It seems like an idea that is fresh out of a sci-fi film but car manufacturers and tech giants have been doing all they can to make autonomous vehicles a reality. Motor vehicles have been on our roads for over a century and during that time they have been operated by humans. Despite this, we now live in an automated world that is evolving at an incredible rate and it seems as though the future of motoring is likely to change but then again, maybe not.
It was only a few years ago that the idea of automated cars as a reality was put into the public domain. Whether it was Google, Apple or Tesla, the idea was as exciting as it was intriguing. A vehicle that can drive itself with minimal input is closer than it has ever been but is it close enough?
The idea is one that would make life so much easier for motorists. When you consider that planes can fly themselves, then surely it is just as easy to implement similar technology into vehicles?
Autonomy in a vehicle can take many different forms and many of us already drive vehicles that have some form of automated system installed such as automated braking and lane correction but that still requires a certain level of input from the driver. The idea of automated vehicles moving around towns and cities is one that is simply delightful but the technology behind it is intricate at best. When you consider that a current car has 100 million lines of code and an autonomous car would require 1 billion lines of code, you begin to obtain an idea of the sheer scale of the task. At this point, you also need to factor in the cost which is an average of £8 per line and all of a sudden, you have software costing billions.
It does not stop there though because input from the driver will always be required. As we revert back to the example of planes flying autonomously, if a problem arises, it can take around ten seconds for the pilot to take back control. So, using this as an example, how quickly would a driver need to react in order to take back control? When you consider that a driver might be occupied behind the wheel making calls or chatting with passengers, how can they react to a situation that an autonomous system cannot cope with at 50mph or even 70mph? In reality, we are talking about a split second and in most instances, by the time drivers take stock of the situation, it will be too late.
This is where autonomous vehicles begin to face the challenge of overcoming the importance of driver safety. While many lives are lost on roads each year, would autonomous vehicles save lives or cause deaths in other ways? Along with this, new technology comes at a high price and a variety of teething problems. Unfortunately, teething problems on busy motorways and cities means that there won’t be much room for error and this is the reason why a fully autonomous vehicles might be nothing more than a fantasy.