According to DGT data , currently more than 90% of traffic accidents that occur on our roads are due to human failure . This means that, if we had the key to avoid this type of error, most of the more than 2,000 deaths that occurred due to traffic accidents in 2017 could have been avoided. This possibility, a priori unattainable, is closer than we think thanks to the technological evolution of the automotive world and the appearance of autonomous cars , vehicles that are able to circulate independently, without the need for a driver.
We have been hearing about them for years. But when will they be launched on the market? And what is more important … When will they be within our reach? We explain it to you below.
A gradual evolution
It has been a few years now that the big car manufacturers have started working, in collaboration with the main technology companies , to make the launch of autonomous cars a reality.
In this sense, it is true that we already find vehicles with a certain autonomy on the market, especially thanks to advanced driving assistance systems or ADAS ( Advanced Driver Assistance Systems ), such as, for example, the cruise control system, the power steering system, the traffic signal recognition system or the assistance in changing lanes. Even some models already have autonomous driving options in very specific conditions such as low-speed situations, urban environments …
ADAS systems are the forerunners of what will be automated driving, whose introduction will be gradual . And is that manufacturers ensure that this will be beneficial both for consumers , who can gradually gain confidence and start investing in this type of vehicle, and for manufacturers , who can develop the necessary technology and resolve the defects with which they leave finding on the go. Furthermore, in most cases there will continue to be the possibility of disconnecting the automation from the vehicle and driving it in the traditional way.
It is not expected to be until 2025 when we see cars driving by themselves.
Who is working on it?
Mercedes Benz, Toyota, Nissan, Volvo, Honda Kia, Ford, Citroën, Peugeot, TESLA, Waymo … There is no manufacturer that does not want to join the fashion of autonomous cars. And they themselves recognize that, although there is still work and technological development ahead, it is an inalienable future.
It seems that Mercedes took the initiative in this field on April 7 with the launch of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class , which incorporates novel systems such as the Drive Pilot , a very complete system that is the closest thing to autonomous driving: It is capable of carrying out operations such as keeping the car in the lane without driver intervention, maintaining the programmed speed, keeping the safety distance from the previous vehicle, braking autonomously until stopping, resuming the drive when the car stops. ahead it starts moving … or the Active Lane Change Detector , which allows you to change lanes if we indicate it with the flashing light.
Others like Nissan are not far behind, as they have announced that the next model of their already traditional Qashqai will be their first vehicle with Piloted Drive technology .
In addition, technology providers such as Apple, Google or Bosch have spent years developing systems in this sector and researching how to offer valuable services to the user when using the vehicle and not having to drive.
Advantages and disadvantages of autonomous cars
Automated driving will affect the whole car: its propulsion system, the brakes, the steering, the navigation … hence it has many advantages for the user, who will have practically nothing to worry about. But, like all devices in their first years of development, it is also true that they have some disadvantages.
- Greater safety : a reduction is expected in the number of errors behind the wheel and consequently in the number of accidents.
- Improved circulation : vehicles will be more efficient in heavy traffic situations.
- Greater energy efficiency: another of the improvements will be its operation through the electrical network, so you will save on energy consumption.
- Increased productivity : especially when carrying out some tasks on the road, such as parking. The driver will be able to get out of the car and he will be able to autonomously look for a parking lot.
- New design and more power: they will not need all the elements of traditional cars.
- Higher price: the first models will, logically, be higher priced , so it may take a few years from launch until they are available to everyone.
- Potential for technology glitches – This is the main downside. And it is that, like everything, the technology is not infallible, so there could be cases of errors in the programming of the vehicle code, posing a danger that could cause road accidents.
Autonomous car insurance and applicable legislation
Another brake on the arrival of autonomous cars is the need to update the applicable legislation as well as the offer of current insurance products . Consider, for example, the liability that would arise in accident cases. Whose fault would it be in a road accident involving a self-driving car? From the driver, your insurer, the manufacturer …?
This forecast for the future is causing more and more insurers to seek an adaptation of their business models . It is true that it is expected that with these vehicles there will be fewer accidents, but there will always be a margin of error, especially in the initial period, when there will be mixed driving. In addition, new needs will arise to protect and with them new coverage and guarantees to develop.
In addition, we must bear in mind that the current road legislation is not adapted to the circulation of a fully autonomous car, so the DGT will also be forced to update its regulations with the arrival of this type of vehicle. Will users have to take out their driving license to be able to use autonomous cars? Or will a new mandatory permit emerge? This is another of the great questions that must be resolved.
In short, there is still a long way to go in the world of autonomous cars: they will have to be fully developed and tested. But, in addition, the legislation, the insurance entities and the users themselves must adapt to this new reality that, whether we like it or not, is getting closer.