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The Future of Self-Driving Cars

One of the hottest topics of recent times is the advancement of self-driving cars. Although roads aren't yet populated with vehicles that can drive themselves, experts claim it's only a matter of time before the technology enables this to happen, but what are the implications for the future?

Self driving car

© sittinan / Adobe Stock


Transportation over the years

When it comes to the world of transportation, little stands still. From the invention of the wheel to the combustion engine, scientists have continually strived to improve the way we get from A to B. While attempts haven't always been successful (think Sir Clive Sinclair's 1985 Sinclair C5 electric car, which flopped spectacularly), it seems that the concept of a driverless car is one that's here to stay.



Although self-driving cars might appear to be a recent invention, the idea of driverless vehicles has been around for a long time. Experiments to create an automated driving system began as far back as 1920, with trials taking place some 30 years later.

Industrialist Norman Bel Geddes showcased an exhibit called Futurama at a world fair in 1939, proposing a road system in which cars moved around autonomously.

However, it wasn't until 1977 that the first automated car was developed, in Japan, with further prototypes following during the 1980s.

Now, several major car manufacturers and tech giants such as Google are making it their priority to get self-driving cars on the road through extensive investment, research and testing. Some experts claim that there could be 10 million self-driving vehicles on the road by 2020.


Self-driving cars at a glance

It's hard to imagine a vehicle operating without a driver, so just how do self-driving cars work? Essentially, they come equipped with a variety of sensors, such as radar and sonar, that enable them to perceive their surroundings, building up a map of the local area. Control systems analyse the sensory information to identify navigation routes, as well as locate and distinguish signage or obstacles. This information is passed on to actuators in the vehicle that control functions such as braking or steering.

Self-driving cars aren't created equally, and they actually come with different levels of autonomy. These are based on a sliding scale of 0-5, where level 0 is defined as the vehicle being fully controlled by a human, up to level 5, where the vehicle can drive itself in all situations. The levels in-between offer varying degrees of autonomy, so that the vehicle can drive itself in some situations but with assistance from a human.

Currently, there are no vehicles on the road with level 5 status, although you can buy a level 1 vehicle in the UK, and level 4 cars should be available soon.


Pros and cons

It's easy to see the appeal of self-driving cars, especially for those who don't like driving. While the vehicle is busy making navigational decisions, the driver can do other activities in the car, such as sleep or read.

People who aren't able to drive, whether due to age or disability, will benefit from self-driving cars to increase their accessibility.

One of the biggest lures of self-driving cars is that they could reduce road traffic accidents, especially when you consider that up to 90% of traffic collisions are caused by human error.

From an environmental point of view, self-driving cars could slash carbon emissions, particularly if they're electric powered. Since the vehicles can determine the quickest navigational routes and provide consistent speeds, less fuel is consumed, making them a greener option.

Self-driving cars aren't without their pitfalls, however. For starters, they are very expensive. Even just fitting the sensor technology to the car costs around £190,000.

There are also concerns over safety, such as tech glitches or software hacker attacks. Drivers are still wary about these vehicles, with surveys suggesting that over 60% of people would feel scared to get in a fully self-driving car.

Thousands of people who work as drivers could also see their jobs go if self-driving vehicles become the norm. With less accidents on the road, there could also be fewer mechanics and vehicle repair businesses, but if an accident does occur with a self-driving car, there's also the dilemma of who is responsible, causing major headaches for insurance and legal firms.

Despite the various implications, the UK government is pledging to test driver-free cars on the roads by the end of the year. It predicts that by 2021, taxi journeys will be controlled by vehicles.

Whatever happens in the meantime, ensure your vehicle is safe, clean and comfortable by choosing the wide range of high-quality vehicle matting for cars, from Coruba.

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