What does the future of driving look like?

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Will we be driving vehicles, or will they be driving us?

The idea of the autonomous car has been a work of science fiction for decades, but in reality, we are already experiencing the beginning of a revolution in transport, with efforts expected to ramp up between now and 2030.

The hype around driverless cars has been rapidly growing over the last few years, with Russ Rader, Senior Vice President of Communications at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, saying: “The building blocks of driverless cars are on the road now”.

There are already numerous vehicles with automated driver assistance systems that are built into new vehicles. Auto-emergency braking, lane-keeping assistant, park assistant and cruise control all lay the foundations for self-driving vehicles. However, the vehicles must be able to drive themselves, coping with all potential scenarios that may occur in all weather conditions. Self-driving vehicles will only become worthwhile when the driver can sit back and relax, rather than monitor the vehicle’s every move.

Autonomous car

Human nature vs. automated vehicles

The idea behind self-driving vehicles is to outfit them with cameras that can track all surrounding objects and have the vehicle react appropriately. However, this is incredibly complex. Programming a vehicle to follow a list of rules of the road isn’t going to drive the vehicle as well as a human does. Humans can make judgment calls that an automated vehicle won’t be able to make, like making eye contact with others to confirm who has right of way.

Imagine driving down a dual carriageway, with one lane blocked off with cones, when suddenly a child runs into the road. Human nature tells you to swerve through the cones to save the child. However, would the self-driving vehicle do the same, considering that this would be breaking the law? Is it possible to implement human thought processes and reactions into an automated vehicle?

Chris Gerdes, a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University and Director of the Centre for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS), commented: “We need to take a step back and say, ‘We need to think about traffic codes reflecting actual behaviour to avoid putting the programmer in a situation of deciding what is safe versus what is legal.” So, if they’re so complex, what’s the point? Government data identifies driver behaviour or error as a factor in 94% of crashes. Amongst many other benefits, self-driving vehicles will help reduce driver error. They should also have the potential to reduce risky and dangerous driving, including drink driving and speeding.

While we’re certainly on the road to an autonomous future, the consensus across the car world is that true self-driving vehicles are still a way off. The most immediate change we can expect to see is the transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

Autonomous car
Autonomous car
Autonomous car

Transition to Electric Vehicles

The transition to a fully electric future is accelerating rapidly. The sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2030 in the UK. However, one of the most immediate challenges we face is the capacity for charging. For the electricity grid to be able to cope with the precedented number of electric vehicles appearing on the roads, it is essential to come up with a smart charging infrastructure to support the charging of EVs. Currently, the UK government have provided £1.3bn of funding to support smart charging infrastructure for EVs.

Despite this challenge, the benefits of electric vehicles hugely outweigh the initial challenges:

  • Reduced emissions
  • Cheaper to maintain
  • Fast, easy charging
  • A quieter, more enjoyable drive

To discover everything you need to know about driving an electric vehicle, follow the link below.

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