As we head into a new year with 2015, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to take a look at what will be happening on the car scene in the next year or so.
It made me wonder, Is The Time Coming When You May Not Even Have to Take a Driving Test?
Bristol will host the Venturer consortium, which aims to investigate whether driverless cars can reduce congestion and make roads safer. Its members include the insurance group Axa, and much of its focus will be on the public’s reaction to the tech as well as the legal and insurance implications of its introduction.
Greenwich is set to run the Gateway scheme. This will be led by the Transport Research Laboratory consultancy and also involves General Motors, and the AA and RAC motoring associations. It plans to carry out tests of automated passenger shuttle vehicles as well as autonomous valet parking for adapted cars.
In addition, a self-drive car simulator will make use of a photorealistic 3D model of the area to study how people react to sharing the driving of a vehicle with its computer.
“The combination of TRL’s independent expertise; robust, reliable testing protocols and driving simulation facilities alongside the diverse and high calibre qualities of our consortium means we can safely demonstrate automated vehicles to build acceptance and trust in this revolutionary technology,” said the firm’s chief executive Rob Wallis.
Milton Keynes and Coventry will host the UK Autodrive programme.
This involves Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and the engineering consultancy Arup among others, and will test both self-drive cars on the road as well as self-driving pods designed for pedestrianised areas.
Part of this group’s work will be to develop the technologies that will need to be built into roads and the surrounding infrastructure to aid vehicle navigation.
“Our plan with the practical demonstration phases is to start testing with single vehicles on closed roads, and to build up to a point where all road users, as well as legislators, the police and insurance companies, are confident about how driverless pods and fully and partially autonomous cars can operate safely on UK roads,” said Tim Armitage from Arup.
The tests will last from between 18 to 36 months and begin on 1 January. BBC News
How do driverless cars work?
Google’s self-drive car combines video and sensor data to determine where to steer. The label “driverless vehicle” actually covers a lot of different premises.
Indeed, the cruise control, automatic braking, anti-lane drift and self-parking functions already built into many vehicles offer a certain degree of autonomy.
But the term is generally used to refer to vehicles that take charge of steering, accelerating, indicating and braking during most if not all of a journey between two points, much in the same way aeroplanes can be set to autopilot.
Unlike the skies, however, the roads are much more crowded, and a range of technologies are being developed to tackle the problem.
One of the leading innovations is Lidar (light detection and ranging), a system that measures how lasers bounce off reflective surfaces to capture capture information about millions of small points surrounding the vehicle every second. The technology is already used to create the online maps used by Google and Nokia.
Another complimentary technique is “computer vision” – the use of software to make sense of 360-degree images captured by cameras attached to the vehicle, which can warn of pedestrians, cyclists, roadworks and other objects that might be in the vehicle’s path.
The debate now is whether to allow cars, like the prototype unveiled by Google in May, to abandon controls including a steering wheel and pedals and rely on the vehicle’s computer.
Or whether, instead, to allow the machine to drive, but insist a passenger be ready to wrest back control at a moment’s notice.
In May, Google unveiled plans to manufacture 100 self-driving vehicles. The search-giant exhibited a prototype which has no steering wheel or pedals – just a stop-go button.
Google has also put its autonomous driving technology in cars built by other companies, including Toyota, Audi and Lexus. Other major manufacturers, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and General Motors, are developing their own models.
Most recently, the Chinese search engine Baidu also declared an interest, saying its research labs were at an “early stage of development” on a driverless car project. But concerns about the safety of driverless cars have been raised by politicians in the US and elsewhere.
The FBI has warned that driverless cars could be used as lethal weapons, predicting that the vehicles “will have a high impact on transforming what both law enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car”. BBC News
What do you think about driverless cars? Is it a positive thumbs up to them being on our roads or do you like the independence that physically driving brings to you. We’d loved to know your thoughts and opinions on the subject.
Mercedes has unveiled its vision of a driverless car – and the interior looks a lot like a living room. The German car giant says the car of the future will be all about comfort – and the four seater design even has a coffee table built in for passengers, who face each other. The front seats of the car can be turned around and passengers can spend their time relaxing or working.
‘With this visionary interior concept we are defining the luxury of the future,’ said Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Daimler AG.
The pivotal feature of the innovative interior concept is the variable seating system, with four rotating lounge chairs that allow a face-to-face seat configuration. This enables the front passengers to turn around and talk directly to the other passengers while on the move. Or to focus their attention towards the front as necessary for manual driving, with an extendable steering wheel.
‘We are convinced that autonomous driving will be a central factor on the way to comfortable, accident-free driving,’ says Dr. Herbert Kohler, Daimler’s head of corporate research and sustainability.
‘Autonomous driving relieves pressure and stress in driving situations usually regarded as tedious, for example in tailbacks, in inner-city areas or on long journeys.
‘At the same time, it opens up new ways in which people can make the best use of their time on the road.’
Mercedes says the interior becomes a ‘digital living space’ which is comprehensively networked as an integral part of the intelligent vehicle system. The occupants are able to interact intuitively with the vehicle by means of gestures or touch displays.
The system monitors eye, hand and finger movements of passengers, which can be used to control the car’s functions.
Mercedes says the interior becomes a ‘digital living space’ which is comprehensively networked as an integral part of the intelligent vehicle system. It also has screens which can either play films or show the outside world. ‘The vehicle’s surroundings, whether pedestrians, other road users or the local buildings, are also brought into the interior and portrayed as fluid all-round information on displays.
However, the firm has refused to show the car’s exterior yet.
HOW IT WORKS
The pivotal feature of the innovative interior concept is the variable seating system, with four rotating lounge chairs that allow a face-to-face seat configuration. This enables the front passengers to turn around and talk directly to the other passengers while on the move.
The system monitors eye, hand and finger movements of passengers, which can be used to control the car’s functions. It also has screens which can either play films or show the outside world.
Volvo has already opened a test centre for autonomous vehicles in Sweden, beating the UK to be the first to begin the testing. Volvo’s vision is that by 2020 noone will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car.
Driving ‘a social thing’
Technical leader at Google, Brian Torcellini said engineers are learning that “driving can be a social thing where you’re using your vehicle and a little bit of body language in your car to communicate with other drivers what your intentions are.”
“So we’re now trying to teach the car different ways to fit in with society and the way that other people drive.”
All testing is currently being carried out in Google-branded Lexus RX hybrid SUVs, equipped with rooftop laser, radar, video cameras and a full battery of sensors. On California’s fully Google-mapped roads, the self-driving hybrids have become a familiar sight.
Google spokeswoman Katelin Jabbari is confident that no Google Lexus self-driving car has received a traffic ticket or caused an accident. They have, however, been rear-ended by other drivers on several occasions.
What do you think? Are you going to be a lover or a hater of driverless cars?