Autonomous vehicles are on their way fast, so fast in fact that the IEEE believes that by 2040, 75% of all cars will be autonomous. In theory, you would no longer require a driver's license anymore by then. A recent report from KPMG also backs up a strong transition towards fully autonomous cars and it will be an interesting development to keep an eye out for. So what is it about and why is it worth it? Would it take away the pleasure of driving?
Autonomous Market Share
A fully autonomous vehicle can drive from A to B on its own. It sounds very science fiction like and the first ones to roam about where developped for the Darpa challenges. For these challenges a specially designed vehicle had to find the way on its own, either on a pre-built track or a simulated city environment. For the Darpa challenges, the main driver was to create technology to be used by the military and it likely has ended up in the drones, or will at some stage.
For commercial reasons and autonomous vehicle is also interesting, as it opens up mobility by car to people who do not have that access now. It also reduces accidents and opens up a number of interesting businesses.
Currently you need a driver's license to drive a car, but with autonomous cars, the car drives you and that removes the need for a license. This would open up car use to the younger generations, people who are too old to drive safely or people who prefer to get some work done while they are on the road. Also in line with the current trend of younger generations to be always connected and online, an autonomous car would allow them that and prevent accidents from distracted drivers.
Autonomous cars would also be able to park on their own, which takes a lot of hassle out of owning a vehicle in an urban area. Even better, this would facilitate car-sharing programs to such an extend that a car is available on demand and comes to pick you up. If you're done with the car, it drives off to find someone else to pick up. A new and unique way of personalized, public transport!
Fully autonomous vehicles seem pretty far off still, but in some degree, the first signs of autonomous vehicles is already available on the market. Lane assist, park assist, adaptive cruis control; are all initial steps towards cars that drive on their own. Granted, most of it is available in top-of-the-line models, but slowly this is finding its way to the more mainstream vehicles.
Slowly more and more of these systems get added to our cars; it is the only road to get to fully autonomous cars for everyone. Besides the price impact of having to add all sensors and infrastructure to get to a fully autonomous car, the biggest hurdle is the driver who has to hand over the wheel to the computer.