The current state of play for autonomous vehicles

March 12, 2018 // By Bryce Johnstone
It might surprise some to learn that the autonomous vehicle first gained public exposure at the 1939 World’s Fair, on the General Motors Futurama exhibit. The car manufacturer envisioned, “abundant sunshine, fresh air and fine green parkways” upon which cars would drive themselves. Today, in 2018, 79 years later, the autonomous vehicle is a reality thanks to new sensor technology, advances in HD mapping, improvements in analytics, innovations in deep learning and much more.

It is expected that by 2030, one in four cars on the road will be self-driving. But which companies are leading the race to delivering the first autonomous car on public roads?

 

Why do we need autonomous vehicles?

We don’t actually need autonomous cars – driving isn’t that complicated. However, when it does go wrong, the repercussions can be life altering and therefore, safety and reducing the number of road death and serious accident costs is a major reason to progress autonomous cars. There are also wider benefits that make autonomous car a requirement, such as reduced congestion and pollution, as well as economic benefits such as increase mobility for the elderly, disabled and blind, and a decrease in fuel usage.

Even though cars today are safer than ever before, too many people lose their lives as a result of car accidents – 94% of all accidents have an element of human error involved. In the UK, over 27,000 people we killed or seriously injured in car accidents in 2017, while 176,500 people were injured according to data from the Department for Transport. It’s important to remember that the UK has the fourth safest roads in Europe, so for countries that aren’t so focused on safety these numbers will be higher.   

Any reduction in these numbers is seen as a positive thing by governments and wider society. Functions such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and pedestrian detection will reduce the dependence on the weak link in the chain – the driver – and have a positive impact in reducing accidents and ultimately, fatalities.


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