We have all heard about self-driving cars in the news and on programmes such as Top Gear, but so far most people don’t believe it’s possible for a vehicle to completely control itself. However, car manufacturers are still working on technology which means that one day self-driving cars will become a reality and driving your vehicle will become a thing of the past.
Self-driving cars are being invented as it is believed that they will be safer and lead to fewer accidents on the road due to the fact there will be no room for human error. One company that has already developed self-driving cars in Google, who added a built-in GPS and 64-beam laser to the roof of a Toyota Prius that can build a 3D model of the environment it drives through. The lasers enable the car to detect what is happening around them and if there are any obstacles in its way that it needs to avoid.
Shawn DuBravac, Consumer Electronics Association’s chief economist and senior director of research said: “Technology goes from a scarcity to a surplus. Digital sensors were once scarce, but now nearly every single smartphone has an accelerometer, a gyroscope, multiple cameras and multiple degrees of measurement. Google’s Driverless car drove 300,000 miles last year without a single accident, but it’s just a bunch of sensors.”
Whilst Google are aiming to create an entirely driverless car, other companies are spending their time creating technology that will not completely remove driver interaction, but decrease it instead. For instance, Audi revealed their version of piloted driving at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January this year, which can take over the controls of the vehicle if it is in traffic, but only if the driver allows it to do so. Audi CEO Rupert Sadler said at the show that he believed piloted driving would be available before 2020 but that “the driver will always be able to decide himself when he wants assistance.”
Platooning is another project that car manufacturers are investing in, which is where cars automatically “follow” each other when in a queue. This means that all the cars would stay at a certain speed and distance from each other, which would not only save on fuel but also reduce accidents on the road. Even though most of this technology will not be around for at least another decade, it is interesting to see how the car manufacturing world is changing, and how this will impact sister industries such as car insurance providers, technicians and roadside assistance companies.