From lane assistants to parking aids: driving is to be made ever safer thanks to technology. And fully autonomous driving is no longer a pipe dream either. The U.S. brand TESLA is leading the way in this area. But there is still a long way to go before it is ready for series production ..
"Global demand for motor vehicles will not exceed one million – if only for lack of available chauffeurs." This grandiose misconception was delivered over 100 years ago by none other than Gottlieb Daimler, one of the leading pioneers of the automotive industry. With over 1.2 billion cars in the world today, this statement is exhilarating, especially since almost all vehicles today are driven not by a chauffeur, but by their owners themselves. However, technology is now also making this profession completely superfluous: Autonomous driving is the magic word and is not a vision of Daimler's famous contemporary, the visionary Jules Verne, but comes from the present day.
Leading the way here is the U.S. brand TESLA, which is in the process of revolutionizing the car market: An electric car with an acceptable range, comfort and appealing design, acceleration from zero to 100 in three seconds and a top speed of 250 kilometers per hour – this was absolutely unthinkable just a few years ago.
At the heart of autonomous driving technology is an autopilot that aims to give the driver added safety
The driver feels like a pilot
But it's not just the acceleration that makes drivers feel like they're in an airplane about to take off. Switches, buttons and displays surround the driver, who feels like a pilot in the cockpit. Other parallels to flying stand out, especially the commonality between autonomous flying and autonomous driving.
What has long been standard in aviation is also becoming increasingly important in driving. At the heart of the technology is an autopilot designed to give the driver added safety. Autonomous driving is also designed for interaction. Drivers remain responsible for their cars and must be ready to take the wheel at any time.
And of course, before the autonomous car is even allowed on the road, the driver has to take care of things like registration and desired license plates himself. The car of the future won't be able to take over administrative tasks like these any time soon. Fortunately, there are smart online services that are almost as pleasant as autonomous driving. You can find out more here.
A combination of cameras, radar, ultrasonic sensors and navigation data play key roles in the autopilot system.
Autonomous driving is already technically possible
The tasks of the autopilot are complex. It can steer automatically over the roads using a combination of cameras, radar, ultrasonic sensors and navigation data. In doing so, it naturally adjusts the speed to the current traffic. At a tap of the turn signal lever, it even takes over lane changes. The instrument panel shows a visual representation of the road. It gives the driver information that the vehicle uses for functions such as lane and collision warning, blind spot assist, traffic-adaptive cruise control and automatic steering.
However, Autopilot does not only control speed and steering, it also assists the driver when parking the vehicle. The vehicle will be able to parallel or right-angle park on its own. Stress when parking will be a thing of the past. Once activated, the automatic parking system begins the parking process by controlling the vehicle's steering angle and speed. Even the garage door will open for the driver when he returns home. There, the vehicle can drive itself into the garage – and out again, of course. All these things are already installed in many luxury cars.
Autonomous driving also in transportation
But the development of autonomous driving is proceeding rapidly not only in the conventional passenger car segment, but also in passenger and freight transportation. For example, the world's leading cab company Uber developed a smartphone app for autonomous driving years ago with the Ford company, thanks to which selected customers can be chauffeured through Pittsburgh in a self-driving cab. If Uber manages to bring self-driving car technology to market before the auto industry, it would showcase corporations like General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota in their core business. Meanwhile, autonomous driving trucks are even an issue for car companies and trucking companies alike. However, a widespread spread of this technology would also have an impact on the labor market. Critics are even of the opinion that with rapid development, truck drivers would no longer be needed for long distances in ten years' time.
This is what autopilot could look like: But autonomous driving is not yet ready for series production.
Autonomous driving: Development is not yet complete
What has been common practice in the skies for decades is also becoming more and more widespread on the roads. However, the development of the technology is far from complete. Since road markings can sometimes be missing or covered by obstacles such as leaves and snow, autonomous vehicles rely on extremely accurate position data.
In addition, news of accidents continues to cause uncertainty. Here's how a Tesla electric car had a serious accident in April 2021. There was no driver present, but there was a passenger and a human in the back seat – who died in the accident. According to Tesla, the reason was that the assistance system was not switched on at the time. It also probably lacked side markers, without which the system can't work anyway.
And when is autonomous driving coming now?
Nevertheless: the development of autonomous driving is nevertheless unstoppable. Elon Musk, founder of TESLA, remains optimistic: "In the long term, there will be no steering wheel at all in most cars – you will have to order that separately."Whether this will actually happen remains to be seen. After all, Musk has already been wrong a few times with his confident predictions. Back in 2015, TESLA CEO Elon Musk announced "complete" autonomous driving within two years. Apparently it did not come to that.