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The self-driving revolution

Self-driving cars have been hitting the headlines lately as London-based private hire taxi firm Addison Lee has begun trialling them around Canary Wharf. After forming an alliance with Oxbotica, a self-driving software company, Addison Lee is aiming to get driverless taxis on the streets of London by 2021.

The Government is fully on board with the self-driving car revolution, expecting the UK self-drive industry to be worth £28 billion in the next 17 years – and hoping that, like Addison Lee, the cars will be hitting the roads in 2021. The Modern Transport Bill has mapped out plans to position the UK as an industry leader for driverless car technology. Chancellor Philip Hammond stated that he wanted £150 million to go towards job training and self-driving research projects, and there are currently plans underway to get driverless lorries on the motorways.

How do they work?

Self-driving cars use a variety of sensors to gauge the surroundings, each featuring a GPS unit, navigational system and a range of sensors including radar, sonar and computer vision. The vehicles have advanced control systems that allow them to create a 3D interpretation of the environment, so that they can identify appropriate routes and register obstacles and signage. The cars can make intelligent decisions – such as figuring out the best route to destination – so that once a journey has been selected, the vehicle breaks it down into commands to control the steering, braking and throttle. Using its internal map, the car can work out the locations of obstacles, traffic lights and stop signs, as well as being able to identify moving objects like pedestrians and other vehicles.

What are the benefits?

As autonomous vehicles are at the cutting edge of vehicular innovation, they would be produced to be as fuel-efficient as possible, so they would be more environmentally friendly than a petrol or diesel car. They’d also be designed to be more efficient at accelerating and braking, which would also keep the carbon emissions down. Self-driving cars also reduce the possibly of human error; accidents caused by drunk or distracted drivers would potentially be eradicated. They’d also afford more free time to busy commuters – traffic congestion is expected to decrease, which means less time spent on the road, and ‘drivers’ would be able to make the most of the time spent in their cars.

Are they safe?

Although they sound like an exciting proposition, driverless cars aren’t without their faults. In March this year, there was a fatal accident in Arizona as a vehicle operated by Uber hit a pedestrian, causing the firm to suspend its autonomous vehicle programme. In 2016, a Tesla test driver was killed when his car collided with an 18-wheel truck that the sensors failed to spot. However, despite this, car manufacturers are still keen to keep improving the safety features of the cars. Plus, drivers in the UK may be required by law to take another driving test before they can operate an autonomous car, and laws are likely to be passed to prevent people from sleeping, reading or using their phones when in the ‘driving’ seat.

Although it’s still a good few years until self-driving cars will be available to purchase, we can help you get your dream car! Get in touch with our team to find out what we can do for you.

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