May 17, 2022

Replacing the human driver: the future of autonomous driving

There is no doubt that the future of transport is autonomous. Although it may be hard to imagine, the next few years will begin to see more and more vehicles hitting our roads without visible drivers behind the wheel.

Whether for personal use, in the shipping industry or even for professional racing, autonomous vehicles are already gaining more and more use and acceptance. However, these futuristic vehicles have the potential to change more than just the way we get from point A to point B, bringing additional benefits in the form of reducing our impact on the environment, or even rethinking societal uses. transports.

Already, leading innovators are transforming how vehicles operate at the mechanical level, but what other benefits will these advancements bring and which companies are at the forefront of these incredible technologies?

Personal transport

Just as cell phones have slowly replaced digital cameras, the driverless vehicle is the inevitable next phase of transportation. There are already several well-known companies in this space, but others are following in their footsteps and creating new, more innovative ways to get people from A to B.

For example, at last year’s Future Lab, hosted by Goodwood’s Festival of Speed, British architecture and design firm Heatherwick Studios showcased the Airo: a fully electric car with autonomous and driver-controlled modes. driver. Both beautiful and distinctive, the car also has the power and technology to change the way we drive – and even the way we live.

Designed for Chinese electric vehicle maker IM Motors, the Airo is set to enter production in 2023, but what makes it even more unique is that the car also “cleans the air” as it drives. Using advanced High Efficiency Particle Absorbing (HEPA) filters, the vehicle removes pollution created by other vehicles directly from the air. With sustainability a priority for most automakers, the Airo has found a way to leverage technology to make driving a more environmentally friendly activity, demonstrating a future where vehicles can truly benefit the environment. planet.

In addition, the car also has a cabin that becomes a living space in its own right. When the vehicle is fully autonomous, the two rows of seats face each other (with room for a large table) and the minimalist dashboard can be used to project movies. The airy cabin can even accommodate a full double bed with the seats reclined!

Rethinking how we drive and what cars can be used for is just one of many innovations happening in the automotive industry. There’s a whole range of electric vehicles that are poised to change the face of personal transportation for the average driver – and the future of the industry is bright.

The driverless industry

While driverless vehicles for the regular person may already be in development, there are other uses for autonomous transportation. For example, in long-haul logistics industries, such as shipping, where exciting new innovations are being used to transform and modernize the sector.

A business in this space is Einride, a leading developer and provider of electric and autonomous freight mobility technology. The Swedish organization has built the world’s first fully electric and fully autonomous transport vehicle to operate on public roads. Following the global unveiling of its self-driving forestry truck at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed ​​Future Lab, the company returned in 2021 to show how 5G-enabled technology allows human drivers to remotely control multiple self-driving trucks. Even thousands of miles away, the control center in Sweden can operate, monitor and direct trucks in real time, without the need for a human driver on board.

With the rise of e-commerce thanks to the pandemic, the logistics industry must also grow and adapt. However, with a growing focus on organizations reducing their carbon footprint, this must also be balanced with a more sustainable perspective. Between 7% and 8% of global CO2 emissions come from the transport of heavy goods by road. Removing the diesel element from long-haul transport vehicles is therefore a big step towards reducing this rate worldwide. Einride has developed a way to meet the demand for freight transport, while removing diesel engines from the roads.

Company CEO Robert Falck has publicly announced his personal and professional mission to create something better for the next generation. Einride’s Pod trucks are already said to help businesses reduce fuel costs by up to 70% and reduce carbon emissions by up to 90%, while increasing efficiency along the way. With this clear focus on more sustainable freight using autonomous vehicles, it’s clear the company is taking this global concern seriously, using the latest technologies to change the way we live for the better.

Autonomous racing cars

In a world of passionate motorsport fans and professional drivers at the peak of their careers, it’s easy to be cynical about the inevitable arrival of AI-controlled racing cars. Why would you want to replace practical races with a computer?

One person who doesn’t fear this change is 36-year-old Brazilian racing driver Lucas Degrassi. Interested in cars from an early age and a long career in driving, he got behind the wheel of an electric car for the first time in 2010 – that’s when the new era of his racing career began. A meeting with Denis Sverdlov, CEO of zero-emission public transport company, Arrival was the catalyst for this change. Fast forward twelve years and Degrassi is CEO of Roborace, the premier professional self-driving car championship.

Degrassi believes there are key technological advancements that only happen once in a lifetime – and that’s it for the motorsports industry. Even without a traditional “driver”, self-driving cars continue to race – and potentially faster, better and safer than any professional human driver – and there will be winners and losers for fans to support and follow.

Looking to the future, the next stage of racing could combine artificial intelligence (AI) with augmented reality to push the boundaries of driving and fan experience even further. Incorporating technology into racing in this way also has the added benefit of attracting a newer, younger and more savvy generation of car and racing enthusiasts to the sport. There are even plans to incorporate dynamic metaverse elements into the run. The driver replacement could be just the start of something even more exciting for motorsport.

Robots are replacing human jobs

Although human judgment is difficult to replicate in an autonomous vehicle, there are some things that machines do better than people. For example, unlike humans, robots cannot tire themselves on long journeys or be distracted by outside forces.

The inevitable question that accompanies such developments is whether these technological developments will spell the end of human jobs in driving. Although it has been regularly cited in pop culture and the media, many professions in this industry will always require a human element – whether it is an operator to monitor and make decisions or a competitive professional pilot using the software to control the car while racing.

This “hybrid” approach allows us to benefit from autonomy, but still allows the agility, competence and flexibility of a human driver.

The next phase of automotive

Despite the caveats, by the end of this decade driverless vehicles will be commonplace. The next phase of driving cannot be ignored, rather it must be embraced. The key to that is understanding it and having the best possible innovations at the heart of it. With technology providing an environment where we can push the boundaries of what’s possible, the future of driving is set to change forever, and the benefits extend far beyond an enjoyable driving experience. Whether it’s addressing our impact on the planet, engaging a new generation of tech-savvy car enthusiasts, or simply changing what a physical vehicle can do for people, the next phase of the he automobile should be an exciting chapter in automotive history.