The automotive industry prefers the generic term “automated driving” to refer to what had initially been launched as “autonomous vehicles”. While a fully autonomous car is a vehicle able to go anywhere without human supervision, automated driving includes the advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) currently on the market, such as electronic stability control (ESC) or autonomous emergency braking (AEB). It also envisages the future introduction of more sophisticated artificial intelligence into cars, but allows a certain lack of concreteness on whether the role of the driver will totally disappear in future vehicles or not.
The technology to put fully autonomous vehicles on the roads is already available. Several demonstrators from leading car manufacturers have provided evidence of this to consumers. Two intentions lie behind this: building brand reputation and getting feedback on technology acceptance from the public.
What will happen next?
Safety comes first. Automated driving will need to prove beyond a doubt to always be safer than human unassisted driving; otherwise its legal status will not be clear, the economic implications of its introduction into the marketplace will become deeply attached to risk and it will be considered unaffordable by the industry. Is artificial intelligence robust enough? Will autonomous cars’ responses be totally predictable? Will we be prepared to keep failure and degradation issues under control? What evidence is needed to prove that autonomous vehicles are safer than human-driven vehicles?
The evolution of consumer acceptance may speed up or slow down the process. Are people going to be excited about making better use of their time when travelling while keeping interest in individual mobility? Do young people still love driving? Or do they prefer not to apply for a driving licence?
In conclusion, we are going to see a step-by-step evolution of automated driving in cars, but there is no doubt that in the future millions of jobs that we nowadays call “driver” will change drastically and the most important position inside vehicles which that we currently know as ”driver” will turn into a “passenger” position.