With the age of self-driving cars all but here, it’s only natural you should want to know a little bit more about what to expect. From how they’re going to work to some benefits you hadn’t thought about; we take a look at seven things you need to know about the cars of the future.
They should save lives
There are over a million deaths every year around the world due to accidents on the road. In modern times, with all the incredible capabilities of our technology, this is far too many. Driverless cars aim to near-eradicate this problem by cruising around the streets safely, responsibly and without causing collisions. They would remove scope for human error, thinking and reacting even faster and more logically than we do.
They should save the planet too
Electric and driverless technology is moving forwards hand in hand. Combining zero emissions with zero fatalities is nirvana for the world of motoring, and it’d be hard to argue with. Fully automating an electric vehicle is much more simple than a combustion-engined car, so this will be the way forward. Thanks to a much-reduced number of collisions; lighter, greener materials will be used to build these cars.
Batteries will be king
The race to solve the issue of powering driverless cars is on; from better batteries to wireless and even conductive charging. American entrepreneur Elon Musk is spending almost £4 billion on a huge factory that will produce lithium-ion power cells. With plans for further factories, they’re looking to develop batteries which use the same kind of technology as those in our mobile phones. More powerful and efficient; wirelessly charging power cells will be massive for self-driving cars, allowing them to stay on the road for much longer. Just where all this energy will come from is another matter.
The levels of the playing field
There are five levels of driverless technology. The combination of functions such as steering, braking and decision making is what moves us up through the levels of automation. Level 5 is where humans are not required at all, and we’re merely passengers in a fully automated vehicle. When we reach it, human driving becomes a thing of the past.
We’re already well on the way
Lots of features of self-driving cars, such as adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, lane assist and parking aids are already in use. Some modern cars can perform an emergency stop if you fall asleep, while others intervene if they think you’re going to have an accident. Motor racing, which so often pioneers technology, has even embraced autonomous championships such as Roborace.
A personal taxi
Owning a driverless car will effectively be like having a private taxi. Initially, it’s likely that fully automated cars will only be available in relatively small, mapped out locations such as certain cities. You’ll probably hail your car through your phone with a couple of taps, and it’ll find its way to you. You’ll set a destination with a postcode, then when you return home your car will drop you off then make its own way to a parking spot where it’ll remain until its needed next. If you don’t have your own car to call on, there’ll be a ride-sharing service where the closest available vehicle shows up to chauffeur you around. In fact, Uber has already trialled such a system - so this may not be too far away.
They’ll cause (some) problems
With such a seismic shift in an integral part of daily life, there are naturally going to be lots of obstacles to overcome. For starters, around half a million people in the UK alone are employed as drivers, through taxi, courier or freight moving services. Then there’s the issue of traffic. For example, why would you want to wait for your car to return from a parking space when you could instruct it to drive round the block while you nip into the shop? There’s every chance regular drivers could take advantage of knowing a car has driverless technology by driving aggressively and forcing it to give way. And of course, for many, driving is one of life’s great pleasures.
Despite the issues and teething problems that will take many years yet to solve, it appears that the future of motoring is driverless. Whether we get to the point where every vehicle’s fully automated or not, self-driving cars are here to stay. In the meantime, look out for the latest developments as Jaguar road tests autonomous technology.