The automobile industry is changing. Future cars will have more and more emphasis on the ability to perform other tasks and activities while driving, such as looking at your phone, and companies such as BMW and Mercedes have already released, or are soon to release, features that give their cars some ability to drive themselves.
The next step is of course to have cars that are completely independent of their drivers. Google announced in mid-2015 that it would be testing its prototype driverless car in California, and Business Insider predicts that by the year 2020, there will be as many as 10 million completely driverless cars on the road worldwide.
But what does this mean for your driving experience? According to a number of press releases by various car manufacturers, here is a list of some things you will be able to do in the near future while driving that were previously unheard of.
Intelligent media streaming
Volvo announced in early 2016 that it is developing high bandwidth streaming capabilities for their autonomous vehicles, allowing ‘drivers’ to watch their favourite TV shows and movies while on the move.
“We are actively working on future solutions to deliver the best user experience in fully autonomous mode. Imagine a highway full of autonomous cars with their occupants sitting back watching their favourite TV shows in high definition”, said Volvo Group General Manager Anders Tylman.
“This new way of commuting will demand new technology and a much broader bandwidth to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience”.
Volvo also aims to deliver an interruption free experience. They plan to have their cars be able to predict an appropriate route to suit the length of the program you intend to watch, by analysing current traffic and network conditions.
“By learning the most common routes and times of travel and understanding media preferences, future Volvo cars will be able to provide one-click navigation and a customised preference based list of potential media”.
One can only imagine how many people will be late to work because they wanted to finish an episode of Game of Thrones on their morning commute …
Speak to your car
Volvo also announced at the same event that they intend to enable people to talk to their cars, and give commands in order for the car to perform certain tasks. Such tasks include setting the navigation, setting the air-conditioning temperature and blasting the horn at the driver in front of them.
“Volvo is intent on making the car experience as easy and convenient as possible by utilising the latest technology in the most relevant and inspiring ways. With voice control we are only just beginning to scratch the surface of what is possible with digital assistant functionalities,” said Thomas Mueller, Vice President of Electronics at Volvo Group.
This technology, along with digital streaming, has the potential to make the driving experience as hands-free and relaxing as possible.
You’ll be safer
Many people feel that they key to staying safe on the road is to assume that every other driver is an idiot. While not entirely true, there is no denying that people can be their own worst enemy on the road at times.
According to The Centre for Insurance Law and Regulation, over 90% of road accidents today are caused by driver error. Autonomous vehicles are expected to be far safer than driver-controlled cars.
“There is every reason to believe that self-driving cars will reduce frequency and severity of accidents, so insurance costs should fall, perhaps dramatically,” says Professor Robert W. Peterson. “These cars won’t get drunk or high, drive too fast, or take unnecessary risks – things people do all the time”.
Business Insider estimates that the introduction of driverless cars will lead to 2,500 fewer road deaths by the year 2030 in just the UK alone. While there is no accurate method to quantify the safety effects of autonomous cars at this stage, it is safe to assume that they could prevent a lot of preventable accidents.
No more looking for a park
One of Google’s main aims in creating driverless cars is to reduce the number of cars on the road. 80% of cars on the road have only one driver in them, which Google sees as a huge waste. With the ability to summon an autonomous car to come and pick you up, Google hopes to encourage ride sharing, in which multiple people get in the same car in order to reduce traffic.
An added benefit of being able to call your autonomous car is better parking. Why would you ever need to spend half an hour looking for a park when you can have it drop you where you want to go, then have it park itself kilometres away, ready to come and get you at the touch of a button?
This would help with congestion, and would ease the pressure of trying find a park on a tight schedule.