Will We Have Driverless Cars in 2021?

Will We Have Driverless Cars in 2021?

Driverless cars

Technology is the gift that keeps on giving. Every industry is impacted by technology in some way and the automotive industry is certainly no stranger to technological innovation. From entertainment to gadgets to help keep used cars up to date, these added extras are now the norm in most new vehicles.

With bleak news that only 9% of the 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic is recycled, it’s definitely positive to hear about the UK government’s future ban on traditionally fuelled cars — people are certainly trying to move towards a greener society.

Technology is advancing that much that it’s possible that we could be seeing driverless cars by 2021. In fact, automotive manufacturers have joined forces with the likes of Google to develop the next generation of autonomous vehicles.

It’s unsurprising that companies have invested huge amounts of money to make autonomous cars a feasible option. According to Allied Market Research, it’s estimated that the autonomous vehicle market will grow tenfold by 2026 to over £500bn, with the UK’s industry set to be worth £52bn by 2035.

Technological Innovation

Besides making our driving experience more fun and interesting, technology has increased safety while out on the open road. For example, cruise control, surprisingly developed way back in 1948 and introduced to vehicles in 1958, has allowed us to give our feet a rest from the pedals while sticking to a continuous speed, there has been many more inventions that have paved the way for fully autonomous vehicles.

An innovative addition, Lane Keeping Assist Systems (LKAS) gently guides you back to your line if you drift across lanes. However, if the lines aren’t clearly visible — either due to weather conditions or poor markings — the system will not work. Although this may be the case, and this system still requires driver interaction, it visibly shows the capabilities we have in allowing the cars to do the work for us.

Additionally, Auto Emergency Breaking (AEB), detects objects in your way and will alert you to any immediate crash hazards. This feature scans up to 200 metres ahead. Research in 2015 found that cars with this system were 38% less likely to collide with a vehicle in front of them, while other findings have revealed that AEB can cause a huge reduction in fatal and injury crashes.

These features aren’t entirely autonomous, they still require a degree of human interaction. But they’re proof of how smart our cars are becoming. For vehicles to become fully autonomous, they will have to include cloud-based networking and connectivity. This will allow them to learn from other vehicles and enable them to make on-road adjustments due to shifting conditions and detours. Central to making sure that our self-driving cars can quickly and automatically adapt to the on-going surrounding scenarios are advanced algorithms, AI and deep learning systems.  

Testing Autonomous Cars

Autonomous cars have been tested for the last few years. In 2018. Google subsidiary, Waymo, launched a self-driving robotaxi service in Phoenix, Arizona. The UK’s government is also moving forward with trialling several schemes — it was announced in February that a process is being developed to support advanced trials, but they will not be supported if rigorous safety assessments haven’t been passed first. These assessments were first laid out in 2015 in the ‘code of practice’. This means that automated vehicle trials will be possible on any road in the UK, so long as the tests are compliant with UK law and have a remote driver present.

Although there haven’t been many tests in total, it’s expected that they’ll quickly pick up pace. The Department of Transport (DoT) revealed its belief that testing on a large scale could happen sooner than expected and shortly the need for a human to sit behind the wheel won’t be necessary, as they think the UK’s tech is very advanced when it comes to autonomous vehicles.

The UK’s automotive minister, Richard Harrington, said: “We need to ensure we take the public with us as we move towards having self-driving cars on our roads by 2021. The update to the code of practice will provide clearer guidance to those looking to carry out trials on public roads.”

It’s certainly an exciting time for the automotive industry, with innovations in technology as well as the UK’s future ban on traditionally fuelled vehicles, who knows what else the future holds.