched a self-driving robotaxi service in Phoenix, Arizona. The UK’s government is also moving forward with trialling several schemes. It was announced in February that a process is being developed to support advanced trials, but they will not be supported if rigorous safety assessments haven’t been passed first. These assessments were first laid out in 2015 in the ‘code of practice’. This means that automated vehicle trials will be possible on any road in the UK, so long as the tests are compliant with UK law and have a remote driver present.

Currently, there have only been a few of these tests, but their number looks set to increase in the near future. The Department of Transport (DoT) revealed its belief that testing on a large scale could happen sooner than expected and shortly the need for a human to sit behind the wheel won’t be necessary, as they think the UK’s tech is very advanced when it comes to autonomous vehicles.

A key concern within the industry has been whether autonomous vehicles will be fully electric or hybrid. Experts have predicted that gas-powered autonomous vehicles could have considerable environmental impact, causing emissions to rise by almost 200 percent. For this reason, self-driving vehicles are likely to be all-electric. If their use becomes widespread, it will completely revolutionise the automotive industry and greatly benefit the environment. Luckily, an increase in EV charging services from suppliers such as Northern Powergrid and the widespread availability of charging points has meant that the market looks set to take off in the UK.

Trails of driverless vehicles are set to begin this year. The UK’s automotive minister, Richard Harrington, said: “We need to ensure we take the public with us as we move towards having self-driving cars on our roads by 2021. The update to the code of practice will provide clearer guidance to those looking to carry out trials on public roads.”

With self-driving cars getting ever closer and the government’s ban on new petrol and diesel models in the not-too-distant future, it’s an exciting time for the automotive industry as we know it.

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