Automation has been the theme of the last 10 years or so with many forms of manufacturing being automated, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) becoming the norm for the military and soon to become the norm in the civilian world. Cars, however, seem to have been rather slow in joining the technological band wagon. Cruise control as we know it came in to being in the late 1950s and early 60s and it is only in the last 10-15 years that further developments have taken place with Mercedes-Benz introducing adaptive cruise control in 1998. Again, since then progress has been slow. Automatic parking has only been available on production cars since around 2007 when BMW and VW debuted the systems. Compared to other sectors this progress seems painfully slow. There are still no car manufactures likely to introduce completely automated vehicles in the near future and actually, I don't think we're ready for them anyway. I believe that the entire concept of a car has to change for self-driving cars to really be popular. Interestingly, it is not a car manufacturer that is leading the way in self-driving cars. As I'm sure you're aware Google have been developing their very own car that can drive itself around on public roads with other cars around. Since May 2012 Google have been testing their driverless cars on the roads after several US states including Florida, Nevada and California introduced laws to allow these cars on the road.
This is all brilliant and is a massive step in the right direction but as I've said previously I think the whole idea of the 'car' needs to change for self-driving versions to really take off.
The whole concept of a traditional car revolves around a driver; there's a steering wheel, a gear stick, pedals, a huge dashboard etc. Why would a driverless car need all this?
For these kinds of new vehicles to be successful I think the whole concept of the car needs to change.
Rather than all the passengers facing forward why can't the front seats now face the other way making interaction with everyone else so much easier and nicer. There'd also be much more room if the traditional dashboard and centre console were removed. You could even fit in another seat in the front.
In terms of controlling the vehicle (entering destination etc) there could be a smaller control panel in the centre of the vehicle that any passenger could control.
Of course, for anything like this to ever happen the perceptions and thoughts of the users needs to change too. People need to realise that the traditional vehicle concept and layout would be unnecessary and useless. Travelling in a car could be so much more comfortable and interacting with passengers could be so much better.
The law needs to change too. Does there need to a person 'in charge' of the vehicle? What about insurance? The current system where an individual person is insured to drive a vehicle would need to change, instead I think the vehicle would need to be insured.
There's so many points to make and so many things need to change with governments, vehicle manufacturers and most importantly with users before any kind of driverless car becomes successful.
What do you think? Would you buy a self-driving car even though the layout and concept is still inefficient? What else needs to change for driverless cars to be successful? Please leave your comments below.