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Is Britain at the forefront of the AV Motoring Revolution?

January 11, 2017 by in category News tagged as with 0 and 1
Home > News > News > Is Britain at the forefront of the AV Motoring Revolution?
driverless cars

Imagine this….

What if I told you, that you will soon be able to get into a car and shout out a destination, then promptly turn your attention to that work due for your boss at 10 AM that you left until the last minute? And, what if I also guaranteed your journey would be safe and required little to no attention – even while your vehicle parks itself?

Sounds decent if you ask me! This dream scenario may just be a reality very soon. At the end of 2016, the Government launched their consultations into insuring driverless vehicles for when they do make it onto British roads and reviewing Road Safety rules to adequately protect the everyday road user.

A fanciful wish or a possible reality?

Before this dream becomes a reality, Britain’s insurance laws will need to be brought up to date to reflect the technological advancement on our roads and the Highway Code developed alongside it, IF the predicted timescales regarding driverless cars are to be believed.

The once dreamt about auto-piloted cars (like those in ‘Meet the Jetsons’ and hit American T.V. show ‘Incorporated’) are expected as early as next year.

hands free driving

We are expecting the first, fully ‘hands-off’ driving vehicles to be on our public roads, with many large Companies already pioneering road tests since mid-2016. Now, the avid tech-geek or gamer will be no stranger to motorway assisting features or remote self-parking, that has already started to creep their way into vehicles on our roads today (by Audi, Volkswagen, Google and BMW to name a few). The Department for Transport has already confirmed the finalised Bill will be expected in early 2017 and has reassured road users that any proposed legislative changes will be ‘minimal’ to allow the industry to flourish and grow. All I’m going to say about that is the sooner the better! Who wouldn’t want stress free drives to work? Who doesn’t want to forget about those pesky three point turns or near scrapes on that narrow country road?

We clearly talk the talk, but can we in Britain walk the walk?

James Dyson once stated ‘Nothing without a hard slog… happens overnight’, and so any consultations should not be a one-off occurrence, as technology is a constantly developing entity too. As such a more fluid, ‘rolling regulatory review’ should be adopted to cope with the pace of the AV industry. To exemplify the pace of these advancements, ABI (Association of British Insurers) have been in talks for months with the Department of Transport regarding legislative reform, as they’re attempting to keep up with manufacturers who are already churning out vehicles with AV features.

However, the question must be asked whether the United Kingdom facilitates advancement in this sector or whether we are effectively sabotaging our journey to motoring technological superstardom ahead of our European counterparts.

Unlike Mo Farah at the recent Olympic Games (or any other race he decides to show everyone else up in) the worldwide race for the motoring gold is already in its heated final stages between Asia (Japan) and the United States. Both are far ahead in terms of development and testing of these prototypes, no doubt a by-product of both Silicon Valley and Japan’s technology powerhouses working at speed. Our fellow Europeans however have run into a few potholes themselves – Sweden and Germany recently both concurred that AV vehicles in their current forms would be incompatible with their domestic road laws and unsafe to drivers.

In contrast, our domestic AV industry is set to be worth £900 million by 2025, with over £19 million having already been invested for initiatives taking place around the country since late 2015.

We all know companies like Apple and Samsung like to tease us more than Marilyn did J.F Kennedy, but come on! These tech giants have remained tight lipped about what they have developed (or are in the process of developing) until they can launch their products, or garner a significant amount of press and attention to put pressure on their competitors. However, we know that every London cabbies’ favourite company, UBER have already began offering rides in driverless cars around California, Apple have ringfenced the ‘iCar’ plus registered similar domain names and Google have already introduced their Glass Explorers XE-C 2.0. All positive indicators of the impending AV motoring revolution.

What impact will this have for you and I in Britain?

There is absolutely no doubt that if these large technology companies were to successfully develop a fully functioning AV vehicle in the time span they promised, productivity and mobility would see a dramatic increase in Britain. As a dual benefit, there would be significantly less human error on our roads and by default, hopefully less actions in Court for driving offences.

We live in a time of electronical and commercial espionage, where hacking and stealing of sensitive consumer data is seemingly becoming all too common. On the heels of the hacking allegations that claim Putin ‘Trumped’ Hilary to the Presidential post and iCloud leaks of pictures-that-celebrities-really-should-not-have-taken-but-hey-its-2017, encryption of user data to safeguard individuals will be on top of the AV industry’s priority list. Moreover, other challenges come in the form of financial burdens for infrastructure and construction costs – a hefty bill for anyone to foot.

In addition to this, we must consider what the legal landscape will look like once the AV industry develops. Traditionally, insurance companies bore the burden for their motorist clients, but what would happen if manufacturers of these vehicles began to sue each other for faulty technology and road accidents? Who will take the fall then?

Many questions remain: will manufacturers’ liabilities be limited in legal actions? Who is to blame in the scenario where a driverless vehicle crashes into a ‘handed’ road user? How many more cases will saturate our Courts? How long will it be before the necessary legislative balance is struck where we can focus on more important things like that last-minute report or those extra 20 minutes of sleep before reaching the office? Time will tell but realistically, I think I might be waiting a few more years before I take my eyes off the road whilst driving down the M1 at speed.

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