While the world at large might still be arguing over how we can legislate vehicles without a person in them (who will we blame when something goes wrong?!) some industry heads merely see these problems as stumbling blocks to hurdle. For example, Renault Nissan CEO and president, Carlos Ghosn believes that autonomous vehicles are the future, one which he believes will improve the accessibility and quality of life of many people around the world.
Autonomous motoring, he said, would bring about massive safety improvements, by maintaining speeds, keeping cars at safe distances and reacting faster than a human can to any problems that occur. By driving efficiently, they’ll also save on vehicle wear and tear, as well as reducing fuel consumption, which will benefit the environment greatly.
Quality of life will be improved he said, simply by not making people have to concentrate during commutes. By not sitting in traffic jams everyday, which are proven as some of the most stressful environments in the world, we could improve the health of “drivers,” and give them more time to focus on things that they enjoy.
When the price comes down as well, mobility can be improved for everyone. Those that are currently unable to leave the house for reasons of disability and are unable to drive themselves, would be able to get about with much more ease than they can now. This will be of especial benefit to the elderly, who can often find themselves isolated as their faculties fail them.
This technology isn’t exactly going to be ready for everyone to use tomorrow, but Ghosn believes we don’t have long to wait. Inside the next generation, he believes we’ll see many assisted driving vehicles becoming common place throughout Europe, Japan and the USA, starting with parking and lane assistance. By 2020, he thinks we’ll see reasonable numbers of cars on the road that will allow people to relax a little more on their drive – though chances are they won’t be fully automated for a little while longer.
According to Motoring.au, Renault is helping push this technology forward with its own Next Two concept design, which is currently undergoing testing but is able to travel around with full automation at speeds up to 30 kilometres per hour.
However there is some concern that automated vehicles, requiring less maintenance and lasting longer, will mean less cars are bought and less jobs to maintain them. Car companies around the world may need to look to new markets in developing countries to maintain their bottom line, something Renault is keen on doing. Ghosn hopes that his company will be able to put out cars to the developing world that cost as little as 5000 euros when brand new, making them affordable and rugged enough to survive on roads that aren’t quite up to the European standards.
The question is though, will all of the vehicle companies of old survive? With new competition from the likes of Google and other firms pushing an automated future, will some of the petrol powered firms of old find themselves outdated in a few years time? It’s going to be interesting to find out.