In the week where Google have developed their driverless car so that it can now park itself in a tight spot, it’s worth taking a look back at how cars have come on leaps and bounds since the first one was test driven by the wife of car designer Karl Benz in 1888. In those days the automobile was a horse drawn carriage design with an engine and large wheels, and there were no safety features as we now know them. Accident levels were also far lower, as the speeds that these cars travelled at was fairly low, minimising the risk of accident.
In 1914, Henry Ford began mass producing the car as we know it today, and the focus then turned to lightening the weight of our cars to save fuel and make them travel faster, and to improve the safety to reduce the number of road deaths. We have seen the advent of the seatbelt (designed by Volvo and now a legal requirement), airbags and sensors for parking to minimise the risk of accidents on the roads, and the international use of signs, traffic lights and road markings to further protect us as we travel about our daily lives.
As technology has developed around us, other problems have been seen such as accidents due to distracted driving, and therefore the use of mobile phones for talking and texting is now illegal in many countries in an attempt to protect us further against injury and death on the roads. Industry standards and legalities on the roads change from country to country but in the UK it is a crime to not wear your seatbelt and to use a mobile phone when operating a vehicle. Due to the amount of accidents on the roads it is also a legal requirement to have a valid car insurance policy, as well as road tax and an MOT certificate to prove that your car is roadworthy and not endangering you or other road users.
Recently we have seen a more widespread use of the ‘green’ car, a car designed to run from electricity that can be produced from wind and solar power, rather than further draining fossil fuels by using petrol and diesel to power our vehicles.
It is thought that the driverless car will be retailed to the consumer market by the year 2020, meaning that we are free to work from the car on the way to the office, and increasing productivity. There has only been one accident so far with Google’s driverless cars, when a human operated vehicle rear ended it, and so thoughts across the automotive industry are that it could further improve road safety, as car manufacturers have been striving for over the last fifty years.
How could the car as we know it develop over the next ten years?
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