Autonomous Vehicles – Where Are We Now
A couple of years ago there was excitement in the air around autonomous vehicles. Top boffins around the world were certain the robotic driver revolution was about to explode. As more companies jumped onto the autonomous bandwagon, what’s next? It would seem, for the time being, robocar could have been unplugged. Our Autonomous Vehicles – Where Are We Now give a little snapshot of how things lie today. As the company’s go back to the drawing board regarding safety, the boffins are scratching their heads. But boffins like doing that!
So why aren’t robotic bubble cars A’ ing to B’ ing us all over town? With exciting advancements in algorithms and technology, which by the way is always growing exponentially, what was the reason for bursting the Jetson’s bubble? Safety, of course –
The Uber crash in Arizona U.S. back in March 2018 was the first set back to the driverless car. Uber halted testing immediately after a pedestrian was killed.
Then in the same month, Tesla’s Model X was also involved in a fatal crash in California. The car hit a crash barrier and burst into flames.
The self – driving Uber car was somewhere between level 4 and 5 autonomy. The Tesla Model X was level 3. But what does this all mean –
Self-driving is a rather vague term that can include a wide variety of stages of an autonomous vehicle. For this reason, each vehicle is classed between 1 to 5. Or in other words, how much human intervention is required to drive safely. Let’s have a quick look-
Different Levels Of Autonomy
- (1) Level Automation – The vehicle performs small alterations to the steering and acceleration.
- (2) Level Automation – Like an advanced cruise control. The vehicle automatically takes safety actions but the driver must stay alert.
- (3) Level Automation – This level poses the most danger. The line between what the car does for you and what the driver must do becomes a little woolly. Many car manufacturers are in favor of skipping over level 3 straight on to level 4. Depending on environmental conditions the vehicle will perform some safety-critical functions! ”Errr are you doing this or me?”
- (4) Level Automation – The car will drive itself without human input almost all of the time. Certain weather conditions or unmapped areas the driver will be required to take over. If you dare, you can catch some sleep in a level 4 vehicle.
- (5) Level Automation – Fully automated in all conditions.
Now, that’s all cleared up are we going to see any over here in the U.K. any time soon?
Are Autonomous Vehicles Coming To The UK
At the moment the majority of autonomous testing is carried out in the States. Despite the series of accidents in the U.S. self-drive cars are coming our way. The U.K. Department For Transport wants to see autonomous vehicles driving on U.K. roads as soon as 2021.
Jack Cousens the head of road policy for the U.K. automotive association AA remains skeptical. ”While we generally welcome ambitious targets, 2021 feels extremely challenging given the technical and legal hurdles yet to be overcome.” However, there have already been trials in London –
Uk Auto Demonstration
The UK reached a self-driving milestone back in October 2019. This was via an Oxford-based firm aptly named Oxbotica. The tech company, founded by Oxford professors Paul Newman and Ingmar Posner, fitted autonomous technology to a Ford Mondeo. The partial government-funded trial saw the Mondeo let loose around the former Olympic Park at Stratford. Although the trial was not conducted on public roads it was hailed as a success. With the demonstration exceeding their initial expectations! Furthermore, it took significant steps towards self-drive vehicles operating in real-life situations (self-driving taxis for example.) Here’s a link to the full story.
Oxbotica alongside The Drive Team, consisting of local cybersecurity and data experts, also focussed on what they named the ”ecosystem” around autonomous vehicles. They studied not only legal frameworks but also system hackers. Yes, that’s right, your self-drive car can be hacked!
Autonomous cars were making huge steps forward until technology meet up with reality!
Unfortunately, reality and science fiction aren’t getting along again. Hackers have already shown they can take control of an autonomous vehicle. In 2015 they completely Herbie-fied a Jeep Cherokee. Believe it or not, through a flaw in the vehicle’s entertainment system. The driver was blasted with cold air, the hackers then cranked the radio up to full volume before turning the wipers on full pelt. Finally, the transmission was cut!
This was the first cyber-related vehicle recall in U.S. history. You’ll be amazed to find out that some insurance companies even have a tool to check vehicle hackability.
Ask yourself this then –
If I get hacked who does the blame lie with in the event of an accident?
Half the states in the US at the moment have no additional law covering specific types of autonomous vehicles. The courts have also very little experience dealing with this new technology. Who’s to blame if a car is hacked and involved in an accident? The driver of the car or the car manufacturer?
Also, think about this –
Would a driver be responsible for any sytems upgrades (like your phone upgrade) as a service or MOT? Could you be prosecuted if you didn’t comply or forgot?
In addition to hacking the car, there may be other concerns –
Hacking The Environment
At the moment the vision of self-drive cars is a teaming up of the vehicle and its environment. It’s believed the success of autonomous vehicles lies with how effective this symbiosis is. If hackers can get control of the car it won’t be long before they’re breaking into the connected infrastructure.
Most designers working on autonomous vehicles accept the fact that the vehicle must communicate with its surroundings.
let’s see which country is best set up to accommodate self-driving vehicles.
You may get a surprise here!
Which Countries Are Leading The Charge
The four key metrics considered most important for symbiosis between car and environment are Technology and Innovation, Infrastructure, Policy and Legislation and finally Consumer Acceptance. The top 20 countries based on economic size were compared. Although America leads the way in technology and innovation it’s The Netherlands and Singapore that come out on top of the infrastructure, legislation and consumer acceptance!
How Could Self Driving Cars Effect You
As a driving school, this is something we have had to think about a lot. Will there come a time when people don’t need to learn to drive? Could level 5 autonomous vehicles eventually be used without ever needing to take a driving test? As things look at the moment it doesn’t look like it’s on the cards just yet.
From what we can gather there is nothing that will affect things too drastically within the next ten years or so. Even so, if not in the immediate future, what about further down the line?
There could be many autonomous service vehicles operating around towns and cities. Such things as taxis, delivery drivers, public transport, refuse collection, etc. These vehicles could, with help from the environmentally dedicated self-drive lanes be up and running within ten years.
As for owning private fully autonomous vehicles, which are allowed on public roads, it doesn’t look that imminent. Since 2012, at least 41 US states have been considering legalization, but as far as we can see there still needs to be a qualified driver behind the wheel.
If you have any further updates on autonomous vehicles please feel free to comment in the box below.