How soon will we see self-driving vehicles?

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Self-driving vehicles have been talked about for some time now and, as most people in the manufacturing industry know, the main causes of delay are due to safety and regulatory concerns.

The New York Times published an article back in September 2016, shortly after federal auto safety regulators indicated that they envisioned self-driving vehicles to be a much safer prospect than cars driven by people.

Big companies are pushing for the self-driving technology including Google, Ford, Tesla and BMW. However, amid safety concerns, there is still no official clarification on when it can be expected that fully automated cars will be available to the public. The recent death of a passenger who was in autopilot mode has lead to question over safety standards.

A recent article on the CNBC website gave some insight autonomous electric car maker, NIO, in regards to what it has been working on. Rather than being seen as a ‘car’, the company’s CEO, Padmasree Warrior, describes the NIO vehicle concepts as ‘living space that moves you’. So it is looking at the interior aspects of comfort and the internet network of their cars, to make it as close to the comforts of home as possible.

The article also goes on to say that 140 million people in America commute for longer than 30 minutes in each direction. The emphasis is clearly on helping people who commute spend their time better, so whether that is for relaxing or for being constructive and doing work before you get to the office. Warrior even thinks that the innovation in technology will impact divorce rates, as the stress of commuting won’t be nearly as hard.

So with safety concerns still being an issue, how soon does it look like self-driving vehicles will become a reality?

Timeline for self-driving

NVIDIA announced at the Bosch Connected World 2017 that they would provide technology with level 4 autonomous driving by the end of 2018. Level 4 is only one step behind robot taxis and dictates that no driver attention is ever required for safety, i.e. the driver may safely go to sleep or leave the driver’s seat. Audi expects to have a car that will drive itself available from 2020. Over at Ford, it looks like its first focus will be on fleets that provide autonomous mobility services in 2021.

BMW are also looking at 2021, while Volkswagen stated that it expects self-driving cars to be available on the market by 2019 although not necessary ones manufactured by Volkswagen themselves.

It certainly looks like we are getting closer to the reality of being to able to purchase a self-driving vehicle in the near future. The impact on the manufacturing industry is massive, so auto manufacturers are keeping a close eye on developments with many of the big companies already investing heavily self-driving technology and research.

Smaller manufacturing companies that cannot afford the new technology could suffer and may need to look at financing options such as loans and invoice financing in order to keep up.

The outlook is certainly exciting for the top manufacturing companies involved and for commuters looking to change their lifestyle through improved transport options. Watch this space!