Home' Sunraysia Daily : motors23042016 Contents Sunraysia Daily Saturday, April 23, 2016
I M amazed by the number of people who ask
my opinion about self-driving cars. Even friends
and neighbours who have little or no interest
in cars or driving often bring up the subject of
autonomous cars. With the question, "When are
they coming?" being asked pretty early in the
Self-driving cars seem to be the dream of
those who regard cars purely as a way of getting
from point A to point B. Not surprisingly, they
are hated with a passion by keen drivers who
love nothing more than getting the best from
their beloved cars, preferably on a favourite
stretch of winding road at a quiet time.
Interestingly, two totally different groups are
keenest on buying an autonomous car:
The first doesn t come as a surprise: tech-
savvy youngsters who are approaching driving
age and simply love having the latest and
greatest in electronics around them. Some even
say they would sacrifice some of their spending
on other tech items just to get into a self-
The second group may initially come as a
surprise - baby boomers. That s because they
will one day lose their mobility when their
licences are cancelled after they fail a driving
test. As I m only about 15 to 20 years away
from this horrendous happening I m keeping a
close eye on what is going on in the self-driving
Fully autonomous cars, those without a
steering wheel and pedals, are still many
years away. Experts predictions range widely,
generally from about 10 years to 30 years.
However, many people are surprised to learn
that partially autonomous cars are already on
our roads. I know, I ve driven them.
You may well have been in horrible traffic
with me the other day when a car and a truck
managed to come together and blocked most
of the M1 motorway south of Brisbane during
peak hours. Bet you didn t know I was letting
the BMW do most of the boring work! The big
Bimmer was keeping pace with the car in front
and sitting squarely within the lane lines. It
wasn t as scary as you might think, though I did
keep my brake foot on standby and didn t let
my hands get too far from the steering wheel.
A couple of years back I drove a Mercedes-
Benz CL 500 from the Gold Coast to the
Sunshine coast, and let it do the work for about
40 per cent of the trip. It used it intelligent
cruise control to keep the correct distance from
the car in front and steered itself within the
white lines. It did give me a visual nudge every
ten to twenty seconds to tell me to keep my
hands on the steering wheel. All I had to do
was touch the wheel briefly to give the car the
impression I was steering again and off we went
for another driverless spell.
After two hours I got a warning from the
Merc that I might be suffering from fatigue and
should perhaps stop for a while. It really is
amazing the amount of help cars are providing
us these days. Particularly in active safety, that
is avoiding a crash.
Car companies are very aware of the legal
ramifications of this sort of driving. I m sure
many of you will have ticked the Agree box
on your car s infotainment systems to say you
will take responsibility for safety - yet had no
intention of doing so. Thinking that it s okay to
send and receive texts.
Fully autonomous vehicles will need
incredibly complex systems. Indeed, it has been
said that your self-driving family car will have
more sensors to keep track of what s happening
around it than a giant Airbus A380.
Surprised? So was I, till it was explained
that the Airbus is travelling in highly regulated
routes, will never be closer than 1000 metres
to another aircraft, is being watched over
by two highly qualified pilots, monitored by
radar controllers on the ground, all while it s
keeping an electronic eye on other aircraft in
Still on aircraft comparisons; did you realise
that on the road you re often travelling closer
to other vehicles than the RAAF Roulettes
aerobatic team pilots during their amazing
shows? With due respect to your driving skills,
may I suggest that the RAAF pilots have had
far more training than you? And certainly aren t
checking emails and texts while up there...
Driverless vehicles are a very complex
subject, one that I will cover from time to time,
with emphasis on individual topics within it.
Would love to hear your opinions as well. Be it
on driving convenience, road safety or anything
else that crosses your mind about autonomous
As usual you can reach me on ewan@marquenews.
Self-driving cars on their way?
Phone 5021 2103
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