Technology never ceases to amaze. Across every sector, technology is having a huge impact, and the automotive industry is no different. In-car entertainment and gadgets are ever increasing, with the likes of built-in sat navs and Bluetooth connectivity now the norm in the majority of new vehicles. However, technology has improved so much that the presence of driverless cars being on the road by 2021 is becoming more and more likely. In fact, automotive manufacturers have joined forces with the likes of Google to develop the next-generation of autonomous vehicles.
There’s no surprise that there’s big money at stake for the companies who first successfully introduce a fleet of fully autonomous cars. According to Allied Market Research, it’s estimated that the autonomous vehicle market will grow tenfold by 2026 to over £500bn, with the UK’s industry set to be worth £52bn by 2035. Here, with Motorparks, we take a look at why we can expect driverless cars to be with us very soon.
As well as enhancing our driving experience via quirky gadgets, technology has significantly improved our safety while on the open road. 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 Assist Systems (LKAS) helps to gently steer you back into your lane if you start to drift across the markings. 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.
As well as this, many cars now have Auto Emergency Braking (AEB). 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.
Of course, both of these technologies still require human interaction, but they are proof of how smart our cars are becoming. 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.
Testing for autonomous cars has been going on for several years. 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.
While these tests are few and far between at present, they are expected to quickly increase in numbers. 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.
The advanced driverless trials that will be on the UK’s roads later this year are another stepping stone in helping the government hit its commitments to having self-driving cars on the road by 2021. 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.”
It’s clear to see that the automotive industry is set for big changes in the near future. 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.