The state of automation: driverless cars and personal mobility

  • Full guide to the current state of autonomous driving
  • Meet the motor show concept cars that don’t need you
  • Parkers explains the stages of driverless development
  • Full guide to the current state of autonomous driving
  • Meet the motor show concept cars that don’t need you
  • Parkers explains the stages of driverless development

In the Budget in March 2017 a £270m fund was announced to keep the UK at the forefront of ‘disruptive technologies’ such as driverless cars. You can read a rough guide to driverless cars in our glossary explainer here, but in this article we're going to guide you through the latest developments. 

What does ‘disruptive technology’ mean?

It’s any new tech that aims to disrupt the ‘conventional’ way of doing things.

Driverless cars are on the way to shake up the way the car industry operates, but other examples are robotics and bio-technology, both becoming increasingly important in the modern world.

Driverless cars at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

A number of autonomous cars were launched at the most significant annual new car show on earth, the Geneva motor show, in March 2017.

VW Sedric

VW Sedric

The biggest news was VW’s Sedric concept car – the name itself a compound of ‘self-driving car’. This four-seater offers a glimpse of the sorts of mobility solutions the German company will be producing by 2025.

Allegedly capable of driving with or without humans on board, there‘s no steering wheel, pedals or dashboard, which unlocks space for designers to use some out-of-the-box packaging solutions.

VW Sedric

The bumps on the roof are LiDAR (Light Detection and Radar) sensors, which work in conjunction with cameras to facilitate autonomous driving.

You’re able to ‘call’ Sedric to your location using your smartphone, and can use voice commands to enter your destination – with a back-up human ‘concierge’ service at a call centre for when communication doesn’t go quite so well.

VW Sedric

The sharp-eyed among you may notice that there’s no actual VW branding on this vehicle – it’s the Group’s first foray into this technology so it didn’t want apply any sort of brand identity.

There will be further concepts launched soon under individual company branding – we’re expecting VW, Skoda, Seat and Audi driverless cars over the coming years.

Toyota i-TRIL

Toyota i-TRIL

Japanese firm Toyota’s concept is aimed at mobility in 2030, which sounds somewhat more realistic than VW’s plans.

Seating for three adults is on offer here, with two passengers sat slightly behind the single driver’s seat – and before you say it, while the i-TRIL can drive itself, it also has a ‘manual’ control mode should you fancy doing it instead.

A head-up display then projects vital information to the driver on the windscreen. Infotainment and navigation is via voice control.

Toyota i-TRIL

It has been designed specifically not to look like a normal car, and it won’t drive like one either because it leans in corners. You control it using left and right hand controls a little bit like video game controllers.

Hyundai Autonomous Ioniq

Hyundai Autonomous Ioniq

It might look a lot like the regular Ioniq but this car will actually drive itself. It features a suite of systems that allow this, including adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping technology. It uses a combination of LiDAR and video cameras along with GPS to navigate itself along the road network.

Pop.Up by Airbus and Italdesign

This one’s slightly more leftfield, but simply the fact that Airbus – builders of the world’s biggest passenger aircraft, the A380 – is heavily involved means it’s a concept worth exploring. The other party involved, Italdesign, is a leading automotive development company that has worked with almost every major car manufacturer on earth during its half-century history.

In essence the Pop.Up is a modular ‘pod’ that can be transported on either ground or air platforms. Travel along a conventional roadway and when you hit some congestion, simply tell then system to switch to air travel and you’re away.

Admittedly this does sound a bit ‘Jetsons’, but considering the basic premise that it’ll introduce an entirely new axis on which your car can travel, along with recent developments in avionics and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs), this idea might not be as strange as it sounds.

The Artificial Intelligence (AI) backbone this technology would work from will be capable of offering multiple routes based on traffic, weather and your particular travel preferences. Learn more in the following video:

Driverless cars on the road right now

At time of writing the closest you can get to a driverless car on today’s roads is with the BMW 5 Series Touring. This features all sorts of modern technology that aims to take the strain away from the driver.

Read more about the BMW 5 Series Touring in our preview article here.

The stages of driverless car development

There are now distinct accepted ‘stages’ in the race to fully autonomous driving. Set out by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), they are:

  • Level 0 – the driver does everything
  • Level 1 – most driving done by the driver, but one specific function can be done automatically by the car (such as speed regulation or steering)
  • Level 2 - "driver is disengaged from physically operating the vehicle by having his or her hands off the steering wheel AND foot off pedal at the same time," according to the SAE. This means both steering and speed regulation can be done autonomously, but the driver must be ready to take control if necessary
  • Level 3 – safety-critical functions of the vehicle can be shifted completely away from the driver, who is still there and able to intervene if required but is not expected to monitor the driving environment in the same way as above levels
  • Level 4 – the first fully autonomous level, such vehicles will be able to monitor and control all driving for an entire trip. The important thing to note here is that it’s limited to the ‘operational design domain’ of the vehicle, so doesn’t cover literally all driving scenarios
  • Level 5 – a fully autonomous vehicle that can perform equally as well – or better – than a human driver in all situations, including off-road or on tough terrain

Keep an eye out for more driverless cars news and advice soon on Parkers - your leading source of car-related information. 

Sidebar Right

Choose a different car: