The driverless car revolution may well be at hand, with technology giants and global car manufacturers alike developing their own autonomous vehicles, and UK legislation fast-tracked to legalise the use of self-driving cars on roads in 2021. Autonomous vehicles can be defined on a sliding scale, with six distinct bands, ranging from driver assistance to full automation. Driver-assisted autonomy has existed in cars for decades, in the form of cruise control – but newer technologies have enabled increasingly hands-off automation, from GPS tracking to LIDAR hazard detection. But what exactly can we expect to see in our cars as driverless becomes a new normal?
Enhanced Safety Features
While there is still a long way to go on the programming front, fully autonomous cars represent a paradigm shift in road safety when fully and completely realised. For a start, completely self-driving vehicles result in the elimination of driver related variables: whether or not a driver is tired, impaired or otherwise unsafe on the road. Self-driving technology can also more reliably spot potential hazards than their human equivalent. One of the few roadblocks to this technology is the programming of ‘common sense’ into onboard safety computers; that is, for a car to understand unique situations and respond safely without requiring intervention.
On a lighter note, the major benefit of a completely automated vehicle is the great increase in time and mental space it can afford you. Allowing you to use your commute or journey to catch up on work, engage with media you’ve missed or otherwise capitalise on free time in luxury. As such, alongside the functional elements of autonomous cars, designers are looking at the front-end interface and the ways in which entertainment can be delivered to you in the cockpit. Tesla are leading the game on this front, with their Level 2 self-driving vehicles (which still require human monitoring and intervention) allowing you to access Netflix and even play games using the cockpit’s touchscreen.
Changes to Maintenance Costs
Unfortunately, leaps in driverless technology could also mean a leap in your car’s maintenance bill. With a vast increase in onboard integrated computing power, and sensitive equipment such as sensors which are vital to your car’s safe operation, comes a potential increase in service costs and visits when things go wrong; even a dent in the wrong part of your car could prove costly. It is worth mentioning, however, that other maintenance costs such as the replacement ofcar tyres, will remain largely the same even for completely driverless vehicles.
Lastly, onboard AI implementation can greatly increase your quality of life both in and out of the car, and outside of its road safety remit. The introduction of helper Ais to your phone and your car’s cockpit enables you to drive – or rather, be driven – smartly. Ais can learn routes with ease, and pre-empt traffic to take you a quicker way to the same destination. AI could even recognise the dropping temperature and learn your tolerance for cold, setting your cockpit’s internal temperature to your preferred temperature without requiring any input from you.