The Driverless Revolution

Driverless Vehicles are No Longer Fiction

Driverless cars are happening

In August 2016 the world’s first self-driving taxis made their debut in Singapore. In 2017 the go-ahead to test driverless lorries was granted and 100 motorists were given the chance to test driverless vehicles on a 2-mile track around the O2 Arena. It’s safe to say that driverless cars are no longer an “if” they will be on our roads, but a “when”.

Autonomous Car History

The idea of driverless and autonomous cars has been around for almost a hundred years with the idea of radio controlled vehicles.

Although a little different to the “driverless” aspect we now know trials were run with radio-controlled cars being driven across New York City.

Another example of simple driverless technology are the shuttle buses used in the Netherlands, where vehicles are guided by magnetic wires on the road below.

Over the past one hundred years’ mistakes have been made but technology has also made way for mass improvements. Arguably one of the most publicised errors that a driverless car has made was the death of one of its testers in 2016, when the sensors were unable to detect a lorry due to sunlight.

Naturally, driverless cars won’t be around in mass for a while, however, they have been given the go-ahead for motorway tests in 2018!

Current State of Driverless Cars

Currently the majority of fully driverless cars are in a trial status, with many predicted to be on the market or in use by taxi firms in the next two to five years.

Even manual cars are seeing the effects of autonomous technology creeping into them, with many models featuring automatic car parking with no driver input or automatic braking when an obstruction is predicted.

The driverless taxis trialled in Singapore is the most recent example of fully autonomous vehicles in action in the real world. They can only run within a 2.6 square mile, with designated pick-up and drop-off stops and a driver sat behind the wheel in case of an emergency. The next step for the company behind the trial is for it to unleash a full fleet of self-driving taxis.

The Next Step

The next step for driverless cars is basically to ensure they are as safe as possible and get them on the roads.

Google has been developing its own driverless cars for quite a few years now and announced that they have been involved in 14 minor accidents since 2009 (mainly down to human errors). The company are still powering through and making changes to their technology and vehicles in order to try and become one of the first companies to launch a fully autonomous vehicle.

Taking a journey in a driverless car

Uber have teamed up with a technology company to try and push forward their driverless fleet of taxis. This will make robot driven cars a reality for many, as well as seeing how many people actually trust the technology during the trial stages. So far they’ve reported to have completed 50,000 passenger journeys with driverless taxis.

Telsa are one of the leading names in driverless technology and have tested all manner of driverless features such as changing lanes on motorways, traffic-aware speed and automatic steering. Whether this would work on UK roads is another discussion as speed bumps, roundabouts and pedestrian crossings come into play.

Handing Over Control

Even though what once seemed a dream is almost a reality, it still remains to be seen how successful driverless cars will be. Many people may not trust handing over control of their car or a taxi to a robot. There are still a few worries about the driverless revolution such as:

  • The complexity of creating and maintaining maps for the cars
  • How they will react to different weather conditions
  • Making tough decisions (e.g.: swerving to avoid an object)
  • Hacking issues
  • Regulation and insurance

Financing Driverless Car

As a vehicle finance company it’s not out of the question for us to start thinking about financing autonomous cars in the future. Although it’s likely to be a decade or two away before driverless vehicles become a second hand product it’s still something that is a distinct possibility - so watch this space!

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Image courtesy of iStock.

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