Computers at the wheel in driverless market
Car makers have been working hard on systems in anticipation of technology getting the green light
Imagine a time when you summon your car to your front door at the touch of a button, climb into the driver’s seat and catch up with the morning’s news as your vehicle takes you to work. Or maybe you use the journey to catch up with some work before you get behind your desk.
Either way, the car takes over the tedious task of the commute, leaving you free to concentrate on something else.
The idea of a car that will drive itself isn’t that far fetched, and if the car manufacturers have their way, it won’t be that long before we see it in vehicles on our roads.
And consumers are already anticipating the technology, with a recent survey from Cisco revealing that more than half of consumers would be likely to travel in an autonomous car. The figure varied across the different countries, with the highest rate in Brazil, where 96 per cent would trust technology that would eliminate the need for a human driver, followed by India at 86 per cent and China at 70 per cent. And just under half of consumers would allow their children to travel in driverless cars.
Safety and convenience are the main drivers of the technology, with automated vehicles removing the element of human error from driving, and in theory reducing accidents. The technology could also help reduce congestion on the roads and pollution.
Although we may be still a few years off from fully automated vehicles hitting the streets, car makers have been hard at work perfecting the systems so they will be ready to go as soon as the technology is widely licensed for use on public roads.
BMW is one such firm. The company has been testing a car that will take over some of the more tedious parts of the commute, changing lanes and altering speed to fit the traffic conditions.
The car has been kitted out with a range of sensors, laser scanners and cameras that allow it to perform these tasks, which BMW refers to as “highly automated driving”.
Unlike fully automated driving, the driver retains some element of control over the car, able to step in at a moment’s notice should anything unexpected happen.
The car detects speed limit signs, keeping you on the right side of traffic laws. And when it moves to change lanes on your behalf, it will even use the indicator, a requirement that some human drivers fail to observe on a regular basis.
But BMW admits that its highly automated car is still some way off.
“It’s a future vision that will take some time before it gets into serious production,” said BMW’s Peter Quintus.
Time is needed for laws to catch up with the technology, and also for a commercially viable product to be refined.