To date, self-drive has been a dream of those who prefer staring at the view to handling the road with two hands. Cars today express a sliver of the automotive independence we envision for them. Some can self-park, others break by themselves in limited circumstances, a few enforce safe distance or steer for you at 5km/h in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Revelatory, right? Wrong. It makes Kit and Back To The Future seem progressive.
Sarcasm aside, the future of driving is, indeed, racing towards us in 2018. Automotive designers and red tape regulatory bodies are slowly unraveling a knot of reluctant permissions and high-speed possibilities and we’ve come a long way from the world’s first self-driving car crash 3 months ago.
Most of us are still stuck in the passenger seat of this progress but those hoping for escalated road-equality and eyes-free rides are running out of gears to control the building excitement.
Is 2018 the year we get to relinquish the wheel for real? Here are a few self-drive updates:
1. Nissan wants to read your mind to autocorrect your driving. Mind you, it makes educated guesses and we are prone to unexplainable decisions; it is machine, and we are emotional beings, so it’s anybody’s guess what future its technology has beyond correcting your swerve (if a swerve is, in fact, the right thing to do right then).
2. Assembly line grandfather, Ford, is trying to figure out the emerging market with a fleet of no-driver delivery vehicles that take the small talk and the illegal parking out of door-to-door deliveries. For now, it’s pizza, but soon it might be everything if they reach their goal of becoming the self-driving operating system (OS). You order, a driverless car delivers, if you’re in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that is. Users are so grateful, they explicitly thank the empty cars.
3. Disruptors in related industries are jumping in the self-driver seat, too. Rideshare rebel, Uber, is elbowing in using AI to make its already-compromised human drivers redundant in its take on autonomous lifts. Are we surprised? Not by this, but…
4. As technology redefines the automotive industry, it’s a giant that’s in top gear. GM (General Motors) wants to be the first to let you knit while you drive or clip your toenails in the fast lane. To move things along swiftly, it took the DIY-drive wheel by removing it. The steering wheel, that is. As aspiring automotive tech stars go, it’s in cruise control, already calling the first widely-available electric car its own, ahead of early-adopter Tesla. Their car-sharing service cashes in on an increasingly popular preference for renting over buying. They aren’t just pandering to millennial purchase habits by reinventing business models to thrive outside of a need for individual car sales; they already have a generational advantage. Four of them, in fact. They’re four generations deep into self-driving research and development and not about to slow the process down. That’s the Geneva Convention’s role.
5. The Geneva Convention is an international treaty governing global traffic regulations completely contradicts the essence of self-driving. For now. It actually makes sense to more than the practically-minded pedestrians of future-thinking. Driving IRL (In Real Life) presents a wild array of unpredictable circumstances from unannounced obstacles to untameable road rage and AI just ain’t there yet. But how will we evolve to the no-stress road trip if the law requires a “driver to always maintain control of his vehicle” as it commands? Slowly. Geneva has begun to allow testing, testily, and “there must be less than one in a billion chance of a mistake,” for a technology to be considered for public dissemination, says Guillaume Devauchelle, director of innovation at Valeo, an auto equipment company. Driverless vehicles are already roving around Phoenix in the USA without the once-mandatory backup controller with a heartbeat. Still, once we’ve appeased the data crunchers, it’s looking like the technology will be aimed at shuttles and robotic taxis rather than private vehicles. That’s an uber let-down, until you remember the carbon footprint of a private vehicle.
Call it slow-reflex if you like, but it’s going to be some time before the research and technology become an everyday reality for every one of us. Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in dreaming of a world without car crashes. In the meantime, improve your real driving and road safety with these ten tips:
Remember, we offer cash back on your car insurance premium if you’re in the top 200 of our drivers with a smartbox, an electronic telematics device fitted to your vehicle to track your trips to encourage you to drive more safely.