It should come as no surprise that according to a recent survey almost two-thirds of motorists welcome the arrival of driverless cars but what are driverless cars and when can we realistically expect to see them on our roads?
What is a driverless car?
While the self-driving car revolution is well underway not all driverless cars are created equal and to understand the speed at which the technology is changing, cars are classified according to 6 levels. Cars with no self-driving features are level 0 while a car that can drive itself anytime, anywhere, under any conditions with no human involvement is a level 5 or fully driverless car. Active Cruise Control which is a more advanced form of cruise control as it allows the car to control its own speed and distance from other vehicles is considered a level 2 feature. Level 3 cars can drive themselves for a large part of the motorway while cars that can drive around a city would be considered level 4
How do they work?
Driverless cars navigate the world around them by using data from cameras as well as radar and laser sensors that collect the information needed to build a 360-degree picture of the road. This is used to alert the car to nearby objects, including other cars, pedestrians and cyclists.
What problems have driverless cars faced?
Each country where driverless cars have been tested presents new challenges – Volvo’s self-driving technology struggled to identify kangaroos on Australian roads. The Swedish car-makers models use a system to monitor the road for deer, elk and caribou, but the way in which kangaroos move confused the system as when they jumped they looked far away but when they landed they were much closer. Snow is also an issue for driverless cars as road markings disappear under even the thinnest layer.
Will they make the roads safer?
More than 90 per cent of car crashes are thought to involve some form of driver error. In contrast, self-driving cars are better than humans at obeying traffic rules and speed limits. They don’t drive too fast, they don’t text while driving and they don’t get tired, angry or frustrated so the arrival of driverless cars is likely to have a significant impact on road safety.
When are they likely to arrive in Ireland
Despite the optimistic claims by many car makers and tech companies the speed at which self-driving cars will arrive in Ireland has more to do with the regulatory and legal framework than the technology. There are issues surrounding insurance and ethics plus driving isn’t just about technology and engineering, it’s about human interactions and psychology. From a practical point of view, the US city grid system makes it much simpler to test driverless cars whereas Ireland’s cities, countryside and back roads may prove more of a challenge. Over the next decade autonomous driving technology is set to transform how we drive but fully driverless cars are still most likely to be two decades away so in the meantime it seems our current primary school children will learn to drive in the conventional way and sit a driving test after all.
But what are they likely to look like?
Lease Car UK has designed 6 racing cars that have been reimagined as driverless. Each one has been made more aerodynamic, due to there being no need for a driver. They don’t have windscreens or headlights. The designs of the cars have all been inspired by some of the biggest brands in sports’ car history. They also maintain the brand’s standard look, so the Ferrari is the classic ‘racing red’ and the Bugatti has the colours of the French flag on the back of it.
Chevrolet inspired autonomous racing car
Ferrari inspired autonomous racing car
Nissan inspired autonomous racing car
Do you think this is what autonomous cars of the future will look like? We’d love to hear your opinions. You can join the conversation on social using the hashtag #AutonomousRacing.
25th May 2019