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 AUTONOMOUS CARS SALES SET TO RISEBack

DriverlessCarAccording to figures revealed by the SMMT, more than 1.5 million motorists are choosing cars featuring self-activating safety systems such as collision warning, adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking.  By 2020, according to research group Gartner, some 250 million vehicles will be connected to the internet.

Five years ago, less than 7% of new cars sold featured a collision warning system. Today, more than 58% of new vehicles have it and 27% of these buyers chose to have the system fitted as an option.

Other popular tech safety systems include autonomous emergency braking (fitted in 39% of cars), blind spot monitoring (32%) and adaptive cruise control (32%), also, many vehicles can take over from the driver in safety-critical situations. However, as reported by whatcar.com, several new car buyers are choosing connectivity gadgets over safety upgrades.  Options such as satellite navigation or Bluetooth capability are very popular as part of buyers’ specification choice.

It is also extremely positive to see that autonomous technology and in particular driverless vehicles could lead to a fall in serious accidents.  In fact, a report commissioned by SMMT last year found that thanks to driverless vehicles technology, serious accidents could fall by more than 25,000, saving 2,500 lives every year. These cars will also permit to reduce congestion-induced stress, providing drivers with more free time.

It is certain that the introduction of fully autonomous cars will face several challenges since it represents a phenomenon that will revolutionise our society. One of these will be cyber security. As reported last week by The Financial Times, cars that connect to internet will be vulnerable to hackers for a decade. This is what has warned Eugene Kaspersky, one of the world’s leading IT security experts.

Moreover, according to a survey from What Car? Some 45 per cent of the 4,000 people surveyed said that they would feel either “unsafe” or “very unsafe” travelling in a fully autonomous vehicle. The biggest concern seems to be that a driverless car would not be able to avoid an accident.  On the other hand, more than one in four drivers would be happy to sleep in a car with autonomous technology while travelling.  Around 32 per cent of the 900 respondents revealed that motorway journeys would be the best type of travelling in which to have a self-driving car, while 49 per cent said they would relinquish control of their cars in a traffic jam.

These quite controversial results demonstrate that besides regulatory issues, winning over public minds will probably represent another challenge.

The introduction of driverless cars is still quite far away, however many companies have already taken several steps in the right direction to embrace the latest innovations. The NFDA is pleased to see that significant industry and government investments are allowing the country to play a crucial role in this shift.

Posted by Sue Robinson on 29/04/2016