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Cars Suddenly self-driving cars are a step closer, writes RAY MASSEY

14:01  20 august  2020
14:01  20 august  2020 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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RAY MASSEY : After decades of engineers and sci-fi writers dreaming about the prospect of mankind being transported around by 'driverless' cars , it finally Will we ALL be backseat drivers in the future? Suddenly self - driving cars are a step closer but that's just one of the startling gear changes on

The question of when self - driving cars will gain mass acceptance is not a matter of if, but when. While there is likely to be a net positive benefit to society, there will also be unintended consequences to consider. These negative effects range from the serious—the potential loss of millions of driving

For decades, the first maxim of learning to drive has been a simple one: 'Never take both hands off the wheel.' After all, disobeying it not only puts your life in danger — it could also land you with a £1,000 fine and three penalty points on your licence.

But all that might be about to change. For yesterday, the Department for Transport (DfT) published plans to allow some motorists to cruise without their hands on the wheel.

According to the Government's proposals, drivers of vehicles with 'automated lane keeping systems' (ALKS), which can keep a car inside a motorway's lanes, could be able to travel 'no hands' on motorways at speeds of up to 70mph as soon as next spring.

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BMW invited Ray Massey to take part in the self - driving car trials first hand at the former Luftwaffe military airbase Furerstenfeldbruck near Munich. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to

As ministers pour millions into self - driving cars , one of the few who's actually driven one says Ray Massey agrees the technology is not yet ready and journeys are leap of faith It’s an utterly disconcerting experience to sit in the driver’s seat and not steer There is some merit to the theory that if all cars were self - driving , our roads would be safer.

And so after decades of engineers and sci-fi writers dreaming about the prospect of mankind being transported around by 'driverless' cars, it finally seems that day could soon be upon us.

a person sitting in a car © Provided by Daily Mail

In fact, as the Mail's motoring editor, I have already driven — in controlled conditions — prototypes of these cars, including BMWs, Nissans and Jaguars. Undoubtedly it's impressive stuff, even if car traditionalists will no doubt mourn the loss of that joyous sense of freedom that only gripping the wheel can provide.

Yet even they will soon have to face up to the fact that change is on the horizon — and it certainly extends beyond hands-free driving. Indeed, many leading car manufacturers suspect that the motor car will see more change in the next decade than it has seen in the previous 100 years.

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Self - driving cars are still controlled by humans, but they are removed several steps in the causal chain by preprogramming “levers” ahead of time. Rather than imagining a car by itself, it is the programmer who might design the car to destroy itself if necessary to avoid a child in the road, saving

Self - driving cars —also referred to as autonomous or driverless—can navigate without human input and could redefine transportation, cities, and countless tangential industries. The buzz surrounding self - driving cars has been growing lately, but the idea is far from novel.

But what exactly can the motorists of 2030 expect? Here are my predictions...

A CHAT-NAV ON THE DASHBOARD

Similar to today's Alexa smart speakers, which are able to do everything from telling you tomorrow's weather to sending a dictated email, all vehicles will essentially be voicecontrolled computers on wheels.

To travel, all you'll need to do is tell your car where you want to go, the satnav will instruct the car to take you there, and off it will drive you without you touching the steering wheel or pedal.

Yet despite these vast technological advances, don't expect to be able to watch by Ray Massey a movie or play a video game while cruising. Drivers will still need to pay attention to the road in case there is an emergency — such as a last-second collision — that requires them to take control of the car.

Indeed, the DfT clarifies in its proposals that for 'automated lane keeping' to function it must first detect 'if the driver is present in a driving position with their safety belt fastened and is available to take over the driving task'.

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It drives itself, up to a point. On a motorway, with the ProPilot system , you set a speed and a distance to the car in front. It then brakes if you get too close and This is a cracker of a car that both surprises and delights - and happens to be powered by electricity. It may not be lightning fast like a Tesla but it

We look at why Self Driving Cars are an Incredibly Bad Idea. Good heavens this is a bad idea. The driver has been watching a movie up to that point, and suddenly the autopilot cuts out and with no situational awareness of the traffic or road, the driver has to take control of a situation the car could

HYDROGEN MAY BEAT ELECTRIC

The Government has already decreed that all petrol, diesel and hybrid cars will be banned from sale by 2035, or possibly even earlier.

Anticipating this, it is likely that by 2030 most vehicles will be either powered by electricity or hydrogen gas — the latter of which is contained in a fuel cell and undergoes a chemical reaction which produces electricity to power an electric motor.

Given it is very energy efficient, many manufacturers favour the hydrogen route and some — such as Hyundai and Toyota — already have a limited number of vehicles in production.

a car driving down a busy highway: Many companies have started fitting their new models with 'drive assist' features, including those that give the steering wheel a nudge when the car strays into another lane (stock image) © Provided by Daily Mail Many companies have started fitting their new models with 'drive assist' features, including those that give the steering wheel a nudge when the car strays into another lane (stock image)

DRIVER, YOU ARE THE WEAKEST LINK

It is often said that the most dangerous part of any car is the nut behind the steering wheel — and many believe that autonomous vehicles, which are not prone to human error, will help to reduce the number of road traffic accidents.

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Self - driving cars have already been put through millions of miles of road tests, and experts say that the technology clearly has the potential to be safer than human drivers. Indeed it could save a huge number of lives if or when it becomes widely adopted. There were an estimated 40

That's partly why many companies have started fitting their new models with 'drive assist' features, including those that give the steering wheel a nudge when the car strays into another lane, and adaptive cruise control, which applies the brakes and accelerator to keep your vehicle a safe distance from the one in front. In the U.S., Tesla's new Auto­pilot feature can even now change lanes without driver permission — though the software isn't approved in Britain yet.

Because, of course, relying on computers isn't always fail-safe. Two years ago, for instance, a woman was run over and killed by an Uber self-driving car in Arizona.

Yet despite that tragedy — which the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board later ruled was primarily caused by a distracted safety operator — as technologies are fine-tuned such accidents will become increasingly scarce, especially if drivers are required to monitor the road ahead at all times.

AGE OF THE POP-UP STEERING WHEEL

'Form follows function' is a famous mantra of car designers.

And the advent of the electric and driverless car offers untold design opportunities. Electric vehicles, for example, don't need a conventional engine up front, while 'driverless' vehicles could have a steering wheel that can be stowed away to pop out when needed.

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In the hope that cars will one day double up as cruising meeting rooms, Aston Martin has already produced a prototype model without a steering wheel and seats facing towards one another.

a person sitting in a car: Electric vehicles, for example, don't need a conventional engine up front, while 'driverless' vehicles could have a steering wheel that can be stowed away to pop out when needed (stock image) © Provided by Daily Mail Electric vehicles, for example, don't need a conventional engine up front, while 'driverless' vehicles could have a steering wheel that can be stowed away to pop out when needed (stock image)

But given that in 2030 drivers will still need to keep their eyes on the road, I doubt such designs will be approved any time soon. Far more likely are designs based on utilitarian pods. Indeed, earlier this year I became one of the first people in the world to experience the new fully electric, selfdriving 'pod' car, due to hit British roads next year.

Developed jointly between the UK's biggest car-maker, Jaguar Land Rover, and Warwick University, the 'robo-car' resembled neither a coupe, saloon or 4x4, but a small bus or van.

TAXING TIMES ARE COMING...

The Government currently receives around £40 billion a year from motorists in the form of fuel duty and vehicle excise duty.

And as petrol and diesel cars are replaced by zero-emissions vehicles, the Government will need to get its revenue from somewhere. Experts predict this will lead Whitehall to introduce some type of 'pay as you drive' road tax to re-fill empty revenue coffers.

It's all too easy to imagine how the increasing number of gantries housing cameras — currently used to read registration plates — could be easily adapted to track cars and charge them by the mile at peak and off-peak rates, with invoices arriving through your letterbox just like your utility bills.

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...BUT THE SPEED CAMERA IS GOING

By 2030 it is unlikely that fully autonomous cars and humandrive vehicles will be able to mix on the same road — initially for safety if nothing else. So expect dedicated lanes, just like cycle lanes.

But if there are entire roads dedicated to driverless cars, don't expect to see speed cameras on them. They simply won't be needed.

After all, the vehicles will be constantly tracked and any speeding infringements will be flagged on a central system — that's if the cars don't have in-built speed limits in the first place.

BRIGHT FUTURE FOR THE ELDERLY

At the moment, many elderly drivers with ailments such as diabetes and poor eyesight are forced to give up their licences.

Yet with the rise of the driverless car, and its reduced passenger involvement, many former drivers will hope that a lower threshold would allow them to get back on the road.

Indeed, AA president Edmund King tells me that 'a driverless car would be a godsend' for his own mother, who was forced to quit driving recently and misses the sense of independence it provided.

SAVE YOURSELF A WEEK A YEAR

Given self-driving cars are able to communicate with each other and determine exactly where others are, they are far more efficient than human drivers at navigating congestion.

In fact, BMW predicts that when all cars on the road are autonomous, drivers in London will spend as many as five whole days — or a working week — less in traffic a year.

BUT THERE ARE TECHNO-POTHOLES

British spy chiefs recently warned that our super-fast 5G mobile system — central to driverless cars' communication and navigation systems — could be hacked by 'terrorists, hostile states, and serious criminals.'

If that were to happen with an autonomous vehicle, a hacker could easily wreak havoc. For example, all it would take is for them to bring a few tactically placed vehicles to a halt to create a citywide standstill. More disturbingly, hijacked driverless cars could also be deadly in the hands of a terrorist.

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'Cars could be turned into bombs on wheels that are remotely controlled by terrorists,' a spokesman for the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) said.

'You don't have to have a terrorist on board [because they are driverless]. It's risk-free to them.'

Fortunately, Professor Jim Saker, Director of the Centre for Automotive Management at Loughborough University, has said: 'The potential for criminal or terrorist activity utilising vehicles is yet to have been fully exploited, but the manufacturers are already looking at protecting vehicles from cyber-attack.'

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