Will the road to driverless cars be a smooth ride?

Talk of driverless cars have been around for the past few years and with every year that goes by they’re becoming more and more of a reality. In this post, UK Car Finance look at what they actually are, the pros and cons, the reality of life with automated vehicles and what is expected next! Will the road to self-driving cars be a bumpy one?

What are they and how do they work?

I know you’re probably thinking the name is in the title! They are often referred to as autonomous, driverless or self-driving cars. For the record, an autonomous car is a vehicle that does not need a physical human driver, but uses a range of sensors, cameras, radars and artificial intelligence instead. There’s actually a lot more to driverless cars than you think! In America, they have developed six levels of autonomy for self-driving cars. Each level describes the amount of autonomy that is involved at each stage. It starts with stage 0 which is where a human driver is in control and ends up at stage 5 where the car is being used as an automatic chauffer and no human is expected to drive the vehicle. Each stage in between gradually increases the level of automation involved. Fully automated vehicles work by combining a number of different systems. Each manufacturer uses different methods to develop their automatic cars so each model may be different when it comes to how it works. Big technology giants and car manufacturers including Google, Tesla, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen and Volvo are already testing and developing driverless cars in the US and UK.

What are the benefits?

There are many reasons why driverless cars are a good idea and many people are in favour of them. The majority of driverless cars are made with electric powered engines, this would reduce overall fuel consumption, pollution and ultimately be better for the planet. Because automated cars have the capability of slowing themselves down and braking more gently, fuel consumption can be dramatically reduced. Also, because automatic cars will be able to interact with each other, this should mean there will be a steadier flow of traffic because of less congestion and disruption. When it comes to accidents on the road, over 94% of all accidents are caused by some form of human error, so in theory if you take away the human involved, will there be less accidents? Autonomous cars may make that a thing of past and reduce the number of accidents on the road.

What are the disadvantages?

One of the main reasons people are wary of driverless cars is because of the control that it takes away from humans. If a car is fully autonomous, you are putting your life into the hands of a machine on the road. The technology used in driverless cars is very new and still being developed, many people are scared that they would be easy to hack into and override to cause injuries. Also, because of the equipment used and the modern technology, driverless cars are looking very pricey. The vehicle themselves will be expensive to buy but general running and repairs of its software and sensors will all add up too. If your current car breaks down, you could easily take it to your nearest garage and have it repaired by a mechanic who has worked in the trade for years. But how many driverless car mechanics will there be in the world when they first come out? Driverless cars will also have a negative effect on jobs, there won’t be a need for taxi driver, delivery drivers or bus drivers if the roads are full of automatic vehicles.

How will life be with autonomous vehicles?

It has recently been reported that driverless cars could be in the UK by 2021, but how will driverless cars actually impact our lifestyle? There are many questions that still need answering when it comes to the driverless car industry. Will we still need a UK driving license? Technically if a car is fully automated then humans won’t be in control of it so we aren’t responsible, right? Not only will driverless cars know where to go on the road, but also, they will know where to park too. You won’t spend any more time endlessly search for a parking space as your car will know exactly where the vacant spaces are! Some people also like to drive, will there be an option to override the vehicle and continue driving for yourself? And will what happen to the car insurance industry? If we as drivers aren’t in control of the vehicle, will we need to be covered and who would be to blame in an accident? For most of us, life would drastically change with the introduction of driverless cars and for some of us it would be detrimental.

Where are we at now with self-driving cars?

Partially automated vehicles have been around for years but fully driverless cars are being tested on real roads in the USA and Australia at the moment and are becoming increasingly popular. They have so far performed well on urban roads but they need to be tested with real pedestrians and other vehicles before they become integrated in everyday life. In the UK, driverless cars are expected to be tested just before Christmas 2018 ahead of the plan for fleet vehicles to be completely autonomous. During their testing in London, they will need to learn how to read UK road signs and road markings themselves to better understand the road and adapt to different conditions.

What does the future of self-driving cars look like?

As expected, driverless cars are expected to continuously improve and technology will advance. More manufacturers are joining the driverless revolution than ever and they all want to have the best driverless car there can be! Within the next 5 years, autonomous cars are predicated to take over the roads and within another 10 years, experts claim that no one will physically own a car but they will use an autonomous one. Most recently, Toyota has made a $500m investment into Uber’s self-driving car programme, which will hopefully see the driverless industry thrive in the next few years! But will there be a few speed bumps along the way?


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