Are autonomous vehicles the future of driving?
The future of the automotive industry might not be as far away as we once thought. Admittedly our cars aren’t flying yet, but with the likes of connected cars and autonomous vehicles, the motor industry stands head and shoulders above where it was a decade ago.
Cars aren’t just designed as a means of transport anymore; they’re made to help simplify our busy lives by providing us with an easy, efficient driving experience. Although this new era of driving may not cater to petrol heads and those stuck in the stone age, our vehicles are becoming automated and connected to the internet, whether we like it or not!
WHERE HAS THIS URGE FOR CONNECTING EVERYTHING TO THE INTERNET COME FROM?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is to blame. It’s already a fact that there are more ‘things’ connected to the internet than there are humans walking the planet, and this number could rise to 50 billion by 2020! There’s no wonder we want to include our cars in this ever-growing network of connected devices. According to general motors, there are already over 1 million connected cars on the road and by 2020 (a coincidence?) over three quarters of vehicles being made will be fitted with connected tech.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that our tech-crazy world is showing such enthusiasm when it comes to connected cars; our society can’t live with the idea of not having access to a smartphone or Wi-Fi and these vehicles will only make our obsession bigger. Internet in the car (IITC) services are a regular talking point for major car manufacturers such as Audi, Chevrolet and BMW. IITC allows the car to act as your very own personal Wi-Fi bubble (or hotspot) so you can stay connected on the move. It might seem unnecessary or pretentious, but for those who travel a lot for work or have children that drive them crazy on long journeys, a car with inbuilt wireless internet doesn’t seem so needless.
Though many autonomous (or driverless) vehicles out there can also be labelled as connected ones, there’s a difference between the two. Connected cars focus on keeping us updated with information and browsing on the move, whereas automated cars focus solely on making your drive safer and easier. Driverless doesn’t necessarily mean that you can sit in the back of the car and it’ll take you where you want to go, it can be as simple as auto-braking and parking assist. Having said that, the likes of Tesla have changed autonomous vehicles as we know them. Tesla’s cars can avoid obstacles in the road and even change lane for you on the motorway by monitoring the surroundings.
Yes driverless cars haven’t been perfected as they come with their own security risks and liability issues, but autonomous driving could be the answer to increase road safety in the long-term. A full-blown autonomous car is being produced by Google to prove that the future of driving is safer if humans aren’t behind the wheel. Although there was uproar about one of these self-driving pods being caught in an accident, the incident was down to driver error in the other vehicle. It goes to prove that without drivers, we could be looking at a safer and more modern mode of transport.
The idea of self-driving cars is great, but there are some obstacles to overcome. The main problem that arises is liability. We can’t guarantee that self-driving cars won’t make mistakes, so when there’s a collision will insurance companies cover the costs if your car makes a poor judgement? We don’t think so.
This brings us to our second issue. People who love driving won’t just give it up. We might never see a world where the autonomous vehicle is the only form of transport as people love driving too much. So forget insurance for one minute, how do we get rid of the 1.2 billion cars roaming the planet right now? The truth is we can’t. Maybe we shouldn’t focus on a future where our cars chauffeur us around; we should look at how we can improve the driving experience with new technology like driving assistance and internet connectivity. That way we don’t have to reinvent driving, we can just improve and enjoy it.