Wednesday 31st October 2018
Driverless Cars Interior

Let's have a look at the impact of driverless cars soon to be launched onto the UK roads, according to a recent statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

So, before we get stuck in ask yourself this question, would you really feel comfortable handing your car keys over to a robot? Everyone has a different attitude to risk, but it's good to know what's involved when you think about making your first purchase and experience for yourself a driverless car. 

At the moment, we’re already seeing driverless trains in operation. If anyone has been to Dubai for example, and stepped onto the metro, you’ve already stepped onto a driverless train,. So, what changes will we be expected to come into effect, when we're talking about the average family car?

Driverless Vehicles on the Motorway

In 2017 the Chancellor Philip Hammond stated that he aims to have driverless cars out on the UK roads by 2021. So, the race has begun with the car manufacturers to see who will be the first to the post, and have them fully regulated and ready for the use.

Interestingly, it’s a known fact that the causes of traffic accidents are caused by 90-95% human error (Source: House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee 2017 report), so safety and saving lives would be one of the top reasons for driverless cars, as well as to reduce traffic congestion.

Does this mean then that drivers will get a free pass to go out for the evening, let their hair down, by drinking over the limit without a care in the world to get home after? We would be interested in your views below. See the consequences of drink driving. Should there still be a responsibility on the driver for travelling over the limit in his, or hers vehicle?

Other Driverless Challenges

The other challenges that lie ahead are to do with efficient navigation, and the need to take into consideration other drivers behaviour who are still have their hands on the wheel.

We have already seen a case where driverless cars have been tested and gone seriously wrong with an accident that happened in Arizona where a woman was killed. So, does this make the Chancellors deadline of 2021 seem a little bit over ambitious at this stage?

Technology Requirements

In order, for a driverless car to function it relies on a technology called ‘optical sensing’ which operates using road markings to navigate. These road markings need to be checked and rolled out throughout all UK roads to enable the sensors to function correctly. This technology has already been deployed with our current safety systems in place using ‘lane assist’.

The driverless cars are fitted with cameras that recognise and monitor road markings, and other moving objects for that matter to prevent the vehicle from colliding with another. The road markings need to be very clear and visible, and of good quality to be picked up by the cameras fastened to the cars.

Road markings are generally updated on a 6-8 year basis, however due to the restriction of budgets in the local authorities, then road conditions aren’t always kept up to date. Check out these articles on potholes and road conditions.

If the markings are not re-painted, or kept up to date they can easily fade and lose their reflection making it harder for the driverless cars to pick up. 

When the car manufacturers release a new model onto the market they come with different levels of technology. It is only level 4 technology onwards that is compatible with driverless vehicles, so it’s worth checking out the technology level with your local dealership when buying your next car. Technology levels are currently operating from 0 to 5.

Here’s a diagram to help explain the various levels of technology and what they do.

Driverless Technology Levels

 
This can also confuse car owners when making their purchase as the manufacturers are still selling Level 3 technology which does struggle in certain conditions, such as accelerating, steering and braking.

You maybe faced with a series of driving decisions based on the circumstance at the time. Here’s an example, if you decide to pull out and make a right turn with a vehicle effacing you the opposite side of the road, you would naturally look to the face of the other driver and see if they give you a nod and let you go, before making your move. The optical sensor technology cannot read other drivers facial expressions at this stage.

Woman in Driverless Car

Driverless Vehicle Pros

  • Make the roads safer – reduce accidents, and saves lives!
  • No more congestion – reduction in road rage as owners will be more focused on their own vehicles rather than others
  • More relaxed journey for those in the car - sleep, go online etc.
  • Improved mobility for elderly and disabled drivers

Driverless Vehicle Cons

  • Doesn’t allow drivers to get enough exercise – lack of activity
  • It doesn’t improve the road conditions
  • It still wouldn't fix our environmental issues
  • Autonomous cars can’t read other drivers facial expressions

Shared Mobility

Trying to encourage car owners to share their mobility is a great way to reduce traffic by having less cars on the road, and taking public transport. I wonder when the first autonomous buses will be out on the road. But, either way there maybe other ways to reduce congestion as well as using driverless cars, so what’s your thoughts?

Comments

I have worked in the computer industry for over 30 years, and although computers are much more reliable today than they were, I still earn a good living from resolving issues caused by both software and hardware failing, both of which I see on a daily basis. Unless the computer control systems fitted to cars can prove to be far more reliable and robust than current systems used in other areas, I fear that at best many more people will end up broken down at the side of the road, or at worst accidents will be caused by system failures rather than
driver errors! The more complex a system is the more chances there are for something to fail.

Will fully automated vehicles have an internet connection, meaning that if stolen, it can be disabled and rendered useless to a thief? That feature could also be helpful when a car is trying to outrun a following police car.
With a fully automated Stage 5 car, no input from a driver is necessary, then no driver is required. It looks like it could then be used like a taxi to the pub and back. This would keep roads safe and perhaps help revitalise the local pub industry which has been in serious decline over the past decades.
Driverless cars will be programmed with safety as their first priority, and getting there a second. Deadlines will be irrelevant to it. Journeys through adverse weather conditions such as snow on high ground could bring the car to an automated standstill, with progress overwhelmed by its safety constraints.
A priority towards safety will inevitably mean vehicles going slower, which keeps vehicles on the road for longer. Keeping vehicles on the road equates to congestion and frustratingly slower journey times. Surely this will lead to a loss of appeal for this technology?
During the transition period where there is a mix of all stages of cars on the road, a 'Jack-me-lad' could be hooning around, causing all other vehicles to enter a 'super-safety' mode to give him room. He will be the only vehicle making reasonable progress during his journey, with all other vehicles deferring to him for safety's sake.
Will police cars and other emergency services be able to switch off the various levels of Stages so that they can make progress in an emergency? If there is a true level of connectivity, a police car (for instance) should be transmitting a 'Make Way' signal, which clears all other traffic out of its path. A level of priority should be built in so that for example, a donor heart arrives at the recipient hospital on time. Guaranteed!
A transition period will have no end, as older vehicles will not be able to be retro-fitted with the technology. As they evolve into the Classic, Veteran and Vintage groups, will they be relegated to Sundays only? Good weather days only? Or be required to belong to a club that is heavily regulated and comes under the control of the 'Department of Museums and National Culture?' How will the drivers of these vehicles be able to buy fuel in an all- electric age?
I still like driving and exercising the skill to determine my own destiny and I don't think my car buying decisions will be influenced by the latter Stages of automation. Novelty will sell these cars initially, but once the honeymoon period is over, to what Stage will the market revert? It will likely take National Legislation to force through the latter Stages to achieve the fully automated Stage 5 versions.
I do not believe that Austerity is nearing an end. Austerity is the new reality for the foreseeable future for the general public and many will be forced to buy the cheapest car which will often be one of the oldest. Despite tightening legislation within the MOT system, I can foresee a thriving service industry growing up where parts become available to keep more of the older cars on the road than currently survive, building the classic car industry to greater importance among those who love to drive and be in control of their own vehicle.

Just one comment. Nothing to do with the technology side of driverless cars but the infrastructure. The government/ local authorities can’t keep the roads upto a reasonable standard now, let alone in the future, so until they do driverless cars are a long way off. However governments have long been known to totally mess up anything technical, take the long list of IT projects they have undertaken and then overseen massive over spending on them and then in a lot of cases scrapped them. We as ordinary people on the street are going to end up paying through the nose for this as usual.

Do wonder if tested rigorously under all conditions. Will sensors operate when road markings are no longer visible because of ice and snow or when road is gritted in such conditions? Do also wonder whether sensors might be affected by thunder storms and other exceptional weather conditions such as when there is a heavy hail storm. Impression is given that most testing takes place in near perfect weather. Who then is to blame if there is an accident as a result of inclement or exceptional weather - the manufacturer, or the owner!

Once I have bought my driverless car, how much will it cost me to use the system?
What about the cars electronics being hacked, or taken over by someone else?

How could anyone be held to account for being over the drink drive limit in a driverless car, when one wouldn't be held to account for being over the limit in any other driverless vehicles, i.e. trains, planes or anything else, it's possible that ALL of the passengers could be over the drink drive limit whilst travelling in driverless vehicles?

I tend to agree, but it looks like the driverless cars will need someone in the vehicle to be held responsible just in case they suddenly have to take hold of the wheel due to an unforeseen circumstance, even technical failure. I'm sure this will be a good debatable future topic though.

Driverless cars are a good idea in some respects in that people who are not able to drive can now own a car. Surely having driverless cars will mean more cars as you don’t need a test to drive and anyone can own and drive one.
What about taxi drivers and bus drivers these cars will replace them as you can order a car and it will pick you up and drop you off the same as a taxi or bus. I’m sure one company that will be the first to use these cars and that’s UBER, as they already use self employed independent drivers. So it willl make sense to use the driverless cars as they then don’t have to employ drivers.
Driverless cars rely on everything going perfect and don’t always take into account other drivers. As long as people are in control of their cars they won’t always drive perfect and you can be the perfect driver but you could have an accident that wasn’t your fault. Will driverless cars be able to take into account the unpredictability of other drivers?
If driverless cars need road markings to navigate what happens if you go onto country roads that often don’t have road markings or the markings could be obscured by mud from tractors and they Councils will have to make sure the road markings are correct on all roads. They are struggling to maintain roads at the moment so what will happen if a driverless car comes across a newly laid road that the markings NOT been applied?
Until the technology is able to cope with the unexpected you could never replace the driver completely.
Mechanics will have to be retrained in the new technology as they will no longer be just mechanics they will have to electrician and computer engineers as well. If the vehicle is controlled by a computer what will stop hackers taking control of the vehicles do how many people have had their computer crash on them? What would stop hackers getting into the navigation and finding out where a car is going as passing this info on or terroist using these vehicles as weapons. We have already seen them use vehicles as weapons if they are driverless they could pack them with explosives and send send them on their wasn’t ouldnt hve to matters..
I’m sure the cost of the vehicles will put people off as I’m sure they will be expensive and only the well off will be using them until the price comes down. We have already seen this with electric and hybrid cars.

My main worry about driverless cars is, who is to blame if there is an accident? Will it be the car or manufacturer and how will the insurance companies deal with this? It cannot be the driver as there is no driver. Nothing is infallible, things can go wrong. What happens if there is an electrical failure, will there be backup, (brakes etc)

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