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Driverless Cars – Where, When and Why?

05/06/2015
Google's driverless car trialBack in September last year, my blog about driverless cars and the engineering industry discussed the possibility of Google trialling vehicles as early as 2015. Fast forward a few months to April 2015, and some of the biggest car manufacturers in the world announced their plans to design and release concepts in the near future. Mercedes unveiled the F 015 “Luxury in Motion” concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year, which is completely self-driving. The rumours are true - our future will include driverless cars.
 
Where?
 
In early 2015, it was stated by the Washington Post that driverless cars may be taking to the roads far sooner than expected by the public. The Obama administration announced their effort to accelerate the progress of driverless cars, in order to be “part of the solution” of integrating the new technology into the automotive market. Driverless cars have now already been tested on the roads in America, and advances are now also being made in the UK.
 
When?

According to manufacturers such as Mercedes and Volvo, driverless cars will be up and running on British roads as early as 2018. Mercedes has also announced plans to introduce the “Autobahn Pilot” as early as 2016, enabling cars to allow hands-free motorway driving and the ability to autonomously overtake other vehicles. These businesses are just two of many who are developing cars with the ability to drive and park without the “driver” touching the controls with their hands or feet. Ultimately, the car will manoeuvre itself through the use of cameras and sensory equipment, making the vehicle aware of its surroundings and as a result, be able to travel without a human controlling it manually.
 
Numerous other car manufacturers have also recently released predicted dates for their vehicles to either include autonomous features, or be entirely self-driving. Nissan anticipates to have a similar feature to the Mercedes Autobahn Pilot, whereby the vehicle is able to manoeuvre itself on multi-lane highways. Volvo also released a statement describing their cars being “crash free” by 2020 due to its driverless features, and Jaguar predict to release an autonomous car by 2024.

Why?

In May 2015, it was announced by Telegraph Money that the cost of car insurance in the UK will have halved by 2020 due to driverless cars being the “norm on British roads”. There are multiple reasons for autonomous cars decreasing insurance premiums; firstly, road traffic collisions will no longer be the responsibility of the owner. Without the owner being physically in control of the vehicle, a RTC will become a product liability issue as opposed to a car insurance matter.

Furthermore, driverless cars’ self-awareness is expected to reduce car theft, as cameras and sensory equipment will also be able to detect if, and perhaps who, is attempting to steal the vehicle. Aside from car insurance premiums and theft prevention, the main priority car manufacturers are promoting is the safety of autonomous cars. KPMG have predicted that by 2030, driverless cars should have the ability to prevent approximately 90% of fatalities or serious injuries on the road. These types of figures are central to the automotive industry reasoning with consumers as to why the luxury of driving may no longer be at the centre of their selling points in the near future.

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