An Insight Into: Self-Driving Vehicles by 2020

What’s a Self-Driving Vehicle?

A self-driving vehicle is exactly what it says on the tin. The concept is a vehicle that no longer requires operation by a human. This means no more gears, steering wheels or break pads; the vehicle will do it all.

Researchers in the automotive field have made various predictions about what a self-driving vehicle could achieve. Raj Rajkumar, a co-director for a research lab for GM and Carnegie-Mellon University, predicts that vehicles could potentially be doing the following within the next three to five years:

  • Autopilot capability on highways and motorways
  • Pilot capability for slow changing of lanes
  • Self-parking
  • Vehicles will be able to drive themselves in a traffic jam

The changes are expected to lead to all vehicles becoming completely autonomous, but will require extensive testing and technology changes before they can be safe and roadworthy.

Potential Advantages and Obstacles

There are many potential advantages of self-driving cars. However, with this innovative technology there are also a lot of obstacles to overcome.

Some potential advantages of self-driving cars are:

  • Safer roads and fewer traffic collisions
  • Reduced traffic congestion
  • No restrictions on age, intoxication levels or whether or not someone is licensed
  • Alleviation on car parks
  • Reduction in the need for traffic police
  • Reduction of physical road signage
  • Reduction in car theft

However, some obstacles could include:

  • Software reliability
  • Loss of driving-related jobs
  • Current road infrastructure may need to change
  • Vehicles may not be safe in extreme weather

Google’s Driverless Car

Google is one company making huge developments in this area, with legislation being passed in the United States permitting Google Autonomous Cars to be tested on public roads in Washington D.C, Nevada, California, Florida and Michigan.

Google revealed the fully-functional prototype of their driverless car in December 2014, and it has since undergone more testing and development.

Google’s cars are fitted with US$150,000 worth of equipment, although currently they’ve had issues with vehicles being unable to handle heavy rain and snow, as well as vehicles being unable to recognise temporary traffic signals.

The director of the project, Chris Urmson, spoke recently about Google’s commitment to fully automated cars, with estimates saying the project could reach completion within the next five years.

Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025: The Future of Fleet Management?

You may be familiar with the Simpsons episode in which Homer’s truck is able to drive itself, but what if this became the reality for trucking and fleet management?

Vehicle manufacturer Mercedes-Benz is developing what it refers to as a “visually exciting and technically feasible take on the long-distance truck of tomorrow”, and with the possibility of self-driving trucks in the future, what could be the result for fleet management?

This technology has the ability to make fleet management far more efficient. Tired drivers may no longer be required by law to stop every 4.5 hours if they were not in control of the vehicle, meaning that trucks could continue on the road for longer and complete jobs on a more efficient time scale.

This could mean that fleets may not need to be as large, or that companies may be able to use fewer trucks and fewer drivers. However, this could also mean that, due to the expense and complexity of the technology, maintenance expenses will significantly increase, which could put the stability of the industry at risk.

Are Fully-Automated Vehicles Really the Future?

While self-driving vehicles have the potential to make our roads safer, revolutionise our lives and even completely change the way that fleet management is conducted, it could be a while before we can rip up our driving licenses.

Whether or not self-driving vehicles are in our future, what is certain is that fuel management systems will always be a necessity, and Fueltek can provide you with everything you need to keep the fuel pumping. For more information, contact us today by calling 01524 291391.