14 December 2018

Read the small print

We are still some way off a completely autonomous world, with many challenges to face ahead. Although the software itself may be available, there is so much more needed to be done to support a full-scale operation on public roads. However, we are already starting to see level 2 autonomous vehicles out in public, which are able to operate freely on the motorway, break automatically in case of an emergency and even park themselves. This is the first time self-driving technology has been made widely available to the public, who are finally getting to experience the innovations that have been hidden within testing facilities over the last few years.

The rollout of this technology will continue to develop until we eventually see fully-autonomous cars across the world, operating in both urban and rural environments; significantly improving quality of life through a stress-free experience. Nevertheless, there still needs to be an understanding from the public that vehicles with this level of automation cannot drive completely autonomously, in order to avoid major accidents and, in some cases already, fatalities. People are jumping in and out of different vehicles without necessarily understanding how each work, which presents a greater risk when in a vehicle that has this kind of technology. With already three recorded deaths from Level 2 automation in the US and China, it is crucial that the industry takes action immediately.

Autonomous accidents and how to stop them

This will change over time, mostly due to media coverage of the technology, which also has its negatives. We have already seen multiple self-driving vehicles involved in accidents which has put autonomous software in the spotlight for all of the wrong reasons. It is vital that these vehicles are 100% safe because, as expected, any accident will be documented over the advancements of the software itself. However, in this case, drivers have misunderstood the technology and have taken their attention off of the road, which is incredibly dangerous. As the message spreads and people start to understand each characteristic, different levels of autonomous software will be respected and we will start to see fewer accidents.

For now, it is down to the manufacturers and their dealerships to communicate more effectively to customers interested in new vehicles with self-driving technology. There are already adverts that give the perception of a vehicle driving totally autonomously, without any major indication that this is not the case. Including small print simply isn’t enough. Fundamentally, there needs to be a lot more education towards consumers to understand the capabilities, benefits and general experience of self-driving vehicles. Automakers and software providers must be proud of their technology, but also ensure that customers are looked after, whether that is through education or the software itself. Otherwise, we could have a serious problem on our hands.

Key drivers: perception and awareness

When it comes to future mobility, it is all about perception and awareness. Established automakers are getting involved with software specialists to adapt business models to profit in the rapidly-growing market which, in turn, opens up the eyes of the public as they are seeing it slowly incorporated into vehicles on the road today. This change is going to be more dramatic than we have ever seen before, moving into a non-driver world. By doing so, autonomous technology will play a significant role in reducing congestion, pollution and accidents that will improve ecosystems around the world, making for a much higher quality of life.

Autonomous vehicles are part of the overall solution to urban ecosystems around the world, but these can only be as effective as we allow them to be. This is arguably the most important moment in time for connected car technology, so it is vital that the correct procedures are followed to allow it to develop safely and organically. We may be on the cusp of Level 3 and 4 autonomous technology, but if it is not treated with respect, from both a customer and supplier’s perspective, we will see an influx of unethical technology that will spark chaos on our roads.


Alex Kreetzer

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