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Future of Automobiles 3

For the past several weeks the focus of discussion has essentially been on future vehicular technologies. Whether these are new methods of powering our vehicles; such as the inception of hydrogen fuel cell and battery driven cars which are becoming increasingly popular, more efficient and produce less emissions when compared with fossil fuel based products such as unleaded petrol, or new safety technologies, dubbed “crash avoidance technologies”, intent on saving our lives by attempting to eliminate, or at the very least alleviate, the potential for human error.  Most recently the discussion has shifted toward the future of automobiles, and the intense research and development being undertaken by Google and BMW, among numerous other companies, to achieve truly autonomous vehicles. The aim of such technology, we are assured by manufacturers, is not just a frivolous activity in showmanship but a real solution to a real problem, namely that of increased congestion on the roads and the inherent potential for accidents associated with this increase in traffic. There is acknowledged potential for autonomous automobiles to improve transport efficiency and road safety and to redefine how we use our vehicles. As previously discussed this technology will play an important role in the future makeup of large commercial fleets, such as car rental companies in Sydney, or other particularly chaotic cities where the majority of congestion and accidents occur. An outline of the projected future of “semi-autonomous driving technology”; meaning cars with increasingly sophisticated technologies granting them the ability to drive themselves, as described by Mr. Ford, head of Ford Motors Company, will conclude the segment on future vehicular technologies. Mr. Ford addressed the Mobile World Congress to talk about the future of autonomous vehicles and outline the need to develop intelligent vehicles and transport systems that are part of an inter-connected transportation network.  The results, proposed Mr. Ford, would be positive, suggesting such outcomes as the reduction of human error that accounts for some 90% of accidents, and relieving pressure on the world’s road networks, adding that he expects that cars will be able to communicate with not only the driver, but other automobiles as well. This will help vehicles take better advantage of the space available on the road which will become more limited in the years to come. Radar-based cruise control will stop cars from hitting each other, with cars by 2025 driving themselves in tight formations Mr. Ford describes as "platoons," cutting congestion as the space between cars is reduced safely. Fords “Blueprint for Mobility” outlines the process of reaching fully autonomous vehicles, which will consist of three stages. The first stage, which should occur in the next five years, will have cars communicate with other automobiles in order to issue warnings. They will also be able to drive in slow traffic and park themselves. The next phase, which should occur between 2017 and 2025, will reduce the role of the driver further, with many automobiles already semi-autonomous and capable of travelling in vehicle “platoons”, allowing cars to proceed bumper to bumper along freeways, optimising space and improving safety. For Mr. Ford, by 2025, cars should fully autonomous meaning that autopilot will become a reality and drivers could relax while their vehicle takes them to their destination. As he states, “Cars are becoming mobile communications platforms, right now, there are a billion computing devices in the form of individual vehicles out on our roads. They’re largely unconnected from one another and the network.”. Whether or not this occurs exactly as Mr. Ford envisages, it seems safe to say that in the coming decade vehicles are set to change drastically, both in how we relate to and how we use our vehicles. Safer roads and reduced congestion as a result of these developments are sure to benefit the large commercial fleets, such as car rental companies, particularly in large cities like Sydney, as well as the private owner so let us hope that these advancements continue.