Yes, we love progress and we love how things never stand still. Innovation is, by and large, a force for good and a reason for celebration.
But it seems that some of those innovations have snuck up on us at CCI HQ somewhat unannounced.
Yes, the word on the street (and motorway) is that hands-free driving is here from as early as next year.
From next year, ALKS (Automated Lane Keeping System) -enabled cars will potentially be able to be used on the UK’s motorway networks. The department for transport is currently considering it and will, if passed, allow hands-free driving at speeds of up to 70mph.
While ministers seem ready to embrace the new technology, it seems the general public are less in favour, with over two thirds who were asked in a YouGov poll seeming to be against the new initiative.
Only 6% of the 2,000 who were asked said that they would be ‘very comfortable’ with the idea. Between the ‘not comfortable at all’ and ‘not very comfortable’ groups, it appears that hands-free driving is a step too far for the great British public and one that very few of us are ready to embrace.
ALKS systems use a series of sensors to prevent cars from straying outside of their lane and to ensure that a safe distance is maintained to the car in front, automatically accelerating and braking as necessary, without human intervention to do so.
While the idea is that drivers can kick back, relax and let the car do the work, these ‘level 3’ automated vehicles do still have a stipulation that the driver ‘must be ready to take charge with warning.’
While some believe that these systems will make driving safer, the ability for drivers to go handsfree means that they are free to do other things, such as check their phone for messages, watch films or other, currently outlawed activities. And of course, on long journeys, this adds a risk that drivers may tire and fall asleep at the wheel, or not be aware of what is going on around them, should an emergency happen and they are needed to take charge.
It also leads to questions on car insurance too. If you have an accident, but weren’t driving at the time – because the car was – who is liable?
It’s a whole can of worms that we can’t even get our heads around just yet. We will just have to wait and see where the future takes us from here. But mark our words – it may not be next year, but driverless vehicles are coming – sooner than you may think.