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Age of the Autonomous Car

Autonomous vehicles look set to play a much more prominent role in the motor trade industry after Cruise LLC, a subsidiary of General Motors in which Honda also holds a stake, recently revealed an ambitious, electric, driverless shuttle / taxi prototype in San Francisco.

Known as the ‘Cruise Origin’, the new vehicle essentially; looks like a ‘box on wheels’ and is specifically designed to operate without a driver, or manual controls, such as pedals and a steering wheel.

Consequently, as might be expected, the Cruise Origin includes a high degree of redundancy in its control and sensory systems, so there is no single point of failure.

Despite the ‘boxy’ exterior of the Cruise Origin, the emphasis is very much on comfort and practicality, with seats arranged over the front and rear axles to afford extra legroom for passengers, and large, low-slung doors that slide open, rather than hinging outwards.

According to Cruise, ‘It’s not a product you buy, it’s an experience you share.’ In other words, the Cruise Origin is based on a ride sharing model, whereby up to six passengers at a time can pay a fare, rather than own individual vehicles outright.

The Cruise Origin is intended to reduce harmful vehicle emissions, road accidents and congestion. Cruise, so far, has declined to release any power and performance data on the vehicle, and details of how many will be available, when, and at what cost, are still yet to be confirmed.

The Cruise Origin was originally due to be launched in the United States by the end of 2019, but the project was delayed by legislative and technical issues.

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It has yet to be granted approval to drive on roads and according to Cruise executives, the work is far from complete. In the meantime, the company is keen to emphasise the reliability, safety and value of the vehicle.

Cruise claims that the Origin will have a typical lifespan of one million miles, it will keep track of all obstacles, pedestrians and even the weather, by means of a full 360° array of sensors and potentially saving passengers up to $5,000 a year when compared with a conventional new or used car.

Notwithstanding safety concerns, not least several fatalities involving autonomous vehicles, the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies retain the potential to eliminate ‘human error’ and dramatically improve road safety, which, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), is a factor in 95% of road accidents.

By reducing risk, driverless cars could also render the third-party insurance policy virtually obsolete, which is currently the minimum legal requirement to drive new and used cars on UK roads.