Where is the future of driving going? This article explains many of the changes that are coming to driving and transportation.
The Current Situation
The world has a variety of car producers, who make all different kinds of cars. There is much speculation about where this is headed in the future – by 2020, by 2030, even by 2050!
As recently as August, Domino’s Pizza and Ford Motors have teamed up to provide driverless pizza deliveries. This is happening in the Ann Arbour, Michigan area. The plan is that hot pizza will arrive in a driverless Ford Fusion but there will still be a company engineer manually driving the car. “We’re interested to learn what people think about this type of delivery,” said Russell Weiner, president of Domino’s USA. The main change will be that customers will have to leave their home, to come to the car, and take out the pizza. Apparently, Ford is also in talks to work on future grocery deliveries, with autonomous vehicles.
Over the next few years, we are going to see more and more testing of new kinds of vehicles. Recently in the Netherlands, they have been testing self-driving trucks, where there is a lead truck, and a driverless truck follows behind, in a convoy pattern. This same kind of testing has already taken place in the U.S., Germany, and Japan. The same convoy testing is slated to take place in the U.K. next year, and there are definitely fuel savings, especially for the second truck in those convoys.
An electric car is a vehicle propelled by one or more electric motors, from the electrical energy that is stored in rechargeable batteries. Some issues with electric vehicles are that they can take a long time to charge up the batteries. Also, depending where you live, there may not be that many charging stations (although larger North American cities have growing numbers of charging stations).
Hybrid vehicles use more than one source of power. This could include a variety of power sources, such as gasoline or diesel, and battery power, or the use of human power (like pedals), or a plug-in charger. There are quite a few possibilities for power with hybrids.
There are a number of manufacturers who are currently creating electric vehicles and the electric hybrid vehicles as well. In Canada, there are variety of these from BMW, Audi, the Chevrolet Volt, the Chrysler Pacifica, Ford Focus Electric, the Kia Optima, the Nissan Leaf, Porsche (different models), and several from Tesla, and Volvo.
Driverless Cars & Trucks
As for autonomous vehicles (or vehicles without a driver), most people predict that we will not have fully driverless vehicles in the next ten years. But it is not the technology that is limiting. Local laws and regulations generally limit autonomous driving – for most places right now. There are also the potential insurance issue – who is responsible if an autonomous vehicle crashes?
In ten years, there may be more examples of driverless vehicles. Or vehicles that allow the driver to make a video call, or surf the Internet, or compose an email for a short period of time.
Here are some possible features and upgrades in the future:
- In-car tech – calendars, schedules, email functionality
- More functionality controlled at the wheel – making a tiny swipe, without moving your hands from the wheel
- Cars programmed with your social media, before you step into them
- More integrated navigation – prepped with your route, and able to make suggestions to the driver
- Information sharing amongst vehicles – upcoming slippery roads, or accidents that are ahead
- More advanced developments with cameras and sensors to gain that “360 degree” viewpoint around the vehicle
- Improved “sight” – using technology like radar, and helping humans drive in dusty or foggy conditions, the glare of sunshine, or night driving
Cool Interior Features
As vehicles start to be more autonomous, the interior of vehicles will start to become more important.
- Better screens and display units (we have already seen big improvements here)
- Gesture features – you gesture to open the door, and the car door gently swings open
- Seats that slide away, and airplane-like table trays pop up
- Modular and movable consoles – so a solo commuter that can do other things while in the vehicle (check emails, check Facebook, or compose an email)
- The addition of smarter and more functional storage areas and compartments
- An interior cannot change too much, you still need to be able to have the driver controls, back in place in a matter of seconds
Are We There Yet?
So that’s the ultimate question, are we at a point where driverless cars can be put on the roads? As mentioned above, the test fleets have been operating on public roads and doing fairly well so far. The experts consulted by Consumer Reports say tend to agree that, technologically, we are about 85 to 90 percent of the way to perfecting the hardware, guidance systems, and software to make vehicles that can reliably and safely drive themselves. However some of the toughest issues still need to be addressed – perfecting vehicle sensors to “see” in all driving conditions. The difficult insurance issues were already noted above. And also ethical driving questions (such as, should a driverless vehicle swerve to miss a small child, while endangering the life of the driver/occupant). It is extremely difficult to think of and anticipate all of the possible “real-life” scenarios that there are or could be. We are there in terms of the development of technology; it is the surrounding factors where we need to do more work.
Bloomberg. Ford and Domino’s to Test Acceptance of Driverless Pizza Delivery. August 29, 2017. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-29/ford-domino-s-to-test-consumer-appetite-for-driverless-delivery
BBC News. Self-driving’ Lorries to be Tested on UK Roads. August 25, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-41038220
Plug N’ Drive. Electric Cars Available in Canada. 2017. https://plugndrive.ca/electric-cars-available-in-canada?page=2
Tech Radar. The Future of Driving: a Look at the Car of 2026. By Jeremy Laird. June 21, 2016. http://www.techradar.com/news/car-tech/the-future-of-driving-a-look-at-the-car-of-2026-1323413
Car and Driver. With Self-Driving Cars, It’s the Interior that Will Matter. By Bradley Berman. September 19, 2016. http://blog.caranddriver.com/self-driving-cars-promise-to-turn-automobile-styling-inside-out/
Consumer Reports. Self-Driving Cars: Driving Into the Future. By Jeff Plungis. February 28, 2017. https://www.consumerreports.org/autonomous-driving/self-driving-cars-driving-into-the-future/