Driverless cars are coming

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The future is happening now, at least in locomotion.

The UK is to test fleets of driverless lorries on motorways from 2018. That’s got The Commercial Eagle quite excited.

6 levels of autonomy

There are 6 recognised levels of vehicle autonomy: from level 0, where nothing is automatic, through to 5, where no input is required from the “driver” in any circumstances.

Benefits?

Consumer advantages are clear: better safety (computers don’t often make mistakes or get tired) and more pleasant travelling.

But what can industry gain?

Driverless lorries can drive safely close together. Like a peloton of cyclists, they benefit from the creation of a slipstream. This reduces fuel needs, bringing down distribution costs. And because they don’t require drivers, they are more reliable, faster and cheaper.

Who are the major players?

Obviously the traditional car manufacturers.

But as driverless cars require sophisticated software, tech are getting involved, notably Google. Their driverless car prototype has already clocked over 1.5 million miles on the roads – completely autonomously, and with only one accident.

When can I get one?

Estimates vary.

Level 1-2 cars are already widespread and a level 3 Audi will soon hit the market. However, the legalities of driverless vehicles need to be legislated for before we can fully remove the need for driver interaction, and that will take time.

It’ll probably be another decade before the technology and legal issues are refined – so keep hold of your driving licence.

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