This month, driverless cars are set to take to the UK’s roads, as part of trials announced by Business Secretary Vince Cable last July. Almost every day in the press we read about driverless, self-drive and autonomous cars. The terminology is varied and for this reason it can be quite confusing. So we thought it would be helpful to write an easy-to-understand guide to the jargon and to look at how far driverless cars have come to date.
According to Wikipedia, an autonomous car is ‘also known as a driverless car, self-driving car, auto or robotic car, [and] is an autonomous vehicle capable of fulfilling the transportation capabilities of a traditional car. It is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input’¹.
The term ‘driverless’ covers many things. Many cars on today’s roads have in-built features which make them semi-autonomous and some of these have been around for years. These include cruise control, anti-lock braking system (also known as ABS), anti-lane drift and electronic stability control (also known as ESP or DSC). These functions generally take charge of steering, accelerating, indicating and braking. One of the more recent ‘autonomous’ functions to have been added to some car brands is self-parking. Lexus, Volkswagen and Ford, amongst others, now offer cars which can self-park. As time goes on and technology develops, more and more autonomous features will be added to cars. Estimates vary, but industry experts widely predict that cars will be totally autonomous within 20-30 years, so by 2045 at the latest.
If we consider that 95% of all road accidents involve some human error² and that in 76% of road accidents the human is solely to blame³, this would suggest that if we take humans out of the equation this would bring a virtual end to car crashes. But by substituting a human being for a driverless car are we stepping from the frying pan into the fire? How fool proof will driverless cars be and what is the likelihood of a crash in a driverless car? The truth is we don’t yet know because it’s far too early to say. But industry experts firmly believe that driverless cars will make driving safer. Speaking in The Guardian, a spokesperson from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders commented: “Computers don’t get bored or distracted, or take their eyes off the road because they want to change the radio station or make a phone call.”
But while we wait for this apparent silver bullet solution, what could be done to improve human driving behaviour in the interim? Telematics could be the answer. Young drivers insured by insurethebox are 70% less likely to cause an accident after a year of insurance, about half of which is directly due to telematics. As telematics becomes increasingly popular so will safety on the UK’s roads.
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_car   http://www.rospa.com/roadsafety/adviceandinformation/general/road-safety-projects.aspx