Googles prototype self-driving car (Source : google.com)

Automotive

Self-Driving cars in 2018, whats the destination?

“Connor

Connor James Ibbetson, Editor-at-large

Where will self-driving cars take us this year?

It seems like every year, we are told that self-driving cars are just around the corner, and at every expo all the major manufacturers queue up to show off their concepts and prototypes. But just how far off is the supposed automotive revolution?

July 2017 saw a US house committee approve the self-driving act, which serves to allow companies to deploy up to 25,000 autonomous vehicles a year. The bill will still need to pass the senate though, before it becomes law.

Several US cities have seen small scale trials of autonomous vehicles, with self driving shuttles driving tourists around Vegas, with Phoenix, and Boston having their own trials of automated cars. Lyft and Uber have been experimenting in the US with their own self-driving cars.

What about the Uk?

Here in the UK, 2018 is expected to see a change in regulations allowing hands-off driving on motorways for the first time, essential for any sort of long-distance autonomous travel.

Another major jump we can expect to see is the development of vehicles without the traditional pedal and wheel controls. Whereas most of the experimental prototypes currently in trials are modified traditional cars.

Self driving cars will likely be ‘geofenced’ for the foreseeable future as well, the cars need a huge amount of data about their area to function. This data takes time to collect, process and download into vehicles. Chances are we won’t be seeing free-range self driving cars this year. Trials will be limited to small areas like city centres could become a reality for the UK in 2018.

Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged £150 million for new job training and self-driving research projects in his last autumn budget, coupled with £8.1 million fund for trials of self driving ‘platoons’ of autonomous trucks that was announced in August 2017.

Some experts have suggested that these autonomous vehicles won’t go on sale to the general public, and will be limited to fleet and service vehicles.

The immediate future?

For the immediate future, what we will see is our cars get smarter. We already have cars fitted with computers and parking radars and cameras that can detect objects in the road. Tesla is already equipping its cars with its Tesla Autopilot system.

Tesla’s Autopilot system contains an advanced array of sensors including cameras and radar Source : Tesla.com

The system allows the car to maintain speed and direction like a traditional cruise control, but also can change lanes on a highway, and drive itself from a garage or parking space to find its driver. Tesla claims the hardware will be upgraded to full autonomy when the software is developed and approved.

It’s safe to say, self driving cars have a long road ahead of them.

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