Kids compare driverless cars

Every rumour we've heard about driverless cars

Yes, we are aware it sounds like something from Back to the Future II, but automakers are racing to put driverless and self-driving cars on the road.

What’s it all about?

The World Economic Forum conducted a global survey on how people feel about driverless cars, and found that 58% of respondents would take a ride in one. In October, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced £390 million of funding to boost the development of low-emission and autonomous vehicles. Britain is aiming to have driverless cars on the road by the end of the decade. Basically, the future is now. Sound the alarms.

Well this all sounds exciting…

We know! But just because cars that can tootle about without a driver are imminent, it doesn’t mean we all know exactly how they’re going to do it. We’ve rounded up some commonly held myths about driverless cars to help you get our heads around the concept. Think of this as your one-stop shop to dinner-table bragging rights next time someone in your family brings up anything to do with driverless cars. You’re welcome. 

The myth: It’ll mean the end of driving as we know it.

The reality: Yes it might do – but there’s no need to chuck out your driver’s licence just yet…

Connected cars

In this country, Jaguar and Land Rover are testing something called ‘connected cars’, which can communicate with each other using technology designed to speed up journeys and reduce accidents. These cars are able to warn drivers when another connected vehicle brakes suddenly and can monitor traffic signals to encounter fewer red lights, as well as regulating car speed. So for the time being, there’ll still be the need for a driver.

However, truly driverless cars are currently being developed by more than 33 companies including Google, Apple, Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Ford – so it won’t be long until we see them.

car park

The myth: The machines are doing most of the driving themselves

The reality: Nah, we’re still in charge. For now.

Software failures

In a filing with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Google revealed that human beings (remember them?) have had to take the wheel of its driverless cars 341 times in more than 14 months at avoid accidents and software failures. Until these flaws get ironed out, the machines won’t be taking over our motorways just yet. 

driverless car engine

The myth: We’ll be able to override the computers as a safety precaution

The reality: Not if Google has its way

Man vs machine

In California – where a lot of the technology is being developed – the Department of Motor Vehicles is pushing for regulations that would require driverless cars to retain a steering wheel and licensed driver as a backup should something go wrong. However, Google believes these requirements would actually make the cars less safe by enabling passengers to override the autonomous system’s decisions. That’s rather a lot of faith that Google is putting in their machines.

steering wheel

The myth: When the cars are autonomous and use artificial intelligence, they’ll basically be K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider.

The reality: Sadly, we won’t be chatting to our cars any time soon

Talking cars

As lovely as the idea sounds, driverless cars are unlikely to be fitted with anything close to a conversational function. American startup Drive.ai is at the forefront of developing how driverless cars would communicate with other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. Rather than ‘speaking’, its cars would use banners, text and easily identifiable sounds to alert us to confusing road situations. Sorry to disappoint. 

car and bike

The myth: They’ll be a must-have for young folk

The reality: Not so much, youngsters!

Baby-boomers

Experts are predicting that the first people to use driverless cars would be baby-boomers, with companies such as Google and Uber targeting those who find easy mobility more challenging than your average iPhone-wielding millennial. The reason? Driverless cars will help improve the lives of those with mobility issues. 

lady in car

The myth: They’ll never be able to deal with unpredictable road behaviour

The reality: That’s exactly what they’re testing for now 

Unpredictable behaviour

Google is testing its cars against unpredictable behaviour including three cars going the wrong way at an intersection, an onslaught of people crossing their path and a grandma in a wheelchair chasing a duck in the road.

Yeah, you heard us right. Essentially, Google is giving cars the capability to ‘see’ unfamiliar happenings on the road rather than just teaching machines how to handle a set list of circumstances. So in theory, its driverless car should be able to ‘respond’ to anything in its path.

driverless plug

The myth: You’ll no longer need car insurance

The reality: Don’t go cancelling it just yet

Safer roads

In the long term, fully autonomous vehicles could help make the roads safer and there might be little need for car insurance . But for the next few years as cars become more autonomous, there would likely be a period of confusion for motorists.

The Association of British Insurers is calling for carmakers to provide more data to show who was at fault in accidents (and there have been a few) involving driverless vehicles. The UN body that agrees international regulations on vehicle safety is due to bring in new rules on data collection in 2019, and the insurers are hoping to influence that process.

In the US, a federal report has warned that cybersecurity breaches and software bugs would be the main causes of driverless car crashes, so the process is unlikely to be faultless any time soon. In other words, you’ll need to be insured.

car wheel

The myth: It’s all going to be a bit like the hyperloop in Futurama

The reality: Well actually, you might be on to something with that one…

Hyperloop

Hyperloop One, a company with $92 million in funding, has an agreement with Russia to build a hyperloop in Moscow.

Anyone fancy a trip? Well, in the meantime, check out deals on your car insurance, right here.

driverless car

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