Global Race

The global race for driverless cars – where do we stand?

In previous articles, we have covered key areas connected to the driverless vehicle industry, including financial, environmental and employment factors. We hope that you have enjoyed reading the information as much as we have enjoyed publishing it! Now that you have a taste for the revolutionary future of transport, you may well wonder when it will be available. For the MCAV team, it cannot come soon enough and the event on the 27th June at Birmingham’s iCentrum will provide a platform for further discussion, enabling guests to contribute ideas and share knowledge. You may be curious to know what is being done in other parts of the world and how the UK compares with other countries. Today’s article looks at the race to become the first nation to use driverless cars, and who some of the main competitors are.


The countries most often linked with technological innovation are Japan and the US. There is no doubt that these countries will be right up there when driverless vehicles are released into society, and we would also throw Germany into the mix as well. What may hold these countries back, however, is legislation. As things stand, not every country allows testing to take place (or restricts it) and this could hold many manufacturers back.


Google have been named as one of the leading pioneers behind driverless vehicles (under the company ‘Waymo’), and the Californian company have been testing autonomous driving for years. Recent news has informed us that the technology is becoming more reliable, with only 124 disengagement scenarios having taken place in 2016 (when a driver has to take control), down from 341 the previous year. Over 636,000 miles that were driven, 124 seems a relatively small number. However, some software problems still need to be resolved before the cars can become safer.


Other countries affected by regulation, are Sweden and Germany. The latter are certainly no stranger to car manufacturing, as companies such as Audi and Volkswagen are all well-known in the industry. As things stand in Germany, a driver needs to be present at all times in case of any mishaps. Furthermore, a black box (like those found in aeroplanes) must also be present within the car, so that manufacturers can learn from any mistakes.


In other parts of Europe, Switzerland are also expected to be one of the first countries to release driverless cars and have piloted tests involving city cars and buses. What is particularly interesting to note, is that companies in Europe have focussed on public transport, whereas the US have concentrated, for the most part, on private cars.


In Asia, there is a strong chance that Japan will be amongst the first countries to release driverless vehicles into society, and they have been piloting schemes since 2013. Other countries include New Zealand (which seems to be the most open to testing of all countries), Australia and, more recently, Canada who began a test program in 2016.


Google, Toyota, Denso Corp and TESLA are all amongst the favourites to get their autonomous cars onto the road first. However, it is never a good idea to write off General Motors, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Ford and Audi, and these companies are also likely to provide strong competition.


The international competition to get driverless vehicles onto the road is sure to heat up over the next few years, and this – hopefully – will mean that they arrive on our roads soon. Having discussed the competition, it now makes sense to look at where Britain fit in!


Britain have an advantage, in that trials can take place on public roads anywhere, providing owners are covered by an insurance bond (which we imagine to be quite pricey!) As there are no legal impediments, testing can take place freely and this should mean that our manufacturers can rectify problems more quickly.


The government have stated that security policies concerning driverless vehicles will be announced in 2018 – just one year away! Although there are still security concerns (for example BMW had problems with hacking in 2015), the news is incredibly exciting for the industry, and is sure to generate debates and conversations around the country.  


2020 is the year that has been predicted for driverless cars to hit the British roads. Although this may seem a long way off, it should still place Britain amongst the first nations to release driverless vehicles into society. There is still a lot of work to be done before then, and – as a team of experts – we are looking forward to discussing ideas and answering questions at the ‘future of transport for the midlands’ MCAV event, due to take place at the iCentrum, Birmingham, on the 27th June. We want as many people to enter the discussions as possible, and are keen to discuss sponsorship opportunities with interested parties. Please email us at info@mcav.org.uk or contact us on 0121 288 3660 for further details.

By Neil Phipps






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