Wednesday 31st October 2018
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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?