Nearly all the major car manufacturers predict that unmanned cars will be available in their product ranges within the next 10 years. The companies working on such solutions include Tesla, which declares that the technology allowing transfer of full control of the vehicle to the navigation system is going to be ready as soon as within the next year. Nissan, on the other hand, is planning to deliver the first fully autonomous cars in 2020. Toyota and Honda are planning to introduce cars that drive independently on highways, which make relatively easy road conditions, at the same time. Drivers of Peugeot and Citroen will be able to give control to a vehicle stuck in a traffic jam next year. Kia, on the other hand, forecasts sales of autonomous cars not earlier than 2030.
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Cars of the future – what will Poles drive 10 years from now?
There are several trends predominating in the forecasts for the future of cars. One of them envisions so-called autonomous vehicles controlled with special navigation systems that require minimum control from the driver. An increasing number of electric cars are being sold around the world. Can such new products become popular in Poland?
Insufficient technology is not the major problem in the case of autonomous cars – the technology may develop to an appropriate extent within the nearest ten years, as individual manufacturers keep working on increasingly advanced solutions. It is far more challenging to adapt the applicable laws to this new form of driving. For instance, in the case of a road accident involving an autonomous car, who is guilty? Is it the driver? Or the car manufacturer?
Kłoda also points out the high number of challenges that unmanned cars must face - mostly, related to their operation in the changing, unpredictable road traffic environment. The Indian automobile manufacturer Tata openly admits that the company is not planning to invest in autonomy due to the carefree approach to traffic regulations common in India. Chaotic streets might constitute a hard nut to crack for algorithms controlling an unmanned car.
Aside from technological challenges, legal regulations are another problem. Even in Germany, the homeland of the major automotive brands, new regulations allowing for legal driving of autonomous cars on public roads were not approved until this May. We will probably have to wait until 2019 for their implementation. Legislators are extremely cautious when it comes to anything that might constitute a potential threat to safety. In my opinion, autonomous cars indeed have a chance to become popular within the next ten years, but only in centres of large Western cities.
intive has extensive experience in the automotive sector. The company developed the My Guide mobile application for Volkswagen. This is a navigation system fully integrated with the car. intive has also developed an innovative driver safety solution - a special sleep warning system based on analysis of head and face position. The company has also delivered projects implemented in cooperation with Audi and has recently invested in a German company, iNTENCE, a European leader in the development of built-in car software.
A solid knowledge of the automotive sector allows intive experts to take a realistic perspective on the future of cars. The issue of power source is certainly one of its most important elements - electric cars are increasingly popular in the West. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), 155 200 electric cars were registered in the EU in 2016. Moreover, 278 500 hybrid (HEV) cars were registered in the EU last year, a 27.3% increase compared to 2015. Can such vehicles become popular in Poland as well?
In my opinion, a whole generation needs to change before electric cars are widely used in Poland. The basic challenge consists in building an appropriate number of charging stations so that every user can charge their car’s batteries easily. Let's not forget that not all drivers are ready to give up the sound of a combustion engine and other impressions provided by traditional cars. We need strong arguments to change these habits and we still lack them.
The expert's words are confirmed by statistics - only 556 electric cars were registered in Poland in 2016. For comparison, nearly 30 thousand of the vehicles were sold in France. The expert compares the slow increase in electric-powered vehicles to the evolution undergone by mobile telephones.
“Before unification, there were several types of chargers, each adapted to a specific model of telephone. The situation of electric cars today is similar - when you choose a model, you start worrying about the availability of charging stations. Development of the infrastructure to the point where you can buy electric cars without concern is likely to take many years. Hybrid cars, on the other hand, will become increasingly popular,” says Marcin Kłoda.
According to Kłoda, a period much longer than 10 years is necessary before the streets of Polish cities are filled with autonomous electric-powered vehicles. A dynamic development of various driver assistance systems related to connected car technology is much more likely. According to Business Insider, there will be 380 million cars with a permanent internet connection across the globe four years from now. For comparison, there were only 36 million of them in 2015.
Connected car technology offers a lot of new opportunities. Increasingly intelligent navigation systems, the opportunity to connect the car with a smart home or city infrastructure, and even ongoing monitoring of the driver's stress level are only a few of the solutions that will become increasingly popular in cars sold in Poland. We need to wait much longer for popularisation of more advanced solutions.