Autonomous technology is now present in most new car models on the market today. We’re used to features like Bluetooth, sat-nav, and even parking sensors, but fully autonomous vehicles have not yet been introduced to the market. A number of testing issues and safety concerns have delayed their release for a few years, but this could all be about to change; as several manufacturers have announced their first full self-driving vehicles for release in 2021. In this article, Motorparks, who offer the used Ford Focus, will take a look at how driverless cars will change both the motoring experience as we know it and our every-day lives.
Autonomous vehicles were developed in order to make the driving experience safer for everyone. 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.
Lane keeping technology is another example of an autonomous feature that keeps us safe on the roads. 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.
Tech such as this still needs human interaction in order to work. 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.
Autonomous technology has been subject to decades of advanced testing in order to ensure that it is ready to be released to the public. 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.
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.
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.