Over the next decade or so we will witness the dawn of the self-driving or autonomous vehicle.
The task confronting a self-driving vehicle on a busy road is daunting. Not only does the vehicle have to guide itself to its destination, it must contend with other road users, pedestrians and a number of various influences and events.
To do this, the vehicle must efficiently sense and interpret its surroundings. It must also be able to adapt to change at a moments notice. To do this, technologies such as radar, laser ranging, GPS and a variety of cameras will be used extensively coupled with some hefty computing power.
There are already vehicles that can drive themselves in some situations and pretty much every mainstream manufacturer is working on their own models. In 5 to 10 years automated driving features will be commonplace. This brings with it many opportunities however, new legislation will be needed to allow them to drive themselves and drivers and other road users will need certainty and clarity on liability. Who is at fault if there is a crash; the manufacturer or the owner? Is the person in the car a passenger or an operator?
Everyone will benefit from the improved safety autonomous cars should bring. Research shows us that most accidents are caused by human error, so imagine the effect on the road toll when you potentially remove that factor. This technology will also increase mobility for those unable to drive themselves making it easier to get around more independently.
Autonomous vehicles will have the ability to connect with each other and the infrastructure which enables them to coordinate their progress and ultimately easing congestion.
But we will not wake up one day and every vehicle on the road will be autonomous. Their introduction will be gradual, and we must be ready for the challenge this brings.
Going hand in hand with the increasing automation will be a change in fuel types and options. Electric and hybrid vehicles will become much more popular as the technical challenges are solved and more consumers can afford them and access them. Amongst many benefits, electric vehicles will play an important role in reducing emissions.
With the growing trend in the automotive market for battery-powered and hybrid vehicles, charging will also become an important part of Victorian’s journeys on the road. RACV, alongside motoring clubs across Australia, has already made steps towards supporting Electric Vehicles through an investment in Chargefox. The partnership will see an ultra-rapid electric vehicle charging network that will connect the Eastern Seaboard, with the first of the stations already open in Euroa, Victoria. Horsham, Ballarat, Melbourne, Traralgon and Barnawartha North are expected to follow by the end of 2019.
In order to keep up with the changing needs of Victorians, RACV believes that more planning, testing and support for autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles needs to continue.