The future of autonomous cars: reality or fiction? lifestyle
The technological race towards autonomous cars is underway, and there are now a lot car companies which are showing their cards in the open war for the launch of the first prototypes.
Although companies such as Tesla, Hyundai, Volvo and Uber are moving steadily towards level 4 cars, there is still a long way to go in terms of engineering, infrastructure and legislation for the real establishing of hybrid driving in cities.
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Films such as ‘Minority Report’ (2002) and ‘I Robot’ (2004), in which a revolutionary Will Smith was seen in a completely autonomous Audi; they presaged what the cars of the future would be like. Almost two decades after the cinematic prediction, the latest advances in technology and robotics have led the automobile, entertainment and communication industries into an open war over the dominance of the autonomous driving sector. This new way of transport, turned into an intelligent personal assistant, represents a new business opportunity for companies, taking into account that according to a study by the Capgemini Research Institute which was carried out on 5000 people in 5 countries, one out of two people dream of having an autonomous car in 5 years. As well as that, the same proportion would pay 56% more for cars of this type.
Among the expectations of consumers regarding autonomous cars, the study says, there is: efficient consumption and emission reduction (70%), time savings (50%) and new ways of mobility derived from the new machine generation. The decrease in road accidents is another of the expected advantages, as well as driver duties and the minimisation of driving irregularities derived from the “human factor” which are reduced by autonomous driving.
1806 people died on Spanish roads in 2018 according to the data from the General Directorate of Traffic. Although there are those who question the safety of autonomous cars due to the lack of trust in technology (41% of the population according to an Audi study), the cars of the future could reduce accidents considerably.
Autonomous cars, when?
Although many companies are increasingly moving towards greater autonomy of vehicles, there is still a long way to go in terms of infrastructure and legislation beyond the update of the vehicles themselves. While Toyota and Renault carry out their first tests in Europe, Volvo and Uber (with Uber technology) already have the first production car ready for autonomous driving. Recently, Hyundai announced an injection of 31.5 billion euros to launch its first level 4 autonomous cars in 2024, and Tesla already has its latest generation of cars on the roads, with semi-autonomous highway driving or the function already enabled in the US Smart Summon, which allows the vehicle to be controlled remotely through a mobile App.
In terms of infrastructure, Inframix, made up of European companies and institutions: designs, adapts and tests physical and digital elements in road infrastructure to adapt it to mixed traffic. As well as that, Seat and Telefonica are working on sensors and 5G technology antennas to enable future communication between cars and the road.
Nevertheless, the limitations are very large in all matters for the near future of autonomous cars. Legislation is still non-existent in every countries; in Europe the level 3 autonomous car is still illegal. It is still not possible to adapt the topography and road environments to cars without drivers, which must bear in mind the height of the curbs, the bumpy parts, the location of the traffic signs and the length of the pedestrian crossings. There is also uncertainty in the insurance company sector, which must update policies so that they are in line with the new situations and regulations.
With this scenario, years of hybrid driving (man-machine) will pass before fully autonomous driving becomes a reality. And no, it will not arrive in 2019 as ‘Blade Runner’ (1982) predicted.