Some of the features we find in today’s cars you would not have seen in cars built just ten years ago, for example! Car makers and safety groups are always coming up with ways to improve our experiences on the road.
It seems that the way forward is just to not drive at all! No, I don’t mean taking public transport in case you were wondering. Driverless car technology is something that is evolving with every passing minute. Even tech companies like Google are racing to come up with vehicles to transport us in comfort and safety.
Of course, there are plenty of folks unfamiliar with driver car technology. And they have a lot of questions that don’t seem to get answered. For instance, what happens if the car becomes faulty while it drives you? And if two driverless vehicles collide, who is to blame for the accident?
As you can imagine, there is much work to get done before driverless cars can get let loose on public roads. Many countries have already started researching the feasibility of using autonomous vehicles.
There’s Google with their autonomous vehicle tests in California. In Sweden, Volvo have trialled driverless cars on the streets of Gothenburg. And now the United Kingdom wants to be a leader in the development of the technology too.
There has been some news from the UK’s Department for Transport this week. They have given the green light for public trials of driverless vehicles. At this point, you might start worrying about seeing cars on the road with no-one sitting at the front!
But don’t worry because the green light is more of a go-ahead for controlled trials. You might have read in the news a while back about how the government is funding some trials for the technology.
Around £19 million of public money got put aside for the research and development into driverless cars. Four locations got chosen to start trials in this exciting new form of motoring! They are Greenwich (London), Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry.
On Tuesday, Business Secretary Vince Cable saw the first trials. Joining him was Transport Minister Claire Perry. Ms. Perry said that she wanted Britain to be “at the forefront of this exciting new development.”
Mr. Cable, meanwhile, spoke of the benefits to the economy and the automotive industry here in the UK. He said that he wanted to ensure Britain’s economy grows. And that it’s important the UK is at the forefront of innovation. Mr. Cable added: “That’s why I launched a competition to research and develop driverless cars.”
£900 billion industry by 2025
To many, it would seem that the UK is lagging behind on the innovation front. At least, where autonomous vehicle technology gets concerned. The Business Secretary stressed the importance of Britain being a leader in the technology.
He pointed out that the industry will be worth an estimated £900 billion by 2025. As you can imagine, that represents a lot of potential for business growth and jobs. But is this new technology just a fad, or are we all going to be in driverless cars in the future?
You’re not likely to find any autonomous vehicles for sale at your local Hilton Garage today. That’s for sure! But, as the population grows, there is more scope for road traffic accidents on our overcrowded roads. And, so, driverless car availability will become reality soon enough.
Back in 2013, approximately 1,713 people lost their lives as a result of vehicle accidents on public roads. And 21,657 people were seriously injured too. 118 cyclists also died because of collisions with other road users.
Given the UK has a population of over 64 million, you might think those statistics are quite low. However, both the government and safety groups want those figures to become zero!
Are driverless cars a real possibility?
I saw an infographic the Department for Transport produced. It hinted that we are likely to start seeing autonomous vehicles on the road as soon as 2020. That’s in just five years’ time! But how can the government and the motor industry make this happen?
There are a few hurdles that will need to get overcome before we can sit back and relax while our cars drive for us!
First, there is the issue of system reliability. As you might expect, autonomous vehicles will get controlled by some complex computer systems in the car. They will get connected to an array of sensors and cameras in and around the vehicle.
As we all know, the more complex something is, the higher the prospect of things going wrong. One of the main questions the motoring public have is how reliable will these systems be? It’s one thing spending £19 million developing such technology. But it’s another guaranteeing it!
The second question people want to know is how driverless cars can co-exist with existing vehicles. Some people might buy autonomous vehicles, but not everyone. The systems these vehicles use must offer provision for co-existing with other types of vehicles.
Another question that motorists are asking is how much would a new autonomous car cost them. Google’s adapted vehicles use technology that costs around £70,000 per vehicle. As you can imagine, that’s not a cost most people are prepared to pay for a futuristic car!
For the technology to succeed, the motor industry and the government must prove that such vehicles fitted with it are safe. They must also be within the scope of most drivers to afford. After all; an average DIY home mechanic might not be able to fix system issues.
Despite the questions people are raising, the technology looks promising. It will, without a shadow of a doubt, shape the future for driving in the future. Some critics feel that 2020 isn’t a realistic year for wide-scale use of autonomous vehicles. Still, we shall have to wait and see!