The race is currently on to create the next breakthrough in driving – autonomous cars. With technology companies and car manufacturers rigorously testing their own take on the driverless car, how far are we from the new future of motoring?
The support for autonomous / driverless cars was front and centre of recent new government backed legislation in early 2016. The overall aim was to have motorists buying and using self-driving cars by 2020. Chances are, if you’ve followed news within the motoring world, you’ve likely been hearing a lot recently about plans for driverless cars and many are keen to jump on the bandwagon.
Partially autonomous cars are already available now to motorists; with the ‘Parking Assist’ feature widely embodied in a variety of car makes and models. Furthermore, some cars on the market are already experimenting with the technology themselves such as the high profile Tesla Model S “Autopilot” feature. But this has only been an indication of what a fully driverless car could potentially achieve.
Plans for full autonomous cars have been frequently announced across manufacturers and mainstream companies. Volvo laid down plans earlier in the year regarding their ambitious trial of recruiting members of the British public to test their autonomous technology on a public highway. This particular test will see a limited number of semi-AD cars running in London early next year. Similarly, The GATEway project has also opened their doors to the public to participate in similar trials – conducted at the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab in Greenwich.
Search engine giants Google have also been flying their flag for driverless cars for a considerable amount of time. They’ve been constantly in the spotlight with their own vehicle throughout its testing phase. However, early reviews from journalists were not thrilled by the car’s performance. This hasn’t been helped by some additional public testing hiccups along the way with the occasional crash and police pulling a test model over for being too slow. It seems Google’s advantage in the race to create the first driverless car has faded. With other companies like Uber and possibilities surrounding Apple’s involvement in the motor industry, it’s clear that this method of transport seems high on agenda’s for the manufacturer and technology companies.
As it stands it’s too early to see who will launch their driverless vehicle first, so don’t expect them to appear on driveways near you just yet. There are still many other areas to address before driverless cars can be properly inducted onto our roads. Motor insurance guidelines, driving tests and other areas of established road rules and regulations also need to be prepared for the dawn of the driverless motor. Despite the backing of UK legislation, the autonomous future seems to be coming though at a cautious pace.
Nearly seven in 10 drivers don’t trust ‘black box’ technology to lower their insurance premiums by proving they are a better driver, according to research by Whatcar.com.
Telematics-based insurance policies monitor driving standards by accessing the data produced by a car either by fitting an electronic device inside the car or via a smartphone app. The policies are increasingly being aimed at young, new drivers, with insurance firms rewarding good driving with policy discounts.
However, while improving road safety is the main aim of the new policies, Whatcar.com’s study found the only reason the vast majority of drivers (89%) would use telematics insurance is to save cash, while fewer than two in five (39%) would choose to use it at all.
As well as fearing the ‘Big Brother’ element of having their driving constantly monitored, 67% of motorists said they wouldn’t trust a telematics device to prove they were a good driver.
Paul O’Dowd, head of sales for telematics provider In-Car Cleverness, said mistrust in telematics-based insurance policies may be justified because insurance companies predominantly use hard-wired telematics systems that rely solely on GPS-based data, as opposed to on-board diagnostics (OBD) systems which take data directly from the car.
The scoring systems used also don’t take into account advanced driving methods, as well as other pertinent factors like weather and road conditions, meaning the results can be inaccurate.
He said: “The GPS-based systems that many insurance companies currently use are flawed. The scoring mechanisms do not take into account scenarios that keep a driver safe in the event of a near miss, or advanced driving methods. If all insurers used OBD telematics devices, which capture data readings directly from the vehicle, false data would be significantly reduced.”
Whatcar.com’s editorial director, Jim Holder, said: “Black boxes do encourage safer driving up to a point, but it is also fair to say that it’s often the safest young drivers who choose to have telematics in their car – they would be safe drivers anyway.
“And, while it works to save money for some drivers, it’s important to remember that premiums can go up as well as down based on feedback from the telematics.”
Knowing what lies on the road ahead – when you can’t see beyond the next corner – can be a serious problem for drivers. That’s why TomTom has announced an innovative solution to the issue with TomTom Jam Ahead Warnings.
TomTom Jam Ahead Warnings visually and audibly alert drivers to rapidly slowing, or stationary, traffic on the highway ahead, giving the driver the opportunity to brake smoothly, and in time.
Corinne Vigreux, co-founder and managing director, TomTom, said: “We’re constantly striving to make the driving experience safer and more relaxed. TomTom Jam Ahead Warnings is a powerful example of this approach.”
The TomTom Speed Cameras app is already available in 16 countries, and has just launched in a further 26. Drivers around the world rely on the app to deliver highly accurate Fixed and Mobile camera alerts in real time, as well as Average Speed Cameras.
Drivers will especially welcome the average speed check feature, as Average Speed Cameras are becoming increasingly popular with road authorities around the world.
The locations of fixed cameras are provided by TomTom’s highly accurate database, and verified by a TomTom moderation team, while mobile speed cameras are reported and verified by a community of over 5 million drivers.
In a UK first, a simple smart plug-in connects and protects millions of unconnected drivers. There are 37 million vehicles on the UK’s roads, 30 million of which have none of the accident alert, fault warnings and theft tracking capabilities of newer cars. But now, motorists can ‘get connected’ without having to wait to upgrade their car with Smartdriverclub.
Smartdriverclub is a completely unique membership service that offers motorists greater protection both on the road and when managing their car’s running costs, through the connectivity that comes as standard in new cars but without the heavy ‘new car’ price tag. Available to consumers driving vehicles that have been registered since 2010, it costs just £6.60* per month.
It works like this, once a customer joins the club, as a member, they will be sent a small device – the Smartplug – which they insert in an easily accessed socket, normally underneath the steering column. They can then view all of their Smartdriverclub services via their smartphone using the free Smartdriverclub app called ‘Viewpoint’ or online via their laptop or tablet device.
Benefits include essential safety features like automatic emergency assistance, breakdown help that can see the driver’s location to find them faster, theft tracking that can speed up Police recovery and a digital mechanic that can identify faults to help motorists avoid worsening the damage or even prevent a breakdown. It can even provide in-car wifi for those challenging ‘kiddie’ car journeys and a valuation service is included for when a motorist is ready to sell their car, from Cap Hpi.
Motor industry expert, Penny Searles, the brainchild behind Smartdriverclub, says: “I have elderly parents who make long journeys quite regularly, and it bothered me that I had no idea if they were OK until they reached their destination. If they were in an accident, I wanted to know that there would be no delay in emergency services being informed. If they broke down, I wanted to know that they’d be located by roadside recovery without unnecessary delay. They don’t drive a new car and whilst, of course, they have mobile phones, it’s not always easy to know exactly where you are if you’ve broken down.
“Parents with teenagers who have recently taken to the roads will also value the peace of mind of the services they get with Smartdriverclub, like being able to see where their car is at any time, or being immediately informed in the case of a serious accident.
“But these benefits are just the tip of the iceberg – the money saving features put motorists in control. We have deliberately priced the service to be as accessible as possible to motorists. For example, the theft tracking alone if purchased separately could be from £300 per year.
“It’s easy for motorists to get this level of protection in the US, without having to buy a new car, so I wanted to bring the same concept to the UK. Why should UK motorists have to wait to get the advantages of new car connectivity? Now with Smartdriverclub they don’t have to. We are anticipating a huge amount of interest – not only from motorist themselves but from motor dealers and brands looking to find ways to offer greater protection to their customers.”
SmartDriverClub comprises the following services in one package:
- My Mechanic – This will alert a motorist if a car problem crops up, suggest what they can do about it and find a local dealer they can talk to.
- Crash Assistance – If the customer is in a collision and Smartdriverclub can’t reach the customer on their mobile phone, they will contact the emergency services and direct them to the location.
- Stolen Car – An in-car tracker activated by the customer means that if it’s stolen, the Police should know exactly where to look.
- Breakdown Help – Smartdriverclub will inform roadside assistance so they know where the customer is and have useful information about their car.
- My Driving – Motorists can save money on fuel costs by seeing how efficiently their car performs on each journey with a smart driving history that helps them manage fuel use.
- My Deals – Customers can save money on everything from servicing to new tyres. Just tap through the app for the latest deal from their dealership.
- Value My Car – Smartdriverclub provides a valuation of the customer’s car that’s actually based on their car so that they can use this instant price for better deals and finance.
- Where Did I Park? – A handy little map is provided to those that have forgotten where they parked
- Club Insurance – from May – Cover for good drivers based on their driving behaviour, to ensure customers are not paying for the poor behaviour of others.
- Car Wi-Fi optional – Family car journeys are always a challenge especially with teenagers in the back seat desperate to upload the latest selfie or to connect with their friends on chat. A connected road trip could also mean a blissful journey with everyone occupied in the car.