Autonomous driving draws ever closer
Self-driving cars are an inevitable part of our future, and manufacturers have been working on both short- and long-term ideas for autonomous vehicles. Several ideas were on display in Geneva.
Tesla already offers a semi-autonomous option with the Autopilot feature on its Model S saloon, and established manufacturers are set to follow suit this year. The Nissan Qashqai and Volvo XC60 mentioned above will both hit UK roads this summer and will offer autonomous driving in specific circumstances.
Peugeot and Toyota both had concepts which explored the interaction between manual and autonomous driving, looking ahead by up to a decade when cars will be expected to offer a seamless transition between the two.
The Peugeot Instinct is a sleek four-door, four-seat hatchback boasting a steering wheel and pedals which fold away when autonomous mode is selected. Given that all steering, accelerating and braking is likely to be electrically controlled in coming years (it’s only braking that is legally unable to be fully electric at this stage), retracting the controls is no longer the problem it once was.
The Toyota i-Tril is a three-seater vehicle with the driver in the middle, a layout made famous by the McLaren F1 supercar of the 1990s. Like the Peugeot, the driver can switch between manual and autonomous control, although the i-Tril has an extra party trick up its sleeve: it leans into corners like a giant motorcycle. At just three metres long, it is very much aimed at urban driving.
Looking further down the road, Volkswagen presented the Sedric concept. With a design like a gondola from a cable car, but with wheels and headlights, the Sedric envisages a world where you summon your car by remote, tell it where you would like to go and then sit back and relax.
The car drops you off at your destination, then takes itself away to recharge or park. Basically it’s a driverless taxi, so if you had your heart set on a job as a cabbie or chauffeur, it may be time to reconsider your career path.
Even further into the future, a collaboration between ItalDesign and Airbus previewed a flying car concept that might –finally – realise the decades-old dream of the flying car.
Basically a detachable capsule that sits on an autonomous electric car chassis, it can be picked up by an autonomous drone and flown to your destination or even delivered onto an autonomous train. The drone system looks exactly like a much larger version of popular quad-rotor camera/toy drones, and Airbus plans to have a working version airborne before the end of this year.
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