The automotive world has been talking about autonomous vehicles for some time and they've been a staple of science-fiction for even longer. However, are we actually any closer to seeing them on a mass scale, out and about on roads across these shores as well as around the globe?
Digital meets analogue
While there can be little denying that autonomous technologies have progressed in leaps and bounds over the last few years, there are a few conventions that the majority of systems have to adhere to.
Autonomous vehicles rely on the amalgamation of the real and digital worlds.
HERE 360 explained that nearly every existing autonomous vehicle relies on the amalgamation of the real and digital worlds. In short, no car, van or truck to date has been truly out on its own, as it's digital systems still rely on actual maps.
Naturally, these have to be programmed in and updated every so often. Some systems are smart enough to circumnavigate dangers, such as roadworks that may not appear on maps, but for the most part, they have to work within defined boundaries.
For fleet managers of the future, this may actually be a positive as they'll be able to better plan routes with an eye on efficiency. Of course, this will allow them to eke out all the value of any fuel card purchases.
However, a truly autonomous vehicle – one that requires the absolute minimum input from human hands – may be a concept that stays on the pages of science-fiction novels for some time to come.
Researcher who hacked lidar systems: "I can take echoes of a fake car and put them at any location I want" http://t.co/i2h3BVmFIw
— IEEE Spectrum (@IEEESpectrum) September 14, 2015
The issue of security
While the 'Lidar' technologies that the majority of autonomous vehicles rely on is growing ever-more complex, there are still flaws with it that have to addressed. For example, researchers with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers were able to 'hack' the technology most self-driving cars use.
Perhaps even more tellingly, Gizmodo explained that the equipment used in the security breach cost just $60. Of course, it would still take a huge amount of know-how for the average person to be able to hack an autonomous vehicle, but ongoing security issues may be another reason as to why vehicles featuring the tech aren't the norm on the roads just yet.
— Jason Echols (@echolstx) September 8, 2015
While the roads of the future are likely to be filled by technology-packed vehicles with advanced safety systems and more complex driver aids, whether any manufacturer will be able to roll out truly autonomous cars, vans and trucks on a large scale remains to be seen.