Tales of the unexpected

Grange looks at what the future might hold for self-driving vehicles on British roads

Published:  02 August, 2022

By 2030, the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles will be banned, and car dealerships will only have electric models on display, which will include autonomous options. It is fair to say that drivers are looking at this exciting prospect with anticipation.
As the hype for the future of mobility rises, we are left with one, intriguing question – what types of self-driving cars can we expect to see on our roads? Here, we take a look at what may happen in the space of five years, and how far technology will take us.

Policy and legislation
The UK is working hard to be on track for the introduction of future vehicles. Through the implementation of policies and legislation, our country is paving the way towards allowing the safe access of AVs on British streets.
According to KPMG’s Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index 2020, with an index ranking score of 21.36, Britain sits in ninth position when it comes to readiness for self-driving cars. With a strong focus on safety, cybersecurity, technology, and public transport, the UK is actively preparing for innovation in mobility.
As for the reviewing and introduction of pertinent legislation, Britain ranks second on the Policy and legislation pillar. More specifically, in July 2018, the UK accepted the so-called Automated and Electric Vehicles Act, which strives to update insurance rules to cover autonomous vehicles.
In this respect, Roads Minister Jesse Norman said that the act “will ensure that the UK’s infrastructure and insurance system is ready for the biggest transport revolution in a century.”
A second consultation was published in 2019, addressing AV regulation for public services, including driverless taxis and minibuses. Recently, the UK government has also released a third consultation, which serves as an extension to define self-driving, guarantee security, and specify the difference between a fleet operation and a user-in-charge.
Britain’s progress in terms of making adaptations for autonomous cars is increasingly evident. Indeed, if granted a GB type approval, all vehicles that are equipped with Automated Lane-Keeping System (ALKS) technology will be classified as AVs. This suggests that autonomous cars may be able to hit our roads in the very near future, but on one condition – they cannot exceed a speed of 37mph.

How independent will self-driving vehicles be?
The term ‘autonomous vehicle’ implies that the car will happily do its thing without the intervention of a human. AVs are divided into different categories and, of course, self-driving vehicles are part of this classification. However, they only include its most advanced stage – Level 5.

What about the other four levels? What type of AVs do they feature? Let’s take a look.

No driving automation (Level 0)
Level 0 stands for a basic, manual vehicle. In these types of cars, humans take care of all driving operations, including operating the gear stick.

Driver assistance (Level 1)
Level 1 cars are fitted with adaptive cruise control, making them an upgraded version of entirely manual vehicles. This feature allows the car to regulate speed and perform lane centring on its own.

Partial driving automation (Level 2)
Currently, most vehicles on our roads are Level 2 autonomy. From accelerating and braking functions to automatic steering, these cars feature a range of handy features.

Conditional driving automation (Level 3)
In large, these cars are self-driving, but only in specific conditions. In fact, drivers are always required to be alert and to take control of the vehicle if needed. Cars that are equipped with ALKS will be classified as Level 3 vehicles, which are the AVs that the British government plans to introduce on our roads first.  

High driving automation (Level 4)
If you just want to sit back and relax, a Level 4 car is the perfect fit. These AVs do not expect humans to take control at any point. In the event of an unexpected incident on the road, the vehicle is designed to simply pull over and stop safely. This said, these cars are not built to work in all conditions, which may therefore be limiting for some drivers. There is no denying that Level 4 AVs are a huge leap in innovative mobility, but sadly our road networks – for the time being – are too complicated to accommodate them. Hence, some believe that we will never see these cars populate our streets.

Full driving automation (Level 5)
Slightly more advanced than their Level 4 counterparts, Level 5 AVs are expected to operate uniquely on their own with no human input whatsoever. There is reason to think that these may be the future of our taxis and buses.
Past predictions estimated that by 2021, there would be queues of autonomous cars waiting at the red traffic light, ready to drive off on their own as soon as they flashed green. It is fair to say that expectation was perhaps a bit too hopeful. As things stand, artificial intelligence is not advanced enough to reach that stage yet. Even Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, had to go back on his words. He had previously tweeted that by 2020 there would be “over a million cars with full self-driving, software, everything.”
At the moment, we can only wait and hope to see if Level 3 vehicles make an appearance on our roads.
We may still have to be patient for self-driving vehicles to accessorise British streets, but trials are happening on a regular basis – and progress is being made. For instance, Google’s self-driving car project Waymo has been working hard on the development of the Jaguar I-Pace, the sister of the magnificent Jaguar E-Pace. It is a fully electric Level 3 AV with an in-built InControl, which includes great driving assistance features. These are many and varied, such as emergency braking, cruise control, lane keep assist, speed limiter, adaptive speed limiter, and traffic sign recognition.
What’s more, in Ireland, Jaguar Land Rover is setting up a ‘smart city hub’ where self-driving car technology – and the Jaguar I-Pace, specifically – can safely be put to the test. The 7.5-mile road system will give developers the opportunity to test the vehicle’s sensors and gather data from a variety of driving scenarios.
Our recent technological advancements bode well for the future of mobility. It may still be too soon to witness autonomous vehicles on our streets, but ongoing trials are ensuring that – when the time comes – AVs will be able to travel securely and sustainably. Ultimately, there is a lot to look forward to.


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