While automated and stand-alone driving, smart infotainment and lightweight design are current trends in the automotive industry, there are others such as digitisation, sustainability, efficiency and cost optimisation. These elements help to improve safety on the roads and improve comfort at the wheel. However, what is the future of driving? Increasingly effective driver assistance systems will improve safety and energy efficiency and reduce traffic congestion. But new technologies also present risks. Writing emails, reading the newspaper or participating in teleconferences while driving – the dream of many motorists is supposed to come true in a few years. Indeed, manufacturers and suppliers have long been working hard to develop intelligent vehicles in which automatic pilots will replace Man at the wheel.
More time, less congestion
The advantages of stand-alone cars are many: they give time to their driver to do other things, they are safer than conventional vehicles, consume less fuel and cause fewer traffic jams. As shown by a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, current driver assistance systems have already reduced the number of fatalities on US roads by a third. But the main obstacle to the development of autonomous vehicles is the law: the “Vienna Convention on Road Traffic” of 1968 stipulates that the driver must always remain in control of his vehicle. Under these conditions, the fully automatic line is not possible. The problem has been identified: two United Nations working groups are currently working on the redrafting of the Ordinance.
Until the car automatically carries out all the driving tasks, there are certain risks. There is a reason to worry about the diminished attention of the pilot due to the presence of much driving assistants. Studies have shown that people driving a car with an assistant asking them to pause at the first signs of fatigue, using a flashing coffee mug symbol, stop on average 20 minutes Later than those who do not have this assistance system. An image confirmed by the current study of the French highway operator Vinci, which showed that drivers with automatic speed and distance control react up to one second later than drivers without a regulator.
Potential risk from hacker attacks
The multiplication of electronic driving assistance systems also increases the risk of breakdowns. The main causes reside in battery malfunctions and sensors and software errors. The driver must be able to check immediately if the systems are still working. In addition, effective protection against hacker attacks must be ensured. Researchers at the University of California and the University of Washington have shown that with the required technical knowledge, anyone can handle virtually all the functions of a modern car, even remote control – Accelerator pedal and the brake. Before engineers can leave the reins entirely, engineers must remove several obstacles.
Even considering the increased risk of technical defects, the percentage of machine errors is much lower than that of humans. Also, autonomous cars consume up to 40% less fuel in congestion. They are also more efficient than any experienced driver when traffic is fluid, thanks to optimum gear shifts, braking, and acceleration. If only ten per cent of all vehicles regularly transmit their position and speed in real time and independent vehicles rely on this data, the capacity of the road concerned can be almost quadrupled.
UK as a market leader?
For the United Kingdom to be a world-leader in autonomous vehicles, companies need to work hard on innovation and disrupt the existing automotive industry. While the Department of Transport in the UK has amended the Motor Traffic Code to control the autonomous vehicles, it was to facilitate research and development in this area. According to SMMT, the UK may be in an even better position to lead industry post-Brexit because it will be limited by European Red Tape.
Autonomous future should potentially be much safer. According to a range of studies, about 90 to 95% of road accidents involve human error. The World Health Organisation estimates that 1.25 million people die every year on the road. Given the statistics, will humans eventually be replaced with fully autonomous vehicles? Only time will tell how quickly the technology develops and how society will take to autonomous driving advancements.