While some people might find the idea of driverless automobiles a little daunting (to say the least), it appears that autonomous vehicles are the way of the future. In fact, it might surprise you to learn that the revolution is already taking place. According to data collected by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), over 50% of all cars sold in Britain in 2015 came equipped with autonomous safety features.
The report was compiled by the SMMT in conjunction JATO Dynamics and encompassed all 2.63 million cars which were registered in the UK last year. Coincidentally, the figure represents a landmark high in British car sales and with autonomous features playing such a significant role in the registrations, it can be seen as a sign of things to come.
The Safety Features in Question
By far the most popular safety features in new cars are collision warning systems. This sophisticated system uses a network of lasers and cameras to monitor the environment in the immediate vicinity of the car, detecting potential obstacles and warning the driver of their proximity with a beep if they get too close. Last year, this feature was installed on 1.53 million new registered cars – a whopping 58.1% of all cars sold in 2015. For context, just five years ago this technology was only available on a mere 6.8% of new builds, showing the surge in popularity of this technology over recent years.
Autonomous emergency braking was the next most popular safety feature, with more than a million units (39%) coming equipped with the technology. Of the approximate 1 million vehicles with AEB just under half of them were fitted as a factory build standard feature. Working in conjunction with the collision warning system mentioned above, autonomous emergency braking attempts to avoid collisions altogether. Alternatively the system attempts to reduce the impact of a collision by applying the brakes autonomously if the driver fails to take evasive action after being warned.
942,794 vehicles (35.8%) had blind spot monitoring installed, which employs a series of sensors to detect the presence of another vehicle to the rear and to the sides of the car. The system is designed to help drivers change lanes more safely and reduce the likelihood of colliding with their fellow motorists, though it received mixed reviews from a study conducted by AAA Automotive Engineering.
Meanwhile, adaptive cruise control has also seen a dramatic rise in popularity since 2010. The feature, which automatically adjusts the vehicle’s velocity in order to keep a safe distance between cars in front and behind, was present in just 10% of all new automobiles in 2010. Last year, it was installed in almost one third of all new registrations (31.7%).
The Benefits of Autonomous Driving
Of course, the main advantage seen by many people of autonomous driving is the ease and improved safety it will contribute to the driving experience. According to the chief executive of the SMMT Mike Hawes, the financial benefits could be astronomical, as well.
“Connected and autonomous cars will transform our society – vastly improving safety and reducing congestion and emissions – and will contribute billions to the economy,” explained Mr Hawes. “The UK is already earning a reputation as a global development hub in this field, thanks to significant industry and government investment, and the ability to trial these cars on the roads right now.”
Last year, the SMMT commissioned global auditors KPMG to conduct a comprehensive analysis of how the transition to an automated automotive industry will transform the UK. The study concluded that by 2030, every new car on the road will have some sort of autonomous features, with more than 25% of these being completely driverless. It estimates that the technology will prevent up to 25,000 serious collisions and save approximately 2,500 lives in the period of 2014-2030, thus vastly enhancing road safety in Britain.
It also predicted that the transition would spark the creation of 320,000 jobs (25,000 of which would be directly in the motor manufacturing industry), delivering a healthy boost of as much as £51 billion to the UK economy.
Furthermore, it’s not just the government and the nation which would feel the benefits – individual consumers would save money through reduced insurance fees, improved fuel efficiency and less parking fines and charges. In addition to these perks, the reduced stress associated with less congestion and the increased free time which would come with driverless vehicles could see yearly savings of as much as £40 billion to the consumer across the nation by 2030.
The Future is Autonomous
Google has announced plans to release the first fully autonomous vehicle for sale to the public in 2020, and though it might be several more years or even decades before the driverless revolution is complete, the current state of the UK’s automotive industry is a clear indication of which way the wind is blowing. Driverless cars are coming – and they will revolutionise the way we think about travel.
Categories : Reports & Research